Prologue from Ochrid - October 5 [October 18]
1. The Holy Martyr Charitina.
Orphaned young, she was adopted by an eminent Christian man called Claudius, who brought her up as his own daughter. Charitina was meek, humble, obedient and silent. She studied the law of God day and night and vowed to live in perpetual virginity as a true bride of Christ. But, Charitina having brought others to the Christian faith, the Emperor Diocletians's governor, Dometius, heard of her and sent soldiers to take her from her foster-father for trial. The judge asked her: 'Is it true, little girl, that you are a Christian, and that you delude others by bringing them to this dishonourable faith?' Charitina courageously replied: 'It is true that I am a Christian, and a lie that I delude others. I lead those in error to the way of truth, bringing them to my Christ.' The wicked judge ordered that her hair be cut off and live coals put on her head, but the maiden was preserved by God's power. They threw her into the sea, but God delivered her from it. She was bound to a wheel which began to turn, but an angel of God stopped the wheel and Charitina remained unharmed. Then the wicked judge sent some dissolute youths to rape her. Fearing this dishonour, St Charitina prayed to God to receive her soul before these dissolute men could foul her virginal body and so, while she was kneeling in prayer, her soul went out from her body to the immortal Kingdom of Christ.
2. The Hieromartyr Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria.
Born in Alexandria of eminent, pagan parents, he was educated in Hellenic philosophy and then studied with Origen. As a young man, he read St Paul's epistles, came to faith in Christ and was baptised by Dimitrios, the then Bishop of Alexandria. He himself became bishop there in 247, and served God and the people of God as a true pastor in very difficult circumstances. The Church was outwardly persecuted by pagans and inwardly split by heretics. There were also the effects of a plague, that weakened the people for several years. He lived for three years outside Alexandria , hidden by the faithful, that he should not be killed before his time. In those three years, he wrote many epistles and other works for his flock, instructing them and encouraging them in the upholding of Orthodoxy. Among his writings are a few canons which were adopted by the Church, and his letter against Novatius is also regarded as a canonical writing. He governed the Church for seventeen years, and entered into rest in 265.
3. Our Holy Father Eudocimus of Vatopedi.
In 1841, when the bone-chapel at Vatopedi was being restored, workmen found the relics of a man kneeling and holding an icon of the Mother of God. Not knowing who this man could have been and when he had lived, the monks gave him the name Eudocimus and transferred his relics to the church, where they are preserved to this day. Many miracles of healing have been performed by them. Today the following words are carved on his coffin: 'This coffin was made for the honoured head of St Eudocimus by the monk Gabriel, whom the saint healed of great sickness.'
4. Our Holy Fathers Damian, Jeremiah and Matthew.
Seers and wonderworkers of the Kiev Caves, they lived in the eleventh century.
Whenever men exert great effort in seeking the truth, and prefer nothing else to the truth, God comes to meet them in His gentle way. This is shown to us in the life of St. Dionysius of Alexandria. Even as a young man and a pagan, Dionysius read all the Greek literature, seeking the truth. When he was not satisfied with this, he read everything that came into his hands. And, in accord with God's providence, he met a poor woman who offered to sell him several hand-copied epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul. Dionysius gladly purchased and read them. They so overcame him that he sought out this woman and asked her if there were more such writings to be had. The woman directed him to a Christian priest who gave him all of Paul's epistles. Having read all carefully, Dionysius came to believe in Christ, and was baptized without any hesitation.
Here is another incident: In the town of Arsinoe, the Millenarian heresy had spread. This heresy taught that Christ would soon come, and He would establish an earthly kingdom on earth for a thousand years. At the head of this heresy was a certain Korakion. St. Dionysius went to Arsinoe to change the minds of the millenarians and to prevent the spread of this heresy. At a large gathering of millenarians and true Orthodox, Dionysius debated with Korakion and other leaders of the millenarians. This debate lasted for three whole days. (Such zeal did the ancient Christians show in the examination of the truth!) God blessed their labor and zeal, through the prayers of St. Dionysius. At the end of the debate, Korakion and all the other millenarians rejected their false teaching and accepted the Orthodox teaching of St. Dionysius.
Contemplate the repentance of King Manasseh and God's forgiveness of him (II Chronicles 33):
- How Manasseh, living as a slave in a foreign land, recognized his sin, repented, and prayed to God for forgiveness;
- How God forgave him, and freed him from bondage;
- How, after that, Manasseh did that which is good in the sight of the Lord unto the day of his death, and reigned peacefully.
On the good that is shown
There be many who say, Who will show us any good? (Psalm 4:6).
My brethren, great is God's goodness. What words can express that goodness? Great is the goodness of the Heavenly Kingdom with its fiery angels, wonderful saints, and the sweetness of Paradise. Who can describe this goodness? Immortal life, close to God and the angels of God, in the company of the saints and the righteous, is a great good. Another great good will be our meeting with our kinsmen and friends in the heavenly world; with our parents, our children, and our most beloved ones, who by their departure left us in sadness and grief. Who will show us all that good? Many asked this in King David's time, and many ask even today. Who will show it to us, so that we may believe and hope?
That good is shown to us Christians, and we wait for nothing higher, for no one but the Lord Christ-the true Witness to all this good, the true Witness and Lord, brethren, of all this good. The compassionate Lord showed this good to His chosen prophets even before His coming to earth. That is why David says to God: Lord, lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us(Psalms 4:6).
This is the reply to those who ask: Who will show us any good? God Himself showed us that good. The light of the Lord's countenance is marked upon us, inscribed and etched in our hearts, and in that light we recognize that good which only heaven can give. Brethren, is there a cure for those who have heard about the coming of Christ on earth, but nevertheless asked: Who will show us any good? If Christ had not shown and revealed all that is good by His glorious birth, His glorious miracles, His glorious Resurrection, and His Holy Church, the dark earth would not show it, for it cannot; men would not show it, for they do not know. However, there is a cure for everyone-even for the most incorrigible unbelievers-up to the moment of death. This cure is in repentance of one's evil, in the cleansing of one's heart, and in the fulfilling of Christ's commandments. The healthy can see the light of the countenance of the Lord; but not the sick in soul, the impure in heart or the wrong-minded.
O our Lord God, light of angels and men; help us that we not darken the light that Thou hast given us-and by which we see the heavenly good-by the darkness of our sin. Do not deprive us of these good things, O Most-merciful One.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK