Prologue from Ochrid - January 25 [February 7]
St Gregory The Theologian, Archbishop Of Constantinople
Gregory was born in Nazianzus of a Greek father and a Christian mother. Before his baptism, he studied in Athens along with Basil the Great and Julian the Apostate. Gregory often prophesied that Julian would become an apostate and a persecutor of the Church which actually happened. Gregory was especially influenced greatly by his good mother Nonna. When he completed his studies, Gregory was baptized. St. Basil consecrated him as bishop of Sasima, and Emperor Theodosius the Great summoned him to fill the vacant archepiscopal throne of Constantinople. He wrote numerous works of which his most famous are those concerning theology for which he is called The Theologian. Especially known because of its depth is his work: Homilies on The Holy Trinity. Gregory wrote against the heretic Macedonius who erroneously taught that the Holy Spirit is a creation of God and, Gregory also wrote against Appolinarius who erroneously taught that Christ did not have a human soul but that His divinity was in lieu of His soul. Additionally Gregory wrote against Emperor Julian the Apostate, his one-time colleague in school. In 381 A.D., when a debate began regarding his election as archbishop, he withdrew on his own and issued a statement: "Those, who deprive us of our archepiscopal throne cannot deprive us of God." After that, he left Constantinople and went to Nazianzus and there lived a life of solitude and prayer, writing worthwhile books. Even though he was in poor health throughout his entire life, nevertheless, Gregory lived to be eighty years old. His relics were later transferred to Rome. A reliquary containing his head reposes in the Cathedral Church of the Assumption in Moscow. He was, and remains, a great and wonderful light of the Orthodox Church as much by his meekness and purity of character as well as for the unsurpassable depth of his mind. He died in the Lord in the year 390 A.D.
The Venerable Publius
At first, Publius was a senator. Recognizing the light of Christ, he left his worldly honors, distributed his possessions to the poor and devoted himself to a life of asceticism in the proximity of his town Zeguma on the Euphrates river. He established two monastic communities and died in the year 380 A.D.
The Venerable Mares
Mares was distinguished by external beauty and a sweet-sounding voice. He withdrew from the world and lived in a hut for thirty-seven years, in fasting and cleansing the heart of impure thoughts. As a ninety-year old man, Mares died in the Lord in the year 430 A.D.
The Holy Female Martyr Felicitas And Her Seven Sons
As a Christian, Felicitas was condemned to death along with her seven sons during the reign of Emperor Antoninus in the year 164 A.D. She implored God only that she not to be killed before her sons, so that she might be able to encourage them during their torture and death in order that they would not deny Christ. According to God's Providence, it so happened. With joy, this superb mother accompanied her sons one by one until she had witnessed the death of all seven sons. Then, she herself, with gratitude to God, received a martyr's death. She and her sons suffered in Rome where their relics repose.
They deceive themselves who speak self-confidently that they know men well enough and that they do not allow themselves to be deceived. Who can know what kind of spirit is in man except only God, Who knows the secrets of the heart? Even the great saints were mistaken about people. For example: for a long time St. Basil considered a certain hypocritical heretic as a holy man and defended him from many attackers until finally, convinced of the heretic's falseness, Basil was bitterly disappointed. St. Gregory the Theologian had baptized a certain philosopher, Maximus by name, and liked him so much that he kept the philosopher in his home, sharing his table with him. However, this Maximus, was as dangerous and cunning as a serpent. After a period of time, through intrigue and bribes, he obtained recognition of some Constantinopolians as patriarch, in place of St. Gregory. When this temptation, after great confusion, was removed, some rebuked Gregory for keeping his greatest enemy with him. The saint replied: "We are not to blame if we do not discern someone's evil. God alone knows the inner secrets of man. And to us is commanded by law, that with fatherly love, to open our hearts to all who come to us." A non-malevolent man cannot easily understand the malice of a malevolent man.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as King:
- As the Lord over nature which He tames and places it [nature] in service to Himself;
- As the Lord over demons, over disease and over death;
- As the Lord over the immortal kingdom of angels and saints.
About Who is Christ?
"Who do people say that I am?" (St. Mark 8:27).
Brethren, it is almost two-thousand years from that day when our Lord Jesus posed this question to His disciples. From then until today, this question is put to every generation of man, every bright day and every dark night: And every generation of man and every bright day and every dark night had to give an answer to this question. This question is the question of life or death and the answer to it is life-bearing or death-bearing. " You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (St. Matthew 16:16), the Apostle Peter responded. And that reply was approved and praised by the Lord Jesus.
"Who is Christ?" men say today. Some say, along with the Jews, that He is the destroyer of the Law and the self-styled Messiah. Others say, along with Pilate, that they in general cannot arrive at the truth about this man. The third say, along with the apostles, that He is Christ, the Son of the Living God, Savior, Redeemer of the human race from sin and death, the Resurrected and the Resurrector, the Living-One and the Life-giver. And all of us who are baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity agree with the apostles and the Holy, Apostolic Church which, with her universal voice, thus confesses Christ the Lord.
O Lord, Only-begotten Son of God, help us, that we may, all the days of our life, believe in You in our hearts and confess You with our lips as our God and our Savior "as the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:24).
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK