Prologue from Ochrid - October 12 [October 25]
1. The Holy Martyrs Tarachus, Probus and Andronicus.
Tarachus was bom in Syrian Claudiopolis, Probus in Pamphylian Side and Andronicus was the son of an eminent citizen of Ephesus. They were all three martyred together by the proconsul, Hymerius Maximus, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305). Tarachus was sixty-five years old when he was martyred. When the proconsul asked him three times for his name, he answered all three times: 'I am a Christian.'They were first beaten with rods, then, all bloody and wounded, thrown into prison. After that, they were brought out again for further torture. When the proconsul urged Probus to deny Christ, promising him honours from the Emperor and his own friendship, holy Probus replied: 'I neither desire imperial honours nor seek your friendship.' When he put St Andronicus to even greater physical torture, Christ's young martyr replied: 'My body is before you; do with it what you will.' After long-drawn-out torture in various places, these three holy martyrs were thrown into the theatre before the wild beasts. Before them, others were torn to pieces by the animals in this same theatre, but the beasts would not touch the saints; both the bear and the ferocious lioness fawned around them. Seeing this, many people believed in Christ the Lord and cried out against the proconsul. Wild with anger, and more ferocious than the beasts, the proconsul ordered soldiers to go in and cut Christ's soldiers to pieces, and their bodies lay mingled with the bodies of the others who had been slain. Three Christians: Macarius, Felix and Verianus, who witnessed the slaughter of the holy martyrs, came that night to take their bodies. All the bodies being mixed up and the night being very dark, they, in uncertainty about how to distinguish the martyrs' bodies, prayed to God, and three lights suddenly appeared above the bodies of the saints. They then took them and gave them burial.
2. St Martin, Bishop of Tours.
Born in 316 in Pannonia, in a town called Sabaria, he was the son of pagan parents. His father was a Roman officer, and the young Martin was therefore put, against his will, into the army. He was, however, already a catechumen in the Christian Church, which he had loved with all his heart from his early youth. Travelling one winter with his companions to the town of Amiens, he saw a beggar, almost naked and freezing with cold, in front of the gates. Martin was distressed and, parting from his companions, took off his soldier's cloak and, with his sabre, cut it in half. He gave half to the beggar and wrapped himself in the other, and went on his way. That night, the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a dream, clad in the other half of his cloak, and said to His angels: 'Martin is only a catechumen, and see, he clothes Me in his garment!' Leaving the army, Martin was immediately baptised, and baptised his mother. After that, he became a monk in the diocese of St Hilary of Poitiers, and spent his life in true asceticism. He had a rare meekness, and for this God gave him abundant wonderworking gifts, so that he could raise the dead and drive out evil spirits. He was made Bishop of Tours against his will. After abundant toil in the Lord's vineyard and after a mighty struggle with both pagans and Arian heretics, St Martin gave his holy soul into the hands of his Lord in 397.
3. Our Holy Father Cosmas of Maiuma.
Born in Jerusalem, he was a friend of St John Damascene, whose parents took him in as an orphan and educated him. As a monk, he helped St Damascene to compile the Octoechos*, and he himself composed many Canons to the saints. The especially lovely Canons for Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Judgement are ascribed to him. He was bishop of the town of Maiuma, near Gaza. He outlived St Damascene and died in great old age.
* The Octoechos: the book of the Eight Tones, which change weekly and comprise the basis of the Offices. - Translator
By what virtue have the saints been most exalted and glorified in the eyes of heaven and men? Primarily by their humility and service. Even before his baptism, while he was still an officer, St. Martin had a servant whom he considered more a brother than a servant. He often served this servant unashamedly; in fact, he even rejoiced in it. Again, when St. Hilary wanted to ordain him a priest, he refused this honor with tears, and begged the bishop to let him simply be a monk in some remote place. Once, St. Martin was traveling from France to Pannonia to visit his parents. While he was crossing over the Alps, murderous robbers captured him. When one of the robbers raised his sword to behead him, Martin showed no fear, and remained motionless; he did not beg for mercy but was completely at peace, as if nothing were happening. The robber, amazed at such behavior, lay aside his sword and asked Martin who he was. Martin replied that he was a Christian, and hence, he was not afraid-for he knew that God, according to His great mercy, is always close to men, especially in times of danger. The thieves were astonished at the rare virtue of this man of God, and he who had drawn his sword against Martin believed in Christ, was baptized, and later became a monk. When the episcopal throne in Tours became vacant, the people wanted Martin to be bishop, but Martin did not even want to hear of it. However, certain citizens of Tours craftily lured him from the monastery and carried him off. They came to the gate of Martin's monastery and told the Martin that a sick man was out there with them, and they begged him for a blessing. When Martin came out they seized him, took him to Tours, and had him consecrated bishop. In old age, he foresaw his approaching death. He told his brethren and they began to weep copiously, begging him not to leave them. The saint, seeking to comfort them, prayed to God in their presence and said: "Lord, if I am still needed by Thy people, I do not reject the labor. Let it be according to Thy holy will."
Contemplate the wondrous work of the Apostles Peter and John (Acts 3):
- How a beggar, lame from birth, asked them for alms;
- How Peter told him they had no silver or gold;
- How the apostle took him by the hand and said, In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk! and the sick man was made whole.
On weeping in the evening and joy in the morning
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
God rebukes, and God makes glad. Just one repentant thought eases the wrath of God; for God is not angry at men as an enemy is angry, but His anger toward men is as that of a father toward his children. His anger is momentary, and His mercy is infinite. If He rebukes you in the evening, He causes you to rejoice in the morning; men know Him best in His rebuking and in His mercy. O my brethren, if men constantly knew and recognized God as the Doer of good, they would never know Him as Rebuker and Judge. Behold, God rejoices more when we recognize Him by His mercy than by His anger. However, there are very ungrateful and thoughtless people who never remember God when He grants mercy, but remember Him only when He chastises and rebukes them through sickness, death in the family, failure and shame before men, fire, the sword, earthquake or flood, or numerous other punitive rods and sticks with which He chastens the unawakened, reminds the ungrateful, brings the errant to their senses, and reminds everyone that He is the Creator and Lord, the Giver of Gifts and the Judge.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. These words also mean that the night is for weeping and prayer, for repentance and divine contemplation. The night especially is for repentance, and there is no true repentance without tears. At night a man thinks without hindrance about his deeds, his words, and his thoughts, and repents for all that he has done contrary to God's law. If a man weeps in repentance at night, then he will rejoice during the day. He will rejoice as a newborn, as one bathed, as one alleviated from the burden of sin. But, if he spends the night in sin and senseless revelry, a sorrowful and tearful day will dawn for him.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Teacher, rebuke us, but forgive us; chastise us, but save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK