Prologue from Ochrid - October 10 [October 23]
1. The Holy Martyrs Eulampius and Eulampia.
They were brother and sister from Nicomedia. At the time of a vicious persecution of Christians by the Emperor Maximian (286-305), some of the faithful of Nicomedia fled the city and hid. The young Eulampius was sent into the city for bread. Entering it, he saw the imperial decree on the persecution and killing of Christians stuck onto a wall, and, laughing at it, took it down and tore it up. He was immediately brought to trial for this. When the judge urged him to deny Christ, Eulampius began in return to urge the judge to deny the false idols and accept Christ as the one, living God. Then the judge ordered that he be flogged until the blood flowed, and tortured in other ways. Hearing of the torture of her brother, the maiden Eulampia ran to join him in suffering for Christ, and she was likewise beaten till the blood flowed from her nose and mouth. After that, they were thrown into boiling pitch then into a red-hot furnace, but they, by the power of the sign of the Cross and the name of Christ, rendered the fire harmless. Finally, St Eulampius was beheaded, but St Eulampia breathed her last before the same could be done to her. Two hundred other Christians, who had come to faith in Christ by seeing the power and miracles of St Eulampius and his sister, were slaughtered. All were crowned with wreaths of martyrdom and entered into their immortal, heavenly home.
2. The Holy Martyrs of Zographou.
When the Emperor Michael Palaeologus contracted the ill-famed Union of Lyons with the Pope, to receive his help against the Bulgars and Serbs, the monks of the Holy Mountain sent the Emperor a protest against this Union, and urged him to set it aside and return to Orthodoxy. The Pope sent an army to Michael's aid, and this Latin army went onto the Holy Mountain and set about such barbarism as the Turks never perpetrated in five hundred years. Hanging the members of the Council and slaughtering many of the monks in Vatopedi, Iviron and other monasteries, the Latins attacked Zographou. The blessed Abbot Thomas told the brethren by inspiration that those who desired to save themselves from the Latins should flee the monastery, and those who desired a martyr's death should stay. Twenty-six men stayed: twenty-two monks with their abbot and four laymen who worked for the monastery. They all shut themselves in the monastery tower. When the Latins arrived, they set the tower alight, and these twenty-six heroes found a martyr's death in the flames. While the tower was burning, they sang hymns and the Akathist to the Mother of God, and gave their holy souls into God's hands on October 10th, 1282. In December of the same year, the dishonourable Emperor Michael died in poverty, the Serbian King Milutin having risen up against him in defence of Orthodoxy.
3. Our Holy Father Theophilus the Confessor.
By birth a Macedonian Slav from somewhere near Strumica, he became a monk very young and built himself a monastery. He suffered much for the sake of the holy icons in the time of Leo the Isaurian, and would have been killed then if he had not been able to convince the judge Hypaticus, governor of the area, of the principle and necessity of the veneration of icons. The governor freed him, and he returned to his monastery, where he died peacefully and entered into the joy of his Lord.
4. The Holy Martyr Theotecnus.
He was a Roman officer in Antioch in the time of Maximian (286-305). When the Emperor pressed him to offer sacrifice to idols, he replied: 'I believe in Christ my God, and shall offer myself to Him as a living sacrifice.' After terrible torture, he was drowned in the sea with a stone around his neck and, suffering with honour for Christ, he was crowned with the wreath of martyrdom.
5. Our Holy Father Bassion.
In the time of the devout Emperor Marcian, in 450, this saint came from Syria to Constantinople. His asceticism was great, and the power that he received from God was great and miraculous. He had about three hundred disciples, among whom was St Matrona. The Emperor Marcian build a church in his honour, which remains to this day.
By God's providence, the greatest number of miracles and heavenly manifestations occur during the martyrdom of His servants. On the day that the Latins set out for the Monastery of Zographou, an old monk had an obedience in a vineyard half an hour's distance from the monastery. At the prescribed time, he read the Akathist before the icon of the Mother of God. However, when he began to pronounce the word "Rejoice!" a voice came to him from the icon: "Do thou also rejoice, O elder! Flee from here now, or misfortune will befall thee; go and tell the brethren of the monastery to lock themselves in, for the God-opposing Latins have attacked this, my chosen Mountain, and are already near." The frightened elder fell to his knees and cried out in fear: "How can I leave thee here, my Queen and Intercessor?" At this he again heard the voice: "Do not worry about me, but go quickly!" The elder went to the monastery immediately. But when he reached the monastery gates he beheld that same icon of the Mother of God. In a miraculous manner, the icon had preceded him to the monastery. The amazed elder related all that had been revealed to him to the abbot and the brethren. At that, all of them glorified God and the Mother of God.
Once, during the celebration of the Feast of the twenty-six martyrs of Zographou, on October 10, 1873, there was a great all-night vigil. It was a moonless night. In the middle of the night, while the monks were chanting and reading the lives of the holy martyrs in the church, a noise was suddenly heard, and over the church a fiery pillar appeared, extending from earth to heaven. It was so bright that things at a distance could be seen as though it were midday. This wondrous manifestation lasted for about a quarter of an hour and then disappeared.
Contemplate God's miraculous appearance to the Prophet Elias (I Kings 19):
- How Elias, fatigued by the unrighteousness of the people, prayed to God to grant him death;
- How God comforted Elias by His appearing on Horeb;
- How there was a strong wind, then an earthquake, then fire, and finally a still, small voice-the voice of God.
On the sufferings of David and the prophecy of the sufferings of Christ
For many dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet (Psalm 22:16).
This is the mystical experience of the penitent David, and, at the same time, a clear prophecy of Christ's sufferings. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12), says the Apostle Paul. When King David sinned, the devils did not appear to him nor did they disturb him; but when he began to repent and to direct his life on the path of God, then the devils surrounded him and tormented him. The words here are not about men but about demons, who sometimes attack the penitent directly, or torment him through other men. David would not have called God's people, the crown of God's creation, "dogs." Rather, he called the demons "dogs," who are perceived by righteous men as dogs, snakes, black men, lions, or in some other form. That he here means "dogs" as evil spirits can be proven by the written lives of the great ascetics, to whom the demons appeared in the form of dogs and other animals, to frighten them. We can also be convinced of this from the words of the Lord our Savior, that He spoke from the Cross: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). This means that the Jews were not doing their own will but rather someone else's: the demons' will. For many dogs and the congregation of the wicked gathered to destroy Christ the Lord. When the devil-the tempter-could not defeat the Lord on the Mount of Temptation by his false promises, he began with all his might to destroy Him through men by a dishonorable death on the Cross. Brethren, see how clear the prophecy is! They pierced My hands and My feet. These words could not have pertained to anyone else, in the entire history of the world, but the crucified Savior. This prophecy continues in great detail: They divided My garments among them and for My vesture they cast lots (Psalm 22:18). Everything happened as it was prophesied-everything! But the devil was deluded in his reckoning. He thought he could destroy the One mightier than death, by condemning Him to death. He thought to dishonor Him Who alone gives honor to all creation. By his glorious Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ conquered and shamed the devil and his entire pack of dogs, and gave man power and authority over them. The whole pagan world was unable to exorcize even one single demon; but we, by the name of Christ and by the power of His Cross, are able to disperse legions of demons like smoke-for, after Christ's victory, the demons became like whipped and frightened dogs.
O Lord, Conqueror and Savior, to Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK