Prologue from Ochrid - August 20 [September 2]
1. The Holy Prophet Samuel.
The fifteenth and last of the Judges of Israel, he lived eleven hundred years before Christ. He was of the tribe of Levi, born of Elkanah and Hannah in a place called Ramatha or Arimathea, where noble Joseph was later born. The barren Hannah besought Samuel of the Lord with tears, and dedicated him to God when he was three years old. Living in Shiloh near the Ark of the Covenant, Samuel, at the age of twelve, had a true revelation from God of the punishment which would come upon the house of the High Priest, Eli, because of the worthlessness of his sons Hophni and Phineas. This revelation was swiftly fulfilled: the Philistines routed the Israelites, slew both of Eli's sons and captured the Ark of the Covenant. When the messenger brought these bad tidings to Eli, he fell dead on the ground, breathing his last at the age of ninety-eight, and the same thing happened to his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas. Israel was under the Philistine yoke after this for twenty years. When this time had elapsed, God sent Samuel to the people to preach repentance to them as the one means of their salvation from their enemies. The people repented and cast out the foreign idols which they had served, accepting Samuel as prophet, priest and judge. Then Samuel set out with the army against the Philistines and, with God's help, put them to confusion and slew them, freeing the land and the people. After that, Samuel judged the people in peace to old age. Seeing him growing old, the people asked him to give them a king in his place. In vain, Samuel urged the people against this, saying that God was their only king, but the people remained adamant in their desire. Although this desire was not pleasing to God, He commanded Samuel to anoint Saul the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, as king. Saul reigned a short time, and God rejected him for impudence and disobedience, and then commanded Samuel to anoint David the son of Jesse as king in Saul's place. At the time of his death, Samuel gathered all the people together and took leave of them, and when he died all Israel wept for him and buried him solemnly in his house at Ramah.
2. The Hieromartyr Philip, Bishop of Heraklion, with the Priest Severus and the Deacon Hermes.
It is almost certain that they were Slavs. They served God in Thrace, and were there first put to torture for Christ. When the pagans were running to set fire to a Christian church, Philip courageously said to their leaders: 'Do you think that God is shut within walls? He lives in men's hearts.' The church was gutted, all the books burned and the clergy taken to Jedrene, where, after imprisonment and torture, they were thrown half-burned into the river Maritsa. Thirty-eight other Christians died a martyr's death with them. It is thought that they suffered in the time of Diocletian.
Repent before death closes the door of your life and opens the door of judgement. Repent before death and since you do not know the hour of death, repent today, even now, and cease to repeat your sin. Thus, St. Ephrem the Syrian prays:
Before the wheel of time stops in my life, have mercy on me;
Before the wind of death blows and diseases, the heralds of death,
appear on my body, have mercy on me;
Before the majestic sun in the heights becomes darkened for me,
Have mercy on me; and may Your light shine for me from on high
and disperse the dreadful darkness of my mind;
Before the earth returns to earth and becomes decay and before
the destruction of all the features of its beauty, have mercy;
Before my sins deceive me at the judgment and shame me before
The Judge, have mercy O Lord, filled with gentleness;
Before the hosts come forth, preceding the Son of the King to
assemble our miserable race before the throne of the Judge, have mercy,
Before the voice of the trumpet sounds before Your coming, spare
Your servants and have mercy, O Lord our Jesus;
Before You lock Your door before me, O Son of God, and before
I become food for the unquenchable fires of Gehenna, have mercy on me."
To contemplate the wondrous victory of David over Goliath (1 Samuel 17 1 Kings 17):
- How Goliath, frightful in body, armor and weapon defied the entire army of Israel;
- How David, with hope in God, came with a slingshot and stones and slew Goliath;
- How David was victorious for he believed "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:47 1 Kings 17:47), a battle of believers against unbelievers.
About Egypt's conversion to the Lord
"And the Lord shall be known to Egypt and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yes, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and perform it" (Isaiah 19:21).
O how changeable is the heart of man! But, of all of his changes, one is more shameful than the most shameful and that is: when a believer becomes an unbeliever. Of all his changes, one is more glorious than the most glorious and that is: when the unbeliever converts and becomes a believer. The first change occurred with the Israelites who killed Christ and the other occurred with the Egyptians who believed in Christ. At one time, Egypt was the greatest persecutor of those who believed in the one, living God, for at one time, the Egyptians had many lifeless gods, idols and things that they worshipped, fables and soothsayers by which they were deceived. But behold what the prophet fortells! What a wonderful vision! The Egyptians will recognize the one and the living Lord at the time when the Lord appears in the flesh among mankind. Idols will be destroyed, the temples of the demons and animals will be overthrown and the altar of oblation of the Living and one God will be established and raised up. The Bloodless Sacrifice will be offered in place of the bloody sacrifice and the rational in place of the irrational. Hundreds and thousands of monks will take upon themselves the vows of poverty, obedience, fasting, and prayer out of love for the Lord. The greatest ascetics will appear in this once darkened Egypt; the bravest martyrs for Christ the Lord; the most enlightened minds; the most discerning miracle-workers. O, what a wonderful vision! And how wonderful is the realization of that vision! St. Chrysostom writes: "Neither the sun, with its multitude of stars, is not as glowing as much as the wilderness of Egypt with all of its monks." All was realized in truth, that was foreseen and foretold by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the discerning and true prophet.
O compassionate Lord who showed mercy on Egypt, the one time persecutor of Your faithful, and illumined it with the light of truth, illumine us also and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit and by the example of the great Christians of Egypt.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK