Prologue from Ochrid - January 31 [February 13]
Cyrus And John, The Unmercenary Saints And Miracle-Workers
These charitable and glorious saints were not blood brothers but were brothers in the spirit. At first, Cyrus lived in Alexandria, and as a physician he healed people by the power of Christ and by his knowledge of medicine. Learning that sickness mostly befalls man because of sin, Cyrus always directed the sick to purify their souls from sin through repentance and prayer and, thereby restore health to the body. When Diocletion's persecution against Christians began, Cyrus withdrew to Arabia where he received the monastic tonsure. He became as famous in Arabia as he was in Alexandria, so that people there also resorted to him for assistance. Hearing about Cyrus, John, then a Roman officer in Edessa, came to Arabia to see him. Upon meeting, they loved one another as a brother loves a brother and remained together to live a life of asceticism. At that time, a certain Christian woman named Anastasia, together with her three daughters, was tortured by the persecutors in the town of Canopus. Hearing of this, Cyrus and John came to Canopus to encourage the mother and her daughters not to abandon the Faith. And truly, thanks to the counsel of these saints, Anastasia endured all tortures and, with her daughters, was martyred for Christ. The daughters of Anastasia were named: St. Theoctista, age 15; St. Theodota, age 13; and St. Eudocia, age 11. The tormentors then captured Cyrus and John, who, after imprisonment and torture were beheaded in the year 311 A.D. Numerous miracles were wrought by these martyrs, both during their lives and after their deaths. Their relics were translated to Rome during the reign of Emperor Arcadius. These saints are invoked for assistance during the Blessing of Water, in the Sacrament of Holy Unction and especially by those suffering from insomnia.
The Female Martyr Tryphaena
Tryphaena willingly and courageously endured many tortures for Christ. Because she did not want to deny her Faith, a wild ox was released which gored her to death. This occurred in the first century. St. Tryphaena is invoked by mothers who are unable to breast-feed their children.
The Venerable Nicetas Of The Monastery Of The Caves In Kiev
As a monk Nicetas was disobedient to his superior, left the monastery and closed himself in a cell. Because of his disobedience, God permitted great temptations to befall him. Once, when Nicetas was at prayer, the devil appeared to him under the guise of a radiant angel and said to him: "Do not pray anymore; rather read books and I will pray for you!" Nicetas obeyed and ceased to pray and began to read books. He only read the Old Testament. He was unable even to open the Book of the New Testament, for the power of the devil prevented him from doing so. With the help of the devil, Nicetas prophesied only crimes, thefts, arson and other evil deeds which are known to the devil and in which he [the devil] participates. Finally, the holy fathers of the Caves realized that Nicetas had succumbed to the temptation of the devil, and they began to pray to God for him. Nicetas returned to the monastery, realized the destruction which plagued him, and directed himself on the right path. After prolonged repentance and many tears, God forgave him and bestowed upon him the gift of miracle-working. He died in the year 1108 A.D.
Although the Holy Fathers praised monasticism as the angelic state, and although many of the greatest saints lived their lives and attained perfection in the deaf and lifeless desert, nevertheless, the Orthodox Church does not recommend tonsuring to all the faithful. "Neither all those in the desert were saved nor all those in the world were lost," said one saint. To a city dweller who, with no inclination for monasticism, desired to enter the monastery, St. Niphon said: "My child, a place neither saves nor destroys a man, but deeds save or destroy. For him who does not fulfill all the commandments of the Lord, there is no benefit from a sacred place or from a sacred rank. King Saul lived in the midst of royal luxury and he perished. King David lived in the same kind of luxury and he received a wreath. Lot lived among the lawless Sodomites and he was saved. Judas was numbered among the apostles and he went to Hades. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children deceives himself. Abraham had a wife and children, three-hundred-eighteen servants and handmaidens, much gold and silver but, nevertheless, he was called the Friend of God. Oh, how many servants of the Church and lovers of the desert have been saved! How many aristocrats and soldiers! How many artesians and field-workers! Be pious and be a lover of men and you will be saved!"
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as Host in His house:
- How He walks about this world as One Who has authority: commanding nature and expelling demons;
- How He diligently laborers over each man with whom He encounters as a Host over the members of His household;
- How He acts in the Temple as a Host in His house cleansing the Temple of the money-changers.
Against mediocrity and about fulfilling all the laws of God
"These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (St. Luke 11:42).
The law and mercy are referred to in this text. In the souls of the Pharisees and sectarians, the law and mercy do not stand together, i.e., they are unable to fulfill the regulations of the law and to show mercy, but they argue about which is more important of these two; one, they omit and the other they adhere to. The Pharisees literally observed the letter of the Law, but they completely abandoned mercy and love for men. Sectarians flatter themselves that they adhere to God's justice but totally reject the prescriptions of Church Laws.
Orthodoxy represents the fullness of the Faith. The Church commands that we do this and not omit that. The Church is careful toward external prescriptions of the Faith, like a man when he walks among clay vessels and is careful not to break them. The Church is even more careful about the justice and mercy of God as a man who, walking among the clay vessels, values them and protects them, not because of the earth from which the vessels are made, but because of their priceless contents which are contained in them. Empty vessels that are never filled with any drink, are as worthless as is the empty legal formalisms of the Pharisees. A drink, however, when it is poured into the wind is spilled and wasted because it is not poured into the vessels designated for it.
And, so, in Orthodoxy, there is no one-sidedness as there was not in the Lord Jesus. The Lord speaks to John the Baptist, who breathes with the justice and mercy of God, that it is necessary to fulfill the Law; but to the Pharisees, empty paragraphists without the justice and mercy of God, He says, "For it is mercy that I desire, not sacrifice!" (Hosea 6:6). It is evident that it is more important to do that which is necessary to do than that which must not be left undone. But it does not mean that, that which is less important is unnecessary. In the human organism, there are many important organs and many lesser important organs, but together they constitute the body of man.
O Lord, all encompassing, do not allow us to become one-sided, but assist us to fulfill Your entire will.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK