Prologue from Ochrid - July 23 [August 5]
1. The Holy Martyrs Trophimus and Theophilus and thirteen others with them.
They suffered in Lycia, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian. Because they would in no way deny Christ nor offer sacrifice to idols, they were put to manifold tortures: they were stoned, flayed with iron flails, their knees were broken and, thus tortured and more dead than alive, they were thrown into the flames, in which the power of God kept them unharmed. They were then taken from the fire and beheaded. The Lord glorified them both on earth and in His heavenly Kingdom. They suffered with honour in Lycia at the beginning of the fourth century.
2. The Hieromartyr Apollinarius.
He was a disciple of the Apostle Peter and was born in the city of Antioch. St Peter took him with him from Antioch to Rome, and, in Rome, consecrated him Bishop of Ravenna. Arriving in Ravenna, Apollinarius went into the house of a soldier, Irenaeus, whose blind son he healed and by this brought the whole family to the Christian faith. He also healed the wife of the military governor of Ravenna of a grave infirmity, and baptised his whole household. At the governor's request, Apollinarius remained in his house as his guest. Here he formed a house-church, and lived in that house for twelve years, preaching the Gospel and baptising unbelievers. He was grievously tormented in various ways by the pagan elders, but the strong right hand of God upheld him and preserved him. He was finally condemned to exile in Illyria in the Balkans. But the boat in which he was sailing capsized in a storm and, from among all the travellers, only St Apollinarius, together with two soldiers and three of his priests, was saved. Saved so miraculously, the soldiers came to believe in the power of Apollinarius' God and were baptised. Then Apollinarius began preaching the Gospel throughout the Balkans, travelling as far as the Danube. He then went to Thrace, where he spread the Gospel against great opposition. After three years of working in the Balkans, he was driven back to Italy. He went to Ravenna, where the faithful welcomed him with great joy. Hearing of this, the pagan elders wrote to Emperor Vespasian about Apollinarius, calling him a magician and asking if he should be put to death as an opponent of their gods. The Emperor replied that it was not necessary to kill him, but that he should be made to sacrifice to idols or driven from the city, for, he said: 'It is not seemly to take revenge on someone on behalf of the gods, for they can themselves be revenged on their enemies if they are angered.' But, in spite of this imperial decree, the pagans assaulted Apollinarius and stabbed him with daggers. This servant of God died of his wounds and went to the Kingdom of God. His relics are preserved in Ravenna, in the church dedicated to him.
The great teachers of the Church endeavored to teach men great truths, not only by words but also by obvious examples. Thus Abba Isaiah, in order to teach the monks, said that no one would receive a reward from God who, in this life did not labor for God, brought his disciples to a threshing floor where a farm laborer gathered the winnowed wheat. "Give me some wheat also!" said Isaiah to the farm hand. "Did you reap, Father?" "I did not", replied the elder. "How do you expect to obtain wheat when you did not reap?" To that the elder replied: "Does he who did not reap receive wheat?" "He does not receive wheat", replied the farm hand. Hearing such an answer, the elder silently turned away. When the disciples begged him to explain his action, the elder said: "I did this with the intention to show you that he who has not lived a life of asceticism will not receive a reward from God."
To contemplate the suffering of the entire people because of the sin of one man (Joshua 7):
- How the Israelites were prohibited by God to take any of the possessions belonging to the conquered people of Jericho;
- How one man took some of the possessions of the inhabitants of Jericho and because of this the Israelites were defeated by the Hai;
- How even today, because of the transgressing of the law of God by one man, many suffer.
About waterless wells
"These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever" (2 Peter 2:17).
The apostle calls impure men "wells without water" those, "that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10). "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not" (2 Peter 2:12). O "wells without water," which are adorned on all sides but you do not give water why are you then called wells when nothing comes out of you except thirst? O clouds and mist why do you bristle, as though you will flood the entire world, when there is not even one drop of water in you and when a breath of the Spirit of God will destroy and disperse you into nothing at that awesome hour? You are not concerned about purity, that is why you roll around in bodily impurity; neither are you concerned about order, that is why you detest authority; neither are you concerned about saving face [reputation], that is why you are presumptuous [self-willed]; neither are you concerned about knowing the truth, that is why you blaspheme that which you have not made any effort to understand. "The mist of darkness is reserved forever" for you. That is not God's will that is your will. God did not ordain that road, you yourself chose it. God is just and He will not commit a sin but will render to him according to his sin, and according to his unrepentant heart.
Brethren, what are physical desires except "wells without water" and dry clouds and mist? What type of fruit sprouts and blossoms from them except thistles and thorns, which do not require rain? Men with their physical desires are equal to their physical desires and they are blind because of these desires and will be judged according to them.
O Lord, Creator of our souls and bodies, give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit, that we may preserve our body and soul in purity and, in the day of judgment, may present both in purity to You, our Creator.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK