Prologue from Ochrid - May 26 [June 8]
1. The Holy Apostle Carpus.
One of the Seventy, he was a follower and companion of the Apostle Paul, who installed him as Bishop of Varna in Thrace. But he also preached the Gospel in Crete, where he was host to St Dionysius the Areopagite. St Dionysius testifies that he was a man with an exceptionally pure mind, of great humility and guilelessness. He further relates how the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to Carpus in a vision with His angels, and how he never began the Liturgy without first receiving a heavenly vision. He endured many assaults for the name of Christ, and finally suffered at the hands of the faithless Jews and was murdered. His soul entered into the Kingdom of God, to delight forever in the vision of the Lord in glory.
2. The Holy Apostle Alphaeus.
He was the father of two of the Twelve Apostles: James the son of Alphaeus and Matthew the Evangelist. He entered peacefully into rest.
3. Our Holy Father John of Psychaita.
He left the world at an early age and retired to the Lavra of Psychaita in Constantinople, where he laboured in asceticism for many years for the love of Christ. He was exiled in the eighth century for his veneration of the holy icons.
4. The Holy New Martyr Alexander of Salonica.
This martyr of Christ's was born in Salonica during the Turkish oppression. He was tricked by the Turks as a young man into accepting Islam, and at first his conscience did not trouble him for such an act, and he went on pilgrimage with some other Moslem pilgrims and became a dervish. But, living as a dervish in Salonica, he began to repent bitterly, and in his repentance the thought came to him that there was no way in which he could cleanse himself from the terrible sin of Christ except with his own blood. So, having repented and resolved on martyrdom, he appeared before the Turks dressed as a Christian. They threw him into prison and put him to various tortures. But Alexander would only cry out: 'I was born a Christian, and as a Christian I shall die!' Finally the Turks sentenced him to death, which filled the repentant Alexander with joy, realising that the sentence was a sign of God's forgiveness of his sins and acceptance of his sacrifice. He was slain by the sword in Smyrna in 1794, and was glorified in the Church both in heaven and on earth.
We should not desire the death of a sinner, but his repentance. Nothing grieves the Lord more, Who suffered on the Cross for sinners, then when we pray to Him for the death of a sinner and thereby to remove him from our path. It happened that the Apostle Carpus lost his patience and began to pray that God send down death upon two sinful men; one a pagan and the other an apostate from the Faith. Then the Lord Christ Himself appeared to Carpus and said: "Strike me; I am prepared to be crucified again for the salvation of mankind." St. Carpus related this event to St. Dionysius the Areopagite and he wrote it down and gave it to the Church as a lesson to all, that prayers are needed for sinners to be saved and not for them to be destroyed, "for the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion:
- How that Grace enlivens the bread and wine;
- How It changes them into the Body and Blood of Christ.
About the Grace of God
"My Grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The Lord did not even spare His apostles from temptations. That is why He gave them Grace! When Satan himself began to malign the Apostle Paul, Paul prayed to God that Satan depart from him. To that, the Lord replied: "My Grace is sufficient for you!" That is, if you need to withstand Satan, for your endurance "My Grace is sufficient for you!" If you need to struggle with Satan, again "My Grace is sufficient for you!" If you wish to defeat Satan, again "My Grace is sufficient for you!" Grace is an all-inclusive weapon. Grae is stronger than all opposition, than all assaults, than all the powers of darkness. Grace is invincible and victorious.
Brethren, that is why we should pray to the Lord to give us His All-powerful Grace. Grace is God within us. Grace is the kingdom of God within us. When the Grace of God is within us, then day is within our souls. And day signifies light, knowledge and fearlessness.
Brethren, we cannot here on earth implore a greater good from God than the Grace of God. If we were to receive the entire universe as a gift, that gift would be less than the Grace of God.
O most abundant Lord, the inexhaustible source of the omnipotent Grace, sprinkle our hardened hearts with Your Grace that we might weep before Your most great goodness and our horrendous ingratitude.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK