Prologue from Ochrid - August 23 [September 5]
1. The Holy Martyr Lupus.
This holy man was a servant of St Dimitrios of Salonica. When St Dimitrios was beheaded by the Emperor Maximian, Lupus dipped the hem of his garment and his ring in the martyr's blood. Lupus worked many miracles in Salonica with this garment and ring, healing people of every pain and infirmity. The Emperor Maximian, who was still staying in Salonica, discovered this, and commanded that Lupus be tortured and killed. But the soldiers who drew their weapons on Lupus turned one on the other and wounded one another. As Lupus was not yet baptised, although he was a Christian, he prayed to God that He would somehow bring about his baptism before his death. On this, water suddenly poured down on the holy martyr from a cloud, and he thus received baptism. After harsh torture, he was beheaded and entered into the heavenly Kingdom.
2. The Hieromartyr Pothinus, Bishop of Lyons.
He was sent by St Polycarp from Asia Minor to preach in Gaul. He became the first Bishop of Lyons and brought many pagans to Christianity. At the time of a persecution of Christians in the year 177, Pothinus was taken for trial; carried there, as he was ninety years old. 'Who is the Christian God?', the proconsul asked him. 'You will find out, if you are worthy', old Pothinus answered him. The pagans assaulted him with sticks and stones, and belaboured him without mercy. Thrown into prison, St Pothinus died of the beating and entered into the heavenly Kingdom.
3. The Hieromartyr Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons.
He was in his youth a pupil of St Polycarp, the disciple of the apostles, who sent him to preach in Gaul. After St Pothinus's death by martyrdom, Irenaeus was made bishop. In his numerous writings, Irenaeus both expounded the Orthodox faith and defended it against heretics. He suffered for Christ in the time of the Emperor Severus, in 202, along with nineteen thousand Christians.
4. St Victor.
He suffered in Marseilles in the third century. After harsh torture, he was thrown into prison, where he converted the guards to the Christian faith. He died by crucifixion.
5. St Alban.
An English nobleman, he hid a Christian priest in his house during a persecution, and was instructed by him in the Christian faith. He then gave his clothing to the priest and himself over to torture. Condemned to death, he converted his executioner to Christianity.
Transiator's note: St Alban is more usually commemorated on June 22nd.
Mysterious is the power of the Cross no matter how unexplainable, it is true and indisputable. Yet, St. John Chrysostom speaks of the custom of his time that the sign of the cross is attached "on the emperor's diadem, on the accouterments of the soldiers and tracing it on parts of the body: the head, the breast [chest] and the heart and also on the table of oblations and over beds." "If it is necessary to expel demons", says he, "we use the cross and it also helps to heal the sick." 'St. Benedict made the sign of the cross over a glass which contained poison and the glass burst as though it were struck by a stone. St. Julian made the sign of the cross over a glass of poison brought to him and drank the poison, but he did not feel any pain in his body. The Holy Female Martyr Basilissa of Nicomedia enveloped herself with the sign of the cross, stood amidst the flames and remained unharmed. The Holy Martyrs Audon and Senis crossed themselves when the wild beasts were released on them and the beasts became docile and meek as lambs. Among the ascetics of old, as it is today, the sign of the cross was the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the demons. The most horrible fears of the devil vanish into nothing, as smoke, when man traces the sign of the cross over himself. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself willed to the one time sign of crime and shame, the Cross, following His crucifixion on the wood of the cross, all victorious power and might.
To contemplate the rapid advancing evil in the soul of Saul from the moment he turned away from God (1 Samuel 22 1 Kings 22):
- How he hurled a spear at David;
- How he hurled a spear at his son Jonathan;
- How he slew eighty-five priests in one day, suspecting that they were aligned with David;
- How, in every time and with every unrepented sin against God, many other sins are drawn in.
About John the Precursor [the Forerunner] and how Isaiah prophesied concerning him
"The voice of him that cries in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).
When a king wants to visit a certain place, he sends before him in advance his heralds. To an unusual king an unusual herald is appropriate. The herald of Christ the King in the wilderness was Moses; in Jerusalem, the Prophets; in Nazareth, the Archangel; in Bethlehem, the Magi of the East; on the Jordan, John. Not one king in the history of mankind has had such heralds. St. John the Baptist was also as unusual and special as were the other heralds of Christ. He was the voice crying in the two-fold wilderness: in the wilderness of Jordan and in the human wilderness. Just as the wilderness of Jordan was fruitless and dry, so the wilderness of the human spirit, was unfruitful and dry. John was not able to make the human wilderness green and fruitful, but he cleared and plowed it and, in that way, was preparing the earth and leveled it [the earth] for the great Sower Who, by His coming, brings with Him the seed and the rain to sow the seed of knowledge and the rain of grace from on high to make it green and be fruitful. By repentance, John prepared the way and by baptism in water, made the path straight. The way and the paths these are the souls of men. By repentance, the souls of men were prepared to receive the seed of Christ and by baptism in water to bury that seed deep in the earth of their heart. The proud and the lowly when they are immersed naked in the water are all as one, equal in their nothingness before the majesty of the All-glorious Christ the Savior: "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4). The word here is not about earthly valleys and hills but of lowly and proud men. As corpses in the grave are all the same before the eyes of a living man, thus all sinners, lowly and proud, slaves and masters are equal before the living God.
Such a wondrous vision was seen by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of the living God, the one and true God.
O Lord, Heavenly King, to Whom the heavenly hosts worship day and night, look down once again upon our nothingness and because of Your humiliation and passion for us, save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK