Prologue from Ochrid - October 15 [October 28]
1. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Lucian, Prince of Antioch.
Born of noble parents in Syrian Samosata, he received in his youth a very wide education, both secular and spiritual, and was a man eminent both for his learning and for his strict ascetic life. Giving his goods away to the poor, he supported himself by the writing of works of instruction, feeding himself thus by the work of his hands. He did a very great service to the Church in the work which he undertook of the correcting of the Hebrew text of the Scriptures in many places, texts which heretics had taken the opportunity to twist and corrupt according to their wicked teaching. Because of his learning and his great spirituality, he was ordained priest in Antioch. In the time of Maximian's persecution, when St Anthimus of Nicomedia and St Peter of Alexandria were put to torture, St Lucian was also on the list of those whom the Emperor wanted to have killed. Lucian fled the city and hid, but a jealous heretic priest, Pancratius, revealed his whereabouts. The persecution was terrible at that time, and not even tiny children were safe. Two boys, who would not eat food offered to idols, were thrown into a bath of boiling water, where, under torture, they gave their holy souls into God's hands. A disciple of Lucian's, Pelagia (see Oct. 8th), to preserve her virginal purity from the dissolute authorities, gave her soul into God's hands, and her body fell from the roof of her house. Lucian was taken to Nicomedia. to appear before the Emperor. On the way, he managed to bring forty soldiers to Christ by his counsel, and thev all died a martyr's death. After interrogation and flogging, St Lucian was thrown into prison, where he was tortured by hunger. 'He scorned hunger', writes St John Chrysostom of Lucian. 'Let us also scorn luxury and destroy the lordship of the stomach; that we may, when the time comes for us to meet such torture, be prepared beforehand, by the help of a lesser ascesis, to show ourselves worthy of glory in the hour of battle.' He received Communion in prison on the Theophany, and on the following day gave his soul into God's hands, on January 7th, 312.
2. Our Holy Father Euthymius the New.
Born in Ancyra in 824, of righteous parents Epiphanius and Anna, he served in the army, married and had one daughter, Anastasia. He lived for a long time in asceticism in the monasteries of Olympus and then on the Holy Mountain, and also lived for some time as a stylite near Salonica, where he founded monasteries for men and women. He entered into rest on an island near the Holy Mountain at the end of the ninth century. His holy and wonderworking relics are preserved in Salonica.
The saints of God place great importance on receiving Holy Communion before their death. Even though they were sacrificing their lives for Christ the Lord and washing away all their sins by the blood of martyrdom, the martyrs longingly received the Holy Mysteries whenever it was possible. St. Lucian was in prison with several of his disciples and other Christians. On the eve of Theophany, Lucian longed, on such a great Christian feast, to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, for he knew that his death was imminent. Seeing the sincere desire of His sufferer, God Almighty arranged that some Christians pass bread and wine into the prison. When the Feast of Theophany dawned, Lucian called all the Christian prisoners to stand in a circle around him and said to them: "Surround me and be the Church." He had no table, chair, stone or wood in the prison upon which to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. "Holy Father, where shall we place the bread and wine?" they asked Lucian. He lay down in their midst and said: "Place them on my chest, let it be a living altar for the Living God!" And thus the Liturgy was celebrated correctly and prayerfully on the chest of the martyr, and all received Holy Communion. The next day, the emperor sent soldiers to bring Lucian out for torture. When the soldiers opened the door of the prison, St. Lucian cried out three times: "I am a Christian! I am a Christian! I am a Christian!" and with that, he gave up his soul to his God.
Contemplate the wondrous freeing of the apostles from prison (Acts 5):
- How the elders of the Jews cast the apostles into prison;
- How an angel of God appeared at night, opened the prison, led the apostles out and ordered them to enter the temple and preach the Gospel.
On how the Lord watches over the bones of the righteous
He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken (Psalm 34:20)
Let not the righteous be afraid. The All-seeing God watches over them. Can the All-seeing lose or forget something? On the Day of Resurrection, He shall gather all their bodily parts and gloriously resurrect them. The persecutors hurled the bodies of the martyrs into the sea, buried them in deep pits, or left them in fields for the birds to devour. But the Lord, by His divine providence, so guided events that these holy relics came into the hands of the faithful. They were laid honorably in costly reliquaries, churches were built over them, and wonderworking power emanated from them. God wanted to show the faithful by this that He watches over the bones of the righteous, and that He has glorified them in the Heavenly Kingdom. And the Church on earth has affirmed this through the miraculous power of their glorified bodies. Wonderworking relics are like forerunners of the general and glorious resurrection of the righteous. But what if some of the bones of the righteous are burned or ground up-could that be an obstacle to the almighty power of God? Can He not, in the Day of Resurrection, reassemble and enliven them from the scattered ashes? There shall not an hair of your head perish (Luke 21:18), assures the Lord. Nevertheless, if you want to understand "bones" as "works," know then that the works of the unrighteous are as smoke, and the works of the righteous are powerful and as lasting as hard bones. Not even one righteous deed will fade away or disappear in the course of time. God knows them and God watches over them, so that He may reveal them like precious pearls before the assembly of angels and men on that Day.
O All-seeing Lord, Master and Protector of the righteous, multiply our righteous deeds by Thy Holy Spirit, without whom nothing good can be done; and save us by Thy mercy, not according to our deeds.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK