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Prologue from Ochrid - March 15 [March 28]

1. The Holy Martyr Agapius and the seven with him: Publius, Timolaus, Romulus, Alexander, Alexander, Dionysius and Dionysius.

They all suffered in Palestinian Caesarea at the hand of Urban, the governor, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian. All of them, apart from Agapius, were very young men and were not yet Christians. They had never been baptised with water, but their baptism was of blood. One day these seven were watching how the Christians were being tortured: one in fire, another on the gallows, a third before wild beasts, and when they saw with what patience the Christians endured all these tortures, they were inflamed with zeal for Christ, bound their own hands behind their backs and, thus bound, came before Urban saying: 'We too are Christians!' Urban's flattery and threats were in vain. Agapius, a prominent inhabitant of that city, who had previously suffered somewhat for Christ, joined them, and they were inspired with an even greater faith in and love for the Lord. 'They were all beheaded in 303, and went to the courts of the King of heaven.

2. The Holy Martyr Alexander.

He was from the town of Side in Pamphylia. The Emperor Aurelian's governor asked him who and what he was, to which Alexander replied that he was a pastor of the flock of Christ. 'And where is this flock of Christ', further enquired the evil and suspicious governor. Alexander replied: 'Over the whole world live the people whom Christ the Lord created, among whom those who believe in Him are His sheep, but those who have fallen away from their Creator, who are enslaved to creation and the work of men's hands, to dead idols, such as you, are strangers to His flock, and at the Dreadful Judgement of God will be put on the left with the goats.' The wicked judge first commanded that he be whipped with iron flails and then thrown into a burning furnace. But the fire could in no way harm him. Then he was flayed and after that thrown to the wild beasts. But the beasts would not touch him. At last the governor ordered that he be beheaded. But as soon as e pronounced the sentence, an evil spirit took hold of him and made him rabid. He was led howling to his gods, the idols, but on the way the evil spirit wrested his wicked soul from him. St Alexander suffered between 270 and 275. (In the Greek Calendar, St Alexander is commemorated on March 14th).

3. The Holy Martyr Nicander.

He was an Egyptian. His skin was first flayed from him and then he was beheaded for his faith in Christ. His crime was that, as a doctor, he had helped the Christian martyrs and buried their bodies. He suffered with honour in the year 302.

Reflection

Love for whomever or for whatever, even love for oneself can, in time, grow cold in man, can be lost altogether and can even be twisted into hatred. But the love of man for God, once gained and established, is more difficult to cool off, except if one loses his mind. In the first instance man diminishes or erases his love either out of change in himself or because of a change in the objects of his love. In the second instance man can diminish his love toward God only because of a change in him and never because of a change in God. All of this is neatly and clearly explained by St. Isaac the Syrian saying, "There is a kind of love that is similar to a brook following a rainfall which quickly ceases after the rain stops. But there is a love similar to a spring which erupts through the earth, which never ceases. The first love is human love, and the second love is Divine Love." St. Simeon the New Theologian, speaks about Divine Love, "O Holy Love! You are the end of the Law. You overcome me; You warm me; You inflame my heart to immeasurable love for God and my brothers. Out of love, God became man. Out of love, He endured all His life-giving suffering in order to deliver man from the throes of Hades and bring him to heaven. Out of love, the apostles completed their difficult course. Out of love, the martyrs shed their blood in order not to lose Christ."

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus when Pilate brought Him out before the Jews:

  1. How the Lord was flogged by the Roman soldiers;
  2. How after flagellation, He was mocked by them; they placed a thorny crown upon His head and dressed Him in a purple robe;
  3. How Pilate presents Him to the Jews saying, "Behold the man!" (St. John 19:5).

Homily

About the prophecy concerning the desolate house

"Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate" (St. Matthew 23:38).

Why did our Lord remain silent at the judgment before the Jews and before Pilate? Because, prior to that, He had said everything that needed to be said. He said and foretold how the Jewish elders would hand him over to the unbelievers and how they would kill Him. Many times He had foretold what would personally befall Him. This, His apostles heard and carefully remembered. He also foretold His terrible punishment which the Jews will assume upon themselves by their evil abomination against the Son of God. Even the Jews heard this and forgot it. "Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate." The Lord foretold this about the Jews. And this, the Jews heard and forgot. But much later, many remembered these prophetic words, many of whom had participated in the Great Evil when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, plundered it, set it on fire, dispersed its inhabitants and displaced them throughout the world. Many were killed either by suffocation, by starvation or by crucifixion on a cross. The Jews, out of fear and annoyance, forced Pilate to raise his hand against the Lord Jesus. Afterwards, the Roman Empire raised its hand against the Jews. On that day when the prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, the Roman Empire, represented in Jerusalem at one time by Pilate, raised its hand against Jerusalem and their children with a very sharp sword. When Emperor Hadrian restored Jerusalem, he renamed it (Aelia Capitolina) and forbade the Jews from settling in Jerusalem under penalty of death. "Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate." From that time on, until today, Jerusalem was left deserted by the Jews as a people (nation). The children of the wicked ancestors who killed Christ were dispersed everywhere, even to this day, but in their own home. Lord, Almighty and All-Seeing, forgive us our sins.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

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