Prologue from Ochrid - January 12 [January 25]
1. The Holy Martyr Tatiana of Rome.
She was a Christian, of an eminent family, a deaconess in the Church. After the death of the Emperor Heliogabalus, the Emperor Alexander came to the throne in Rome. His mother, Julia Mammaea, was a Christian, but the Emperor himself was unsure and hesitant about his faith; an uncertainty that was clearly expressed by his keeping statues of both Christ and Apollo, of both Abraham and Orpheus, in his palace. His chief advisors took it into their own hands to persecute the Christians without his orders.
When the virgin Tatiana was led to martyrdom, she prayed for her executioners. And lo, their eyes were opened and they saw four angels around the martyr. Seeing this, eight of them were converted to Christ, for which they were tortured and killed. St Tatiana's martyrdom was long-drawn-out: she was flogged, parts of her flesh were cut off, she was sawn with an iron saw, and then, all disfigured and bleeding, was flung that evening into prison to be brought out on the following day for further torture. But God sent His angel to the prison, to give her courage and heal her wounds. Tatiana, therefore, appeared before her torturers each morning in perfect health. She was thrown to a lion, but the lion became tame before her and did her no harm. Her hair was shorn, from an idea that occurred to their godless minds that some sorcery might be hidden in it, some magical strength. Finally she was led out, together with her father, and the two were beheaded. In such manner this heroic maiden finished her earthly life in about the year 225, and was crowned with an immortal crown of glory. She had the weak body of a woman, but a manly and valiant spirit.
2. The Holy Martyr Peter Apselamus.
A native of Eleutheropolis in Palestine, he suffered as a youth for the Christian faith in the year 311, under the Emperor Maximian. After terrible tortures, he was condemned to death. Hearing the sentence pronounced, he cried out with great joy: 'My one desire is to die for my God!' He was crucified, like his Lord, and gave up his spirit on the cross.
3. The Icon of the Mother of God, "She who gives suck".
This is the name given to the icon of the Mother of God that St Sava of Serbia brought from the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem and placed in his hermitage at Karyes on the Holy Mountain. In that way a prophecy, made 800 years previously by St Sava the Sanctified, was fulfilled - that one day a Serbian priest called Sava would come and would be given the icon and his staff. When Sava of Serbia visited the community of St Sava the Sanctified, the monks called to mind the prophecy of their founder and gave the icon and the staff to Sava. The icon was placed at the right-hand side of the Royal Doors in the hermitage, and the staff in a cell which received the name 'Pateritsa', also situated at Karyes.
4. Our Holy Mother Theodora
A famous nun and instructress of nuns from Alexandria, this holy woman said: 'As cold and snow are necessary to a tree for it to bear fruit, so are trials and temptations to our life.' She entered peacefully into rest at the beginning of the fifth century.
There is no greater honor or greater calling on earth than to be a Christian. When the judge-torturer Sevirus asked the young Peter Apselamus, "Of what lineage are you?" Peter replied, "I am a Christian." The judge further inquired of him, "In what rank are you?" To that Peter responded, " There is no greater nor better rank than to be a Christian." Father John Kronstadt writes: " The whole world is but a cobweb in comparison to the Christian human soul." The Christian is an earthen vessel into which is poured divine power and light. Will this vessel be placed on the golden royal throne or will it be lowered in the dark hut of the beggar; by this, his value will neither be magnified nor diminished. Does not gold have the same value whether it is wrapped in a silk handkerchief or in a cabbage leaf?
To contemplate the meekness of the Lord Jesus:
- His meekness about His hidden life in Nazareth until the age of thirty;
- His meekness in dealing with the sick and with the sinners;
- His meekness in dealing with Judas the traitor and with the unjust judges.
About how man is most dear to God and God to man
"For I want not what is yours, but you" (I Corinthians 12:14).
With these words, which could have only been spoken by the fiery apostolic love toward one's neighbor, is expressed the essence of the relationship of the Christian toward God and God toward the Christian. The love of God could very well say: "You, O Christian, fast for My sake; for My sake you distribute alms; for My sake you lift up heartfelt prayers; for My sake you build churches; for My sake you offer sacrifices and you perform many other good deeds. All of this is good, and all of this is pleasing to Me, but you are more precious to Me than all of this. In the end, I seek nothing of all of this rather, I seek you, only you."
The love of a Christian could very well say: "O Lord, You gave me health and that is good. You turn on the light; You permit the rain to fall; You refresh the air by Your thunder and that is good. You bestow wealth, wisdom, many years, offspring and many other good things which You bountifully place on the table of this life. All of this is good and overly-good. I receive all of this with gratitude. But, in the ultimate end, that is only the hem of Your garment. Ultimately, I do not seek anything of that but You, O Lord, You alone I seek."
O my brethren, that is not God which is seen with the physical eyes, neither is that man which is seen with the physical eyes. That which is seen in the whole of nature is only something of God; and that which is seen in the physical garment is only something of man. Brethren, God is Love which heaven lowers to earth; Brethren, man is love which raises earth to heaven.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, Creator and Almighty, take up Your abode more and even more in us with Your Life-giving Spirit that we may live; that we may be alive in Your kingdom without death.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK