Prologue from Ochrid - January 22 [February 4]
The Holy Apostle Timothy
Timothy was one of the Seventy Apostles. He was born in Lystra in Lycaonia of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. The Apostle Paul praised his mother and grandmother because of their sincere faith. " I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that, I am confident, lives also in you" (II Timothy 1: 4-5). Timothy first met with the great apostle in Lystra and was himself a witness when Paul healed the one lame from birth. Later, Timothy was an almost constant traveling companion of Paul, traveling with him to Achaia, Macedonia, Italy and Spain. Sweet in soul, he was a great zealot for the Faith, and a superb preacher. Timothy contributed much to the spreading and establishing of the Christian Faith. Paul calls him "my own son in the faith." "Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus, Who is our hope, to Timothy, my own son in the Faith: grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Timothy 1: 1-2). After Paul's martyrdom, Timothy had St. John the Evangelist as his teacher. But when the Emperor Domentian banished John from Ephesus to the island of Patmos, Timothy remained in Ephesus to serve as bishop. During the time of an idolatrous feast called Katagogium, the pagans, resentful of the Christians, treacherously and in disguise, attacked Timothy and killed him about the year 93 A.D. Later his honorable relics were translated to Constantinople and interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles along side of the grave of St. Luke the Evangelist and St. Andrew the First-called.
The Venerable Martyr Anastasius
Anastasius was a Persian by birth. His pagan name was Magundat. When Emperor Heraclius warred with the Persians, Magundat deserted to the Christians, went to Jerusalem where he was baptized and received the name Anastasius. It was not enough for him to be baptized, but, in order to give himself completely to serving the Lord he was also tonsured a monk. Among his other mortifications, Anastasius joyfully read the hagiography of the holy martyrs and in reading them he moistened the book with his tears and ardently yearned for martyrdom. The Lord finally crowned him with the martyr's wreath. In prison for a long time, he was cruelly tortured, until Emperor Chozroes pronounced the death sentence. After that death sentence, Anastasius was suffocated under water and after being removed from the water, the executioner beheaded him and sent his head to the emperor. He suffered on January 22, 628 A.D., in the town of Bethsaloe near Nineveh.
The Orthodox Church possesses an inexhaustible treasure in proofs of life after death. One of the numerous proofs is cited here: one example, which, at the same time, witnesses that the souls of men live after physical death and that voluntary obedience leads to blessed eternity. When St. Theodosius the Great founded a monastery, he had only seven monks in the beginning. In order to confirm these monks in remembrance of death, he ordered them to dig out a grave. When the grave was finished, Theodosius stood above the grave surrounded by the seven monks, and said, "Behold my children the grave is ready! Are there any among you who is ready for death, in order to be buried in this grave?" One of them, Basil by name and a priest by rank, fell to his knees and sought a blessing from Theodosius to die. Theodosius ordered that a memorial service for the soul be held for Basil: the third, the ninth and the fortieth day as is the custom for the deceased. When the fortieth day memorial service was completed, Basil completely healthy, laid down and died. He was buried in the new grave. On the fortieth day after his burial, Basil appeared among the brethren in church one morning and chanted with them. In the beginning, only Theodosius saw him and he prayed to God that He open the eyes of the others. The entire brotherhood looked and saw Basil among them. One brother, Letius, out of joy spread his arms and wanted to embrace Basil, but he vanished and Letius heard Basil's voice saying; "Save yourselves, fathers and brothers, save yourselves."
To contemplate the lack of concern by the Lord Jesus with regard to food and clothing:
- His lack of concern about Himself which He shows in His works;
- His lack of concern about food and clothing which He preached to others. "So do not worry and say, 'what are we to eat?' or 'what are we to drink?' or 'what are we to wear?' " (St. Matthew 6:31).
About God's omniscience and providence
"Even all the hairs of your head are counted" (St. Matthew 10:30).
Brethren, "the hairs of your head are counted" much less the days of your life! Do not be afraid, therefore, that you will die before your appointed time nor yet hope that you will somehow be able to extend your life for one day against the will of Him Who counts and measures. Let this knowledge teach you meekness and fear of God.
"The hairs of your head are counted" much less your sufferings on earth! Do not be afraid, therefore, that you will suffer more beyond measure. Fear even less that your sufferings will remain forgotten and unaccounted for by Him Who sees all. This knowledge will teach you patience and confidence toward your Creator and Provider.
"The hairs of your head are counted" much less your friends and enemies on earth! Do not be afraid, therefore, that you will have either too many friends or too many enemies. Neither be afraid that your enemies will overcome you nor be assured that your friends will defend you. Concern yourself only that you have God for a friend and do not be afraid of anything. Behold, He is your only friend Who loves you without change.
O Good Lord, Wise Provider Who knows the number, measure and time of all, banish from us every fear, except the fear of You. That through fear of You, we may arrive to the pure and holy love toward You, our Creator and Benefactor.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK