Prologue from Ochrid - April 11 [April 24]
1. The Hieromartyr Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum in Asia.
He is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as 'Antipas My faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth' (Rev. 2:13) - the city of Pergamum. The inhabitants of this town dwelt in the darkness of idolatry and in the depths of impurity: they were slaves to their passions, slanderers, bullies, incestuous; in brief, slaves of Satan. There among them lived Antipas 'as a light in the midst of darkness, as a rose among thorns, as gold in mud'. He who would seize and kill a Christian was regarded as good and just. The whole of their idolatrous faith consisted in soothsaying, the interpretation of dreams, the service of demons and the extreme excesses of debauchery. In terror of Antipas as of fire, the demons appeared to the pagan priests in their dreams and told them how greatly they were in fear of him, and how this fear was driving them from the city. The priests stirred up the multitude, and they began to torment him and to press him to deny Christ and worship idols. Antipas said to them: 'When your so-called gods and lords of the universe are afraid of me, a mortal man, and have to flee the city, why do you not learn from this that all your faith is in vain?' And the saint spoke further with them of the Christian faith as the only true and saving Faith. But they became incensed like wild beasts and dragged the aged Antipas before the temple of Artemis, where there stood an ox cast in bronze. They heated the ox and threw the servant of God inside. St Antipas, inside the red-hot ox, glorified God with thanksgiving, like Jonah in the whale and the Three Children in the burning fiery furnace. Antipas prayed for his flock and for the whole world until his soul parted from his exhausted body and went to join the angels in the Kingdom of Christ. He died under torture and was crowned with unfading glory in the year 92.
2. The Holy Martyrs Processus and Martinian.
They were warders in the Roman prison where the Apostles Peter and Paul were held captive. Hearing the words and seeing the miracles of these apostles, they were baptised and released the apostles from prison. The apostles left Rome, but the Lord appeared to Peter on the Appian Way. 'Lord, whither goest Thou?', asked Peter of Him, and the Lord replied: 'I'm going to Rome, to be crucified afresh.' The apostles returned to Rome in shame, where they were arrested and killed; the two courageous martyrs, Processus and Martinian, being beheaded along with Paul.
"There can be no rest for those on earth who desire to be saved," says St. Ephrem the Syrian. The struggle is unceasing be it either external or internal. The adversary acts visibly at times through men and other things and at other times, invisibly through thoughts. At times, the adversary appears openly and behaves brutally and cruelly like an enemy and, at other times, under the guise of a flattering friend, he seduces by shrewdness. That which occurs in battle between two opposing armies also occurs to every man individually in battle with the passions of this world. Truly, "There can be no rest for those on earth who desire to be saved." When salvation comes, rest also comes.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
- How Simon Peter and the other disciple ran quickly to the tomb to confirm the news of the Resurrection;
- How one after the other entered the tomb and saw the cloths and napkin;
- How they both saw and believed and, after that, they witnessed and for their witness they died.
About the two Adams; the Death-creating and the Life-giving
"For just as in Adam all die, so too, in Christ, shall all be brought to life" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Following Adam's example, life is sown in shame, and following Christ's example, life is raised in glory. Sin is from Adam and justice is from Christ. Weakness and death come from Adam and strength and life come from Christ. Accordingly, in Adam we all die. Accordingly, in Christ, we shall all be brought to life.
That one is the earthly man [Adam], this one is the heavenly man [Christ]. That is the bodily man [Adam] and this is the spiritual man [Christ].
Christ did not resurrect for His sake but for our sake just as He did not die for His sake but for our sake. If His resurrection does not signify our resurrection, then His resurrection is bitterness and not sweetness. Where, then, would the love of God be? Where, then, would the meaning of our miserable earthy experience be? What, then, would be the purpose of Christ's coming to earth?
There, where Adam ends, Christ begins. Adam ends up in the grave and Christ begins with the resurrection from the grave. Adam's generation, i.e., the seed underground that rots and decays, does not see the sun, does not believe that it can emerge from beneath the earth to blossom into a green plant with leaves, flowers and fruit. Christ's generation is a green field upon which wheat grows, turns green, becomes covered with leaves, blossoms and bears much fruit.
"In Adam" does not only mean that we will die one day, rather it means that we are already dead; dead to the last one. "In Christ" does not only mean that we will revive one day, but rather that we are already alive, i.e., that the seed in the ground has already begun to germinate and to break through to the light of the sun. The complete expression of death is in the grave, but the complete expression of eternal life is in the kingdom of God.
The mind of the sons of Adam are in accordance with death, reconciled with being decayed and sink even deeper into the ground. The mind of the sons of Christ rebel against death and decay and exert all the more, to burgeon a man toward the light, which the Grace of God helps. O resurrected Lord sober the minds of all the sons of man that they would flee from darkness and destruction and reach out toward the light and life eternal which is in You.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK