Prologue from Ochrid - September 7 [September 20]
1. The Holy Martyr Sozon.
Born in Lycaonia, Sozon was a shepherd and lived by the Law of God, teaching his brothers and sisters, and his friends, his devout faith. He learned in a vision that he would suffer martyrdom for Christ. At that time, there was a great persecution of Christians near the city of Pompeiopolis on the part of Maximian, the governor of Silicia. In the city, there was a golden idol which was worshipped by the pagans. Sozon left his sheep, went to the city, entered the pagan temple and knocked an arm off the golden idol, melting it down and giving the gold to the poor. There was a great outcry in the city because of this, and the pagans began to search for the guilty man. That no-one else should suffer for his action, Sozon went to the governor and declared himself to be a Christian and the performer of that act. The torturers first beat him, then chained him to a tree and flogged him with iron flails. When he was at his last breath, they cast him into the flames, where holy Sozon gave his soul to God. He suffered in about 304. His relics were found to be wonderworking, and a church dedicated to him was built over them.
2. The Holy Apostles Euodus and Onesiphorus.
These apostles were among the Seventy. St Ignatius the God-Bearer mentions St Euodus in glowing terms in his Epistle to the Antiochians. Euodus was a disciple of the Apostle Peter, and his successor at his hands as Bishop of Antioch. Euodus wrote a work on the holy Mother of God, in which he expounds how the holy Virgin was taken to the Temple at the age of three, how she stayed there for eleven years and was given into Joseph's keeping at the age of fifteen, and how she gave birth to the Lord at that age. He wrote another work under the titie `The Lighthouse', but both these works were destroyed during a time of persecution of Christians. He was killed for Christ during one of the Emperor Vespasian's visits to Antioch.
St Onesiphorus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul (II Tim. 1:16-18) as his sincere friend and helper. He suffered for Christ in Colophon, where he had been bishop. It is said that he was bound behind wild horses and tom asunder. Thus these faithful soldiers of Christ served with honour on earth and entered into the joy of their Lord.
3. The Holy Martyr Eupsychius.
Son of Dionysius, a senator, he was brutally tortured for Christ, whipped and flogged and then flung half-dead into prison, where an angel of God appeared to him and healed him. Freed from prison, he gave away all his possessions, some to the poor and some to his slanderers. Arrested afresh, he was flogged until he gave his soul to God. Milk and water flowed from his wounds in place of blood. He suffered in the time of the Emperor Hadrian (I 17-38).
4. St John, Archbishop of Novgorod.
He was first a married priest and then, from 1163, bishop in Novgorod, building seven churches during his lifetime. He had a vision of the holy Mother of God and a rare power over demons, making them obey him, and he once miraculously preserved Novgorod from an attack by seventy-two princes. He suffered from diabolical temptations, but overcame them all by the power of the Cross and by prayer. Retiring to a monastery in old age, he received the Great Habit and entered peacefully into rest in the Lord on September 7th, 1185.
Victory over anger is one of the greatest victories of a soldier of Christ. We generally become angry either at those we wish to turn back from sin, or at those who slander us. However, in doing so we forget that anger is a mortal sin, and in desiring the salvation of others we lose our own, according to the words of St. Macarius. Anger against our enemies is usually tied to another evil impulse, the desire for revenge. St. Eupsychius so overcame the passion of anger in himself, that before his death, he gave one portion of his great estate to the poor and another portion to his slanderers, because of whom he was being tortured and slain. He considered his slanderers as his benefactors. St. John Chrysostom writes: "Let us clip the wings of anger, and evil will not rise high. Anger is an evil sickness that can destroy our souls…. Anger is a terrible fire which devours everything…. If an angry man could see himself at the moment of his anger, he would need no other counsel not to become angry-because there is nothing more unpleasant than an angry face." Abba Ammon confessed of himself: "I spent fourteen years in Scetis, praying to God day and night, to give me victory over anger."
Contemplate Solomon's honoring of his mother (I Kings 2):
- How his mother went to her son to ask something of him;
- How he stood up, met his mother and bowed before her-even though he was king;
- How, when he sat down on his throne, he placed his mother at his right hand.
On spiritual food
My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me (John 4:34).
Behold, here is love! Behold, here is instruction! Behold, here is humility! Behold, here is an example! As there is in good bread all that is needed for our body, so in every word of the Lord Jesus Christ there is all that is needed for our soul. The divine unity of the nature of the Father and the Son is expressed in the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father. He who loves, obeys. If you want to know how great your love for God is, measure your obedience to the will of God and you will know immediately. A lack of obedience is a sure sign of the lack of love. He who loves, fulfills the will of his beloved. The Son of God loves His Father so much that He regarded fulfilling the Father's will as the sweetest food. What is the will of the Father? The salvation of mankind. Our Lord, the Son of God, felt the insatiable hunger to fulfill the Father's will. When He saved someone, He felt as if nourished with the sweetest food. Do you see how exalted Christ's spirituality is? His disciples brought Him food from the city and urged Him: Master, eat! At that moment He was too occupied with His main work, the saving of human souls. There was the Samaritan woman, ready to embrace the teaching of salvation; there was the entire city of Sychar, already drawn to the Kingdom of God; and there was the great field ready for the harvest of salvation. For Christ this was food sweeter than all physical food and worldly sweetness. The body is a vehicle in which man, the king, rides. When the king performs his royal duty-ransoming his heirs from bondage-the vehicle must be put aside and not interfere in the work of the king. The king is so focused on saving his beloved heirs, that this mission is his food, drink, reward, sole satisfaction and dignity. O my brethren, if you could know how much Christ the Lord hungers, even today, for our salvation! If we did, then we would give Him the food that He likes most! Who is a greater guest, closer relative, or more sincere friend than He? When we host far lesser guests, more distant relatives and less sincere friends, we give them the food that we know they like. Then, why do we not host our Lord with the only food that is pleasing to Him? Let us embrace the salvation that He offers us-that, for Him, is the most pleasant food. He turns His head away from all other food.
O Lord Jesus, insatiable Lover of our salvation, have mercy on us and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK