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Prologue from Ochrid - January 4 [January 17]

1. The Assembly of the Seventy Apostles.

In addition to the twelve Great Apostles, the Lord chose besides seventy other, lesser, apostles and sent them to preach to the Jews. He sent them out two by two before His face, to each town and place, saying: "Behold, I send you as sheep among wolves" (Lk. 10: 1-5). But as Judas, one of the Twelve, fell away from the Lord, so some among these Seventy withdrew from Him, not with the intention of betraying Him but from human weakness and lack of faith (Jn. 6:66). And as Judas's place was filled from among the other apostles, so the places of these were filled with others chosen. These apostles laboured in the same way as the twelve Great Apostles; they were the assistants of the Twelve in the spreading and strengthening of the Church of God in the world. They suffered much torture and malice, from men and from demons, but their firm faith and burning love for the risen Lord made them conquerors of the world and heirs of the Kingdom of heaven.

2. St Eustathius, Archbishop of Serbia.

Born in the diocese of Budim, of God-fearing parents, he became a monk as a young man in Zeta, then moved on to greater asceticism at Hilandar. In time he became abbot of Hilandar, was then chosen to be Bishop of Zeta and, after some time had elapsed, to be Archbishop of Serbia. He was a man of great virtue and led Christ's flock with zeal and love. He entered peacefully into rest at a great age in 1279, exclaiming as death drew near: "Into hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."' His relics are preserved in the crypt of the church at Pec.

3. The Eunuch of Queen Candace.

The Apostle Philip baptized this negro eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). After hisbaptism, the eunuch returned home and began to teach about Christ. He was the first apostle of the Faith among the negroes of Ethiopia. He died a martyr and was counted worthy of the Kingdom of God.

4. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Onuphrius of Hilandar.

He was possessed of great anger towards his parents in his youth, and declared to the Turks that he wished to become one of them. He immediately repented of these words, went to Hilandar and there became a monk. Tormented by his conscience, he determined on martyrdom. So, with the blessing of his spiritual father, he went to Trnovo and presented himself to the Turkish authorities, stating that he was a Christian and mocking Mahomet, as a result of which he was slain on January 4th, 1818, at the age of 32. The body of this spiritual hero was lost, as the Turks threw it into the sea.

Reflection

God hears the prayers of the just. This is clearly seen from the lives of Moses, Elijah, and the other Old Testament righteous ones and prophets as well as from the lives of the apostles and saints. While St. Genevieve, as a nun, lived a life of asceticism in Paris, it so happened that Attila with his savage Huns surrounded Paris. Fear and terror overcame the entire population of Paris who, at any moment, awaited the capture of the city by the enemy. Then, St. Genevieve called upon the people to fast and to pray to God and then the calamity will be averted. Many men and women responded to the call of this saint and began to fast and pray to God. Genevieve herself fasted the most and prayed most ardently to God. After a short while the enemy turned away from Paris without any visible reason and departed for another place. That which the sword of many sinners cannot do, the prayer of the righteous person can.

Contemplation

To contemplate the richness of God's power, wisdom and love:

  1. The richness of that power, wisdom and love is manifested in created nature;
  2. The richness of that power, wisdom and love is revealed to the world through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

About the citizens of the other world

"They do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world" (St. John 17:16).

Christ the Lord is not of this world rather only in the vesture of this world. That is the Commander [Christ] clad in the clothing of a slave to save the captive enslaved by sin, matter and Satan. As is the commander, so are his soldiers. Even they, according to the spirit, are not of this world: They are not captives but free, they are not slaves but masters; they are not corruptible but immortal; they are not fallen but are saved. Such are all those who Christ recruited and who tasted immortal life willingly, rejected the world and united themselves with Him and remained faithful to Him until the end of their lives on earth. Abba Moses said, "No one can enter the army of Christ if he were not totally as fire; if he does not abhor honors and comfort, if he does not sever all bodily desires; and if he does not keep all of God's commandments." Judas was recruited but he fell away and loved prison more than the royal court, slavery more than freedom, corruption more then immortality, and destruction more than salvation. But the other apostolic recruits, great and small, remained faithful to Him [Christ] to the end, achieved victory for which they are glorified on earth among men and in heaven among the angels. That is why they are glorified and blessed both on earth and in heaven. All who are glorified by the world perish with the world, but those who are glorified by Christ are saved by Christ. The glory of the world is death, but the glory of Christ is life, life eternal and without death.

O Immortal Lord, even though we are of the world according to the body and sin, recruit us into Your army, the army according to the spirit, power, wisdom and love which is not of this world. So, even when we die to the world, we may live in Your immortal kingdom with the angels, apostles and saints because of the love and prayers of Your holy apostles.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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