Prologue from Ochrid - March 18 [March 31]
1. St Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem.
Born in Jerusalem in the time of Constantine the Great, he died in 386, in the time of Theodosius the Great. He was ordained priest in 346, and in 350 succeeded the blessed Patriarch Maximus on the patriarchal throne of Jerusalem. He was three times deposed from his throne and sent into exile; until in the end, in the time of Theodosius, he did not return but lived a further eight years in peace and gave his soul to the Lord. He had two great struggles: one against the Arians, who became strong under Constans, Constantine's son, and the other in the time of Julian the Apostate, with this renegade and with the Jews. In a time of Arian domination, at Pentecost, the sign of the Cross, brighter than the sun, appeared stretching over Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and remaining several hours from nine o'clock in the morning. A letter was sent to the Emperor Constans about this happening, which was seen by all living in Jerusalem, and this served for the strengthening of Orthodoxy against the heretics. In the time of the Apostate, another sign took place. In order to humiliate the Christians, Julian arranged with the Jews for them to rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Cyril prayed to God that this should not happen. And there was a terrible earthquake which destroyed all that had been newly-built. The Jews began again, but again there was an earthquake, that destroyed not only the new building but also the old stones that were still in place beneath the earth. And so the words of the Lord came true: 'Not one stone shall remain on another.' Of this saint's many writings there has been kept his 'Catecheses', a first-class work, which sets out the faith and practice of Orthodoxy to the present day. A rare arch-pastor and a great ascetic, he was meek, humble, worn out by fasting and pale of face. After a life of great labour and knightly battle for the Orthodox faith, he entered peacefully into rest and went to the eternal courts of the Lord.
2. Aninus the Wonderworker.
Born in Chalce on, he was little of stature, like Zaccheu , but great in spirit and faith. He denied himself to the world at the age of fifteen and settled near the River Euphrates in a little hut, where he atoned for his sins and prayed to God, at first with his teacher Mayum and than, after Mayum's death, alone. By the power of his prayers he filled an empty well with water, healed the sick of various pains and tamed wild beasts. There was a tamed lion with him as his servant. He had insight into distant happenings. When robbers attacked a stylite, Pionius, at some distance from him, and beat him up to such an extent that he decided to come down from his pillar and go to complain to the judges, St Aninus saw his intention in his soul and sent him a letter by means of his lion, telling him to set aside his intention, to forgive his assaulters and to continue in his asceticism. He was inexpressibly generous. The bishop of Neo-Caesarea made a gift to him of a donkey, to ease his carrying of water from the river, but he gave this donkey to some poor man who had complained to him of his poverty. The bishop gave him a second donkey, but he gave that away. Then the bishop gave him a third donkey, not for his own but only to serve as a water-carrier, to be kept and returned. At the time of his death, he saw Moses, Aaron and Or coming to him and calling: 'Aninus, the Lord is calling you. Get up and come with us.' This he revealed to his disciples, and gave his spirit to the Lord whom he had served so faithfully. He was 110 years old when he finished his earthly course.
There are many vindictive people who think that time brought greatness to Christ, and how, in the early centuries of Christianity, the Lord was not thought of as highly as He was thought of in later times. Nothing is easier than to squelch this untruth. Here is the way St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes about the Lord Christ, "This is He Who is and He Who was, [He Is] consubstantial with the Father, [He Is] the Only-Begotten, [He Is] equally enthroned, [He Is] equal in power, [He Is] Almighty, [He Is] without beginning, [He Is] uncreated, [He Is] unchangeable, [He Is] indescribable, [He Is] invisible, [He Is] inexpressible, [He Is] incomprehensible, [He Is] immeasurable, [He Is] unfathomable, [He Is] uncircumscribed. He is the "brightness of His [Father's] Glory" (Hebrews 1:3). He is the Creator [Author] of the substance of all things created. He is the Light of Light, shining from the bosom of the Father. He is God of gods "?The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken? " (Psalm 49:1 LXX (49:1 Douay-Rheim/50:1 KJV))),and God of God who gives us knowledge of Himself. He is the Fountain of Life "For with you is the Fountain of our life" (Psalm 35:10 (36:9)), flowing from the Father's Fountain of life. He is the River of God; "There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God" (Psalm 45:5 (46:4)), "The river of God is full of water" (Psalm 64:10 (65:9)) Who comes forth from the infinity of God but is not separated from Him. He is the Treasury of the Father's good gifts and endless blessings. He is the Living Water that gives life to the world. "But whoever drinks the water I shall give you will never thirst; the water I shall give you will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (St. John 4:14). He is the uncreated light that is begotten but not separated from the First Sun. He is God the Word [Logos]; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (St. John 1:1), Who with one word [He] brought forth all things from non-existence into being. "All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be" (St. John 1:3). This is He Who created us in the image of God and has now made Himself man in our image, but at the same time God. Even today, after sixteen centuries since this Confession of Faith was written, the Orthodox Church adheres to this same Faith, word for word and letter for letter.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus mocked on the cross:
- How they write this scorn above his head, "King of the Jews" St. Matthew 27:37 - St. Mark 15-27 - St. Luke 23:38);
- How those passing by scorned Him, shaking their heads and reviling Him;
- How even the thief on the cross reviles Him;
- How even throughout the centuries the persecutors of the Christians scorn Him.
About the King who does not wish to defend Himself with an army
"Do you think that I cannot call upon My Father and He will not provide Me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels" (St. Matthew 26:53).
Thus spoke the Lord to the disciple who drew the sword to defend his Teacher in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is obvious from these words that the Lord could have defended Himself, if He wanted to, not only from Judas and his company of guards, but also from Pilate and the leaders of the Jews. For the might of one angel is greater than the greatest army of men, much less the might of twelve legions of angels. The Lord did not want to seek this help from the Father. In His prayer in Gethsemane, He said to His Father, "Let Your will be done" (St. Matthew 26:42). With that, He immediately knew the Will of the Father and that it was necessary that He be given over to suffering. He was in agreement with the Will of His Father and set out on the path of suffering. It was necessary to allow the background to be portrayed gloomier in order that the resurrection would be brighter. It was necessary to allow evil to compete as much as it could so that, afterwards, it would explode and disintegrate into nothing. It was necessary to allow evil to cry aloud so that, soon after, it would become speechless before the miraculous resurrection. It was necessary that all the wicked deeds of men against God be manifested so that they would be able to see and appraise the love and mercy of God toward mankind. The angels of God were not sent to defend Christ from the Jews; rather, the angels of God were sent, after three days, to announce the holy resurrection of Christ.
O Lord, All-Powerful and All-Merciful, have mercy on us and save us!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK