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Prologue from Ochrid - February 16 [March 1]

1. The Twelve Holy Martyrs who suffered in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.

The first of these, Pamphilus, was priest in the church at Caesarea in Palestine; a learned and devout man, he corrected the mistakes of various copiers in the text of the New Testament. He himself copied this saving Book and gave it to any who desired it. The second was a deacon, Valentine, old in years and white with wisdom. He was a great expert in the Holy Scriptures, knowing them by heart. The third was Paul, a respected and eminent man, who had on a previous occasion been cast into the fire for the sake of Christ. With them were five Egyptians, brothers both in blood and soul, who were returning to their native land from serving a sentence in the mines of Cilicia. As they reached the gate of the town of Caesarea they said that they were Christians, and were therefore brought to trial. When asked their names, they replied: 'We have cast away the pagan names given us by our mother, and are called Elias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel and Daniel.' When asked where they were from, they replied: 'From Jerusalem that is above.' They were all beheaded, and a young man called Porphyrius, who had searched for their bodies to give them burial, suffered soon afterwards. Him they burned. An officer, Seleucus, who had come up to the martyrs and embraced them before the sword descended on their heads, was also burned, and an old man, Theodulus, a servant of the Roman judge, who had embraced one of the martyrs while they were under escort. Lastly Julian, who had kissed the dead bodies of the martyrs and honoured them, followed them in death. So they exchanged the small for the great, the tawdry for the precious and death for immortality, and went to the Lord in 308.

2. St Maruthas.

Bishop of the town of Tagrith in Mesopotamia, he was famed for his faith and goodness. Maruthas calmed the wrath of the Persian King Yezdegeherd against the Christians, begged from him the relics of the 400 martyrs in Persia and founded a town, Martyropolis, where he placed these holy relics. He finished his earthly course in this town in 422 and went to the Lord.

3. Our Holy Father the Martyr Romanus.

Romanus was a simple and illiterate villager from Carpenesion. Leaming of the heroism and the glory of the martyrs of Christ, the young Romanus yearned for martyrdom himself. He went to Salonica, where he began to extol the Christian faith in the streets, and to call Mahomet a writer of fables. The Turks tortured him terribly, then handed him over to a galley-captain. Christians rescued him from the galley and sent him to the Holy Mountain, where Romanus became a monk under the famous Starets Acacius. But he still yearned for martyrdom for the sake of Christ. With the blessing of his starets, he went to Constantinople, pretended to be a fool and began to lead a dog about the streets. When asked why, Romanus replied that he fed that dog as Christians fed Turks. The Turks threw him into a dry well, where he lived without bread for forty days. They then took him out and executed him. Light streamed from his body for three days, after which an Englishman took it to England. But a monk soaked a towel in his blood, and that towel is kept to this day in the monastery of Docheiariou. This glorious soldier of Christ suffered in 1694.

Reflection

The most important thing in a meadow is grass. In a field, it is wheat. In a garden, it is vegetables. No one boasts about the enclosure of the meadow more than they do the hay in the meadow. Nor does anyone boast more about the shed in the field than they do the wheat in the field. Neither does anyone boast of the ditches more than they do the vegetables in the garden. Why do people boast about their countries; the roads throughout the country; the demarcations and boundaries of a country and cities throughout the country and everything else that is not more important from the enclosures of the meadows, neither the shed in the field, neither the ditches in the garden when it is compared to the main crop, i.e., with man? Men do not exist for the sake of the country but the country exists for the sake of men. Christ did not come to save countries, but men. A country receives its value from good citizens. And what do evil people receive from a great country? Thorns in a spacious field.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus how in the dark nights, alone in the mountains, He prays for my salvation, your salvation and for the salvation of all men:

  1. How He lifts His hands up toward heaven; how He bends to the ground; how He kneels in prayer many nights; in prayer for my salvation, your salvation and for the salvation of all men;
  2. How He sweats at prayer and weeps for my salvation, your salvation and for the salvation of all men;
  3. How He kept watch and kept vigil in prayer and torments His body without sleep and rest for my salvation, for your salvation and for the salvation of all men.

Homily

About that awesome stone

"Everyone who falls on that stone will be [dashed] smashed to pieces" (St. Luke 20:18).

The Lord Christ is the corner stone. Judas fell on that stone and was smashed. Herod fell on that stone and he was smashed. Julian the Apostate fell on that stone and he was smashed. Arius fell on that stone and he was smashed. The deniers and scoffers of Christ fell on that stone and were smashed as clay pots of a potter.

This stone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. This stone fell on Egypt and Egypt was destroyed. This stone fell on Jerusalem and Jerusalem was destroyed. This stone fell on the Jewish people and the Jewish people were scattered into pieces. This stone fell on many sinful generations and empires and those sinful generations and empires fell apart into dust and ashes.

The Lord forgave sinners seventy times seven but beyond that if sinners remain sinners, will the Lord save them against their will? He will not, for that is not the principle for the salvation of men. The principle of salvation is that men voluntarily consent to salvation on the part of God. If men seventy times seven and more do not desire to be saved by God, then God will not save them. Then men will be smashed against that stone around which they cannot pass and are destroyed by that stone, which they have raised to cast far away from themselves. Can it be said that God is unmerciful Who saved the penitent thief on the cross? Can it be said that He is unjust when He handed over the thief to destruction who mocked Him even in the last hour of death?

O Lord Almighty, save us!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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