Prologue from Ochrid - July 29 [August 11]
1. The Holy Martyr Callinicus.
Born in Cilicia and brought up in Christian piety, he left all and began to preach the Gospel. He was arrested in Ancyra by the pagan governor, Sacerdos. When the governor, in fury, threatened him with torture if he would not worship idols, St Callinicus replied: 'Every torture for my God is as welcome to me as bread is to a hungry man.' After harsh torture and beating, the governor shod him with iron shoes, with the nails sticking inwards, and ordered that he be driven out to the town of Gangra, for he did not dare to have him further tortured or killed in Ancyra, as many men, beholding the heroic endurance of the man of God, were turning to the Christian faith. On the way, the soldiers became thirsty and there was no water. St Callinicus prayed to God and brought forth water from a rock. When they arrived in Gangra, the torturers threw Callinicus into a fiery furnace. The saint prayed to God, saying: 'I thank Thee, O heavenly Father, that Thou makest me worthy in this hour to die for Thy holy Name!' He then went into the fire. When the fire was extinguished, his dead body was found whole and untouched by the flames. He suffered with honour, and was crowned with a wreath of eternal glory, in about 250.
2. The Holy Martyr Seraphima.
A maiden from Antioch, she lived in the house of one Sabina, wife of a senator, whom she brought to the Christian faith. Hearing of her, Virilus, a torturer of Christians, ordered that she be brought before him. As Seraphima remained steadfast in her faith, the torturer ordered that she be cast into prison, and he sent some young men to spend the night with her and defile her. Seraphima was praying to God in the prison when the young men arrived at the door. There, suddenly, an angel of God appeared in light before them with a sword in his hand, and they fell as dead, utterly without consciousness and incapable of movement. The following day, a torturer begged Seraphima to restore the young men to consciousness by her prayers. Dismissing all this as magic, Virilus ordered that this holy maiden be burned with torches and then beaten with rods. When they were beating her, a piece of rod broke off and flew through the air, striking Virilus in the eye and blinding him. Finally, this handmaid of Christ was beheaded and gave her soul to God. The devout Sabina buried her body, from which a healing myrrh began to flow. St Seraphima suffered during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138).
3. The Holy Martyr Theodotia.
A young widow with three children, Theodotia laboured in the service of God in Salonica, together with St Anastasia (see December 22nd). In the time of Diocletian's persecution, she was condemned to death and thrown into a fiery furnace together with her three children. Their holy souls soared up to their heavenly abode.
4. The Holy Martyr Eustathius of Mtskhet.
A Persian, born in the village of Arbuket, he went to the town of Mtskhet at the age of thirty and, seeing the life and faith of the Christians, received baptism. He was tortured for Christ and beheaded in Tiflis in 589. His relics are preserved in the cathedral at Mtskhet, and give healing to the faithful.
By true repentance with tears, prayer and good works the most defiled soul can be completely cleansed and changed. Therefore be careful that you do not maliciously mention the sins of a repentant sinner but offer thanksgiving to God and be astonished how from darkness, light is made and from slime, pure water. The Egyptian Pharaoh Amases was of lowly birth and when he became king, men respected him very little, remembering his origin. In order to outwit the people and to gain their respect, he took a metal basin in which, according to custom, the feet of the visitors to the palace were washed. He ordered the basin to be melted down and from it to make a likeness of a certain idol. The pharaoh then placed this idol on the street. Seeing this idol, the people began to worship it and to render it divine honor. Then the pharaoh revealed what this idol was made of. The people then understood that, by this, the pharaoh wanted to show that they need not think anymore about what he once was but what he is now. Then the people began to render the pharaoh the respect due to royalty.
To contemplate the miraculous sign that God showed Gideon (Judges 6):
- How the first night only the fleece was under the dew and the remaining ground was dry; and how the second night, all the ground was under the dew, and the fleece was dry;
- How that first signified, the Israelites in the midst of the pagan world (until the coming of Christ) and after that the pagan world under grace and graceless Israel [Israel without grace] (after the coming of Christ).
About the delaying of the Dreadful Day according to the mercy of God
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness: but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Brethren, the mercy of God delays "that day which burns like a furnace, according to the words of the Prophet Malachi" (Malachi 4:1). Therefore, let the scoffers be ashamed, who scoff at the promise of God and say: "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:4). God has not forgotten His promise but the sinners themselves have forgotten it. God, according to His immeasurable mercy, waits for the sinners to come to their senses, repent and to prepare themselves for that day which is not repeated. Behold that day is not like the many days which are given to men for the sake of repentance and to prepare for the encounter with God. That day is the only day and it differs from all other days, for it does not come for the sake of repentance but rather for judgment. Just as the Dreadful Judgment is only one and unrepeatable, thus is that day only one and unrepeatable.
God does not desire that any man be lost. He did not create man for death but for salvation. Is there a gardener who sows vegetables and desire that his vegetables dry out and perish? God is wiser and more compassionate than all men. God has only one desire, i.e., that all men repent and turn away from evil. How does the husbandman rejoice when his withered vineyard comes to life and again becomes green and brings forth fruit! How much more then is the joy of God and the angels of God when the souls of men, withered from sin, return and become young again from the tears of repentance and bring forth fruit of repentance.
O Lord, Merciful and Lover of Mankind, help sinners to sense Your mercy and Your pity toward them to sense and to repent to repent and to turn away from their wicked ways.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK