Prologue from Ochrid - October 16 [October 29]
I. The Holy Martyr Longinus.
The divine Matthew the Evangelist, describing the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, says: 'Now when the centurion and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that were done, they feared greatly, saying: "Truly this was the Son of God" ' (Matt. 27:54). That centurion was this blessed Longinus, who, with two other of his soldiers, came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. He was the officer in command both at the Lord's crucifixion on Golgotha and in the watch that guarded the tomb. When the Jewish elders learned of Christ's Resurrection, they bribed the soldiers to spread the falsehood that Christ had not risen, but that His disciples had stolen His body. The Jews tried to bribe Longinus also, but without success. Then the Jews resorted to their usual practice: they conspired to kill Longinus. Discovering this, Longinus took off his army belt, received baptism from the apostles together with his two friends, and with them secretly left Jerusalem and went to Cappadocia. There he gave himself to fasting and prayer and, as a living witness of the Resurrection of Christ, turned many pagans to the true Faith by his testimony. He then went off to a village where his father had property, but the wicked Jews would not even there leave him in peace. In response to slander on their part, Pilate sent soldiers to behead Longinus. Holy Longinus foresaw in his spirit the approach of his executioners and, going out to meet them, took them to his home without telling them who he was. The soldiers lay down to sleep, and St Longinus spent the whole night preparing for death. In the morning, he went and brought his two friends, dressed himself in white grave-clothes, told the others in the house what was happening and showed them a place on a hillock to bury him. He then revealed himself to the soldiers as the Longinus whom they were seeking. The soldiers were embarrassed and ashamed, and would not think of beheading Longinus, but he laid it on them to carry out their superior's command, and he and his two friends were beheaded. Longinus's head was taken by the soldiers to Pilate; Pilate gave it to the Jews and they flung it onto a dung-heap outside the city.
2. Our Holy Father Longinus the Lover of Labour.
A monk of the Kiev Caves in the eleventh century, he was doorkeeper in the monastery and had such a pure and grace-filled heart that he knew the disposition of everyone who went into the monastery, and with what disposition others left it. His wonderworking relics are preserved in the cave of St Theodosius.
The first appearance of the Holy Martyr Longinus was as follows: Much time had passed since his martyrdom when it happened that a widow in Cappadocia became blind. The doctors were unable to do anything at all for her. Suddenly, the thought came to her to go to Jerusalem and venerate the holy places there, hoping that she might find help. She had an only son, a boy, who served as her guide, but as soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, her son died of an illness. Oh, how immeasurable was her sorrow! Having lost her eyes, she now lost her only son, whose eyes had guided her. But in her pain and sorrow, St. Longinus appeared to her and comforted her with the promise that he would restore her sight and reveal to her the heavenly glory in which her son now dwelt. Longinus told her everything about himself, and told her to go outside the city walls to the dung heap, and there to dig up his head, and that she herself would see what would happen next. The woman arose and, stumbling, somehow managed to get out of the city. She cried out for someone to lead her to the dung heap and to leave her there. When she was led to the dung heap, she bent down and began to dig with her hands, having a strong faith that she would find that for which the saint asked. As she was digging, she touched the holy martyr's buried head, and her eyes were opened, and she saw a man's head beneath her hands. Filled with gratitude to God and great joy, she took the head of St. Longinus, washed it, censed it, and placed it in her home as the most precious treasure on earth.
Contemplate the courage of St. Stephen the Archdeacon in confessing Christ (Acts 7):
- How St. Stephen enumerated the miracles and mercies of God toward the people of Israel throughout the ages;
- How he denounced the opposition to God and the evil doings of the Jewish elders;
- How he called them betrayers and murderers of Christ.
On the mountains and depths of God
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep (Psalm 36:6).
The mountains of God's righteousness cut through all the distances of time and space, rising up from earth to heaven; and from the clouds of time they ascend to the clearness of eternity. Are not the saints the bearers of God's righteousness? See how they cut through time and space! Born in time, they now rejoice in eternity. Living in eternity, they come down to us in time, and help us like strong brothers help their weaker brothers. They lived on earth in a finite space and now the whole universe glorifies them. On all five continents of the world, churches are built in honor of the apostles, martyrs, and the rest of God's righteous ones. Such are the mountains of God's righteousness: you cannot limit them, you cannot encompass them, and you cannot measure them with any measure in this world. What other mountains can compare with the mountains of God? What other men can compare with the men of God? What other glory can compare with the glory of those whom God glorifies? O my brethren, let us rejoice in the righteousness of God and let us make glad in the lofty mountains of God's righteousness!
Thy judgments are a great deep. That is, the judgments of Thy providence are as unfathomable as a great deep. Thou didst cast Job upon a dung heap in order to glorify him; Thou didst raise Saul on the throne, that he might plunge himself into destruction; Thou hast mercy on the sinner, and Thou givest him abundance and health, that he may repent; Thou chastenest the righteous, in order to strengthen him in faith and hope!
Thy Holy Church is the greatest mountain of Thy righteousness, the source of many mountains. Thy Holy Church, O God, searches Thy judgments and Thy ways, and her wisdom is great and as sweet as a honeycomb filled with honey.
O Lord, disperse the clouds of malice from our hearts, that we may know Thy judgments and see Thy ways.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK