Prologue from Ochrid - July 11 [July 24]
1. The Holy and Great Martyr Euphemia.
This saint is commemorated on September 16th, the day on which she suffered. On this day is commemorated the miracle wrought by her precious relics, revealed at the time of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon. This Council was called together in the reign of the Emperor Marcian and the Empress Pulcheria, in 451, after the death of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, and was summoned because of the heresy of Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, and Eutyches, an archimandrite in Constantinople, who had disseminated the false teaching that there were in Christ not two natures, divine and human, but only one, a divine nature. At this Council, the chief role was played by Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople and Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Because, through the quarrels and evidence on both sides, no decision could be reached, Patriarch Anatolius suggested that the Orthodox and the heretics each write down their confession of faith, and that they be put into the coffin that contained the relics of St Euphemia. All agreed to this. Two confessions of faith, then, were written and placed in the hands of the great martyr. The coffin was closed and sealed with the imperial seal, a watch then being set over it. They then all spent three days in fasting and prayer. On the fourth day, when the tomb was opened, they saw the Orthodox confession of faith in the saint's right hand and the heretical one beneath her feet. Thus was the conflict resolved by God's power, on the side of Orthodoxy. In the time of the Emperor Heraclius, the relics of St Euphemia were translated from Chalcedon to Constantinople, to the church dedicated to her near the Hippodrome. The iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian ordered that her relics be thrown into the sea; but, by a wonderful act, the coffin was brought to the is an o Lemnos and placed in the church of the holy martyr Glykeria. Then, in the time of the Empress Irene, the coffin with its relics was again taken to Constantinople, to its former place. Blood has flowed from these relics from time to time, to the succour of the sick and the feeble .
2. St Elena (Olga).
A great Russian princess, the wife of Prince Igor, she was called Olga before her baptism. She was baptised in Constantinople by Patriarch Polyeuctus, and was greatly zealous for the Orthodox faith in Russia. She entered into rest in 969.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Nicodemus.
Born in Elbasan, he was married and had children. Duped by the Turks, he embraced Islam and forced his children to do likewise, with the exception of one son who fled to the Holy Mountain and became a monk. Nicodemus went to Athos to take his son back, but the place made such an impression on him that he repented, returned to the Christian faith and became a monk himself. He bewailed his apostasy for three years, then decided to return to Albania, to expiate his sin there where he had committed it. He therefore returned, informed the Turks that he was a Christian and was beheaded on July 11th, 1722. His wonderworking relics are preserved today whole and uncorrupt.
4. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Nectarius.
Born in Vryoulla in Asia Minor, he was forced to accept Islam at the age of seventeen. His fate was similar to that of St Nicodemus. When he showed himself to his mother as a Turk, she cried at him: 'Get away from me! I don't know you. I bore you as a Christian, not as a Turk!' He repented bitterly, went to the Holy Mountain and there, in the skete of St Anne, became a monk. Having resolved to die for Christ and thus take away his sin, he went again to Vryoulla, where he suffered. He was beheaded for Christ by the Turks in his birthplace on July 11th, 1820, at the age of twenty-one.
A change of fortune strikes the hardest when it strikes unexpectedly. But, he who expects the stroke and guards himself against it beforehand, should he then be surprised? King Charlemagne the Great ordered his sons to learn a trade and his daughters to learn to spin wool in order to be able to earn a living should their fate change. The famous and renown Belissarius, a great general and a great conqueror, was slandered by the envious before the king and on the basis of these slanders was blinded and his estate taken away from him. The blind Belissarius sat before the gates of Rome and begged for alms saying to passers-by: "Give alms to Belissarius whom fortune raised on high but was toppled by envy and deprived of his sight!" The righteous Job says: "Is not a man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling?" (Job 7:1). Therefore, one must be as a watchful guard and prepared for all that may happen. What is there that cannot happen to a man? And yet, in every suffering one must have hope in God. On the dunghill in all his festering sores, the Righteous Job cried out: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" (Job 13:15).
To contemplate the miraculous illumination of the face of Moses (Exodus 34):
- How, after his conversation with God on Mt. Sinai, the face of Moses was illuminated by light;
- How the people saw, and dared not approach Moses, and he placed a veil over his face ["He placed a veil on his face" Exodus 34:33];
- How from sincere prayer and co
About obedience and humility
"Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves, unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility"(1 Peter 5:5).
Here is the principle of the true catholicity of Orthodoxy! It is based on the unconditional obedience of the younger toward the elders and on reciprocal obedience of equals among themselves, and on the humility of both the elders and the younger. Humility is a good word but better still is the word humbleness and the best word is "humble-mindedness": in essence, humble-mindedness corresponds exactly to the Greek word which the apostle used in his epistle and humble-mindedness signifies lowly thoughts about oneself and higher thoughts about God and constant admission of one's helplessness, one's ignorance, one's viciousness, one's unworthiness and constant recognition of God's power, God's wisdom, God's mercy and God's dignity.
God is the only King of mankind. That is why God opposed the wishes of the Israelites that a king be appointed for them from among the people. God rules and men serve God. Those who rule and those who submit are equally the servants of God. When it is known and recognized that God is King and that all men are servants of God then, by this, the foundation of catholicity is established, the foundation of the angelic society. Upon this foundation then is built the House of God, the angelic society, with the help of the obedience of the younger toward the elders and on reciprocal obedience of peers among themselves and upon the humble-mindness of all. In this manner, two terrible evils are avoided in the world: tyranny, i.e., one ruling over many by force, and anarchy, i.e., mob rule, thereby avoiding mono-tyranny or poli-tyranny.
The principle of catholicity is an organic principle, i.e., the principle of life. This is the principle of mutual service, mutual help and mutual love. Brethren, may God endow us with wisdom to have recourse toward this saving principle in our lives.
Lord Jesus, obedient and humble Lover of Mankind, implant and confirm in us obedience to Your law and mutual obedience out of love and humble-mindedness toward Your unutterable power and wisdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK