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Prologue from Ochrid - September 24 [October 7]

1. The Holy Protomartyr Thecia, Equal to the Apostles.

Thecla was born in Iconium of eminent pagan parents. She was betrothed at the age of eighteen to a young man, at the time that the Apostle Paul came to Iconium with Bamabas to preach the Gospel. Listening to Paul for three days and nights, Thecla turned utterly to the Christian faith and vowed to live in virginity. Her mother, seeing that she shunned her betrothed and thought no more of marriage, first talked to her and then beat her and starved her. Finally, she gave her over to the judges and demanded, wicked mother that she was, that 'Mecla be burned. The judge threw her into the flames, but God preserved her unharmed. Thecla then became a follower of the Apostle Paul, and went with him to Antioch. Attracted by Thecla's beauty, an elder of the city attempted to take her by force, but Thecla tore herself out of his grasp. The elder denounced her to the governor as a Christian who was averse to marriage. The governor condemned her to death and threw her to the wild beasts, but the animals would not touch the body of this holy virgin. Amazed at this, the governor asked: 'Who are you, and what is the power that you have in you, that nothing can do you harm?' Thecia replied: 'I am a servant of the living God.' Then the governor let her go free, and she began to preach the Gospel and succeeded in bringing many to the true Faith, among whom was an eminent and honoured widow, Tryphena. After this, St Thecla, with the blessing of the Apostle Paul, withdrew to a solitary place near Seleucia. She lived a long time there in asceticism, healing the sick with miraculous power and in this way bringing many to Christianity. The doctors in Seleucia were jealous of her and sent some young men to assault her, hoping that, in losing her virginity, she would lose also her miraculous power. Thecla fled from these insolent young men and, when she saw that they would catch her, prayed to God for help in front of a rock, and the rock opened and hid the holy maiden and bride of Christ. This rock was her hiding place and her tomb . St Chrysostom says of this wonderful Christian heroine and saint: 'I seem to see this blessed virgin going to Christ with virginity in one hand and martyrdom in the other.'

2. St Stephen, King of Serbia, the First-Crowned (Simon the Monk).

Crowned king at Zica, his foundation, by his brother and spiritual father, St Sava, he was a devout Christian and a wise and peaceloving ruler. Stephen, together with St Sava, raised Orthodoxy to great heights among his people. At his desire, St Sava made him a monk at the time of his death, giving him the name Simon. He entered into rest in the Lord on September 24th, 1224, and his relics are preserved at Studenica.

3. St David (formerly Prince Dimitrije).

Son of Vukan, Stephen's brother, he built the monastery at Lim, at which he himself became a monk.

4. The Holy Prince Vladislav.

Son of King Stephen, he built the monastery of Mileseva, whither he took St Sava's relics from Trnovo. He was distinguished by a rare compassion for the poor. On the coinage of his time, he had inscribed: 'The servant of God Vladislav'.

Reflection

Every saint is close to the place where he is invoked for help, or where his sanctity is commemorated and glorified. Those who are clairvoyant see the saints. If those who are not clairvoyant truly believe, they will see them in due time. Even as a young monk, St. Cosmas of Zographou had this gift. Once, on the Feast of the Annunciation, he went with several other monks to the Monastery of Vatopedi for this, their main feast. During the church service, and during the meal in the refectory, Cosmas saw a woman of royal beauty and majesty, who authoritatively organized, directed, and even served. This was not a momentary vision, but continued for a long time, both in the church and in the refectory. Cosmas was perplexed and startled by this vision. It was not at all proper for a woman to be in a monastery of the Holy Mountain. When he related this vision to his brother monks at Zographou, all the while protesting the presence of women on the Holy Mountain, the astonished monks explained to him that she was the Queen of the Holy Mountain, the Most-holy Theotokos. Then the perplexed heart of Cosmas was filled with great joy. St. Cosmas was so gifted with spiritual sight that, later, as an old hermit in his cave, he saw the soul of the abbot of Hilandar ascending to heaven, struggling to pass through the tollhouses, tormented by demons. Cosmas immediately sent someone to ask the brethren at Hilandar to pray to God for the soul of their reposed abbot. Matins had just been dismissed, and the monks and the abbot had just left the church. Hearing Cosmas's message, the monks laughed, saying that their abbot had just gone to his cell to prepare for Divine Liturgy. But when they entered the cell they found their abbot dead.

Contemplation

Contemplate the sin of King Ahaziah and God's punishment of him (II Chronicles 22):

  1. How Ahaziah did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, and associated with the sinful house of Ahab;
  2. How Ahaziah was slain with many of his kinsmen.

Homily

On God the Holy Spirit, the Glorifier

He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you(John 16:14).

The Holy Spirit is equal in might with the Father and the Son. All that the Father can do, the Son can do, and so can the Holy Spirit. All that the Father knows, the Son knows, and so does the Holy Spirit. But, according to Their infinite love for one another, and according to Their infinite wisdom with regard to the dispensation of man's salvation, They appear in turn to men from the point of view of time. As the Father glorifies the Son, so the Son glorifies the Father, and the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. He shall glorify Me. Did not the Son glorify Himself? Yes, He did, but not to the extent that He could have; rather only to the extent that men of that time could receive and endure it. In time, the Holy Spirit will reveal an even greater glory of the Son of God, when He, the All-gracious One, will fill the faithful with His gifts of grace. He shall glorify Me. Brethren, the Lord also speaks these words as a lesson to us, so that if we perform some good work, we shall leave it to others to glorify us, and not seek to glorify ourselves. For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

With these words, the Lord revealed the unity of the Spirit of God with Him, and not the subordination of the Spirit. Before this, He said: He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). So that the disciples would not think that the Spirit knows more of the truth than the Son, or that the Spirit is greater than the Son, He revealed that the Spirit shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. Christ was able to guide the disciples into all truth, but at the time, the disciples were not prepared to receive all truth. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth, at the proper time. Yet, in revealing all truth to them, the Spirit will reveal nothing that is not known to the Son, let alone anything that is contrary to the knowledge and will of the Son. That is why the Lord said: For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

O wondrous unity of the Holy Trinity, O power of the Triune Flame, light and love from one and the same fire! O Holy and Most-holy Trinity, kindle divine love in our hearts.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK