Prologue from Ochrid - November 30 [December 13]
1. The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
He was the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, born in Bethsaida and a fisherman by profession. He was first a disciple of St John the Baptist, but, when John pointed to the Lord Jesus and said: 'Behold the Lamb of God' (Jn. 1:36), St Andrew left his first teacher and followed Christ. After that, Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Lord. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, it fell to the lot of the first of Christ's apostles, St Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube, in Russia and around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he installed St Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev he raised the Cross on high and prophesied a Christian future for the Russian people; in Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he brought many people to the Faith and gave them bishops and priests. In the city of Patras he performed many wonders in the name of Christ and brought many to the Lord, among whom were the brother and wife of the imperial governor, Aegeatus. Aegeatus, infuriated by this, put Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While he was still alive on the cross, the Apostle of Christ taught the Christians who were gathered round him. The people wanted to take him down from the cross, but he would not let them. Finally, the Apostle prayed to God and a strange radiance surrounded him. This light lasted for half an hour and, when it disappeared, the Apostle gave his holy soul into God's hands. Thus the first-called Apostle, who first of the twelve Great Apostles came to know the Lord and followed Him, finished his earthly course. St Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62. His relics were translated to Constantinople, but his head was later taken to Rome and one hand to Moscow.
2. St Frumentius, the Enlightener of Abyssinia.
In the time of the Emperor Constantine the Great, a learned man from Tyre called Meropius travelled to India. He took with him two young Christians, brothers called Edessius and Frumentius. On the journey, the ship foundered in a storm on the Abyssinian coast, and the wild Abyssinians killed all the people from the ship except these two brothers, Edessius and Frumentius. They lived in Abyssinia for several years and succeeded in entering the service of the king. Frumentius began to preach the Christian faith, at first fairly cautiously, and became convinced that the land was ripe for such preaching. The two brothers then took ship, Edessius to Tyre to his parents and Frumentius to Alexandria, to Patriarch Athanasius the Great. Frumentius described the situation in Abyssinia to the Patriarch and sought pastors to bring the people to the Faith. St Athanasius consecrated Frumentius bishop, and he returned to Abyssinia where, by his zeal and his miracles, he brought the whole of Abyssinia to the Faith during his lifetime. This great pastor of Christ's flock and enlightener of Abyssinia died peacefully in the year 370, and entered into the Kingdom of his Lord.
St. John Chrysostom says: "All is given to the Apostles." That is, all gifts, all power, all the fullness of grace which God gives to the faithful. We see this in the life of the great apostle, St. Andrew the First-called: He was an apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor and teacher (Ephesians 4:11). As an evangelist, he carried the good news of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth; as a prophet, he prophesied the baptism of the Russian people and the greatness of Kiev as a city and a Christian center; as a pastor, he established and organized many churches; as a teacher, he tirelessly taught people right up to and during his crucifixion, when he taught from the cross until his last breath. In addition to this, he was a martyr, which is also according to the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is not given to everyone. And so we see in this apostle, as in the others, the fullness of the grace of the Spirit of God. And every great work that a follower of Christ performs must be ascribed to that grace. St. Frumentius testifies this to us. When he returned from Alexandria to Abyssinia as a consecrated bishop, he began to perform the greatest miracles, thus converting great masses of people to the Faith. Then the amazed king asked him:"So many years have you lived among us and never have we seen you perform such miracles. How is it that you do so now?" To this, the Blessed Frumentius replied to the emperor: "This is not my work, but the work of the grace of the priesthood." The saint then explained to the king how he had forsaken parents and marriage and the whole world for the sake of Christ, and how he had-by the laying on of hands by St. Athanasius-received the grace of the priesthood: miracle-working grace.
Contemplate the spiritual fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):
- How the serpent provoked greed and pride in Eve;
- How the greedy and proud woman transgressed God's command and ate of the Tree of Knowledge;
- How Eve sinned, not in the midst of poverty or need, but in an abundance of all things.
On the ignorance and hardheartedness of the pagans
The gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18).
What is vanity, my brethren? All that is seen outside God, cut off from God and done without the fear of God. What is vanity of the mind, my brethren? To live and interpret life, not by God's law but rather by one's own passing thoughts and desires. Whence, my brethren, does this evil come to men? From hardness of heart and from inner ignorance. What does hardness of heart mean, brethren? It means a heart empty of love for God and fear of God, and filled with lustfulness and fear of everything for the body's sake. Brethren, what is born of hardness of heart? Ignorance-complete ignorance of divine things, divine ways and divine laws; a heart completely dulled to spiritual life and spiritual thought. What is the final consequence, brethren, of hardness of heart and ignorance of divine truth? A darkened understanding and alienation from the Living God. Darkened understanding occurs when the mind of man becomes as darkened as the body, and the light that is in man becomes darkness. Oh, such a darkness! A darkened understanding is a darkened mind. A darkened mind knows the meaning of nothing, or denies the meaning of everything. In such a condition, a man is alienated from the life of God, and he withers and dies like a body part cut off from the body. Such are the pagans, such are the godless, and such are those of little faith or false Christians. But even dry wood, when it is watered with the life-creating water of Christ, comes to life and bursts forth in greenery. Even the dried-up pagan world was raised up and brought to life by Christ the Lord. How much more so would it be for repentant Christian sinners!
Let us look at ourselves, my brethren. Let us do so every day. Let us ask ourselves every day whether we have become darkened and alienated from the life of God because of our vanity. Soon there will be death, the end and judgment. The dry wood will be cast into the unquenchable fire.
O Lord Jesus, our Mind and our Life, help us to think with Thee, and to live with Thee.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK