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Prologue from Ochrid - February 18 [March 3]

1. St Leo the First, Pope of Rome.

Born in Italy of devout parents, he was first archdeacon with Pope Sixtus the Third, then elected against his own will to the papal throne after Sixtus's death. When Attila drew near to Rome with his Huns and prepared to ravage and bum the city, Leo went out to him in his episcopal vestments, tamed the wrath of the Hun leader and averted the fall of Rome. Attila was willing to be guided by Leo both because of his holiness and because of a vision he had of the Apostles Peter and Paul, standing behind Leo and threatening Attila with a flaming sword.

Leo not only saved Rome, he also contributed greatly to the safeguarding of Orthodoxy against the heresy of Eutyches and Dioscorus. This heresy consisted in the merging of the divine and human natures of Christ into one, and, following from this, the denial of the existence of two wills in the Person of our Lord and Saviour. This led to the summoning of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon, at which St Leo's Epistle was read - a letter which St Leo, after writing it, had placed on the tomb of St Peter, and which St Peter had corrected. As death drew near, he spent forty days in fasting and prayer by the tomb of the Apostle Peter, begging him to tell him if his sins were forgiven. The Apostle appeared to him and assured him that they were, except for his sins in the ordaining of priests (from which it is seen how grave a sin it is to ordain an unworthy man). The saint fell to prayer again, until he was told that these also were wiped out. Then he gave his soul to the Lord in peace. St Leo entered into rest in the year 461.

2. St Flavian.

He was Patriarch of Constantinople after St Proclus, in 446, and was a contemporary of Pope Leo. He battled firmly against Eutyches and Dioscorus, but did not live to see the triumph of Orthodoxy at the Fourth Council, for, before that, he was so mercilessly thrashed and trampled on at a heretical council in Ephesus that he died there. He was a faithful soldier of Christ and a courageous defender and confessor of the Orthodox faith. He entered into rest in 449.

Reflection

With great difficulty and with even greater effort and sacrifice, the tares of heresy were sifted from the wheat of the truth of Orthodoxy. The heretics have always made use of lower means and mediocre persons in undermining Orthodoxy. Archmandrite Eutyches of Constantinople and Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who spread the heretical teaching, that there were not two natures in Christ, Divine and Human, rather one nature, had as their ally in the imperial court the mediocre eunuch Chrysaphius. Empress Eudoxia was secretly aligned with them. Patriarch Flavian, as a lion, fearlessly defended Orthodoxy in which he was assisted by Plucheria, the sister of the emperor. The eunuch Chrysaphius presented to Emperor Theodosius the most disgusting slanders against Flavian in order that the emperor would remove him from the throne and bring in the heretic Eutyches as patriarch. When this and all else did not succeed, the heretics plotted to kill Flavian. At the Robber Council in Ephesus [431 A.D.] they beat him so badly and trampled upon him that St. Flavian, on the third day, gave up his soul to God. What happened in the end? At the Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon 451 A.D.], Eutyches and Dioscorus were anathematized. The eunuch was ousted from the court and shamefully ended his life. The Empress Eudoxia was banished from Constantinople to Palestine. Flavian and Plucheria were proclaimed as saints and the Orthodox Faith victoriously confirmed.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus among the Pharisees and Scribes:

  1. How He made every effort to uplift the Pharisees and Scribes and to save them, and how they made every effort to overthrow and kill Him;
  2. How He wished to correct their every thought and word, and how they wished to twist His every thought and word;
  3. How He was saddened, that He could not enliven them and how they were saddened that they were unable to kill Him.

Homily

About the struggle of the weak with the Almighty

"And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too" (St. John 12:10).

They agreed among themselves to first kill the Maker and then His work. For Lazarus was the work of Christ. What is the use, they nefariously thought, to kill the Miracle-worker and to leave a living witness of His greatest miracle? For then, the people would be inflamed at them as evil doers! But, nevertheless, it happened that they killed Christ and missed Lazarus. And then? And then, they and their think alikes - killed scores of His apostles and missed hundreds. Then they killed thousands and missed hundreds of thousands. Then, they killed hundreds of thousands and missed millions. Finally it became clear that behind their backs, even the slain were resurrected to life as mown grass and those designated to be killed before the faces of the murderers, grew as sown grass. In vain did the wise Gamaliel say: "But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them" (Acts of the Apostles 5:39). Those who wage war against God throughout the centuries in vain did they hone their own helplessness to mow down the crop of God. The more they cut down, the more the crops of God grew luxuriantly.

O unreasonable combatants against Christ, those of that time and the present! Your mace rebounds from the city of Christ and strikes your own shed and destroys it into dust and ashes. Throughout the ages, you have had enough allies: besides the devil, with you were heretics, idolaters, fanatics, soothsayers, divinators depraved princes and the wealthy, tyrants and all insensitive sinners. Up to now you have been defeated and without any doubt all of your allies together with you will be defeated to the end of time.

For that let it be to You O Almighty and irresistible Lord glory and praise always. Amen.

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