Prologue from Ochrid - August 26 [September 8]
1. The Holy Martyr Adrian and his wife Natalia.
Husband and wife, they were both of noble and wealthy families in Nicomedia. Adrian was the governor of the Praetorium and a pagan, and Natalia was a secret Christian. They were both young, and had lived in wedlock for thirteen months in all before their martyrdom. When the wicked Emperor Maximian visited Nicomedia, he ordered that the Christians be seized and put to torture. There were twenty-three Christians hidden in a cave near the city. Someone handed them over to the authorities and they were cruelly flogged with leather whips and staves, and thrown into prison. They were then taken from prison and brought before the Praetor for their names to be noted. Adrian looked at these people, tortured but unbowed, peaceful and meek, and he put them under oath to say what they hoped for from their God, that they should undergo such tortures. They spoke to him of the blessedness of the righteous in the Kingdom of God. Hearing this, and again looking at these people, Adrian suddenly turned to the scribe and said: 'Write my name along with those of these saints; I also am a Christian.' When the Emperor heard this, he asked him: 'Have you lost your mind?' Adrian replied: 'I haven't lost it, but found it!' Hearing this, Natalia rejoiced greatly, and, when Adrian sat chained with the others in prison, came and ministered to them all. When they flogged her husband and put him to various tortures, she encouraged him to endure to the end. After long torture and imprisonment, the Emperor ordered that they be taken to the prison anvil, for their arms and legs to be broken by hammers. This was done and Adrian, along with the twenty-three others, breathed his last under the vicious tortures. Natalia took their relics to Constantinople and there buried them. After several days Adrian appeared to her, bathed in light and beauty and calling her to come to God, and she peacefully gave her soul into her Lord's hands.
2. Our Holy Father Tithoes.
A disciple of St Pachomius and great among the Egyptian ascetics, he was abbot of Tabennisi. He spent his whole life in absolute purity. One of the brethren once asked him: 'What path leads to humility?' To this Tithoes replied: 'The path to humility is, abstinence, prayer and the considering of oneself as the least of all creatures.' He reached a very high peak of perfection and, whenever he raised his hands in prayer, his spirit entered into ecstasy. He entered into rest in the fourth or fifth century. Our Holy Father Ibistion is commemorated together with him.
3. St Zer-Jacob.
A great Christian missionary in Abyssinia.
4. The Miracle of the Most Holy Mother of God in Moscow in 1395.
This is recorded in the passage for consideration below.
Under today's date in the Greek Synaxarion is also found the life of St Josaphat, the heir of the King of India. In the Slav Prologues, though, as in this one, he is to be found under November 19th.
Occasionally one hears an ungodly word even among Christians: here, even God cannot help! There is no danger in which God cannot help nor are there any enemies who could conquer by their own power without God's permission. Do not ask how God will destroy the powerful army of our enemies that is easier for God then it is for you to inhale or exhale air. Read how God, by one apparition, terrified the Syrian army, so the army dispersed and Israel was saved: "For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel has hired against us the king of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to come upon us" (2 Kings 7:6).
Read how Jerusalem was saved from the powerful army of Babylon without any effort of King Hezekiah except his cry and prayer before God: "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred four-score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses" (2 Kings 19:35). But God did not perform such miracles only in ancient times but He performs them every time when the faithful pray to Him. Thus, in the year 1395 A.D., the Tartar King Tamburlaine [Tamerlane] surrounded Moscow with his countless soldiers. The Russians brought the miracle-working icon of the Most-holy Theotokos from the town of Vladimir to Moscow and all the people with tears began to pray to the Most-holy Pure One. Suddenly, for no visible reason, the army of Tartars began to withdraw hurriedly and to flee. What happened? Tamburlaine had a vision in a dream: clouds of saints moving beneath the heavens and in their midst, the Holy Birth-giver of God as Queen and, further still, countless hosts of angels. The Theotokos sharply threatened Tamburlaine and ordered him to leave immediately from the land of the Russians and the saints waved their staffs at the emperor. Terrified by this dream, Tamburlaine as soon as it dawned, ordered a retreat and flight.
To contemplate the generosity of David (1 Samuel 26 - 1 Kings 26):
- How David entered the camp of Saul at night and, while Saul was sleeping, took his spear and cup[cruse of water];
- How David's commander [Abishai] wanted to pierce Saul but David forbade it;
- How David left vengeance to God.
About the sufferings [passions] of Christ, how Isaiah foresaw them
"I gave my back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6).
Brethren, this is the prophecy and now hear the exact fulfillment of that prophecy: "And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified" (St. Matthew 27:26). Is not this what the prophet foretold: "I gave My back to the smiters"? Listen further: "One of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (St. John 18:22). And again: "They struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, 'Prophesy, who is it that smote You?' " (St. Luke 22:64). Is not this what the prophet foretold? "I gave My cheeks to them that smite " ? Listen even further: " And they mocked Him" (St. Matthew 27-29), "And they smote Him on the head with a reed and did spit upon Him" (St. Mark 15:19); is not this what the prophet foretold: "I hid not My face from shame and spitting." Observe, brethren, how clear is the prophecy, clear from word to word. Observe with horror, how the discerning man of God sees more clearly through the walls of several hundred years than the ordinary eye, which sees the bottom of clear and shallow water! That God, by His irresistible power, opens the spirit of mortal man to see, by the spirit, the events in the distance as clearly as the physical eyes see the events close by. How then does the All-seeing God Himself, see through the marrow of our bones, through the fog of our thoughts, and through all the secrets of our hearts? Because He is present at our thoughts even before they are born and present at our desires before they are conceived. He is the one undeceived and undeceivable witness of all events, external and internal, in the heights and in the depths, in the width and in the length. And He witnesses to our spirit truthfully, that which our soul desires to know for the sake of our good benefit and for the salvation of our soul.
O, All-seeing and All-wonderful Witness to all the secrets in heaven and on earth, the Creator and our Good Provider, You alone see the weakness of all of us. Help us, O help us, to learn that which is necessary for the sake of our eternal salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK