Prologue from Ochrid - February 29 [Leap year March 13]
1. Our Holy Father John Casein.
This great spiritual guide was born in Rome of eminent parents. In his youth he studied the secular disciplines, especially philosophy and astronomy. After that, he gave himself entirely to the study of Holy Scripture. He moved from the good to the better, and, desiring higher and higher steps to perfection, Casein left Rome for the East, to learn more and attain this greater perfection. He went to Bethlehem, then lingered in Egypt, at Nitric, among outstanding spiritual athletes from whom he learned to exercise himself in all the virtues. In Constantinople, he became a pupil of St John Chrysostom and was ordained by him to the diaconate. He finally returned to the West and settled near Marseilles, there founding two monasteries, one for monks and one for nuns. At the request of the monks, Cassian wrote many books, among which the ones on the lovers of the spiritual life are especially helpful: 'Eight books on the struggle against the eight chief passions' (The Institutes). His book against the Nestorian heresy (On the Incarnation of the Lord), which he wrote at the request of Archdeacon (later Pope) Leo, is very important. He served the Lord faithfully and enriched many by his wisdom, then entered into eternal rest in 435. St Cassian's relics are preserved to this day in Marseilles.
2. Our Holy Father Barsanuphius.
Born a pagan in Palestine, he was baptised at the age of eighteen and immediately became a monk, receiving the name John. When his virtuous life became known, he was chosen as Archbishop of Damascus, but did not stay long in that position. Yearning after a solitary spiritual asceticism, he secretly left Damascus and went to the desert of Nitria. There he presented himself as the monk Barsanuphius, and was immediately given the obedience of water-carrier to the monastery. The one-time archbishop joyfully received this obedience. By his learned discourses, his meekness and his zeal, he quickly became a model example to all the monks. Only at the time of his death was it revealed to the monks who Barsanuphius was. And so this saint used his own example as a lesson to the proud and to lovers of power, and as a comfort to the humble and meek. He entered peacefully into rest and went to the Lord in the year 457.
St. John Cassian writes of the struggle with the spirit of lust in this manner: "Struggle with the spirit of lust is a bitter struggle; longer than other struggles; a daily struggle victoriously accomplished completely only by a small number of people. This struggle begins with the first mature growth and does not cease until all other passions are defeated. In this struggle, a two-fold weapon is necessary. For the achievement of this perfect and pure chastity bodily fasting alone is not sufficient (although fasting, before everything else is necessary): along with this, meekness of the spirit and unremitting prayer is necessary against this most impure spirit [lust]. After that, continual study of Holy Scripture together with prudent mental exercises and after that physical labor and handiworks, all of which keeps the heart from lusting and restores it to itself and, above all, profound and true humility without which victory over any passion can never be achieved. Victory over this passion [lust] is conditioned with the perfect purification of the heart from which, according to the words of the Lord, flows the poison of this sickness [lust]. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (St. Matthew 15:19). One must have stable humility and patience in the heart as well as careful protection of oneself from anger and other passions during the course of the day. For in as much as the fire of anger enters in us, afterward so much easier, does the ember of passions penetrate us. It is interesting that even many other great spiritual fathers bring into causal tie the passion of anger and the passion of lustful desire from which follows, that the most angry ones are the most lustful ones.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the vigilant Watchman over His Church: "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20).
- How He watches over the entire created world and especially His Church acquired by His Blood;
- How He watches over every baptized soul as a gardener over His planting;
- How He through serenity and through tempest, leads His Church, leading her [The Church] to ultimate victory;
- How He watches even over my life, that it grow and that it may be built in His eternal kingdom.
About the living presence of Christ
"I am with You always, even to the end of the ages" (St. Matthew 28:20).
Here is consolation above consolations!
Here is consolation for those whom the tempest breaks! Let them only remember: There Christ is beside them and let them not be afraid. He is the Helmsman.
Here is consolation for those who are sick! Let them know that Christ is there beside their bed and let them not despair. He is the Physician.
Here is consolation for those who grow old! Let them not lose sight that Christ travels with them through time to all eternity, into eternal youth and let them be at peace.
Here is consolation for those who are tormented by men! Let them not think that they are abandoned, for Christ is with them in all suffering; at judgment and in prison and let them rejoice. He is the Judge.
Here is consolation for those who are disturbed by evil spirits! Let them remember that Christ is the conqueror over evil spirits, He is on their side and let them be strengthened. He is the Victor.
Here is consolation for all who seek the light of justice and truth! Let them believe that Christ is closer to their soul than their eyes and let them adhere to His leadership. He is Light.
O, my brethren, in truth, Christ is constantly with us as light is constantly with the eyes, which see. But O, our sorrow if the eyes of our soul are closed and, in vain does the light labor to encounter the pupil of our vision! O, our sorrow and grief when we are not with Christ!
He goes out to meet us. Are we going out to meet Him? He wants to be with us. Do we want to be with Him? If we want consolation, we must be with Him all days to the end of our time.
O Lord, our only consolation, do not leave us!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK