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Prologue from Ochrid - May 19 [June 1]

1. The Hieromartyr Patrick, Bishop of Brussa, with three priests: Acacius, Menander and Polyenus.

They suffered for the Christian faith in the time of Julian the Apostate in Asian Brussa. The imperial governor, Junius, brought Patrick to a hot water spring and asked him: 'Who created this healing water, if not our gods, Aesculapius and the others, whom we worship?' St Patrick answered: 'Your gods are demons; and this water, like all other water, was created by Christ. our Lord and God.' Then the governor asked: 'And will this Christ of yours save you if I throw you into this boiling water?' The saint replied: 'If He wills, He can keep me whole and uninjured, although I would wish, in this water, to be parted from this temporal life, that I may live eternally with Christ; but let His holy will be done, without which not a hair of a man's head can fall.' Hearing this, the governor ordered that Patrick be thrown into the water. The boiling drops fell on all sides, and scalded many of the onlookers, but the saint remained untouched, as though he were standing in cold water. Seeing this, the governor was wild with shame and commanded that Patrick and three of his priests be beheaded with axes. So these goodly followers of Christ said their prayers and laid their heads under the executioner's axe. When they had been beheaded, their souls were taken merrily to Christ's Kingdom of light, to reign eternally.

2. St John, Bishop of the Goths.

He was bishop in Georgia, but when a local Tartar Khan began to torture the Christians, he went off and spent four years among the Goths in Bessabara (a Gothic diocese formed in the time of Constantine the Great). Hearing of the death of the Khan, he returned to his work and guided his flock with zeal and godliness. Before his death, he said: 'In forty days I shall go to judgement with the Khan' (that is: through death, he was going before the throne of God). And thus it was. On the fortieth day, he passed away and went to the Lord. He entered peacefully into rest in the 8th century.

3. The Holy Prince Ivan of Vologda.

He was a wonderworker. God-fearing and devout from his youth, he was thrown into prison by his uncle, Ivan Vasillievitch, together with his brother Dimitri, spending thirty-two years there. Ivan became a monk before his death, receiving the name Ignatius.

Reflection

The great hierarchs, the pillars of the Orthodox Church, knew how to blend meekness and resoluteness into their character. Meekness toward the righteous and penitents and resoluteness toward the unrepentant criminals. One Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy, the Tsar Ivan the Terrible approached Metropolitan Philip to receive the metropolitan's blessing. The metropolitan pretended not to see the Tsar and gazed at the icon of the Savior. The Tsar's adjutant approached the metropolitan and said to him: "Your Eminence, the Ruler is before you, bless him." The metropolitan looked at the Tsar and said: "O Tsar, fear the judgment of God. Here, we offer up the Unbloody Sacrifice to God and outside the sanctuary, the blood of Christians is being spilled. How many innocent suffer? You are lofty on the throne but, nevertheless, you are a man." The enraged Tsar reminded the metropolitan to keep silent, but the metropolitan said to him: "Where is my faith, if I remain silent?" When the Tsar began to threaten the metropolitan he quietly replied: "I am a visitor and guest on earth and am ready to suffer for the truth!" After a period of time, the evil Tsar strangled the metropolitan but did not strangle the saint.

Contemplation

To contemplate God the Holy Spirit as the Inspirer of wisdom and truth:

  1. How He inspired with wisdom and truth the prophets, evangelists and apostles who wrote the Holy Scriptures by His inspiration and guidance;
  2. How He inspired with wisdom and truth the Holy Fathers who interpreted Holy Scriptures by His inspiration and guidance.

Homily

About the holy men of God

"Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

This is witnessed by the Apostle Peter who himself was a holy man of God, a rock of faith and a knight of the Cross. As a holy man of God he, by his own personal experience, explains how the holy men of God spoke and what they said and he says: "They spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." However, they did not speak according to their own reasoning nor according to their own memory nor according to their own speculation nor according to their own eloquence but rather they spoke from the Spirit and according to the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God flowed through them and the truth of God was revealed through them. Holy Scripture was not written with "the false pen of the scribes" (Jeremiah 8:8), but was written by the servants and the chosen ones of the Holy Spirit of God. Neither was Holy Scripture written by men whose writing was a vocation, but rather it was written by the saints of God, directed and compelled by the Spirit of God. Often, not even wanting and, at times even protesting, they had to write as the Holy Prophet Jeremiah witnesses saying: "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing and I could not stay" (Jeremiah 20:9).

O my brethren, Sacred Scripture is not of men but of God; it is not of the earth but rather from heaven; neither is it from the body but from the Spirit; yes, from the Holy Spirit of God. Inspired by the wisdom and truth of the Holy Spirit, these holy men of God wrote: Prophets, Evangelists, Apostles, Fathers, Teachers, Hierarchs and Shepherds.

O God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Truth, inspire us by Your Life-creating breath, that we may recognize Wisdom and Truth and by Your help to fulfill them.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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