Prologue from Ochrid - September 13 [September 26]
1. The Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ.
When the holy Empress Helena found the Lord's Cross in Jerusalem, she stayed longer in the city and built churches in Gethsemane, in Bethlehem, on the Mount of Olives and in other places that commemorated the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. On Golgotha, where she found the Precious Cross, she began to build an enormous church, under whose roof would be the places both where the Lord was crucified and where He was buried, the holy Empress wanting to bring under one roof the places of His suffering and His glory. But Helena went to the Lord before this magnificent church was completed. It was finished in the same year in which Constantine completed thirty years on the throne, and so the consecration of the church and the Emperor's Jubilee were fixed for the same day, September 13th, 335. At that time, a local Council of bishops was meeting in Tyre. These bishops, with many others, made their way to Jerusalem, to the solemn consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. It was then instituted that this day, as a day of victory and triumph for the Church of Christ, should be celebrated every year.
2. The Hieromartyr Cornelius the Centurion.
A Roman and an officer in Palestinian Caesarea, he was baptised by the Apostle Peter after a heavenly vision (Acts 10:1), and was the first pagan to enter the Church of God. Until then, some thought that the Church of Christ was only for the Jews and for those who received Jewish circumcision. Being baptised, Cornelius left everything and followed the Apostle Peter. The Apostle later made him bishop and sent him to the pagan town of Skepseis, where holy Cornelius suffered much humiliation and pain for the sake of Christ. But, by the power of God, he destroyed the temple of Apollo and baptised the prince of that town, Dimitrios, and two hundred and seventy seven pagans. Forewarned by God of the day of his death, he gathered all the Christians together, gave them counsel, prayed to God and peacefully went to his Lord full of years. In time, his grave was forgotten and neglected, but the saint appeared to Silvanus, the Bishop of Troas, and showed him the whereabouts of his grave, commanding him to build a church there. The bishop did so, with the help of a wealthy citizen, Eugenius. Many miracles have been performed over his relics.
3. The Holy Martyrs Macrobius and Gordian.
From Pamphlagonis, they were at first imperial cup-bearers, but, when they revealed that they were Christians,, the Emperor exiled them to Sceta, where they were cast into the flames in a place called New Danube, in the year 320.
4. The Holy Martyr Ketevana, Queen of Georgia.
She suffered as a Christian under Shah Abbas I, in 1624. By order of the Shah, a white-hot helmet was placed on her head. Her son Taymuraz, King of Georgia, laid her relics under the throne in the church at Alaverdsk in Georgia.
5. Our Holy Father Hierotheos.
Born in the Peloponnese in the village of Kalamata, he lived in asceticism in the monastery of Iviron on the Holy Mountain. He was distinguished by great secular learning and by strict monastic asceticism, and was at pains to fulfill the rule of St Arsenius: 'It is enough for a monk to sleep one hour out of the twenty-four.' He entered into rest in 1745 on the island of Varos, and his relics have wonderworking power. Of these relics, his head is preserved in the monastery of Iviron. On touching his holy relics in Constantinople, a blind woman received her sight.
What happens to the persecutors of Christ's Church? Ask Saul, the persecutor of the Church, what happened to him. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 9:5), the Lord said to Saul; and Saul was baptized and became Paul. What happened to Herod, the first persecutor of Christians? What happened to Julian the Apostate? They died evil deaths and their efforts against Christ dispersed into nothing, like smoke. And so it was throughout all of history: some persecutors converted to Christianity and others died evil deaths; but always, the efforts of one or the other against Christianity are dispersed into nothing, like smoke. When he attacked Jerusalem, Emperor Hadrian sought revenge against the Jews and against the Christians, for he did not distinguish Christians from Jews. He dispersed the Jews throughout the world, and built an idolatrous temple on the spot where the Temple of Solomon had stood. He also renamed Jerusalem "Aelia," after his own name [Aelius], and forbade that this city be called Jerusalem by anyone. He built a temple on Golgotha to the foul Venus, a temple to Zeus over the tomb of the Lord, and a temple to Adonis in Bethlehem. How sorrowful the Christians of that time must have felt, seeing their holy shrines mocked in such a manner. But what happened in the end? Emperor Hadrian died an evil death and, in the time of Empress Helena and Emperor Constantine, the pagan temples were torn down, and in their places beautiful Christian churches were built-and these are still standing, even today. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Oh, how desperate and hopeless is every struggle against Christ!
Contemplate the vanity of men's efforts in opposition to the will of God (I Kings 12):
- How ten tribes broke away and took Solomon's servant as king;
- How Rehoboam prepared an army to make war against Jeroboam;
- How God held him back from war, saying through the prophet: For this thing is of Me (I Kings 12:24).
On how the world hates the witness of its sin
The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth(John 7:7).
Why does the world hate Christ the Lord? The Lord Himself immediately explained this: Because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil (John 7:7). Men do not hate anyone as much as a witness to their sin. Because of this, the greatest misdeeds of the world are committed at night, in darkness. But does God not see at night, in darkness? In truth, God sees, but the evildoers do not see God. And even if some of them believe somewhat in God, they think, because of their own insufficient enlightenment, that darkness is a curtain between men and God. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself clearly revealed that God is all-seeing, and that no darkness prevents His eyes from seeing. He Himself saw men at a distance, such as Nathaniel under the fig tree. He saw a donkey with its colt in another village. His sight was not impeded by spatial distance. He foresaw the denial of Peter, the betrayal of Judas, His own death and Resurrection, the destruction of Jerusalem, the eternity of His Church, the suffering of His followers, and the events at the end of time. His sight was not impeded by the distance of time. But what more is there to enumerate? And what is more hidden than the hearts of men? Is not the heart hidden by the thick curtain of the body? Are not the thoughts in the heart more hidden than the heart itself? Nevertheless, He penetrated the darkness of men's hearts and read their thoughts there: Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4). Brethren, it is no wonder that all those who thought or committed evil were afraid of such a witness. Is it a wonder, then, that the evildoers hated Him?
The world cannot hate you. Whom? All of you who participate in the evil of the world and who, because of your participation, dare not witness against the world. How can those who fear men witness against men? How can those who seek the glory of men bring the condemnation of men against themselves?
O my brethren, it is better for us if the world hates us, and Christ loves us-than if the whole world loves us and glorifies us, and Christ turns His face from us, saying: I know you not. If the world hates us, let us be comforted by the words of the Savior: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you (John 15:18).
O Blessed Lord, the Source of all blessings, strengthen our hearts, that we may not be frightened when the world hates us. Only bless and love us, O Good Savior.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK