Prologue from Ochrid - April 13 [April 26]
1. The Hieromartyr Artemon.
He was a priest in Laodicea in the time of the Emperor Diocletian. He spoke thus of himself before the torturers' tribunal: 'I am called Artemon, a servant of Christ my God. Sixteen years I was a reader, and read the services in the Church of my God; twenty-eight years a deacon, and read the Holy Gospel; and have now completed thirty years as a priest, teaching the people and setting them on the way of salvation with the help of Christ.' The judge took him to the temple of Aesculapius, where the priests kept great snakes, regarding them as gods. They meant the snakes to bite Artemon, but he made the sign of the Cross, and by its power riveted the snakes to the ground so that they could not bite him. He then brought them out to the courtyard and breathed on them, and they died instantly. All who saw this were filled with amazement. But the chief of the pagan priests of that temple, Vitalis, seeing this marvel, fell to his knees before Artemon and cried: 'Great is the Christian God!' The martyr baptised him, along with several of his friends. But the evil judge stood firm in his wickedness and tortured the aged Artemon in various ways. He intended at one time to cast him into burning pitch, but fell off his horse into it himself and was burned. Two eagles were seen to descend on him, lift him from his horse and cast him into the pitch. St Artemon remained free for a certain time and went about teaching the people, accompanied always by two tame deer. But he was arrested afresh and beheaded in the year 303. And his soul went to the Kingdom of Christ our God, whom he had served so faithfully.
2. The Holy Martyr Crescens.
From the city of Myra in Lycia, he was an honoured and eminent citizen. He openly confessed his faith in Christ, and mocked at the lifeless idols. For this he was burned to death by the pagans.
3. The Holy Martyr Thomais.
Born in Alexandria of devout parents, she was instructed in piety from her youth and married to a devout man at the age of fifteen. But her father-in-law was a foul old man and, in the absence of his son, fell on his daughter-in-law with the intention of taking away her honour. Thomais was terrified and, in her terror, reminded her father-in-law of God's Law and slipped out of his hands. After a long struggle, the father-in-law took out a knife and slaughtered Thomais, cutting her into two pieces. At that moment the punishment of God fell upon him: he was instantly blinded and was unable to find the door to get out of the room. He was arrested right there and taken for trial, where he was condemned to death. Thus Thomais suffered for the commandments of God and for marital fidelity and purity. It happened after that, that those who were tormented by lustful passions lifted up their prayers to St Thomais and received great help from her. The great ascetic Daniel translated her relics to Scetis and laid them in the priests' cemetery. St Thomais suffered in 476.
When they brought the martyr Crescens, a nobleman of Myra in Lycia, to court the judge, in order to persuade him to worship idols, counseled him for a long time. When he did not succeed, he finally said to Crescens: "Worship [idols] only in the body and bow down before your God in the spirit!" To that, the honorable Crescens replied: "The body cannot do anything independent of the soul, which is its driving force and leader." For that Crescens was killed. An obvious lesson that a Christian cannot be duplicitous. Still another lesson: A Christian has an obligation to serve his Creator even with the body and not only with the soul. By this is refuted the false position of certain Christians who live physically as pagans and meanwhile praise themselves that they believe in God and love God with their souls. They divide themselves in two and place themselves in the service of two masters, even though the holiest lips [The Lips of Jesus Christ] proclaimed that as an impossibility.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
- How because of Thomas, momentarily, the only one unbelieving among the disciples, He appeared again in His glorified Body;
- How Thomas, believed again, when he placed his finger on the scars of the wounds of the All-Pure Body of the Lord and believed.
About the test by Thomas
"My Lord and my God" (St. John 20:28).
When the Apostle Thomas felt the wounds of the Lord Jesus, he cried out: "My Lord and my God !"
When Mary Magdalene heard the voice of the resurrected One in her soul, she cried out: "My Lord and my God!"
When Saul saw the light and heard the words of the resurrected One, he acknowledged: " My Lord and my God!"
When the pagans, in amazement, observed how the countless numbers of martyrs joyfully undergo pains and asked them: "Who is this Christ?" All of them replied: "My Lord and my God!"
When the scoffers ridiculed the army of ascetics and asked them: "Who is He, for Whom they took upon themselves the awesome burden of mortification? They all had one answer: "My Lord and my God!"
When the scorners derided the virgins who vowed their virginity and asked them: "Who is He for Whom they renounced marriage?" They all had one answer: "My Lord and my God !"
When the avaricious in astonishment asked the very wealthy: "Who is He for Whom they distribute their wealth and become beggarly?" All of them replied, one and the same: "My Lord and my God!"
Some have seen Him and have said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have only heard Him and said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have only felt Him and said: "My Lord and my God !" Some have only observed Him in the fabric of events and in the destinies of peoples and said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have felt His presence in their lives and cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Some have recognized Him by some sign, on themselves or on others, and cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Still some have only heard about Him from others and believed and cried out: "My Lord and my God !" Truly, these last ones are the most blessed!
Let us also exclaim, with all our hearts, regardless of how we have come to recognize Him or how we have come to learn about Him: "My Lord and my God!"
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK