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Prologue from Ochrid - July 12 [July 25]

1. The Holy Martyrs Proclus and Hilarius.

These martyrs were born in Kallippi in Asia, Proclus being Hilarius's uncle. They suffered in the time of Trajan. The judge asked Proclus: 'Of what race are you?' Proclus replied: 'I am of the race of Christ, and my hope is in my God.' When the judge threatened him with torture, he said: 'When you are afraid to transgress the Emperor's commands and risk falling into temporal punishment, how much more do we Christians fear to transgress against God's commands and fall into eternal torment!' While Proclus was being tortured, Hilarius came up to the judge and said: 'I too am a Christian!' After many tortures, the two of them were condemned to death, Proclus being crucified and Hilarius beheaded with the sword. They both entered into the joy of their Lord.

2. Our Holy Father Michael Maleinos.

He was a wealthy man of noble birth. Scorning worldly goods in his youth, he withdrew to Mount Kyminas in Bithynia, where he lived in asceticism, purifying his heart by fasting and prayer. He later had many disciples, of whom the best-known is St Athanasius the Athonite. He died peacefully in the middle of the tenth century.

3. The Holy Martyr Golinduc.

A Persian, she married a Persian noble and lived three years in wedlock. She then had a vision of an angel, who revealed the other world to her: the torment of sinners and unbelievers and the joy of the righteous. She left her husband and received baptism, being given the name Maria. As a result of her husband's persecution, she was condemned to lifelong imprisonment and spent eighteen years in prison, being steadfast in the Faith. She was then thrown into a pit, but was saved by God; then before a venomous snake, but the snake did not harm her. When some wicked youths were sent to her to defile her, God made her invisible to their eyes. Amazed at her sufferings, many Persians were converted to the Christian faith. She visited Jerusalem, where she denounced the Severian heresy which taught that Christ's divinity suffered, and therefore recited the Trisagion in this form: 'Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal, crucified for us, have mercy on us.' Preaching the true Faith up to the end of her life, she died peacefully near the town of Nisibis in 587.

4. St Veronica.

This is the woman with the issue of blood, whom the Lord healed (Matt. 9:20). In gratitude to the Lord her healer, Veronica caused a statue of the Lord Jesus to be made, before which she prayed to God. By tradition, this statue was preserved up to the time of Julian the Apostate, when it was altered to become a statue of Zeus. This is one of the very rare occasions that a holy statue has been used in the Eastern Church. As is known, this later became a common custom in the Western Churches. St Veronica remained faithful to Christ till death, and entered peacefully into rest.

5. The Holy Martyrs Theodore and John.

Father and son, they settled after their baptism in the pagan city of Kiev. The infuriated pagans pulled their house down about their ears, and the two of them perished for the sake of Christ. Their relics are preserved in St Antony's caves. The barren and women who miscarry pray especially to them.

Reflection

A strand of justice is thinner than a strand of silk but it is more durable and unbreakable and encompasses both worlds. While a strand of injustice and violence is thick and easily breaks. During the reign of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, only one Christian family lived there, Theodore the Varangian and his son John. At the time of an impure pagan feast, the pagan Kievans, directed by the demon himself, decided to offer John the son of Theodore as a sacrifice to the idols. When some of them came to Theodore and sought his son John in the name of their "gods", Theodore said: "If your gods are alive, let them come themselves and take my son." The enraged pagans rushed into Theodore's house, destroyed it and in the ruins left the dead bodies of both the God-fearing and saintly man Theodore and his son John. Thus far extends the strand of violence. The strand of justice continues. Shortly afterward, Prince Vladimir was baptized and consequently baptized his people on the same spot where the house and the grave of the first Russian martyrs, Theodore and John, stood. A church was erected and dedicated to the All-Holy Birth-giver of God.

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous punishment and healing of Miriam [Mary], the sister of Moses (Numbers 12):

  1. How Miriam spoke against Moses: "Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3);
  2. How suddenly God punished her with the disease of leprosy and how God healed her through the prayer of Moses;
  3. How those who cry out at the men of God today, the punishment of God reaches out to them.

Homily

About God's attitude toward the proud and toward the humble

"For God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).

Brethren, before whom and before what can a man be proud? Is it before angels? Behold, the angels are immortal and man is mortal. Or before men? Behold, he is dependent on many men and is mortal, as are all men. Or before animals? How could he live without the service of animals? Or before the sun and stars? For without their light he would stagger in darkness and in a few days he would cease to be. Or before vegetation? For vegetation is his main food. Or before the black earth? For from the earth, his body was created. Or before the dead? Without them, he could not enter into life. Or before the living? But among the living there are many of the same, so that among them, he is as a single thread in a rug. Before God? If it were not for the will of God, he would not be either among the living or among the dead. Before whom and before what brethren, can man be proud?

To the lowly and humble God gives grace. That is, He gives them all that they need, all of that for which they pray to Him in their lowliness and in their humility. Who are they, the lowly and humble? They are those who feel their weakness and their complete dependence on the Creator of all. They are as full as the sea and as dependent as the sea. What water is there that is fuller than the sea and what is more dependent on the rains and tributaries? The proud one is as an enclosed well, closed off from heaven and earth and is self-sufficient as long as it is full. When closed off and cut off, it must quickly become emptied.

The wise Solomon prudently speaks about God: "Surely He scorns the scorners: but He gives grace to the lowly" (Proverbs 3:34). But God's scorn is not as evil as is man's scorn, rather it is pity and anger. Nor is God's mercy limited as is man's mercy, for it is a royal mercy which startles by its glow, beauty and infinity.

O Lord God, our Creator, humble our heart when it is puffed up by pride and humble our mind when it is puffed up by haughtiness, and help us in the hours of our prideful nothingness to remember the Cross on Golgotha and Your Only-begotten Son, in blood and agony for us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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