Prologue from Ochrid - March 13 [March 26]
1. St Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople. (c. 758-829).
He governed the holy Church with wisdom and zeal as the greatest arch-pastor of Constantinople. When Leo the Armenian made his stand against icons, he opposed the Emperor; first counselling him and then denouncing him. For this the accursed Emperor exiled him to the island of Prochonis. There was a monastery on that island, which Nicephorus himself had built in honour of St Theodore. And this confessor of the Orthodox faith spent thirteen years there, then died and went to the Lord in 827. Then all the iconoclast Emperors perished, and Michael, with his mother Theodora, came to the imperial throne in 842, and Methodius became Patriarch. Then, in 846, the relics of St Nicephorus were translated from Prochonnesus to Constantinople and placed first in the Church of St Sophia, from which he had been driven in his lifetime, and then in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The main commemoration of this great hierarch is on June 2nd, but on March 13th is commemorated the finding and translation of his uncorrupt relics. St Nicephorus was driven from Constantinople on March 13th, and on March 13th, nineteen years later, his relics were brought back to his patriarchal seat.
2. The Holy Martyr Christina of Persia.
She was harshly tortured in Persia in the 4th century for her unfaltering confession of the Christian faith. The torturers whipped her so terribly that she died from exhaustion. Her soul parted from her martyred body and went to dwell in the eternal joy of Christ her King and Lord.
3. The Hieromartyr Publius.
This priest and martyr was successor in the episcopate in Athens to the famous Dionysius the Areopagite. As bishop, he was tortured by unbelievers and beheaded in the 2nd century. For a brief time of torture he inherited eternal life.
Great are those Christians who have a great love for Christ. O, in truth, how great were those Christians; those God-bearing fathers and martyrs! For so many in our time, this is impossible even to imagine. This is what one of them, St. Simeon, the New Theologian, confessed before all the monks in his monastery: Speaking from his own personal experience about how the words of the Lord, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (St. Matthew 11:30), were realized in him. Simeon said, "Believe me, when I fled to God, my Savior, I did not encounter anything sorrowful, difficult or unbearable. The only great and unbearable sorrow I had was that I could not find enough satisfactory reasons to die for the sake of the love for Christ." Are not such souls as a burning flame enclosed in eathern vessels? Burning flames are always upright, directed toward heaven. Only remove the covering and the flame will shoot upward.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus at the judgment before Herod:
- How Herod at first was very kind because he saw Jesus not out of any spiritual need, but out of curiosity;
- How Herod had hoped to see a miracle from Jesus, but he was fooled for the Lord remained silent to all of his questions;
- How Herod ridiculed the Lord and how he clothed Him in a white garment.
About the reconciliation of the wicked for the sake of evil
"Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly" (St. Luke 23:12).
In His shame and humiliation, the Just Man does good to His enemies. He reconciles them. It is true, in this case, that their reconciliation did not imply mutual cooperation for some good deed but mutual persecution of the Just One. At least the flame of hatred between them was extinguished and died out. That was the reward of the Just One. Pilate and Herod were enemies. On that day, when the Savior was brought for judgment, before the one and the other, they [Pilate and Herod]were reconciled. The Prince of Peace brought peace between the quarreling parties; peace which helped to hew out a cross for Him. But He also comes to be a willing sacrifice for the sins of many.
Even today common enemies make peace among themselves when they find it necessary to attack and condemn the Lord. There are many who kill one another until you mention the Name of the Lord to them. As soon as they hear that Name, they gradually make peace among themselves for the sake of attacking that Holy Name. It is easier for the unjust to tolerate the unjust than it is for them to tolerate the just. It is easier for the unjust to come to an understanding and reconciliation with the unjust than with the just.
Even in some countries, the most quarrelsome parties seek reconciliation among themselves when it is deemed necessary to decide what place should be given to the Lord Jesus Christ in the State, either to render Him the first place, which is befitting to Him, or the last place? To these questions sworn enemies reconcile among themselves in order that our Lord will be given the last place only. So, also, it was with the quarreling parties of Pharisees and Saducees who were reconciled and entered into a partnership against Christ.
Why is it that the Most Pure and the Most Needed had to be awarded the last place? Because, according to their thinking, the first place would then be reserved for them. The same incentive was there between sworn enemies, the Pharisees and Saducees, when it was deemed necessary to seek to put Christ to death. The same incentive was the occasion that caused the reconciliation between Pilate and Herod when it was deemed necessary to judge that Christ had to be put to death.
O my brethren, let us not ever seek peace with injustice against justice. Rather, let us always seek peace with God, and that with a clear conscience.
O God, help us so that we may always possess such a peace.
To You all glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK