Prologue from Ochrid - July 19 [August 1]
1. Our Holy Mother Macrina.
The eldest sister of St Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nyssa, she was as a girl betrothed to a young nobleman and, when her betrothed died, Macrina vowed never to enter into marriage, saving: 'It is not right for a girl, having once been betrothed, to turn to another; according to natural law there must be one marriage, as there are one birth and one death.' She justified this by her belief in the resurrection of the dead, regarding her betrothed not as dead, but as alive in God. 'It is a sin and a shame', she said, 'if the spouse does not keep faith when the partner goes to distant climes.' Then, with her mother Emilia, she became a nun in a monastery of virgins, where she lived in asceticism with the other nuns. They lived by the work of their hands, devoting the greater part of their time to pondering on God, to prayer and to a ceaseless lifting-up of their minds to Him. After a time, her mother died, and then her brother Basil. In the ninth month after Basil's death, Gregory came to visit his sister and found her on her deathbed. At the time of her death, Macrina made this prayer to God: 'Thou, O Lord, givest rest to our bodies in the sleep of death for a little time, then Thou wilt waken them again with the Last Trump. Forgive me, and grant that, when my soul is parted from my body, it may be presented before Thee stainless and without sin, and that it may be as incense before Thee.' She then made the sign of the Cross on her brow, eyes, face and heart, and breathed her last. She entered into rest in the Lord in 379.
2. Our Holy Father Dius.
Born in Syrian Antioch of Christian parents, he was trained in his youth by godly men for the ascetic path of monasticism. He endured a lengthy and hard struggle with the devil and with fleshly lusts, and God rewarded him with great wonderworking gifts. In his prayers, he most frequently turned to the Holy Trinity. He worked great miracles by the power of his prayers, making a dry stick bud forth, a dry well fill with water and an unbelieving man die and return to life. After a twofold heavenly vision, he left Antioch and moved to Constantinople, resuming his ascetic life near the city. His fame quickly spread, to such an extent that the Emperor Theodosius the Younger paid him a visit to ask his advice, and Patriarch Atticus was impressed by him and ordained him priest. Having lived many years, he prepared for death, received Communion, gave his last teaching to the brethren, lay down on his bed and, to the eyes of all, was dead. The news of his death brought many people: Patriarch Atticus came, with Patriarch Alexander of Antioch. But, when they went to bury him, he suddenly got up as if waking from sleep, and said: 'God has given me fifteen more years of this life.' St Dius lived exactly fifteen years longer, and set many on the way of salvation, healed many, gave aid to many in divers needs and weaknesses, and then finally gave his soul to the Lord whom he had served faithfully all his life. He entered into rest in 430, in great old age .
3. St Milica (Militsa)*, Princess of Serbia.
Wife of the holy Prince Lazar, she ruled the people after her husband's death at Kossovo until her son Stefan came of age. She then retired to her foundation of Lubostinja and, as the nun Evgenia (later Ephrosynia, on taking the Great Habit), lived in great wisdom and devotion. She died on November 11th, 1405.
*Compiled by the translator.
4. Commemoration of Stephen the Tall, son of Prince Lazar and Princess Milica.
A protector of Christianity in the Balkans in the most difficult days, s the founder of the beautiful monasteries of Manasija and Kalenic. After many labours and trials, he died on July 19th, 1427.
One of the most beautiful adornments of a woman is her modesty and immodesty in a woman is the most unnatural and most repulsive spectacle in the world. A wonderful example of feminine modesty was shown by St. Macrina in her life. In her youth, a bitter wound opened up on her breast; even though her mother counseled her to show the wound to a doctor and seek a remedy, Macrina did not agree to it. She had completely dedicated herself to God and would not allow even the thought of exposing her body before men and not even before her own mother. One evening Macrina earnestly prayed to God; from her eyes tears flowed, which fell to the dust before her. With unwavering confidence in her Lord, with her fingers she mixed the dust with her tears and with that anointed her wound. The next day she awakened healthy. When her mother, with great sorrow entered to see her daughter, Macrina did not want to reveal that the Lord healed her (out of humility, concealing the miracle which she herself performed through her prayer) but begged her mother saying: "I will be healed, my mother, if you place your right hand on my bosom and make the sign of the cross over the spot of the wound." The mother reached out her hand and made the sign of the cross over that spot but did not feel the wound anymore but only the scar of the healed wound. Thus did St. Macrina conceal her body out of modesty and her miracle-working out of humility.
To contemplate the miraculous prophesying of Balaam (Numbers 23, 24):
- How Balaam came to curse the people of Israel at the invitation of Prince Balak;
- How instead of cursing, Balaam blesses the people, being directed to do so by the Spirit of God;
- How Balaam prophesied about Christ saying: "A star shall rise out of Jacob and a rod will rise up out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17).
About apostolic love and discernment
"Moreover I will endeavor that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance" (2 Peter 1:15).
Brethren, let your hearts be opened, to receive and to understand this great mystery. Primarily, the apostle says that he will not be slothful in reminding the faithful of the salvific truths of the Faith; of the divine power which was given to mankind through Christ the Lord and for the preparing of men to receive this divine power "escaping from the corruption that is in the world through lust" (1 Peter 1:4).
Now he goes even further and promises that he will continue this remembrance even after separation, i.e., after my exodus (the word which is used in the Greek text) from this life, when he will "put off this tabernacle, his body" (1 Peter 1:14). O faith divine, O comfort, O sweetness! Even from the other world, the apostle promises to continue his concern for the Church of God on earth, to continue his work once begun to remind the faithful and to continue his love toward those on earth who believe in Christ. O apostolic love, so near to the love of Christ! O apostolic discernment, whose love the Spirit of God does not diminish as long as man is still wrapped in the dark curtain of the flesh!
The Apostle Peter gave this promise to the faithful nearly two thousand years ago. Did he fulfill it? He fulfilled it to the letter, not only as some would like to interpret it, reminding the faithful, not only through his written epistles and through his successors the bishops, but primarily by his constant action within the Church from the other world. The Apostle Peter appeared many times as did the other apostles whenever, according to the Providence of God, there was a need to appear and he reminded the shepherds and the faithful of the Church how they must adhere firmly to the truth and how they should correct the paths of their lives. Even when Peter did not appear to be seen in a dream or openly, he, in a mysterious manner known only to heaven, acted and still acts always, for our salvation.
Life after death to the Holy Apostles was as apparent as is the sun to those who have eyes. Though their prayers may God also open our spiritual eyes, to know where we are going and what awaits us after death.
O Lord Jesus, All-merciful, deliver us from the darkness into the light according to Your mercy and through the prayers of Your Holy Apostles.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK