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Prologue from Ochrid - May 29 [June 11]

1. Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council.

The Commemoration and eulogy of the holy fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, which was held in Nicaea in 325 in the reign of Constantine the Great - held during the week before Pentecost, or the seventh week after Easter. It was summoned to remove the confusion which Arius, an Alexandrian priest, had created by his false teaching. He had been spreading the teaching that Christ was created from God in time, and that He is not the pre-eternal Son of God, equal in being with God the Father. Three hundred and eighteen holy fathers took part in this Council. It condemned the Arian teaching, and anathematised Arius when he would not repent. This Council also definitively confirmed the Symbol of Faith (the Creed) which was later amplified at the Second Ecumenical Council. Many bishops were present at the First Ecumenical Council, among whom the following stood out: St Nicolas of Myra in Lycia, St Spiridon, St Athanasius, St Acillius, St Paphnutius, St James of Nisibis, Macarius of Jerusalem, Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Eusebius of Caesarea, Mitrophanes of Constantinople, John of Persia, Aristarchus of Armenia and many others from the East. And from the West: Hosius of Cordova, Theophilus the Goth, Cecilianus of Carthage, and others. The most important work of this Council was the confirmation of the Symbol of Faith. The Council also confirmed the time of the celebration of Easter, and prescribed twenty Canons.

2. The Holy Martyr Theodosia of Tyre.

One day during the reign of the Emperor Maximian, many Christians were standing bound before the Praetor in Palestinian Caesarea. The pious virgin Theodosia came to comfort them and encourage them in their death by martyrdom. The soldiers heard her words and brought her also before the judge. The enraged judge ordered that a stone be tied round her neck and that she be cast into the deep. But angels carried her up onto the shore alive. When she appeared before the judge again, he gave orders to have her beheaded. The following night, Theodosia appeared to her parents in the brightest heavenly light, surrounded by many other virgins, and said: 'Do you see how great is the glory and grace of my Christ, of which you wished to deprive me?' She spoke thus to her parents because they had turned back from confessing Christ and from martyrdom. She suffered with honour and was glorified in the year 308.

3. Our Holy Mother, the Martyr Theodosia.

She was born after her mother's prayers to the holy martyr Anastasia, who appeared to her and told her that she would give birth to a child. Her parents dedicated her to God and gave her very early to a women's monastery. At her parents' death, she received a vast estate. She ordered three icons from a goldsmith: the Saviour, the Mother of God and St Anastasia, and gave the rest away to the poor. She suffered in the time of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian, the iconoclast, and received a twofold crown: of virginity and martyrdom, in the year 730.

4. St Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria.

He was the first to take up the struggle against Arius, and entered into rest in the year 328.

5. St John the Fool for Christ, the Wonderworker of Ustiug.

6. The Holy Martyr Nannus (John) of Salonica.

He suffered for the Faith at the hands of the Turks in Smyrna in 1802.

7. The Holy Martyr Andrew of Chios.

He suffered for the Faith at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople in 1465.

8. The Fall of Constantinople

Because of the sins of men, God sent great calamity on the capitol city of the Christian word on may 29th 1453. Sultan Mohammed II sacked Constantinople and murdered the Emperor Constantine XI.

Reflection

O how great was the fearlessness of the holy men and holy women! When we read about their lives, both shame and pride is awakened in us unwillingly - shame that we have lagged so far behind them and pride that they are of our Christian race. Neither sickness, nor prison, nor exile, nor suffering, nor humiliation, nor the sword, nor the abyss, nor fire, nor the gallows were able to shake the exalted peace of their souls, firmly attached to Christ, the Helmsman of the universe and human history. When Emperor Julian apostasized from the Faith and began to make waste of Christianity throughout the entire empire, St. Athanasius the Great quietly spoke of him to the faithful: "The cloud will pass!" (Nibiculaest, Transibit). And indeed, that dark cloud quickly passed and Christianity lowered its roots even deeper and spread its branches all the more throughout the world. The weakened wickedness of Julian against Christ was ended after several passing years with Julian's cry: "O Nazarene, You have conquered!" O sons of God, why then should we be afraid of anything from which God our Father is not afraid?

Contemplation

To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Marriage:

  1. How that Grace gives a certain dignity to the manner of the procreating of the human race;
  2. How It makes matrimony honorable by comparing it to the bonds of Christ with the Church.

Homily

About the two-fold mystery of marriage

"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church" (Ephesians 5:32).

Great is the mystery when a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife. The apostle himself, who was raised to the third heaven and who saw many mysteries of heaven, calls the physical union of men and women in marriage on earth "a great mystery." That is the mystery of love and life and only the mystery of Christ's bond with His Church is greater. Christ is called the Bridegroom and the Church, the Bride. Christ loves His Church so much that, because of Her, He left His heavenly Father - remaining with Him, of course, in unity of substance and divinity - and descended to earth and attached Himself to His Church and suffered for Her so that, by His Blood cleanse Her from every sin and spot and make Her worthy to be called His Bride. With His love He warms the Church, with His Blood He feeds the Church, and by His Holy Spirit He causes the Church to live and sanctifies and adorns Her. What a husband is to a wife, so Christ is to the Church. Man is the head of a woman and Christ is the Head of the Church. A husband loves his wife as his own body. A woman listens to her husband and the Church listens to Christ. A husband loves his wife as he loves his own body and Christ loves the Church as His own Body. A husband loves his wife as he loves himself and a wife reveres her husband, and Christ loves the Church as He loves Himself and the Church reveres Christ. Since no one hates his own flesh but rather warms and nourishes it so also Christ warms and feeds the Church as His own Body. And every individual human soul is the bride of Christ the Bridegroom and the assembly of all the faithful is the bride of Christ the Bridegroom. The kind of relationship of a believing man toward Christ so also is the relationship of the entire Church toward Christ. Christ is the Head of that great Body which is called the Church, and which is in part visible and in part invisible.

O my brethren, this is a great mystery! It is revealed to us according to the measure of our love toward Christ and of our fear of Christ's judgment.

O Lord, Gentle Savior cleanse us, save us and adorn our souls that we may be worthy of the immortal and indescribable unity with You in time and in eternity.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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