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Prologue from Ochrid - July 27 [August 9]

1. The Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon.

Born in Nicomedia of a Christian mother, Eubula, and a pagan father, Eustorgius, he studied medicine as a young man. The priest Hermolaus befriended him, instructed him in the Christian faith and baptised him. Panteleimon miraculously healed a blind man whom other doctors had treated in vain: he healed him by the name of Christ and baptised him. From jealousy, the doctors denounced Panteleimon as a Christian, and he went before the Emperor Maximian for judgement. 'He stood before the earthly ruler in the body, but in his mind he stood before the heavenly King.' He freely declared himself to be a Christian before the Emperor, and, in front of his eyes, healed a paralytic of a long infirmity. This miracle brought many of the pagans to the Christian faith. The Emperor put him to torture, but the Lord appeared to him on several occasions and delivered him whole and uninjured. Then St Hermolaus suffered, along with Hermippus and Hermocrates. Condemned to death, St Panteleimon knelt in prayer. At that, the executioner gave him a blow on the neck with his sword, and the sword broke as if made of wax. The executioner could not kill him until he had finished his prayer and had himself given the word to behead him. Panteleimon was beheaded under an olive tree, which after that became laden with fruit. 'Panteleimon' means 'all-merciful'. God the all-merciful received his righteous soul, and glorified him among His greatest saints, his relics remaining incorrupt. This wonderful martyr suffered with honour as a youth for Christ on July 27th, 304. St Panteleimon is invoked in the prayers at the blessing of water and the blessing of oil, together with St Hermolaus and the other unmercenaries and wonderworkers. The loveliest church dedicated to him is to be found on the Holy Mountain.

2. St Clement, Archbishop of Ochrid.

He was a disciple of Saints Methodius and Cyril. After St Methodius' death, Clement, under pressure from the Germans, left Moravia for the south. With Gorazd, Nahum, Sava and Angelarius - together called the Five Companions - he crossed the Danube, stayed with King Boris Michael and then went to the Ochrid region. He first founded a monastery at Belica, which he made his first episcopal seat, and later moved to Ochrid, from which centre he covered a large area with his episcopal and teaching labours. In Ochrid, St Clement built a church to St Panteleimon. He had many followers, who copied books in Slavonic script for the use of the Slav people, being especially helped in this work by St Nahum. He performed miracles both during his lifetime and through his relics, which have healing power down to the present day. They lie in the church formerly dedicated to the Mother of God, which was later re-dedicated to St Clement. After great labours and faithful service of God, he entered peacefully into rest in 916.

3. Blessed Nicolas.

A fool for Christ of Novgorod, he was the son of wealthy parents. He left his riches, and ran as a fool through the streets, teaching the people through his madness. His companion in the same ascesis was Blessed Theodore. Running at one time in the sight of the people, they both crossed a river on the surface of the water. Blessed Nicolas entered into rest in the Lord in 1392.

4. Our Holy Mother Anthusa.

After long asceticism in solitude, she founded a monastery of ninety nuns. During the iconoclast persecution under Constantine Copronymos, all ninety nuns were murdered, and after that St Anthusa herself died, in 759.

5. The Hundred and Fifty Three Martyrs.

Drowned in the sea in Thrace.

Reflection

If you give alms to the poor, know that as much as you do good works for your fellow man so much you do for yourself and even more for yourself. St. Anthony says: "Both life and death comes to us from our fellow man." St. Peter Damaskin writes: "As the poor should give thanks to God and love the rich who do them good, so even more should the rich should give thanks to God and to love the poor because they are saved by the Providence of God both now and in the future ages [life to come] because of their alms [Charity]. For without the poor, they not only cannot gain salvation of their souls but they cannot avoid the temptations of wealth." Alms which are given out of vanity or with disdain do not benefit anything. In earlier times, the wealthy ones brought gold to the hermits and begged them to accept it. It is a rare occurrence that the hermits gladly accepted alms and, when they did accept it, they accepted it out of compassion toward the wealthy ones giving it. The most destitute of men received alms out of compassion!

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Sisera and his might (Judges 4):

  1. How the Lord showed mercy on the cries of the enslaved Israelites and gave them victory over Sisera;
  2. How the prophetess Deborah sent a small force to Mt. Tabor against Sisera, who had nine-hundred chariots of iron and an enormous army;
  3. How the forces of Sisera were scattered and he was slain.

Homily

About the prophesied scoffers of holy things

"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:3).

Does the mirror change and bend when the scoffer stands before it laughing and scoffing at it? No, the mirror does not change and bend but remains the same as it was. Brethren, neither does God change or bend when scoffers laugh and scoff at Him. The unchanging and All-pure God knows that the scoffer scoffs at himself. By his scoffing at the holy things of God, the scoffer bends himself and makes himself hideous and the holy things of God remain intact.

O, how already in our times, in our days, many scoffers are already here! Many, too many but their multitudes are weaker than the One and Only One. What is a lot of dust before a strong wind? You have only to wait, to wait armed with patience until a strong wind blows.

Many and too many scoffers are already here, who scoff at God's word. They offer their own words in place of God's word; they offer the unholy in place of the holy, the putrid in place of the healthy, death dealing in place of life creating. The word of God is like a strong wind and their words are as dust.

The scoffers are already here, many and too many that scoff at God's works and still many more will arrive. They praise their works above God's works and say that the works of their hands are better and more comprehensible that the works of God. Their works are thievery; for all the good that they built, they built from God's materials and according to the likeness of God's buildings; and all the evil that they have built, they built from the devil's materials, and according to the likeness of the devil's buildings. Therefore, of what will the dust boast? With what will the scoffers praise today or tomorrow, when wild asses trample over their graves with their hooves?

All-pure Lord, Holy and Powerful are Your words, as a strong wind and holy are Your works, and there is no number or measure of them. All-pure Lord, save our tongues from scoffing and save our lives from the scoffers.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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