Prologue from Ochrid - September 18 [October 1]
1. St Eumenius, Bishop of Gortyna in Crete.
He gave himself to Christ with his whole heart from his youth, freeing himself of two heavy burdens: the burden of riches and the burden of the flesh. He freed himself from the first by giving away all his goods to the poor and needy, and from the latter by strict fasting. He thus healed himself and was able to heal others. Passionless and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Eumenius shone with a radiance that could not be hidden, as it is written: 'A city set on a hill cannot be hid' (Matt. 5:14), and so holy Eumenius could not be hidden from the world. Seeing him, the people chose him as their bishop in Gortyna. As a bishop, he governed Christ's flock as a good shepherd. He was a father to the poor, riches to the needy, consolation to the sad, healing to the sick and a marvellous wonderworker. He worked many miracles by his prayers: he killed a poisonous snake, drove out demons, healed many of the sick, and did this not only in his home city but in Rome and in the Thebaid. In the Thebaid, he brought rain from God in a time of drought, and there finally finished his earthly course and entered into the eternal presence of his Lord. He lived and worked in the seventh century.
2. The Holy Martyr Ariadne.
In the town of Promisea in Phrygia in the time of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), there lived a pagan patrician, Tertullus. The maiden Ariadne was a slave of his, and a Christian. On his son's birthday, Tertullus ordered a great sacrifice to the idols, in which Ariadne did not take part, staying at home and praying to the true God. Her owner was furious with her for this, and put pressure on her to deny Christ and worship idols. When Ariadne refused to do this, he had her whipped and tortured in other ways, then threw her into prison. He soon released her from prison and drove her from the house, but quickly changed his mind and sent servants to bring her back. Ariadne was already a long way from the town. When she saw her persecutors, she prayed to God beside a great rock, and the rock opened and hid her. The servants were nonplussed at this, quarrelled among themselves and came to blows, and so perished at one another's hands.
3. The Holy Martyr Bidzini, Prince of Georgia.
He died for the Christian faith under Shah Abbas II in 1661, together with his kinsmen Elisbar and Shavel.
The Lord said: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40). Similar things happen in almsgiving and in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we receive the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of bread and wine; in almsgiving we give to the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of the poor and needy. A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: "Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn't believe it, for I thought, `How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?' However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ's face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can."
Contemplate the righteousness of King Asa, and God's reward (I Kings 15):
- How Asa did that which is good in the sight of God, and cleansed the land of idols;
- How God granted him the victory over the Ethiopians, and blessed him and the people with every good.
On the resurrected and Living Lord, Who is the Resurrection and the Life
I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these holy words. Not only did He speak them, but also proved them by His actions. By raising Jairus's daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and His friend Lazarus, He proved that He is the Resurrection and the life, the Resurrector and Life-giver. Even so, He proved this best by His own Resurrection from the dead. For, to be alive and then to help the dead-this is something that has been heard of. But to be dead and buried, and lie in the grave for three days and to give yourself life-that was unheard of until Christ's Resurrection. It is the miracle of miracles, and the proof of a power above every other power. This miracle was performed by our Lord. Our Lord manifested this power. Therefore, true are His words, I am the Resurrection and the life…, true and holy, and comforting to all of us who are traveling toward the inescapable death of the body, and who hope to live beyond the grave and see our Living Lord in glory.
However, our Lord is not only the Resurrector of the body, but also the Resurrector of the soul. During His life on earth, He resurrected only a few human bodies, but countless souls-to demonstrate that the resurrection of the soul is much more important than the resurrection of the body. Almost all human souls were dead when He came into the world, and He resurrected countless souls by His power, and imbued them with His life. Both the Jews and the pagans were dead in soul, and He enlivened the one and the other. My brethren, let us lay aside all concern for the resurrection of our bodies, and let us strive, while we still have time, for the resurrection of our souls. For if our souls do not resurrect, and are not enlivened by Christ while still on earth, let us not expect any joy from the resurrection of our bodies on the Day of Judgment, the Day of Wrath. For then the bodies of our dead souls would rise, not unto life, but unto eternal torment.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our only Resurrection and life, help us by Thy power and Thy mercy, that we may be resurrected and enlivened by Thee, unto salvation and eternal life.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK