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Prologue from Ochrid - February 15 [February 28]

The Holy Apostle Onesimus.

One of the Seventy, he was a slave of Philemon, a rich and distinguished citizen of Colossae in Phrygia. He offended his master in some way and fled to Rome, where he heard the Gospel from the Apostle Paul and was baptised. By this time, Paul had brought Philemon also to the true Faith, and he reconciled the two of them, Philemon and Onesimus, master and slave, writing a special epistle to Philemon - one of the most moving writings to be found in the New Testament: 'I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds ... Perhaps he departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever, not now as a servant, but above a servant; a brother beloved.' Deeply moved by this letter, Philemon received Onesimus as a brother indeed and gave him his freedom. Onesimus was later made bishop and received the see of Ephesus after the death of the Apostle Timothy. This is recorded in the epistles of Ignatius the God-Bearer. At the time of the persecution under Trajan, Onesimus, by then an old man, was arrested and taken to Rome. There he testified before the judge Tertylus, was imprisoned and finally slain. A wealthy woman took his body, placed it in a silver coffin and buried it, in the year 109.

Our Holy Father Eusebius.

A Syrian hermit, he lived at first under the guidance of holy men, but later went into the solitude of the desert. He fed himself entirely on vegetable foods, never even tasting fruit, and spent all his time in prayer in the open air, enduring all weathers. He lived to the age of 95 and entered into rest in the Lord in 440.

Reflection

For every man, peace of soul is precious. With those who have attained peace of soul, the body can be in constant motion; in work, in pain, but their souls, affixed to God, always remain in unwavering peace. St. Seraphim of Sarov teaches: "It is necessary to concern oneself with all means in order to preserve peace of soul and not to be disturbed by the insults of others. That is why it is necessary, at all costs, to restrain yourself from anger with the help of vigilance over one's self, preserving the mind and heart from indecent movements. For preserving peace of soul, it is also necessary to avoid judging others. By not judging and by silence, peace of the soul is preserved. When a man is in such a state of mind, he receives divine revelations. In order for man to be preserved from judging others, he must be vigilant over himself; he must not receive from anyone non-spiritual thoughts and he should be dead toward everything worldly. We must tirelessly guard the heart from indecent thoughts and influences. 'With closest custody, guard your heart for in it are the sources of life.' (Proverbs 4:23). From perpetual vigilance over the heart, purity is born, in which the Lord is seen according to the words of eternal truth: 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' " (St. Matthew 5:8).

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Traveler:

  1. How He is wearied by traveling, perspiring, hungry and thirsty for my salvation, for your salvation and for the salvation of all men;
  2. How even at night, He labors for my salvation, for your salvation and for the salvation of all men;
  3. How on every journey, He thinks, He worries and He desires salvation for me, for you and for all men.

Homily

About the believing people and the unbelieving elders.

"When the Messiah [Christ] comes, will He perform more signs than this man has done?" (St. John 7:31).

The Lord Jesus performed miraculous works before all and all saw but not all believed. The people witnessed His miracles and believed in Him. Servants heard His words and believed in Him. But the leaders of the people and the masters of the servants also witnessed His miracles and did not believe in Him. And so, in those days the words of the Savior came true: "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (St. Matthew 19:30). "For behold, some who are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (St. Luke 13:30). Those who were first in honor and authority were last in having faith in Him; and those who were last in honor and authority were the first in having faith in Him.

Why did the people and servants believe and the princes and scribes not believe? Because, the people and servants considered themselves insignificant and unimportant and did not have any personal pride nor envy toward Christ. The people and servants, without malice and prejudice, looked upon the divine miracles and listened to the divine words and were amazed and rejoiced. The princes and the scribes considered themselves first among the people and in the world and so they were filled with pride and envy and were unable, even for a moment, to look upon the miraculous works nor to listen to the divine words without malice and envy.

Brethren, do you see how man, without humility and meekness, is unable even to recognize truth nor to rejoice in the truth? Do you see how the proud and the envious do not even allow God to be ahead of them? As did Satan, at one time!

Lord Jesus, eternal truth cleanse our hearts of pride and envy that we may be able to see You and to rejoice in You.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

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