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Prologue from Ochrid - February 20 [Leap year March 4]

1. St Leo, Bishop of Catania.

Beneath Mount Etna the volcano, in the town of Catania, St Leo was a good shepherd and compassionate teacher of the people. He had great care for the sick and poor, and both his zeal for the Faith and his compassion for the needy were great. There appeared one day in that town a magician called Heliodorus, who deluded the people with many illusions and greatly seduced the young. He once entered a church during divine service and began his tricks. St Leo came up to him, bound him with one end of his pallium and led him out to the market place. There he ordered that a great fire be kindled. When it was burning fiercely he stood among the flames and pulled Heliodorus to him. Heliodorus was completely burned up, but Leo remained alive and unharmed. All who had been taken in by Heliodorus, and who had regarded him as in some way divine, were put to shame by this. The compassionate and zealous Leo became known throughout the whole kingdom as a wonder-worker, helping people by his miracles. When he had finished his course, some time in the 8th century, his soul went to the Lord and healing myrrh flowed from his relics.

2. The Hieromartyr Sadok.

Sadok was bishop in Persia after St Simeon. One night St Simeon appeared to him in a dream and said: 'Yesterday, me; today, you!' Sadok interpreted these words to his congregation as meaning: 'Last year I suffered; this year you will.' And indeed, in that year, King Sapor arrested him with many of his clergy and people and brought them to trial. He first ordered them to worship fire and the sun as divine. Sadok replied: 'We are ready with all our hearts to die for our God, and will not worship fire or the sun.' They were then tortured and condemned to be beheaded with the sword. Before execution, Sadok raised this prayer to God: 'Wash us from our sins, 0 Lord, in our own blood', - and Sadok gloriously gave his body to death and his soul to God immortal, together with his priests and his people. He suffered in 342 or 344.

Reflection

Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, air is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world and electricity is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world. Electricity is very fine but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thoughts. The air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more is every deed, every word and every thought of yours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. O how awesome it is to commit sinful deeds and to speak sinful words and to think insane thoughts! To what immeasurable distances are amassed from that on the waves of the spiritual sea! But do not go into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and that you measure how all of your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: On God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a higher level of saving vigilance.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus (St. John, Chapter 3):

  1. How Nicodemus, even though a teacher in Israel, did not perfectly comprehend spiritual things;
  2. How our Lord intentionally begins the conversation with the question of spiritual birth - a question most inaccessible to the mind of Nicodemus - that by this to bring Nicodemus to meekness and after that to further cultivate him as a good field;
  3. How in the beginning, Nicodemus with hesitation and shyness approached Christ (as even today most of our scholars do) and afterwards more boldly.

Homily

About judgment and condemnation

"Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned" (St. John 3:18).

He who believes in Christ the Lord is not condemned for he alone judges himself and directs his footsteps toward the light, which goes before him. As a man in profound darkness who adjusts his footsteps according to the candle in his hand, thus, is the one who believes in Christ, i.e., who has embarked after Christ as after a light in the darkness of life.

He who does not believe "has already been condemned." That is, he who does not have a guide on the unknown path just as soon as he took the first step, lost his way and strayed. Who does not believe in Christ is condemned to ignorance, to weakness, to anger, to staggering along the crooked and winding road and intertwining roads, to vice, to despair, and perhaps even to suicide. He is condemned in two worlds: in this world to a senseless physical and deceiving existence and in the other world, to eternal damnation! O how dark is the path of the children of unbelief and how deep is the abyss between their every first and third steps!

O Lord, All-Merciful, in truth we have no one in whom and in what to believe outside of You. You are our Savior from darkness, sin and death.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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