Prologue from Ochrid - November 25 [December 8]
1. The Hieromartyr Clement, Bishop of Rome.
Born in Rome and of royal blood, he was a contemporary of the apostles. His mother and two brothers were caught by a storm on a voyage and driven to different places. His father then went off to find his wife and sons, and himself disappeared. Clement, being then twenty-four years old, set off eastwards to look for his parents and brothers. In Alexandria, he made the acquaintance of the Apostle Bamabas, and afterwards became a friend of the Apostle Peter, who was already being followed by his two brothers, Faustinus and Faustinian. By God's providence, the Apostle Peter found Clement's aged mother, who was living as a beggar-woman, and then his father also. Thus the whole family was reunited, and they all returned to Rome as Christians. Clement remained linked with the great apostles, who made him bishop before their death. After Peter's death by martyrdom, Linus was bishop in Rome, then Cletus - both of them only for a short time - and then Clement. He governed the Church of God with burning zeal and, from day to day, brought large numbers of unbelievers to the Faith. He set seven scribes to record the lives of the Christian martyrs who were at that time suffering for their Lord. The Emperor Trajan drove him out to Cherson, where Clement found about two thousand exiled Christians, who were all put to the hard toil of cutting stone in an and region. The Christians welcomed Clement with great joy, and he was to them a living source of comfort. By his prayers, he brought water from the dry ground and converted so many of the pagan inhabitants to Christianity that there were seventy-five churches built in that place in one year. To prevent the further spreading of the Christian faith, Clement was condemned to death, and drowned in the sea with a stone round his neck in the year 101. His wonderworking relics were taken out of the sea only in the time of Ss Cyril and Methodius.
2. The Hieromartyr Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria.
He was the disciple and successor of St Theonas, Archbishop of Alexandria, and was for a time a teacher at Ofigen's famous school of philosophy. He came to the archiepiscopal throne in 299, and died a martyr by the grave of the holy Apostle Mark in 311. He governed the Church in an acutely difficult period, when unbelievers were attacking the faithful from without and heretics from within. Six hundred and seventy Christians suffered in Alexandria in his time; whole families often perishing on the scaffold. At this time, Afius was troubling the faithful with his false teaching. St Peter drove him from the Church and anathematised him both in this world and the next. The Lord Himself appeared to this great and wonderful saint in prison.
3. Our Holy Father Paphnutius.
He never drank wine. He was once seized by robbers, and the chief of the band forced him to drink a cup of wine. Seeing Paphnutius's goodness, the robber chief repented and forsook his brigandage.
It said of St. Peter of Alexandria that he never climbed the steps and sat on the patriarchal throne in church but rather stood or sat before the steps of the throne. When the faithful began to complain why their hierarch does not sit in his place, he replied: "Whenever I approach the throne, I see a heavenly light and power upon it, that is why I do not dare climb and sit on it." Besides this vision, St. Peter had another, yet more wondrous vision. While he sat in prison, the ungodly heretic Arius hypocritically pretended as though he was repenting of his heresy and sent word to the captive Peter that he is renouncing his heresy within an appeal that Peter receive him into the Church again. Arius did this solely because he thought that Peter would be killed and that he would seize the patriarchal throne, from which he could, afterward, spread and strengthen his heresy. Before he gave him any kind of reply, Peter prayed to God in the prison. During prayer, an unusual light illumined the prison and the Lord Jesus appeared to him as a twelve-year-old boy, shining more brightly than the sun so that it was not possible to gaze upon Him. The Lord was clothed in a white tunic [hiton], which was rent down the front, from top to bottom. The Lord was clutching the garment around Himself, with His hands as though to hide His nakedness. Seeing this, St. Peter was in great fear and horror and cried out: "Who, O Savior, has torn Your garment?" The Lord replied: "The madman Arius. He tore it, for he alienated My people from Me whom I acquired by My blood, but be careful not to receive him in communion with the Church for he has cunning and diabolical thoughts against Me and My people." Hearing this, St. Peter replied to his priests, Achilles and Alexander, that he cannot receive Arius' petition for it is false and cunning and the saint pronounced a curse on Arius in both worlds. He also prophesied that, first Achilles and, after that, Alexander would follow him as patriarch and, so it was.
To contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
- How God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and took one of his ribs: "Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man and while he was asleep, he took one of his ribs" (Genesis 2:21);
- How the Lord God made the woman, Eve, from Adam's rib and brought her to Adam: "And the rib which the Lord God took from the man, he made into a woman and brought her to him" (Genesis 2:22);
- How, here is the foundation and reason for the mystical attraction and unity of husband and wife.
About the apportionment of functions and callings
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists [messengers] and some pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11).
As various organs in a man's body have different functions, but all work in harmony for the good of the entire body, thus, the Lord instituted even in the Church, which is His Body, various organs with different functions. In the first place came the APOSTLES, to whom was given not only one honor but rather all honors, not one function, but rather all functions, not only one gift but rather all the gifts of grace. At one and the same time, the apostles were both APOSTLES and PROPHETS and MESSENGERS (EVANGELISTS), PASTORS and TEACHERS. The apostolic calling is not repeated anymore. Of the Great Apostles, there were twelve and the thirteenth was the Apostle Paul, and of the Lesser Apostles, there were seventy. The PROPHETS are those who received the gift of prophecy from the Holy Spirit. Here, the Old Testament prophets are not thought of but rather the New Testament prophets: "And in these days PROPHETS came from Jerusalem to Antioch" (Acts of the Apostles 11:27); "And as we stayed many days, a certain PROPHET named Agabus came down from Judea" (Acts of the Apostles 21:10); "Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain PROPHETS and TEACHERS" (Acts of the Apostles 13:1). The prophets were and still are prophets regardless of their class and position. The MESSENGERS were first EVANGELISTS who wrote the Gospels; after that, missionaries who spread Christ's teaching among the unbelievers; and finally, the interpreters of Holy Scripture who, in writing, presented the Christian truth for all and everyone. PASTORS and TEACHERS - this is one and the same calling, for it is difficult to imagine a pastor who is not a teacher at the same time. The pastors are limited to a certain place and to a certain number of faithful whom they lead to salvation and they govern the Church of God. Thus, the Lord ordained it all through His holy apostles. Blessed is he who knows his function and the gift he received from the Spirit and who, to the end, serves according to his designation. Just as the Holy Spirit now apportions His gifts, so the Lord, in His time, will apportion rewards. O, Lord, Holy Spirit, True God, help us to the end, to use Your gifts in humility for the well-being of Christ's Church and to our eternal salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK