Prologue from Ochrid - March 19 [April 1]
1. The Holy Martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria, and others with them.
Chrysanthus was the only son of a great noble, Polemon, who moved from Alexandria to Rome. As the son of rich parents, Chrysanthus studied all the secular disciplines, having the most learned men as his teachers. But worldly wisdom confused him, and he was left ignorant of the truth. And he grieved over this. But God, who provides for each and all, assuaged the grief of the young Chrysanthus by putting copies of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles into his hands. The truth was revealed to him in the reading of these. But he wanted a teacher, and found one in the person of Carpophorus, a priest, who instructed and baptised him. But this did not please his father, who did all in his power to turn him back from the Christian faith. Then, in no way succeeding, the wicked father tried to corrupt him by shutting him up alone with shameless girls, but Chrysanthus gained the victory over himself in that, and preserved his virginity. Then his father compelled him to marry the pagan Daria, but Chrysanthus persuaded Daria to receive the Christian faith and to live with him as his sister although appearing to be married. When his father died, Chrysanthus began openly to confess Christ and to live as a Christian, both he and his whole house. In the time of the Emperor Numerian, both he and Daria were terribly tortured for their faith. The torturer Claudius himself, though, seeing the endurance of these martyrs and the wonders that were revealed at their martyrdom, embraced the Christian faith with all his house. For this, Claudius was drowned, both his sons were beheaded and his wife died on the gallows with prayer on her lips. Daria showed such endurance under martyrdom that the pagans cried out: 'Daria is a goddess!' Finally it was decreed that Chrysanthus and Daria be buried in a deep pit and covered with stones. A church was later built on the site. Near this pit was a cave, in which some Christians at one time met together for prayer and communion in memory of the holy martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria. Discovering this, the pagans rolled a stone across the entrance to the cave, and thus by death drove those Christians from this world into that better world where Christ the Lord reigns in eternity. These glorious martyrs, Chrysanthus and Daria and the others with them, among whom are Diodorus the priest and Marianus the deacon, suffered for Christ in Rome in 283 and 284.
2. The Holy Martyr Pancharius.
Born in Villach in Austria, he was a high-ranking official at the courts of Diocletian and Maximian. He first denied Christ, but, at the persuasion of his mother and sister, returned to the Christian faith, for which he perished in 302.
"That mercy [of God] that resurrects us and against which we sin later on is even greater then that mercy that He bestowed upon us before He gave us being; when we did not exist. Glory O Lord to Your immeasurable mercy!" Thus speaks St. Isaac the Syrian. He wants to say that greater is the mercy that God showed toward us when, through Christ, He saved us from the corruption of sin and death than when He created us out of nothing. Truly, it is so. Even our earthly parents show greater mercy to the perverted and fallen son when they embrace him again, forgive him all, make him civilized, cleanse him, heal him and again make him their heir then, when they gave him birth.
When the young Pancharius, surrounded by royal honors, denied Christ, his mother wrote him a letter full of pain and sorrow. "Do not be afraid of men," wrote his mother, "but it is essential to fear God's judgment. You should have confessed your faith in Christ before emperors and lords and not to have denied Him. Remember His words: "But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father'" (St. Matthew 10:33). Being ashamed of himself, the son accepts the advice of his mother, confessed his faith in Christ before the emperor, and died a martyr's death for Christ in order to live with Him eternally. And so the blessed mother of Pancharius brought about a new birth for her son, a spiritual birth more important than the first, physical birth.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus on the cross:
- How He suffered in agony on the cross;
- How He was given vinegar and gall to drink when He said He was thirsty;
- How those men beneath the cross, insensitive because of selfishness, did not think about Him but were vying for his garments.
About the sign of the Son of Man
"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens" (St. Matthew 24:30).
What kind of sign will the sign of the Son of Man be, which once had been shown briefly? That is the cross, more brighter than the sun, which manifested itself over Jerusalem before the coming of an earlier personification of the Antichrist by the name of Julian the Apostate. And in lieu of every homily concerning this miraculous sign, it is worthwhile to quote here the letter of St. Cyril of Jerusalem written to Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great and predecessor of Julian the Apostate. A portion of his letter reads, "For in these very days of the holy feast of Pentecost on the Nones of May, about the third hour, a gigantic cross formed of light appeared in the sky above holy Golgotha stretching out as far as the holy Mount of Olives. It was not seen by just one or two but was most clearly displayed before the whole population of the city. Nor did it, as one might have supposed, pass away quickly like something imagined but was visible to sight above the earth for some hours, while it sparkled with a light above the sun's rays. Of a surety, it would have been overcome and hidden by them, had it not exhibited to those who saw it a brilliance more powerful than the sun, so that the whole population of the city made a sudden concerted rush into the Martyry, [the church] seized by a fear that mingled with joy at the heavenly vision. They poured in, young and old, men and women of every age, not only Christians but pagans from elsewhere sojourning in Jerusalem, all of them as with one mouth raised a hymn of praise to the worker of wonders, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Only-begotten Son of God and indeed attested to through experience, came to discern that the honorable [pious] Christian teaching is to be found not only in "persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power" (I Corinthians 2:4), and not only preached by man but, witnessed by God from Heaven. "Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard. God added His testimony by signs, wonders, and various acts of power" (Hebrews 2:3-4). We consider it our obligation not to remain silent about this Heavenly vision, but through this letter, hasten to inform Your God-glorified and Pious One."
O my brethren, everything is possible with God: both, to reveal the created to man and to create the uncreated. But most importantly for us is that He wants to redeem our souls from sin and death and to give us life eternal. Let us pray to Him for this day and night.
O Lord Almighty, To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK