Prologue from Ochrid - September 15 [September 28]
1. The Holy Martyr Nicetas.
Nicetas was a Goth by birth, and a disciple of Bishop Theophilus of the Goths, who took part in the First Ecumenical Council. When Athenarik, Prince of the Goths, began to persecute the Christians, St Nicetas stood before the prince and denounced him for his paganism and inhumanity. Tormented by terrible tortures, Nicetas the more strongly confessed his faith in Christ, and prayed to God with thanksgiving. His mind was unceasingly lifted up to God and immersed in Him, and in his hand beneath his robe he held an icon of the holy Mother of God with the pre-eternal Christ Child standing and holding the Cross in His hands. St Nicetas carried this icon because the holy Mother of God had appeared to him and comforted him. Finally, the torturer threw Christ's martyr into the flames, in which St Nicetas breathed his last; but his body remained untouched by the fire. His friend Marianus took his body from the land of the Goths (Wallachia and Bessarabia) to Cilicia, to the town of Mopsuestia, where he built a church dedicated to St Nicetas and placed the wonderworking relics of the martyr in it. Nicetas suffered and was glorified in 372.
2. Our Holy Father Philotheus.
He was from the village of Myrmix or Mravin in Asia Minor. His mother had the same name the other way round - Theophila. He was a priest,, and a wonderworker even during his lifetime. On one occasion, he turned water into wine, and on another multiplied bread. He entered into rest in the Lord in the tenth century, and myrrh was found to flow from his relics.
3. The Holy Martyr Porphyrius.
An actor, he first mocked at Christians before Julian the Apostate. On one occasion, when he was mimicking the Christian mystery of Baptism, he was dipped into the water, pronouncing the words: 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' When he emerged from the water, he cried out: 'Now I am a Christian!' Everyone thought that this was in jest, as always, but he held firm to it, stopped mocking Christians and finally suffered for Christ. He was beheaded in 361, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.
4. The Holy Martyrs Theodotus, Asclepidote and Maximus.
Nobles of Trachis, they suffered for Christ near Philipopolis in the village of Saltis, some time between 305 and 311, and entered into the Kingdom of heaven.
5. St Vissarion, Archbishop of Larissa, the Wonderworker.
He founded the Monastery of the Saviour in the diocese of Larissa, and was glorified by his miracles both during his lifetime and after his death. He lived in the sixteenth century.
6. The Holy New Martyr John of Crete.
He suffered for the Christian faith under the Turks in the city of Ephesus in 1811.
7. St Joseph, Bishop of Alaverdsk.
One of the twelve Syrian fathers (see May 7th), who were sent to the Caucasus area to preach the Gospel, St John went peacefully to the Lord in 570. His wonderworking relics are preserved in the Cathedral in Alaverdsk.
God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). God either punishes the mockers in order to correct them or He converts them into that which they had mocked. Initially, St. Porphyrius was famous among the pagans as a mocker of Christianity. On one occasion, he was mocking the Christian Mystery of Baptism before Emperor Julian the Apostate and his retinue. But something totally unexpected happened. When Porphyrius immersed himself in the water and pronounced the words of baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, his spirit was suddenly changed, and he became a true Christian. Instead of mocking the Christian Faith, he began to denounce the emperor for his impure idolatry, for which he was tortured and beheaded. A similar thing happened to the comedian Gennesus, probably in Diocletian's time. This Gennesus parodied the Christian Divine Liturgy before a crowd of pagans, amusing them with his mockeries and witticisms. Suddenly, he changed, and cried out before the people: "I believe, and I desire to be baptized." At first, the spectators thought his words were a part of his farce, but he repeated his statement of faith in Christ. When Gennesus remained steadfast in his new faith, even when interrogated by the court and the emperor himself, he was tortured and slain. Thus, the mocker of Christ became a martyr for Christ.
Contemplate God's punishment on a disobedient prophet (I Kings 13):
- How this prophet was commanded by God to abstain from eating or drinking anything in idolatrous Bethel;
- How the prophet disobeyed God, and ate and drank;
- How, upon returning, he was torn apart by a lion.
On the twofold witness of the Son of God
I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me (John 8:18).
It is written in the Law that two witnesses are needed in order to prove something. First of all, the Lord provided the unbelieving Jews with three great witnesses about Himself: the Father, His own works and Holy Scripture (John 5:36-39). Yet, even after His many miracles, and after His teachings were widely expounded, He told them that His own witness of Himself was true and sufficient (John 8:14). Finally, He again emphasized two witnesses to them-His and His Father's-in accordance with the letter of the Law, which required two witnesses. Thus the Lord seals the lips of the unbelievers in every way, and leaves them no outlet but the crime of murder, which is the last resort of those who refuse to be convinced of the truth, with no regard for reason or proof. In this last case especially, with the Lord's presentation of His and His Father's witness, He also wanted to show that He was a separate Person [hypostasis], and yet of one Essence with the Father. Therefore, He presents two witnesses: His own separate witness and the witness of God the Father. The following words confirm this: If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also (John 8:19). Expressed here is the complete essential unity of the Father and the Son, and there remains not even the slightest doubt that the Lord was thinking of His essential equality with His Father. The words here are about the Divine Nature, and not the human nature. Whoever conceives of the Holy Trinity as three bodily beings deceives himself. Only the Son of God appeared in the flesh, for the sake of the salvation of the world. The Father and the Holy Spirit did not take on flesh. According to His Divine Nature, the Son, although in the flesh, remained equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. He clothed Himself in human nature, and added His Divine Nature, out of love for mankind, so as to reveal Himself to men and save them.
O Holy Trinity, one in Essence and undivided, Who illumined and enlightened us through the Incarnate Word of God, sustain us to the end by Thy sanctity, Thy strength and Thine immortality, 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