Prologue from Ochrid - April 2 [April 15]
1. Our Holy Father Titus the Wonderworker.
He conceived a love for Christ from his earliest years, and despised the vanities of the world. For His sake, he left the world, went off to a monastery and received the angelic habit. With not a backward glance, he gave himself to the sober and narrow way of monasticism. Through great patience, he attained the two basic virtues of humility and obedience, and in these virtues he exceeded 'not only the brethren, but all men'. He preserved his purity of soul and body right from his youth. In the time of the iconoclast heresy, he was seen to be a steadfast pillar of the Church of God. For his great humility and purity, he was endowed by God with the gift of wonderworking, both in his lifetime and after his death. And when he went to the Lord, he left a large number of disciples behind him. He entered peacefully into rest in the 9th century.
2. The Holy Martyrs Amphianus and Aedesius.
These two young men were brothers from the town of Patara, of eminent but pagan parents. While studying secular learning in Beirut, they were enlightened by the Spirit of God and, understanding the falseness of paganism, came to perceive the truth of Christianity. Then, when they returned home, they could no longer live with their pagan parents and kinsmen, but fled in secret to Caesarea in Palestine, to a priest, Pamphylus, known for his purity and spiritual learning. With Pamphylus, they were instructed in the Law of God day and night and practised Christian asceticism. Of Amphianus it is said that he had a twenty-year-old body but the understanding and greatness of soul of a centenarian. When a persecution arose under Maximian, many Christians fled from the town and hid, while others voluntarily and joyfully gave themselves into the torturers' hands to be able to suffer for the name of the One who first suffered for them. Amphianus was among these last. He came fearlessly into the pagan temple, where the governor, Urban, was offering sacrifice to idols, and, seizing the hand with which the prince was making the offering, cried out to him to leave the service of, and sacrifice to, dead idols and to come to the knowledge of the true God. Some of those who heard his words and saw Amphianus's great courage, repented and embraced the Christian faith. But the enraged prince put him to torture. Among other tortures, his legs were wrapped in cotton which was then ignited. Then, while he was still alive, they threw him into the sea with a stone round his neck. The sea became stormy, and cast the martyr's body ashore in the town.
Aedesius was first sent to a copper mine in Palestine, and then taken to Egypt. In Alexandria, he was filled with holy zeal against Hierocles the governor, who had been buying Christian nuns, virgins and pious women and giving them to the most shameless prostitutes for ridicule. Aedesius, filled with holy zeal, smote the dishonourable prince. For this he was tortured and drowned in the sea like his brother Amphianus. As two innocent lambs were they slain for Christ in about 306, and went to the glorious courts of the Lord.
"It is better to be a simpleton and to approach God with love than to be a know-it-all and, at the same time, be an enemy of God." These are the words of the priest-martyr, St. Iraneaus of Lyon. The truth of these words have been confirmed at all times and is also confirmed in our time. One thing must be added to this, namely, that the lovers of God are not simpletons because they know God well enough that they are able to love Him. Of all human knowledge, this knowledge is more important and greater. To this must be added that the enemies of God cannot be more knowledgeable, even though they consider themselves as such, because their knowledge is unavoidably chaotic, for it does not have a source and does not have order. For the source and order of all knowledge is God. Some of the saints, such as Paul the Simple, did not know how to read or write yet with the strength of their spirit and divine love surpassed the entire world. Whosoever approaches God with love, that person is not capable of crime. Knowledge without love toward God is motivated by the spirit of criminality and war. St. Euthymius the Great taught: "Have love; for what salt is to food, love is to every virtue." Every virtue is tasteless and cold if it is not seasoned and warmed by divine love.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in Hades:
- How His plan for salvation is all abundant, encompassing all generations and all ages from the beginning to the end;
- How He came to earth in the flesh, not only for the sake of those who lived on earth then but also for the sake of those who will live and for those who have lived;
- How He, while His lifeless body lay in the tomb, descended into Hades with His soul and announced salvation and redemption to the fettered.
About the Living God and about His living children
"So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8).
Whose are we while we live? We are the Lord's. Whose are we after we die? We are the Lord's. Whose are the righteous? They are the Lord's. Whose are the sinners? They are the Lord's. The Lord embraces all, both the living and the dead, those of the past, those of the present and those of the future. No one is so all-embracing as is the Lord Jesus. Who, of those so-called philanthropists of mankind, teachers, leaders or enlighteners ever attempted to perform any good for the dead? This can be decisively answered: never and no one! This thought alone would be ridiculous even in the eyes of the world - to do something good for the dead? This is amusing to all those who think that death is mightier than God and that which death swallows up is destroyed for ever. To be concerned about the dead, to do good for the dead ceased to be amusing since the revelation of the Lord Jesus, Who revealed that He is God, the God of the living; Who revealed in His works, by descending into Hades to redeem and to save the souls of the righteous from the time of Adam to the time of His death on the cross.
All-embracing is our All-glorious Lord, Who, by His discerning thoughts, reflects about everyone and sees everyone born of women; those who are above the graves and those who are in the graves. So it is with His love, for He embraces all the souls of the righteous regardless of the time and place which conceals them. Finally, even by His labors, for He labors for all of them, to redeem all of them, to save them, and to lead them into the kingdom and to glorify them before the face of His Heavenly Father, the Life-giving Spirit and the myriads of holy angels.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK