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Prologue from Ochrid - March 21 [April 3]

1. St James, Bishop and Confessor.

Neither his birthplace nor the place of his episcopate are known. It is known only that he fulfilled the Law of Christ, living in strict asceticism, in fasting and prayer and that, in the time of Copronymos, he endured much hardship and suffering at the hands of the iconoclasts: hunger, imprisonment and ridicule of every sort. He finally gave his soul to God, whom he had faithfully served in this life. He lived and suffered in the eighth century.

2. Our Holy Father Cyril (Beryllus), Bishop of Catania in Sicily.

Born in Antioch and a pupil of the Apostle Peter, he governed Christ's flock well. He had the gift of working wonders by prayer: for example, he turned some bitter and undrinkable water - in a place where there was no other water in summer - into sweet, drinkable water by his prayers. He entered peacefully into rest.

3. St Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople.

He lived in the reigns of the Emperors Maurice and Phocas, and in the time of the Patriarchs John the Faster and Cyriac. Singled-out by St John for his great devotion and zeal, he was made patriarchal vicar by that saint, and after the death of Cyriac, was chosen as Patriarch. In his time an unusual event occurred: once when there was a procession with crosses carried, they began to sway and to hit against each other. The people marvelled at this; and when the Patriarch heard it attested, he asked Theodore the Sykeote, a famous ascetic and seer, to explain what it forebode. Theodore prayed to God and revealed to the Patriarch that it indicated a great misfortune that would come on the Church and on the Greek state through internal religious and political discord. Christians would fight and would exterminate each other. And all this came quickly to pass. Thomas begged Theodore to pray to God for him, that God would take him before this happened. 'Do you command me to come to you, or shall we meet in the other world before God?' So wrote Theodore to the Patriarch Indication by this that both he and the Patriarch would die soon. And that same day the Patriarch fell ill and died, and St Theodore died very soon after. St Thomas died and went to the Lord in 610.

4. Our Holy Father Serapion.

A companion of St Antony the Great, he lived in the Nitrian desert, in charge of the monastery of Arsina which contained 11,000 monks. Palladius and Sozomenes gave him the title 'the Great'. He entered into rest in about 366. St Serapion wrote: 'Do not think that sickness is grave; only sin is grave... sickness leads us only to the tomb, but sin follows the sinner beyond it'.

Reflection

You will hear this kind of justification from many who pursue riches: "When I become rich, I will be able to perform good works!" Do not believe them, for they deceive both you and themselves. St. John Climacus knew in depth the most secret motives of men's souls when he said, "The beginning of love of money is the pretext of alms giving and the end of it is hatred of the poor" (Step 16). This is confirmed by all lovers of money, the rich or the less rich. The average man says, "If only it were that I had money, I would carry out this and that good work!" Do not believe him. Let him not believe himself. Let him look at himself, as in a mirror, at those who have money and who are not willing to do this or that good work. That is how he would be if he acquired some money. Again, the wise John says, "Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; so that through and by this you give help to them, in order to gain the kingdom; remember, for two mites the kingdom was purchased" (Step 16) - (St. Luke 21:2). Truly, the Gospel widow purchased it for two mites, and the rich man, before whose gates Lazarus lay, could not purchase it for all of his countless riches. If you have nothing to give to the poor, pray to God that He will give to them and, by this, you have performed almsgiving and purchased the Heavenly Kingdom. When St. Basil the New prophesied to the empress, the wife of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that she will first give birth to a daughter and then a son, the empress offered him much gold. The saint refused it. The empress implored the name of the Holy Trinity that he should take the gold. Then, St. Basil took only three pieces of gold and gave it to the needy Theodora, who served him saying, "We do not need too much of these thorns, for they prick much."

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the cross:

  1. His head is sorely wounded by the thorny wreath;
  2. His eyes are closed from pain;
  3. His mouth is dry from thirst.

Homily

About the First and Last who lives

"Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead ,but now I am alive forever and ever" (Revelation 1:17-18).

Thus says the Lord Jesus to His beloved disciple John in a vision on the island of Patmos. Do not be afraid of what! Do not be afraid of the persecution of the Church by the pagans. Do not be afraid of the tormentors who persecute my faithful on all sides. Do not be afraid of emperors who raise up persecutions against the Christians. Do not be afraid of powerful tyrants of this world who mock and ridicule My humility in My death. Do not be afraid of demons who blind men with passions so that they can't see the truth which I brought to the world. Do not be afraid of anything!

How could I not be afraid, O Lord!, Why then should we not be afraid when the entire world is armed to the tooth and assembled against us who are small in number and unarmed?

Do not be afraid for I am the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. All of those forces armed against you are nothing but a whirlwind of the dead. I am before time and I am after time; before the beginning of all and after the end of all things that were created, I Am! They are all locked in one span of time that I measured out to every created thing and outside of this span of time, they cannot extend. "Do not be afraid, once I was dead but now, I am alive." Do not be afraid, not even of death. I am before death and after death. Death is my servant and I permit my servant to serve me in the world. I gave myself up to my servant for three days and ordered him to release me and "now, I am alive." I am the Master of death as well as of life. I am the Master of time as well as of eternity. Do not be afraid! "I am alive forever and ever." And you will be alive with Me. All they who remain faithful to Me and are not afraid will live with Me. "Do not be afraid, I am the Alpha and the Omega" (Revelation 1:11).

O Lord, Eternal and Immortal, allow these holy words of Yours to ring in the souls of Your faithful always whenever a persecution is raised up against Your Holy Church that, holding on to Your right hand, we may not be afraid.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

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