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Prologue from Ochrid - January 15 [January 28]

1. Our Holy Father Paul of Thebes.

Born of wealthy parents in Lower Thebes in Egypt in the reign of the Emperor Decius, he and a sister of his together inherited all their parents' property. But his brother-,in-law, an idol-worshipper, plotted to seize Paul's half of the inheritance. He therefore threatened Paul that he would betray him to the authorities as a Christian if he did not hand over his share of the property. This misfortune, coupled with the examples of self-sacrifice by the Christian martyrs that Paul saw with his own eyes, induced him to give his half of the property to his sister and go of into the desert, where he lived in asceticism until his death. The spiritual heights attained by this giant of a monk are testified to by no less a person than St Antony the Great, who once visited Paul and saw how the wild animals and birds of the air ministered to him. Returning from this visit, Antony said to his monks: 'Woe is me, my children, a sinful and false monk, who am a monk in name only. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, and I have seen Paul - in Paradise!' St Paul lived 113 years, and entered peacefully into rest in the Lord in the year 342.

2. Our Holy Father John (The Hut-Dweller).

He was born in Constantinople in the early part of the 5th century, of rich and eminent parents whose only child he was. Drawn by inclination to the spiritual life, the young John fled with a monk to a monastery in Asia Minor. He spent six years in this monastery in the greatest restraint, prayer and obedience to the superior. Then the devil attacked him with the temptation to leave the monastery and return to his parents, to live with them as a nobleman. He indeed returned to his parents' home, but dressed as a beggar. He saw his parents, but, not wishing to reveal himself to them as their son, remained as a beggar in their courtyard, living off the crumbs that the servants threw him and enduring much ridicule from all. He lived thus for three years, praying God that He would save the souls of his father and mother. When he fell ill and felt death approaching, he revealed himself to his parents. They recognised him by a precious Gospel-book which they had given him in childhood and which he had kept with him as his sole possession. And so this young man, albeit so rich, saved his soul and those of his parents, overcame the devil and entered into rest in the Lord in about the year 450.

3. Our Holy Father Gabriel of Lesnov.

A Slav and a friend of St Prochorus of Pchinja and St John of Rila, he lived a life of asceticism in the 10th century at Kratov on the mountain of Lesnov, where he built a church to the Archangel Michael. He was a wonder-worker both during his life-time and after his death. The present beautiful church in this place was built by King Dugan's commander-in-chief, Jovan Oliver. St Gabriel entered into rest in the Lord at the end of the tenth century.

4. The Holy Martyr Pansophius.

The son of the Alexandrian proconsul, Nilus, he laid aside worldly honour and riches as a young man and embraced the monastic state. He lived in great asceticism for 27 years, lifting up his soul to the higher world. In the reign of Decius, he was dragged before the judge, where he was flogged for the name of Christ until, under great torture, he delivered his soul to God.

Reflection

Do not ever think that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. He hears our thoughts just as we hear the voices and the words of one another. And, if He does not act immediately according to your prayer, i.e., either because you are praying to Him in an unworthy manner or because you ask something of Him which would be detrimental to you, or, because He, in His wisdom and providence delays the fulfillment of your petition until the proper moment. Father John of Kronstadt writes: "As by means of the electric telegraph we speedily communicate with persons who are far away from us, so, likewise, by means of lively faith, as though through the telegraph wires, we speedily communicate with God, with the angels and saints. As we entirely trust to the speed of the electric current and to its reaching its destination, so likewise, we should completely trust to the speed of the prayer of faith and to it reaching its destination. Send your petition to God and the saints by means of the telegraph of faith and you will speedily obtain an answer." And again, in another place St. John writes: "God and the created spirits and the souls of the departed as well as those of the living are thinking beings and thought is rapid and in some sort omnipresent. Think of them with your whole heart and they will be present with you. God will always be with you and necessarily so by the gift and power of God, the others will also be with you."

Contemplation

To contemplate the purity of the Lord Jesus:

  1. The purity of His mind;
  2. The purity of His heart;
  3. The purity of His will;
  4. The purity of His tongue;
  5. The purity of His appearance and all of His senses.

Homily

About the victorious faith

"And the victory that conquers the world in our faith" (I John 5:4).

Christ the Lord conquered the world. That, brethren, is also our victory. The apostles conquered the world and that is our victory. The saints, virgins and martyrs conquered the world and that is our victory. Brethren, there is nothing more powerful in the world than the Christian Faith. The swords that struck this Faith became blunt and broken but the Faith remained. The kings who fought against this Faith were smothered under the anathema of crimes. The kingdoms that waged war against this Faith are destroyed. The towns that rejected this Faith lay demolished in their ruins. The heretics who corrupted this Faith perished in soul and body and under anathema departed from this world, and this Faith remained.

Brethren, when the world pursues us with its temptations: the temptation of external beauty, the temptation of riches, the temptation of pleasure, the temptation of transient glory; with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victorious if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except by this invincible Faith which knows about something better than all the wealth of this world.

When all the temptations of this world reveal the opposite side of their faces, when beauty turns into ugliness, health into sickness, riches into poverty, glory into dishonor, authority into humiliation and all blossoming physical life into filth and stench--by what shall we overcome this grief, this decay, this fifth and stench, and to preserve oneself from despair, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith which teaches us eternal and unchangeable values in the Kingdom of Christ.

When death shows its destructive power over our neighbors, over our relatives and our families, over our flowers, over our crops, over the works of our hands and, when it turns its irresistible teeth even on us, by what shall we conquer the fear of death and by what shall we unlock the doors of life, stronger than death, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith, which knows about the resurrection and life without death.

O Lord Jesus, the Conqueror of the world, help us also to conquer the world with faith in You.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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