Prologue from Ochrid - September 28 [October 11]
1. Our Holy Father Chariton the Confessor.
Chariton was an eminent and devout citizen of the city of Iconium. Imbued with the spirit of his compatriot, St Thecla, Chariton openly confessed the name of Christ. When a harsh persecution of Christians broke out under the Emperor Aurelian, Chariton was immediately brought to trial before the governor. The judge ordered him to worship false gods, to which Chariton replied: 'All your gods are furies, which were aforetime through pride cast out from heaven into the nethermost hell.' Chariton openly showed his faith in the one, living God, the Creator of all, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind. Then the governor ordered that Chariton be so beaten and tortured that his whole body became covered with wounds until it was like one great wound. After the evil death of Aurelian, whose evil-doing caught up with him in the end, Chariton was released from torture and imprisonment. He travelled to Jerusalem, but on the way was seized by robbers from whom he was freed by God's providence. He did not return to Iconium, but withdrew to the wilderness of Pharan, where he founded a community and gathered a group of monks together. Having given a rule to this community and desiring to escape the praise of men, he withdrew to another desert near Jericho where, in time, he founded another community, called after him. He finally founded another community, Souka, called in Greek the Old Lavra. He died at a great age and entered into the glory of his Lord on September 28th, 350, and his relics are preserved in his first monastery. The practice of tonsuring monks is attributed to St Chariton.
2. The Holy Prophet Baruch.
A disciple and faithful friend of the holy prophet Jeremiah, he foretold the return of the Jews from slavery in Babylon and the coming of the Son of God on earth. It is held that he was killed by the Jews in Egypt, as was the Prophet Jeremiah, in the seventh century before Christ.
3. The Holy Martyr Mark the Shepherd.
In the time of Diocletian, Magnus, governor of Antioch, went hunting with his soldiers. Chasing a wild beast, the soldiers saw that it fled to the shepherd, Mark, who was keeping his flocks just there. The beast stood fawning around Mark, the man of God. Seeing this, thirty of the soldiers, being instructed in the Faith by Mark, came to belief in Christ and were immediately beheaded. The governor bound Mark, took him to the town, summoned three brothers, Alexander, Alphaeus and Zossima, and ordered them to make instruments of torture to use on Mark, but the three of them, having talked with St Mark, embraced the Christian faith and refused the governor's command. The governor condemned them to death, and ordered that molten lead be poured into their mouths. After this, holy Mark was beheaded and his body placed in the temple of Artemis, which temple was then destroyed by God's power.
4. The Holy Martyr Vatsfav (Wenceslas), King of the Czechs.
The grandson of St Ludmilia, he lived as king in spiritual striving in the Faith like the great ascetics, and strengthened the Orthodox faith among his people. He took care when sitting in judgement that no innocent man should suffer. In his zeal for the Christian faith and his love for his neighbour, holy Vatslav bought pagan children who had been sold as slaves and immediately baptised them, bringing them up as Christians. He translated St John's Gospel into Czech and brought the relics of St Vitus and his grandmother, Ludmilia, to Prague. His brother Boleslav invited him to stay and killed him at his court. Immediately after this, Boleslav began to make German priests and to have the Liturgy celebrated in Latin. Holy Vatslav suffered in 919. His relics are reserved in Prague.
In guiding the dispensation of this world, and especially of His Holy Church, God often makes unexpected moves, and changes the evil destiny of His servants to the good. This occurred many times in the life of St. Chariton. Following cruel tortures, Chariton was thrown into prison and was promised certain death. Then, Emperor Aurelian died unexpectedly, and the new emperor freed the Christian captives. Thus, Chariton escaped death. Then, when he was traveling to Jerusalem, robbers seized him and took him to their cave. They left him there, and went off to rob and plunder, with the intention of killing him when they came back. In this cave there was a wine cask into which a poisonous snake had crawled, drunk of the wine, and vomited its venom into the cask. When the robbers returned, tired and thirsty from the heat, they drank the venomous wine and, one by one, fell dead. And thus, St. Chariton was saved from death by yet another unexpected event. The Lord heaped misfortunes upon His servant, in order that by these misfortunes He would temper and purify him as gold is tempered and purified by fire, and that He might bind him even more securely to Himself. He delivered him from death, because Chariton had yet to establish several monasteries where, by his ascetic example, he would direct many human souls on the path of salvation.
Contemplate King Uzziah's turning to evil (II Chronicles 26):
- How Uzziah became proud and corrupt when, with God's help, he became strong;
- How he violated the Law, took the censer, and strove to serve in the Temple against the protests of the priests.
on Christ's last prayer for the faithful
Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am(John 17:24)
Behold the recompense of God's laborers! Behold the glorious reward of the followers of Christ! That which the Son of God desires, the Father desires and the Holy Spirit also desires. And that which the Holy Trinity desires, comes to pass. What does the Lord, the Son of God, desire? He desires that His disciples be together with Him in the Heavenly Kingdom-and not only His twelve disciples, but also all those which shall believe on Me through their word (John 17:20). My brethren, we who are baptized and who have received the Faith of the apostles and have kept it, are also numbered among these-but only under the condition that we ourselves do not disown that great treasure by our misdeeds, by apostasy from the Faith, by the impurity of sin, or by blasphemous words and thoughts. The Lord further says: Father I will … that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me (John 17:24). No one should conclude from these words that the Son is less than the Father. For the Lord Himself said to His Father: I have glorified Thee (John 17:4). Do you see the equality of the Father and the Son, and the boundlessness of Their mutual love? I have glorified Thee … and now, O Father, glorify Thou Me (John 17:4, 5). But the fact that Christ's glory did not begin on earth or in time is shown by these words of the Lord Christ: the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (John 17:5). Therefore, this is not an earthly or temporal glory: it is not worldly and human glory, but rather a heavenly, eternal, lasting and inexpressible glory. How does the Son of God want the Father to glorify Him? In such a way that He will show the heavenly and eternal glory to all those who have obeyed His Son, and who have followed after Him, and who have fulfilled His commandments. The man-loving Lord wills that, not only the apostles, but all of us who are called by His name, participate in this glory. Oh what mercy! Oh what love for mankind! Brethren, the dogma of our immortality, eternal life and eternal glory is not of men, but of our Lord and Savior Himself. May bodily cares, slothfulness at prayer, and mutual strife not separate us from this glory of Christ, from eternal life!
O gracious and merciful Lord, forgive us our sins, and grant us Thine Eternal Kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK