Prologue from Ochrid - June 14 [June 27]
1. The Holy Prophet Elisha.
He lived nine hundred years before Christ. When the Lord willed to take the aged prophet Elias to Himself, He revealed to him that He had set aside Elisha, the son of Shaphat, of the tribe of Reuben and from the city of Abel-Menolah. to inherit his prophetic calling. Elias made the Lord's will known to Elisha and draped him in his mantle, asking God for a double portion of the grace of prophecy for him. Elisha at once left his home and his people and followed after Elias. When the Lord took Elias in the fiery chariot (A.V. II Kings 2:11), Elisha remained to carry on the work of prophecy with yet greater power than Elias. In his purity and zeal, he was equal to the greatest prophets, and surpassed all the others with the wondrous power given to him by God. He divided the waters of the Jordan as Moses once divided the Red Sea; he made the bitter waters in Jericho drinkable; he brought water down into the trenches in the war against the Moabites; he caused the widow's jars to fill to the brim with oil: he raised the dead son of the Shunammite woman; he fed a hundred people with twenty small loaves; he healed Naaman, captain of the hosts of Syria, of leprosy; he blinded an entire Syrian armv and put another to flight; he foretold many events both for the nation and for individuals, and went to his rest at a very great age.
2. St Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
Born in the city of Syracuse in Sicily, he became a monk on completing his secular education and gave himself to the ascetic life in a monastery. Patriarch Nicephorus took him into his own service. During the time of the iconoclast Emperors, he was renowned on all sides as a staunch defender of the veneration of icons. For this reason, the wicked Emperor Theophilus exiled him to an island, where he spent seven whole years in prison with two common robbers, in damp conditions, without light and without sufficient food, as if in a grave. During the reign of the devout Empress Theodora and her son Michael, he was set at Patriarch, fulfilling an earlier prophecy of St Joannicius the Great. During the first week of the Great Fast, Methodius solemnly carried the icons into the church and wrote a Canon in their honour. Unable to get the better of him in any way, the vile heretics hired a woman to declare that the Patriarch had had physical relations with her. The whole of Constantinople was aghast at this slander. Not knowing how to prove his innocence in any other way, the Patriarch overcame his embarrassment and presented himself naked before the court, voluntarily showing them his body all withered and debilitated from fasting. The court was clearly persuaded that the Patriarch had been slandered. The people rejoiced at hearing this and the heretics were put to shame. Then the woman herself admitted that she had been persuaded and bribed to slander God's saint, and thus those who sought to bring shame on Methodius unwittingly increased his fame. This great confessor of the Faith died peacefully in 847, and went to the Kingdom of God.
3. St John, Metropolitan of Euchaita.
Nicknamed 'Mavropous' (Blackfeet), he was a man of great scholarship and true spirituality. When the Emperor Alexius Comnenis was very old, John became Metropolitan of Euchaita. He is particularly famed because St Basil, St Gregory the Theologian and St John Chrysostom all appeared to him (see January 30th), and revealed to him how they are, all three, equally glorified in heaven. After this vision, the bickering among the people was quieted, for they had been quarrelling about which of the three was the greatest. St John also composed the well-known Canon to the Most Sweet Jesus and the Canon to the Guardian Angel, and he also compiled several instructive books. He entered peacefully into rest in the second half of the 11th century.
4. Our Holy Father Niphon.
Born in the region of Argyrocastra in the village of Lukov, he was the son of a priest. He was attracted in his youth by the desire for solitude and prayer. This desire finally led him to the Holy Mountain, where he at first lived out his asceticism in the cave of St Peter the Athonite and then in the desert of St Anne. He would not eat bread, but fed himself on grass and roots. Some envious men accused him of disdaining bread, but he easily and speedily justified himself. Finally he became associated with St Maximus of Kapsokaiyvia. For his great love towards God, Niphon was granted the gifts of wonderworking and discernment. He used to heal the sick with prayer and anointing with oil, and he clearly saw events both past and future. He foretold his own death during the Petertide fast. When the day of his departure dawned, he said to the brethren around him: 'Do not weep, but rather rejoice, because you will have someone to pray for your salvation before God.' At the end, he said: 'It is time for me to go', and he surrendered his holy soul to God. This was on June 14th, 1411.
The all-wise St. John Chrysostom said: "A place will not save us if we do not carry out the will of God." It is told of a monk who lived in a monastery where five brethren loved him and one brother offended him. Because of this one brother who offended him, he moved to another monastery. However, in this monastery eight of the brethren loved him and two of the brethren offended him. He then fled to a third monastery. But here, seven of the brethren loved him and five of the brethren offended him. He set out for a fourth monastery but along the way he thought: "How long will I flee from place to place? I will never find peace in the whole world. It would be better for me to become patient." He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote in bold letters: "I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." When he entered the fourth monastery here also some love him and others offended him. But he patiently began to endure the offenses. As soon as someone offended him, he would take out that piece of paper and read: "I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." So with patience he succeeded and all loved him and he remained in that monastery until his death.
To contemplate the Lord's miraculous walking on the water as though on dry land: "But in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them walking upon the sea" (St. Matthew 14:25):
- How the Lord walking alone on top of the water called Peter also: "And He said, Come!" (St. Matthew 14:29). Peter sets out but because of little faith began to sink;
- How the Lord also calls me to walk over the passionate dampness and tempest and how I set out but sink because of my little faith.
About humility as a precursor of glory [honor]
" And humility goes before honors [glory]" (Proverbs 15:33).
Here, the word is about true glory and not false glory; about glory that is eternal and not about glory that dies. Glory that is of man is glory that dies, and glory that is of God is eternal. Those whom men glorified are not glorified and those whom God glorifies are glorified. Our Lord said to the Jewish scribes: "How can you believe who receive glory [honor] from one another and do not seek the glory [honor] which is from the only God?" (St. John 5:44). See how our Lord makes a distinction between the glory from men and the glory from God. And about Himself, He said: "I do not receive glory from men" (St John 5:41). He who seeks glory from men travels the path of pride and he who seeks glory from God travels the path of humility. No one is glorified by God without humility. The saints of God were the most humble servants of God. The Most Holy Birth-giver of God [Theotokos] was adorned with overwhelming humility. To her great humility, she ascribed her being chosen as the Mother of God: "Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid" (St. Luke 1:48). But the humblest of the most humble, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, was the founder of asceticism. During His earthly life, humility always preceded glory.
Brethren, it must also be that way in our life if we desire true glory. For if humility does not precede glory, glory will never come.
O Lord Jesus, Model and Teacher of humility, our only glory and the Glorifier of all the humble and meek, inspire us with Your inexpressible humility.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK