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Prologue from Ochrid - July 15 [July 28]

1. The Holy Martyrs Cerycus and Julitta.

Holy Julitta was of noble birth. She was widowed young, and left with a newborn child, Cerycus. She lived in Iconium, a city of Lycaonia, and was a very devout Christian. She had her son baptised immediately after his birth and, when he was three years old, instructed him in the Faith and taught him to pray insofar as a child of that age is capable of learning. When Diocletian launched a persecution of Christians, much innocent blood was shed in the city of Iconium. Julitta took her son and hid from the wrath of the pagans in the town of Seleucid, but things were no better there. Julitta was arrested as a Christian and brought to trial. Seeing Julitta so courageously proclaim her faith in the Lord Jesus, the judge, to distress her and make her waver, took the child in his arms and began to kiss it. But Cerycus shouted: 'I am a Christian; let me go to my mother!', and he began to scratch the judge, turning his face away from him. The judge was furious, threw the child to the ground and kicked it, and the child rolled down the stone steps and gave his holy and innocent soul to God. Seeing how Cerycus suffered before her, Julitta was filled with joy and gave thanks to God that her son had been counted worthy of the wreath of martyrdom. After harsh torture, Julitta was beheaded, in the year 304. The relics of Ss Cerycus and Julitta have wonderworking power to this day. A part of the relics of these saints is to be found in Ochrid, in the Church of the Holy Mother of God, the Healer.

2. St Vladimir, Great Prince of Russia.

Vladimir was the son of Prince Svyatoslav, and grandson of Igor and Olga, and was at first completely pagan in faith and life. Learning of the existence of various faiths, he began to examine them, to decide which was best. He therefore sent envoys to Constantinople. When they returned, they told the Prince that they had been at a service in the Orthodox Church of St Sophia, and that they had been 'out of ourselves, not knowing if we were on earth or in heaven'. This inspired Vladimir to be badtised, receiving the name Vasilii, and to baptise his people. The chief idol, Perun, was dragged off the hill of Kiev and thrown into the Dnieper. Embracing the Christian faith, Vladimir utterly changed his way of life and devoted all his labour to the perfect fulfilling of the demands of his faith. He decreed that churches be built throughout the land on the places where the idols had been pulled down, and himself built a beautiful church in Kiev to the most holy Mother of God. This church was built on the selfsame spot where St Theodore and his son John suffered martyrdom for Christ (see July 12th). With the same irresistible force with which Vladimir earlier upheld idolatry, he now spread Christianity. He entered into rest in the Lord in 1015.

Reflection

Hospitality is respected in other faiths but Christianity emphasized hospitality as an obligation and responsibility. On the other hand, gratitude for hospitality is no less an obligation and responsibility for Christians. He who learns to be grateful to men for hospitality will know how to be grateful even to God for hospitality. For what are we here on earth except as guests of God? What are angels in heaven except as guests of God. The story is told about Emperor Philip of Macedonia, how he severely punished one of his courtiers for ingratitude. The emperor sent his courtier overseas to fulfill a task for him. The courtier accomplished this task and returned by boat. A tempest destroyed the boat and the courtier found himself in the waves. Fortunately, it was not too far from the shore. A fisherman saw the man drowning, hurried to his assistance with his small boat and brought him ashore. After he recovered and rested, the courtier returned to the emperor and related the misfortunate incident about the tempest on the sea. The emperor wishing to reward the courtier asked him what does he wish the emperor to give him? The courtier mentioned that fisherman and said to the emperor that he would like most of all if he would grant him the property along the sea belonging to the fisherman. The emperor granted the courtier his wish. When the courtier settled on the estate of his greatest benefactor [the fisherman], then the fisherman in great despair went to the emperor, related all and complained. He said that he saved the life of the courtier and now he ousted him from his home. Upon hearing this, the emperor became furious with the ungrateful courtier and ordered that he be branded on his forehead with the words: "ungrateful guest."

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous blossoming of Aaron's rod (Numbers 17):

  1. How God, in order to quiet the murmuring against Moses and Aaron, ordered that the rods of all the elders of the tribes be placed in the Meeting Tent;
  2. How overnight only the withered rod of Aaron became green and blossomed and brought forth fruit;
  3. How even the souls of men, dead to sin, God can enliven.

Homily

About grace and peace

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2).

Brethren, grace and peace multiplies "through the knowledge of God." However, brethren, through the knowledge of creation outside of God, as cut off from God or contrary to God, sorrow and unrest multiplies. Sorrow and unrest is multiplied among those who are familiarizing themselves with things without the knowledge of God; does it not sufficiently witness to the multitude of suicides precisely among those who chose, as a trade for themselves, to study the nature and life of mankind without God? O how great a multitude among them are nervous, irritated, embittered, darkened and hysterical souls who are only separated by a day or a month from suicide. However, grace and peace multiples "through the knowledge of God." That, the apostle personally experienced and his precious experience he passes on to others.

Neither grace nor peace are the gifts of the earth but rather are the gifts of heaven. God bestows these gifts to those who labor to multiply their knowledge about Him.

Brethren, what is the quickest path which leads to the knowledge of God? Without a doubt, through "Christ Jesus our Lord." He is the Revealer and He is the Revelation, He is the Wise and the Wisdom, He is the Teacher and the Knowledge. Grace is from Him. Peace is from Him. He who knows God through the knowledge of created beings in nature and through the laws of nature, as the heathens do, does nothing wrong but progresses along the path in a round about manner and proceeds on an indirect path upon which many go astray and are lost. But he who comes to the knowledge of God through conscience and destiny of men, as the moralists do, does nothing wrong but that one also goes by in a round about manner and difficult path and can go astray and become lost. But he who knows God by knowing the Lord Christ is on the shortest and surest path.

O Lord Jesus, help us on the path to You and to Your Father and the Holy Spirit.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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