Prologue from Ochrid - February 14 [February 27]
Our Holy Father Auxentius.
A very distinguished administrator in Constantinople among the officials and courtiers of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, he was set aflame by the love of Christ. Auxentius became a monk and remained only a short time in Constantinople. When men began to praise him, he fled and settled on a mountain near Chalcedon that later became known as Auxentius's mountain. He could not realise his desire to remain there permanently, hidden from men, as some shepherds found him and made his whereabouts known. They began to bring the sick to him to be healed, and he healed many of them. He restored sight to the blind and cleansed lepers, anointing them with oil. He also raised up the palsied and freed many who had been possessed by demons. All this was cause for wonder, but his humility was more wonderful. When he was asked to pray for the healing of someone, he excused himself with the words: 'I also am a sinful man.' But, constrained by many requests, he approached the healing in the following way: either he called all present to pray with him for the sick person, or he first stirred up the faith of the people and told them that God would give according to their faith, or he said over the head of the sick person: 'The Lord Jesus Christ heals you.' He did this that the wonder worked should not be attributed to him but to almighty God. He took part in the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon and powerfully defended Orthodoxy against the Eutychian and Nestorian heresies. He lived to a great age; then, in 470, God took his youthful soul to Himself and left his aged body on the earth from which it was made.
Our Holy Father Isaac the Recluse, of the Kiev Caves.
Isaac was a contemporary of Saints Antony and Theodosius. He came to the monastery as a rich merchant, but forsook everything, giving all his goods to the poor, and gave himself to the strictest asceticism in a walled-in cell. Only St Antony gave him a blessed loaf through the window every other day. Deluded by demons, who appeared to him as angels of light, he worshipped them, and then Satan himself, believing hat he was Christ. As a result of this he became ill and lay two years in sickness, after which he was healed and became a cautious and experienced ascetic, receiving in the end abundant blessings. He entered into rest in 1090.
Why do men leave one place and settle in another place? Primarily because they hope that they will be more fortunate in the other place. And in truth, from the worldly point of view of life and contentment, places can be different; better or worse. He, who does not hope in a better life after death, seeks a better sensual pasture in this life. But if we listen to the hearts of those men, who were able and capable to live in the so-called best places on the globe of the earth, we will detect dissatisfaction, sorrow and despair. They did not find that which they were seeking. They ate to over satisfaction in every place, and finally, still hungry, they gaze death in the eyes. But look at the Christian saints! They sought places with the least earthly pastures; places that were "arid, impassible and devoid of water" isolated places and terrible places that attracted the least attention and for which no one competes. They considered every place on earth equally worthless, but they chose those places solely because they wanted to draw nearer in the spirit and mind to their eternal homeland. And, if one were to listen to their hearts, they would sense joy and contentment.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Parent who weeps for His children in the wilderness calling to them and gathering them:
- At that time, the children of the nation of Israel;
- The children of all peoples on earth;
- The children of all times from creation until the end.
About the reversed values in the Kingdom of God
"But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (St. Matthew 19:30).
"For behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last" (St. Luke 13:30).
How All-wise is He Who spoke these words! He did not say that all the first will be last and all the last will be first, "but many." There is not one error in the Gospel and nowhere in the Gospel is there any exaggeration.
Why did the Lord put a limit and did not say "all" but rather "many." Experience teaches us that some of those who were first in honor on earth remained first in honor with God. There were emperors who, from their thrones, pleased God and, there were men who were without authority until their death, angered God. There were wealthy men, who by their charity and faith, were saved, and there were the indigent who, because of their evil and unbelief, received condemnation. There were learned men who kept the faith and did good deeds and there were unlearned men who rejected both faith and good deeds. And so, there were some who were first here on earth who remained first there in heaven also and there were some who were last here [on earth] and remained last there [in heaven] also.
But alas, "many" first here became last there. And, O the joy, O the justice of God; how "many" who were last here have become "first" there!
The Lord did not emphasize neither praised one class, or one occupation over all others, but He recruited and even today He recruits an army of light from all classes, from all occupations and professions. For Him the criteria of man is not a crown nor a beggar's pouch, but rather faith - faith and good deeds.
O All-wise Lord, remember us also in Your Kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK