Prologue from Ochrid - September 14 [September 27]
1. Holy Cross Day.
On this day are commemorated two events connected with the Precious Cross of Christ: the first, the finding of the Cross on Golgotha and the second the returning of the Cross to Jerusalem from Persia.
Staying in the Holy Land, the holy Empress Helena decided to took for the Precious Cross of the Lord. An old Jew called Judah was the only person who knew the whereabouts of the Cross, and, under pressure from the Empress, he revealed that the Cross was buried under the Temple of Venus that the Emperor Hadrian had built on Golgotha. The Empress ordered that this idolatrous temple be pulled down, and then, digging deep below it, she found three crosses. While the Empress was in uncertainty about how to recognise which cross was the Lord's, a funeral procession passed by. Then Patriarch Macarius told them to place the crosses one by one on the dead man. When they placed the first and second on him, the dead man remained unchanged, but when they placed the third on him, he was restored to life. By this, they knew that this was the Precious and life-giving Cross of Christ. After that, they placed it on a sick woman, and she recovered. Then the Patriarch raised the Cross aloft for all to see, and the people sang with tears: 'Lord, have mercy!' The Empress Helena had a silver casing made, and placed the precious Cross in it.
Later, King Chozroes conquered Jerusalem, took the people into slavery and carried the Lord's Cross off to Persia, where it remained for fourteen years. In 628, the Greek Emperor Heraclius was victorious over Chozroes and brought the Cross back to Jerusalem with great ceremony. Entering the city, Heraclius was carrying the Cross on his back, but suddenly the aged Emperor was unable to take another step. Patriarch Zacharias saw an angel directing the Emperor to take off his imperial robes and walk beneath the Cross along the way that Christ had walked, barefoot and humiliated as He had been. He passed this vision on to the Emperor, who stripped himself of his raiment and, in poor clothing and barefoot, took up the Cross, carried it to Golgotha and placed it in the Church of the Resurrection, to the joy and consolation of the whole Christian world.
2. St Placilla the Empress.
The wife of the Emperor Theodosius the Great, she was a true Christian in both thought and deed. She was especially distinguished by her help to the poor and the sick. When someone told her that this was not consistent with her imperial dignity, she replied: 'It befits the imperial state to help with money; my personal endeavours (towards the poor) I give to Him whose good will it was to give me this state.' She entered peacefully into rest in about 400.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Macarius of Salonica.
A disciple of Patriarch Niphon at the time that the latter was labouring in the asceticism of silence at Vatopedi, Macarius longed for martyrdom for the sake of Christ, and begged St Niphon's blessing to seek it. The discerning Patriarch, perceiving that this was God's will, blessed him for the way of martyrdom. Macarius went to Salonica and, in the midst of a crowd of Turks, began to speak of Christ as the one, true God. The Turks seized him and threw him into prison. When he was brought to trial, Macarius cried out to the Turks: 'Oh, that you would come to know the truth and be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!' The Turks beheaded him in 1527. At that moment, Niphon saw this in his spirit at Vatopedi, and told a monk of Macarius's death by martyrdom, saying: 'Know, my child, that your brother Macarius has today died a martyr, and is borne to heaven, triumphing and rejoicing in the Lord. May we be worthy of blessing by his prayers!' (From the Athonite Patrology).
4. Our Holy Mother Maria of Tarsus
She at first lived a life of harlotry. Two monks travelling through Tarsus stayed at the inn where Maria plied her trade. When she approached the monks, they rebuked her and pushed her away as unclean. She suddenly repented and vowed to sin no more from that moment. The monks took her with them to a women's monastery, where Maria lived in asceticism till old age. She had the gift of wonderworking during her lifetime and after her death.
Just as a candle is lighted from another candle, so also a good work is born from a good work. A patrician wanted to donate a gold cross to a church. He summoned a young but experienced goldsmith, gave him a great deal of gold that he weighed out, and told him to fashion whatever sort of cross he desired. The poor goldsmith, seeing what a large donation this patrician was making for the sake of his soul, became inflamed with love for God in his own heart, and decided that he would add his own ten pieces of gold to the amount of the patrician's gold. When the cross was completed, the patrician weighed it, and discovered that it was heavier than the gold that he had given to the young man. He immediately began to scold the young man as a thief, suspecting that he had taken some of the gold and replaced it with some other heavy metal. When the young man saw the patrician so angry, he confessed his deed. He said: "I added from my gold, as the widow gave two mites, in order to receive Christ's reward with you." Hearing this, the patrician's heart was touched, and he said to the honorable young man: "From this day, I take you as my son, and the heir of all my goods."
Contemplate the transgression of Jeroboam and the punishment of God (I Kings 12, 13):
- How Jeroboam cast two golden calves and ordered the people to worship them as gods;
- How the prophet declared God's displeasure to Jeroboam, and miraculously broke the altar before the idols;
- How Jeroboam raised his hand against the prophet, but his hand withered, and only after the prayers of the prophet was it made whole again.
On the truthfulness of Christ's witness
Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true (John 8:14).
The light witnesses truthfully when it witnesses to the existence of the sun, and it does not lie. In the same way, the Lord Jesus witnesses truthfully to all that He testifies. He descended among men as a heavenly witness, to affirm the existence of the Triune God, the existence of the angelic world and of men's souls, the love of God for men, God's providence toward men, the power of justice over injustice, the might of truth over falsehood, the blessed immortality of the righteous and the eternal torment of the sinners, the resurrection from the dead, the Judgment of God and many other things that men-under the veil of sin-only felt as a faint premonition, but did not know of or strongly believe in. Most of all, He witnessed that He is the Son of the Living God, equal to His Father in Essence, power and love, and equal to the Holy Spirit of God. For the Witness had to witness first to Himself, so that by His witnessing to other mysteries, He could be believed. From the point of view of a pure and immutable truth, every witness of Christ is true; but from the point of view of the darkened Jews, it was not true. For God, and the angels of God, and the righteous ones, and for eternity, and for all time-His witnessing is true, and that is why He also said: My record is true. But for the darkened minds of the hardened sinners, this witness is not true. That is why He said to the Jews earlier: If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true (John 5:31). In other words; "It is not true for you Jews, but in essence it is true in and of itself."
O Most-blessed Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God and our only Savior, deliver us from the weakness of a sinful mind, and the wickedness of a sinful heart. Illumine us with the light of Thy words, eternally true.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK