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Prologue from Ochrid - April 8 [April 21]

1. The Holy Apostles Herodion, Agabus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon and Hermas.

They were all among the Seventy, and are all mentioned by St Paul in his Epistles. Herodion was a kinsman of Paul's: 'Salute Herodion my kinsman', he writes to the Romans (16:11). Herodion suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews as Bishop of Neoparthia; he was beaten about the head, stoned on the mouth and stabbed in the legs. When they had left him for dead, St Herodion arose and continued to serve the apostles. He helped the Apostle Peter in Rome, and was beheaded along with many other Christians on the same day that Peter was crucified.

St Agabus had a spirit of prophecy. Two of his prophecies are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. First, he prophesied a great famine throughout the world, which came to pass in the time of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28). The second was when he met the Apostle Paul in Caesarea. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, and Agabus took Paul's girdle and bound himself hand and foot, saying: 'Thus saith the Holy Spirit: so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle' (21:11).

St Rufus was Bishop of Thebes in Greece. The Apostle Paul mentions him also: 'Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord' (Rom. 16:13).

St Asyncritus (Rom. 16:14) was Bishop of Hyrcania in Asia,

St Phlegon, who is mentioned in the same place as St Rufus, was bishop in the Thracian city of Marathon.

St Hermas, mentioned with the others, was bishop in Dalmatia.

All these, with bee-like industry, spread the Gospel, suffering greatly for the love of Christ. They all went to the eternal Kingdom of their beloved Christ.

2. St Niphon, Bishop of Novgorod.

He was adorned with zeal in the building and repairing of churches and with great courage in opposing tyrannical princes. Thirteen days before his death, St Theodosius appeared to him and predicted his imminent departure to the other world. He entered into rest in 1156.

3. St Celestine, Bishop of Rome.

A great zealot for the Orthodox faith, he wrote an epistle against the Nestorian heresy at the time of the Third Ecumenical Council. He entered peacefully into rest in 432.

Reflection

There is heroism above heroism and asceticism above asceticism. St. Epiphanius of Cyprus invited Hilarion the Great to dinner and in order to show the greatest hospitality to his distinguished guest, placed fried chicken on the table and offered it to him. Hilarion said to him: "Forgive me, but ever since I was tonsured a monk, I have eaten nothing butchered." To that Epiphanius replied: "And I, ever since I was tonsured a monk, have never lay down in bed until I first forgave my enemy." Amazed, Hilarion said: "Your virtue is greater than mine, Oh holy master!" This is a great lesson for all of us. Fasting is an admirable thing but it is more admirable to forgive insults. Through fasting, man is preparing for charity but, by forgiving insults, man shows charity. Fasting precedes forgiveness but fasting alone, does not save without forgiveness.

Contemplation

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

  1. In the earthly body before the resurrection; in the body susceptible to hunger, pain and death;
  2. In the Heavenly Body after the resurrection; in the body not susceptible to hunger, pain and death.

Homily

About the resurrection of the dead

"But someone may say, `How are the dead raised?' With what kind of body will they come back?" (1 Corinthians 15:35).

The Apostle Paul knows in advance the objections which the unbelievers will make concerning the resurrection from the dead and, in advance, he rejects them. Even today, the non-believers who have not seen with the physical eyes the miracle of the resurrection in nature, much less the spiritual resurrection, ask: "How will the dead be raised?" "You fool!" continues the apostle, "What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies" (1 Corinthians 15:36). Until the seed dies in the ground, the plant will not grow, in other words, something totally different than the seed will sprout up. The non-believers see through their eyes and do not see, but further ask: "How will a dead man resurrect?" How? In the same way that Christ resurrected. He lowered Himself lifeless in the tomb and rose alive. Even nature manifests the resurrection from the dead; but stronger than nature, it is manifested by the resurrected Lord. In order to make it easier for us to believe and to hope - to believe in the resurrection in general and to have hope in our own resurrection, He Himself, resurrected from the grave and prior to that resurrecting Lazarus who lay in the grave for four days, the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jarius.

The non-believers ask: "With what kind of body will the dead rise?" In that kind of body which God wills. With God there are many kinds of bodies. The Apostle Paul divides all bodies into two groups: into earthly bodies and into heavenly bodies. Therefore, they who have died in earthly bodies will be clothed with heavenly bodies: the incorruptible will replace the corruptible, the immortal will replace the mortal, the beautiful will replace the ugly. In this heavenly body man will also recognize himself and others around him as man recognizes himself or even when he is clothed in beggar's rags or even when he is clothed in royal purple.

Lord, All-plentious, do not hand us over to eternal corruption but, as royal sons, clothe us in the garment of immortality.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK