Prologue from Ochrid - June 2 [June 15]
1. The Hieromartyr Methodius, Bishop of Patara.
He devoted himself from his youth to the ascetic life and, like a city set on a hill, was seen and called to the episcopate in the city of Patara in Lycia. Methodius was a learned and eloquent hierarch and wrote against the heresy of Origen. His words, 'inspired by God, illumine the whole world like lightning'. The pagans rose up against him, tortured him and beheaded him in 31 1, in Chalcis in Syria.
2. The Holy Martyrs Aristocies, Dimitrianus and Athanasius.
Aristocles was a priest at the cathedral church in the town of Tamasus on Cyprus, and lived a life pleasing to God. Through his great zeal for the Faith, he was made worthy to hear a voice from heaven telling him to go to Salamis to receive the crown of martyrdom. The deacon Dimitrianus and the reader Athanasius joined him. On their arrival in Salamis, these men of God began to preach Christ. The pagans seized them and, after trial by torture, beheaded Aristocies with a sword, but Dimitrianus and Athansius were cast into the flames. This was in the year 306.
3. Our Holy Father Naum of Ochrid.
His chief festival is on December 23rd, where his life is recorded, but June 20th is his summer Feast. A great crowd gathers at the monastery of St Naum for this summer festival. Many of the sick come or are carried there to receive healing through faith and prayer over the relics of this holy man. Not merely Orthodox, but people of other faiths come seeking help from St Naum. In 1926, a Moslem from Resna went there, and donated a bell to the monastery in gratitude to the saint for healing his brother and raising him from his deathbed. The donor was Jemail Zizo, and his brother who was healed was called Suleiman Zizo. Both were eminent citizens of Resna.
4. St Kallistos I, Patriarch of Constantinople.
He lived the ascetic life for twenty-eight years as a disciple of Gegory the Sinaite on Mount Athos, in the skete of Magoula attached to the monastery of Philotheou. He later founded the community of St Mamas there. He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1350. After four years, he left the patriarchal throne to return to Athos, but, in the reign of John Paleologus, he was again called to the throne, where he remained until his death. He died in 1363 on the way to Serres to meet the Serbian Queen Helena, who was seeking help against the Turks. He wrote the Lives of St Gregory the Sinaite and St Theodosius of Trnovo, as well as numerous homilies. It is interesting to note how St Maximus of Kapsokalyvia foretold the death of Patriarch Kallistos. On his way to Serbia, Kallistos called in at the Holy Mountain. St Maximus saw him and said: 'This elder will not see his flock again, because I hear behind him the hymn over the grave: "Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way ...".
5. St Leucius, Bishop of Brindisi.
Born in Alexandria, he entered a monastery young. He was worthy of great revelations and powerful grace, sufficient to raise the dead and drive demons from men. He was at first Bishop of Alexandria, and went to Italy in response to a command from heaven. He baptised the entire pagan city of Brindisi and built a church there to the Mother of God. After intensive and successful work for the Faith, he entered into eternity in the fifth century, in the reign of the Emperor Theodosius II.
6. Blessed Studios.
A famous nobleman and consul in Constantinople, he founded in 463 the Church of St John the Forerunner near the Golden Gates, and a monastery, named the Studion after him. This monastery became famed for its many great men, spiritual teachers, ascetics and martyrs for the Faith, among whom St Theodore the Studite is the best-known. The Latin Crusaders destroyed this monastery in 1204, but it was restored in 1293 by the Paleologue Emperor Andronicus II. The church, for some centuries a mosque, is now in ruins.
The veneration of icons is an integral part of Orthodoxy from which it cannot be separated. That the veneration of icons appears to some people the same as idolatry is no proof against icons. To the Jews, it seemed that Christ worked miracles by the power of Satan and not God and to the Romans, it seemed that Christian martyrs were ordinary sorcerers and magicians. Saint Nicephorus said to Leo the Armenian the iconoclastic emperor: "The icon is a divine thing and not to be worshipped." Following this, he explained "how God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and to raise it in the wilderness even though, just before this, He had commanded: "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image" (Exodus 20:4). He commanded this in order to save the chosen people from the idolatry of the Egyptians and He commanded that He, the One and Most High God, would manifest His power through a visible thing. In the same manner He manifests His power through icons. That is His holy will and our aid for salvation. If icons are things of little significance or even idolatry, why would many of the holiest and most spiritual men and women in the history of the Church have suffered to the death for icons?
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the leper: "And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him saying, Lord, if You will, You can make me clean" (St. Matthew 8:2):
- How the leper implored the Lord to heal him and how the Lord touched him with His hand and he was healed;
- How I, too, am leperous from sin and how the Lord can touch my soul and heal it if I pray to Him.
About how wisdom proclaims itself everywhere
"Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the open squares she raises her voice; down the crowded ways she calls out, at the city gates she utters her words" (Proverbs 1:20-21).
The Wisdom of God is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, through Whom all that was created, was created. All that was created manifests its Omniscient Creator, both that which is in the field as well as that which is in the city. In a field is a pure and bright nature but in the city is man with his trades and skills. The Wisdom of God cries out and does not whisper throughout all of nature and through all beneficial trades and skills of man. She [Wisdom] covered all the fields, she filled the entire city and she is above the earth and under the earth, in the heights of the stars and in the depths of the seas. He who wants to hear her can hear her in every place; he who wants to learn from her and to be delighted by her can be taught and delighted in every place; he who wants to be corrected and built up by her can be corrected and built up by her in every place.
Thus, the Wisdom of God is obvious and evident in all created things in the world from its very beginning. But, the Wisdom of God is more obvious and more evident in the prophets and in other men of God who were made worthy to approach her [Wisdom] outside created nature. Through their mouths, the Wisdom of God was proclaimed in the fields, in the cities, on the streets of the cities and at the doors of men.
But, the Wisdom of God is most audible and most obvious in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God was manifested in the flesh and demonstrated to men in its miraculous power and beauty. This Wisdom of God does not speak through things nor through men, but speaks of itself and from itself alone, personally and directly. By His wisdom the Lord filled the entire world through His Holy Church, so that it can be said that just as twenty centuries ago in Palestine so, He today, through the servants of the Word cries out in the fields, on the streets, to the greatest throngs in the world, throughout all the cities and before all doors.
O my brethren, let us open the doors of our souls to the Wisdom of God Incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ!
O Lord Jesus, Wisdom and Power of God, open our souls and abide in them.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK