Prologue from Ochrid - August 24 [September 6]
1. The Hieromartyr Eutyches.
One of the lesser apostles, born in Sebastopol, he was a disciple and friend of the Apostles John the Theologian and Paul. Although he was not included in the Seventy, he was called an apostle by virtue of having been a disciple of the great apostles, and because he showed true apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel. Consecrated as a missionary bishop, St Eutyches travelled widely, having an angel as a companion, and he also received heavenly bread from an angel while in prison. When his body was flayed with serrated iron rods, his blood ran down mingled with a sweet myrrh. He was thrown into the flames and before wild beasts, and was finally beheaded with the sword in Sebastopol.
2. The Holy Martyr Tation.
Born in Mantinaeas near Claudioupolis in Bithynia, he suffered under Diocletian. After harsh torture, he was buried alive and thus gave his holy soul into God's hands.
3. The Holy Martyr Syra.
A kinswoman of St Maria (Golinduc - July 12th), she was a Persian, the daughter of an eminent priest of fire-worship. Brought up in paganism, the maiden Syra heard of Christ from some godly Christian woman, and her little heart became inflamed with love for the Lord. In a time of sickness, while still unbaptised, she begged dust from the church of the Christian priest, but he refused to give it to her in her unbaptised state. Then she, with great faith, touched the priest's garments and was healed. This miraculous healing confirmed her yet more fully in the Christian faith. Her soul-less father put her to harsh torture, during which she received encouragement and support from heavenly visions. Cruelly strangled with a cord and then drowned, in 558 at the age of eighteen, in the time of the Persian King Chozroes I, this holy maiden thus gloriously finished her earthly course and entered into the heavenly community of the angels.
4. Our Holy Father Arsenius of Komel.
Born in Moscow of noble parents, he received the monastic habit as a young man in the community of St Sergius of Radonezh. A model monk, he was chosen as abbot, but he yearned for a life of prayerful . solitude and withdrew to the forest of Komel, where he lived in asceticism till his death, fighting courageously with great diabolical temptations. He entered into rest in the Lord in 1550.
5. St George Limniotes (of the Lake).
A confessor and a great ascetic of Olympus, he suffered in about 216, at the age of ninety-five.
In the Greek Great Synaxarion, St Dionysius, Archbishop of Aegina, who died in 1624, is also commemorated. Many miracles have been wrought over his relics.
If you were to ask many people why they do not go to Church to pray, they will generally answer you: I have no time, I have to work! Just look at those people who only work and do not go to Church, placing their trust only in their work and compare them with those who divide their time between work and prayer and you will quickly be convinced that the latter are more well off and, what is more important, they are more satisfied. It is said about two neighboring tailors how unequal they were according to their work and prayer and according to their wealth and satisfaction. One of them had a large family and the other was a bachelor. The first had the habit of going to church every morning for prayer and the bachelor never went to church. Not only did the first work less but was even less a skillful master than the other. He had enough of everything and the other lacked everything. The first one asked the other how is it that he has everything although he works less? The one who prays to God [Bogomoljac a devout person] responded that he attends church every day and, along the way, finds lost gold and he invited his neighbor, the bachelor, to go with him to prayer and they will share the discovered gold. Both neighbors began to attend church regularly and soon both became equal in abundance as well as in satisfaction. Naturally, they found no gold along the way but the blessing of God multiplies the abundance of true devout men. Those who: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (St. Matthew 6:31), God adds and multiplies all that is necessary for their physical life.
To contemplate the providence of God which protected David from falling into the hands of Saul (1 Samuel 23 1 Kings 23):
- How Saul came to besiege the city of Keliah [Celia] where David was but God revealed this to David and David fled beforehand;
- How Saul almost captured David in Maon but word came to Saul that the Philistines had attacked the land;
- How the Lord always watches over the righteous and how He confounds the plans of the unrighteous.
About the character of Christ as foretold Isaiah
"He shall not cry nor lift up nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth" (Isaiah 42:2-3).
Who had more right than the Lord, the Son of God, to raise His voice at the lawless ones in His vineyard on earth? Who had a greater right to reprimand sinners who scorn God and God's law? O sweet meekness, unseen among men! O pure mountain water which flows down from the heights and silently washes the impurity of the habitations of men! Many pagans think that they would believe in Christ if they could hear from Him, not kind words, but thundering words. But let the pagans say which is better, thunderous words with shouting and roaring which pass without effect as smoke is chased by the wind or kind words which have the effect of thunder? Can a legion of thunders expel a legion of demons from a man possessed? But a legion of thunders struck above Gadara but the legion of demons in the man possessed did not even feel that. Neither did our Lord Jesus shout at the demons but rather quietly told them to come out and they obediently came forth. Brethren, it is not a matter of shouting or criticizing but rather of power.
"A bruised reed shall He not break and the smoking flax shall He not quench." This refers to the Old Testament whose spirit the Pharisees had completely bruised and overloaded with their Sabbatical formalities and which only smoked but did not give any light to men because of their blunted understanding and the stony hearts of men. The Lord will not break the bruised reed neither will He completely quench the almost extinguished fire of that law which He gave. Still, this pertains to sinful men. Men subdued by sin He will not put an end to nor sinners in whom the divine light has turned into smoke will He quench but He will straighten the reed and rekindle the divine fire in men. For because of sinners, He came into the world. He will proclaim judgment softly and gently but with the power which truth itself alone conveys. He will behave gently and humbly and with compassion and with mercy similar to a physician - but far more sublimely and cordially than a physician when He enters a house of a madman.
O gentle and serene Lord, fill us with Your All-wondrous meekness and serenity.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK