Prologue from Ochrid - January 1 [January 14]
1. The Circumcision of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
On the eighth day after His birth, the divine Child was taken to the Temple and duly circumcised according to the Jewish Law that had been observed from the time of Abraham. At this time He was given the name Jesus, the name announced to the most holy Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:31).
The Baptism of the New Covenant was prefigured in the Circumcision of the Old Covenant. The Lord's Circumcision shows that He took true human flesh upon Himself, not its semblance as heretics later taught of Him. The Lord was truly circumcised, desiring thus to fulfill all the Law, which He Himself had given through our forefathers and the prophets. Fulfilling all the ordinances of the Law, He superseded them by Baptism in His Church, for, as the Apostle declares: "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Gal. 6:15). (In the Church Calendar, this Feast of the Lord has neither Forefeast nor After-feast.)
2. St Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea.
St Basil was born in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, in about 330. While still unbaptised, he spent fifteen years in Athens studying philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and other contemporary secular disciplines. Among his fellow-students were Gregory the Theologian and Julian, later the apostate emperor. When already of mature years, he was in the Jordan together with his former tutor Evulios. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for nearly ten years, and died at the age of fifty.
A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God, Basil fully deserved his title "the Great". In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this Father of the Church have survived - theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated ten times in the year: on January lst, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Great Week.
St Basil departed this life peacefully on January lst, 379, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.
Why is it necessary to listen to the Church and not listen to one man who thinks against the Church, even though he might be called the greatest thinker? Because the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, and because the Church is guided under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Because the Church represents the realm of the Holy, a grove of cultivated fruit trees. If one rises up against the realm of the Holy, it means that he is unholy and why then listen to him? "The Church is an enclosure," says the all-wise John Chrysostom. "If you are within, the wolf does not enter; but if you leave, the beasts will seize you. Do not distance yourself from the Church; there is nothing mightier that the Church. The Church is your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is higher than the heavens. The Church is harder than stone. The Church is wider than the world. The Church never grows old but always renews itself."
To contemplate the Circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ:
- His glory in the heavenly kingdom where Cherubims serve Him in fear and in trembling;
- His lowliness and His humility in the ritual of circumcision intended for sinners;
- To contemplate my heart: how much have I circumcised sinful thoughts, vices and passions from it.
About how we should depart from evil and do good
"Turn from evil, and do good" (Psalm 33:15 LXX (34:14 KJV))
With these words are expressed all our effort by which we should labor here on earth and in the earth, i.e., on this material earth and in this physical body. Therefore, of what then should our labor consist? To achieve two habits: First, to avoid evil and Second, to do good. Concerning that which is good and that which is evil, our conscience tells us incompletely and unclearly because our conscience is darkened by sin; but the teaching of Christ tells us completely and clearly that which is good and that which is evil.
Brethren, what does our Lord ask of us? He asks, that as our altars are always facing the east, so should our souls also be turned toward good. To leave evil behind us; to leave evil in the shadow; to leave evil in the abyss of oblivion; to leave evil in the darkness of the past, that we, from year to year, from day to day, extend ourselves toward good: to think about good; to yearn for good; to speak about good; to do good. The Lord is seeking builders and not destroyers. For whoever builds good, with that alone, he destroys evil. However, he who turns away from destroying evil, quickly forgets how to build good and is transformed into an evildoer.
The apostle of Christ teaches us, "Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good" (Romans 12:9). Hate evil but do not hate the man who commits evil for he is sick. If you can, heal the sick person but do not kill him with your hatred. Adhere to good and only good; for good is from God; for God is the treasury of all good.
O Good and All-good Lord, teach us to avoid evil and to do good for the sake of Your glory and for the sake of our salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK