Prologue from Ochrid - July 31 [August 13]
1. St Eudocimus.
He was born in Cappadocia of devout parents, Basil and Eudocia. In the time of the Emperor Theophilus (829-842), Eudocimus was a young army officer. Even as a soldier, he endeavoured with his whole heart to live according to the precepts of the Gospel. He kept his purity unstained and avoided converse with any woman except his mother. He was liberal to the poor, assiduous in the reading of holy books and yet more assiduous in prayer to God. He fled vain chatter and idle talk. 'Among all the chaos and vanity of the world, he was like a lily among thistles, and like gold in the furnace.' For his rare virtues, the Emperor made him military governor of Cappadocia. In this high state, Eudocimus strove to be righteous before God and man. By God's providence, he died early, at the age of thirty-three, and his relics were found to have healing power. An insane man touched his tomb and was healed, and a paralytic child stood upright and was made whole. After eighteen months, his mother opened his coffin, and found his body as though still alive, with no mark of corruption - and a wonderful fragrance arose from the saint's body. His relics were later translated to Constantinople and buried in the new church of the holy Mother of God, built by Eudocimus's parents.
2. The Holy Martyr Julitta.
From Caesarea in Cappadocia, she was involved in a quarrel with her neighbour over some land. The neighbour went to the judge and denounced her as a Christian, which put her at that time outside the protection of the law. St Julitta was more willing to give up her land than her faith. But the wicked pagans were not willing even then to leave her in peace, but tortured her and finally burned her, in the year 303. Thus this handmaid of Christ sacrificed both her lands and her body for the sake of the eternal salvation of her soul.
3. St Joseph of Arimathea.
Noble Joseph, a rich man, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Christ (Matt. 27.57- Jn 19:38)-took Christ's body down from the Cross together with Nicodemus, and laid it in his own new tomb. For this, he was fettered by the Jews and cast into prison. The risen Lord appeared to him and brought him to belief in His Resurrection. The Jews then released him from prison and drove him from his fatherland. He travelled around the world, preaching the Gospel of Christ, and took this Good News to England, where he entered into rest in the Lord.
4. St John the Exarch.
A well-known Bulgarian priest and theologian in the time of the Emperor Simeon (893-927), he translated Basil's 'On the Six Days of Creation' and Damascene's 'Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith' into Slavonic. He entered peacefully into rest in the Lord.
Ascetics in the wilderness labor to sever their will and to live according to the will of God. Some erroneously think that the hermit lives completely in isolation. Not one hermit thinks thusly. He lives in the company of God, angels of God and the departed saints who have found repose in the Lord. Wherever the mind of man is, there also is the life of the man. The mind of the hermit is among the greatest, the most pure and in the most numerous company in which one man can possibly be. One time, Abba Mark remarked to St. Arsenius the hermit: "For what reason do you flee from our company and of conversation with us?" Arsenius replied: "God knows that I love you all but I cannot be both, together with God and with man. In heaven, thousands and thousands of thousands have but one will and, with men, there are many and various wills. That is why I cannot leave God and be with men."
To contemplate the punishment of God which befell Abimelech and the Shechemites (Judges 9):
- How Abimelech with the help of the Shechemites slew seventy of his brethren;
- How Abimelech himself, after that, slew the Shechemites and plowed under the city, sowing it with salt;
- How Abimelech, after many victories, was killed by a woman who, from a tower, cast a piece of a millstone on his head;
- How the curse of Jotham, the son of Gideon, came upon the Shechemites and Abimelech.
About the last awaiting
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14).
Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In the night we await the day and in the day we await the night and again the day and again the night. But this awaiting is not our last awaiting. Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In joy we tremble waiting for sorrow and in sorrow we wait with hope for joy and again sorrow, and again joy. But not even these awaitings are our last awaitings. Brethren, our last awaiting is the awaiting of the Judgment of God. When the judgment of God comes, the Dreadful Day "which burns like a furnace" (Malachi 4:1), then we welcome all that we deserve; a day for some, without change into night, and night for others, without change into day; joy for some without change to sorrow and sorrow for others without change to joy. Brethren, that is the last awaiting of the human race, whether he knows it or does not know it, whether he thinks about it or does not think about it.
But, you faithful should know this and you should think about this. Let this knowledge be the zenith of all your knowledge and let this thought direct all your other thoughts. In the knowledge and contemplation of this, include that which is even most important, include your diligence "that you may be found of Him in peace without spot and blameless" (or still more correctly translated: pure and blameless). Be diligent to be pure in mind and in heart, correct in your conscience and in peace with God. Only in that way will the last awaiting not frighten you with unexpectancy, nor will it hurl you into the night without day or into sorrow without joy. As everything else in the life of the Lord Jesus was a surprise for man, thus will be His Second Coming unexpected, in power and in glory. Unexpected was His birth by the All-holy Virgin, unexpected was His poverty, unexpected also was His miracle-working and every word and humiliation and voluntary death, the resurrection, the ascension, the Church and the spreading of His Faith. Unexpected will be His Second Coming, unexpectation more frightful than all other unexpectations.
O Lord, O righteous Judge, how will we meet You, unclad in purity and blameless even in peace? Help us, help us that however much as possible we may prepare for the dreadful encounter with You.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK