Prologue from Ochrid - March 20 [April 2]
1. Our Holy Father John, and those martyred with him from the Community of St Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem.
This famous monastery, both visited by St Sava of Serbia and endowed by various Serbian rulers, is in existence today. Several times fallen to the savage Arabs, plundered and left empty, it has always been restored by the providence of God. In the time of the reign of Constantine and Irene it fell to the Arabs and was plundered. The monks would not flee, but took counsel together with their abbot, Thomas, saying: 'We have fled from the world into this wilderness for the love of Christ; it would be shame to us now to flee from the wilderness from fear of men. If we are killed here, we shall be killed through love for Christ, for whose sake we have come here to live.' And, so deciding, they awaited unarmed the armed Arabs, as lambs before wolves. The Arabs killed some of them with arrows, and others they shut into the cave of St Sava and lit a fire at the entrance to suffocate them in the smoke. And thus many of them died as martyrs for the sake of Christ and went to the Kingdom of Him whom they had loved and for the sake of whose love they had perished. They suffered with honour before Easter in 796, in the time of Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem. But a just punishment quickly fell on their savage destroyers. Returning to their tents, they began to quarrel, and in the ensuing battle killed each other off.
2. The Holy Martyr Photina.
This was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob's Well in Sychar (Jn. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero's daughter, came into contact with St Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ.
God does not punish sinners because it gives Him gratification to destroy men. If that gave Him gratification, He would not have created man out of nothing. He punishes man out of more important constructive reasons, of which two are most apparent to us: First, that by punishment He corrects them and leads him on the true path of salvation; second, to frighten others from sinning. St. Isaac also thinks this when he says, "The just wise man is similar to God, for he punishes man, not to reproach him for his sin but either to correct man or to instill fear in others." One recalcitrant young man, who ridiculed God and his parents, suddenly went insane. The entire city in which this young man lived saw, in this, the punishment of God and were terrified with the fear of God. The young man was held bound and isolated for three years. His mother wept bitterly and prayed to God for her son. One year, during the Feast of Pentecost, the mother brought her insane son to the monastery of St. Basil in Ostrog. After prayers, the insane youth was cured and became himself again. After that, he became an exemplary person and a true Christian.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the cross:
- How blood flows from His hands and drips to the ground;
- How blood flows from His feet and drips to the ground;
- How blood flows from beneath His ribs and drips to the ground.
About the battle of the Lamb with the beasts
"They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings" (Revelation 17:14).
Who speaks these marvelous words? John, who saw God. Who is this Lamb? Christ the Lord. Who is this Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Christ the Lord. With whom will He wage war and whom will He defeat? He will defeat the beast which has seven heads and all those whom receive authority, honor and riches from the unclean beast.
The Lamb among the beasts! St. John also saw the Lamb as the Victor over all the beasts. Christ among the demons! One would say, "They will devour Him!" Nevertheless, the terrified demons cry out to Him for mercy and flee from Him without turning back. Christ among His tormentors! One would say, "They will destroy Him forever." Nevertheless, He resurrects and conquers and they flee from Him in terror and perish. The Church among the heathens! One would say, "They will flood her [The Church] like the waves over a small island." Nevertheless, the pagan kingdoms sank and fell apart and the Church still exists, flourishes and advances. The Faith of Christ among the pungent philosophers and theoreticians! One would say, "They will out-smart it [The Faith] and banish it [The Faith] from the world." Nevertheless, they steer one another into lies and persecutions but the Faith of Christ saves men. Reverence among the blasphemers of God and apostates from God! One would say, "We will soil it!" Nevertheless, they are smothered in their own filth and reverence preserves itself in unsoiled purity. Christian meekness and tearfulness in the of midst of tyrants and abductors! One would say, "It will die of hunger!" Nevertheless, it lives and walks satiated, while the tyrants and abductors suffer from starvation. The Lamb among the beasts! Nevertheless, the Lamb is the Victor.
O Lord, Meek and Good, Lamb of God, all caressing, imbue us with Your meekness and goodness, so that even we may share in Your victory.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK