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Prologue from Ochrid - July 24 [August 6]

1. The Holy Martyr Christina.

Born in the city of Tyre, she was the daughter of the imperial governor, Urban, an idolater. It is not known why her parents gave her the name Christina, but it carried within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. She knew nothing of Him until the age of eleven, but, when she reached that age, her father (wanting, because of her beauty, to hide her from the world until she was fully grown) made her live on the top floor of a high tower. He gave her every comfort - slaves and gold and silver idols to which to offer daily sacrifice. But the soul of the young Christina was weighed down and suffocated in this idolatrous atmosphere. Looking out of the window by day at the sun, and by night at the wonderful constellations of shining stars, she came, through her natural understanding, to a firm belief in the one, living God. God, in His great mercy, seeing her yearning for the truth, sent His angel to her, who signed her with the sign of the Cross, named her the bride of Christ and instructed her fully in the things of God. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her rooms, incurring her father's terrible wrath. He brought her to trial and had her tortured and thrown into prison, intending that she be beheaded on the following day. But that night, Urban, in full health, gave up the ghost and went to the grave before his daughter. After that, two of the governors, Dion and Julian, continued the interrogation of this holy maiden. Christina's courage in suffering and the marvels which were performed by the power of God brought many of the pagan inhabitants of Tyre to Christianity. During Christina's torture, Dion suddenly fell dead among the people. His successor, Julian, cut off Christina's breasts and cut out her tongue. The martyr took her tongue in her hand and threw it into Julian's face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her sufferings for Christ were ended under a sharp sword, but her life went on in the immortal kingdom of the angels. St Christina suffered with honour in the third century.

2. Our Holy Father Polycarp, Abbot of the Kiev Caves.

He was filled with 'love for God and his neighbour, joy from a pure conscience, peace from the overcoming of all the passions, patience with the fallen and destitute, gentleness and humility to all, charity to the poor, undoubting faith in the fulfilling of the commandments, truth in the fulfilling of his vows, meekness in freedom from anger, longsuffering and so forth...'. He governed the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev so well that no worthy successor could be found after his death (for any who were worthy were prevented by humility from accepting the abbacy), and the brethren were forced to have a secular priest, Basil, as their abbot. St Polycarp entered into rest in the Lord in 1182.

Reflection

The Faith of Christ mostly sanctifies and illumines the souls of men when the preachers of the Faith shine in their own lives. Blessed Polycarp, the abbot of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, was so completely illumined with the Faith of Christ, both in words and in deeds and in his entire being. Because of this, he had an unusual influence not only on ordinary people but also on princes and noblemen. Listening and seeing this godly man the Prince of Kiev, Rostislav Mstislavitch, became so illumined with the Faith of Christ and thus became so subdued and gentle, that he became a model of life in his immediate surroundings and to his entire people. During the Great Lenten Fast Season, Prince Rostislav received Holy Communion every Sunday and, in all places, sought out those who were in need and those less fortunate and helped them. In the end, he resolved to embrace the monastic order and spoke to Saint Polycarp about this: "Holy father, princely rule in this world cannot be without sin and it has already embittered me and has rendered me incapable." Polycarp answered him: "If you desire this monastic state from your heart, then let it be God's will." Once while in Smolensk, the prince became ill and close to death and ordered that he be quickly taken to Kiev, so that before his death he may receive the monastic tonsure. However he died before his wish was fulfilled.

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous victory of the Israelites over the Haians (Joshua 8):

  1. How the Haians pursued the Israelites and almost defeated them;
  2. How, according to the command of God, Joshua raised the banner in the air and held it upraised, until the Haians were defeated;
  3. How I should also in time of danger lift up my heart to God as a banner and with the cross and prayer in my heart walk to victory.

Homily

About the holy apostolic warning

"For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error" (2 Peter 2:18).

The holy apostle knows men better than the learned scribes for he is a saint and an apostle. A saint and an apostle penetrate deeply into the heart of man. About whom does the apostle speak? He speaks about the "impure, impudent and the self-willed", whom he earlier called "wells without water and clouds and mist" (2 Peter 2:17). The "impure, impudent and self-willed" are men of many and high sounding [high falutin] words. They speak proud and false words to men. By these proud and false words, they both conceal and reveal their hearts concealing it for the uneducated and for those who do not understand and revealing it for those who are steadfast in the Faith and enlightened by Grace.

When the impure speak of their purity, by that they are declaring their impurity; when the impudent defends his character, by that he reveals his impudence; when the self-willed interprets the will of God, by that he shows his self-will. Whoever attentively follows his words can sense the stench of their bodily desires. The inattentive and uneducated cannot sense this stench but believe and are deluded. Those "who have just begun to escape" from the illusion of the body, the world and the devil are ensnared by proud and false words, as a fish in an invisible net. The fish does not know that it is in a net, until the net is pulled out on the hot sand. Then it knows but then it is too late. O may it not be too late for those pitiful souls of mankind who are ensnared in the net of proud and false words! Brethren know that every teacher who, by his teaching, condones bodily desires and who yields to sinners in bodily desires, is false.

Lord Jesus, Holy and All Pure, send Your Holy Angels to defend all beginners and fledgings in Your Faith from proud and false lips.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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