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Prologue from Ochrid - May 1 [May 14]

1. The Holy Prophet Jeremiah.

Born 650 years before Christ in the village of Anathoth, not far from Jerusalem, he began to prophesy at an early age, during the reign of King Josiah (Jer. 1:1- 19). He preached repentance to the King and nobles and the false prophets and priests, and, in the time of that King Josiah, barely escaped death at the hands of the enraged nobles. He prophesied to King Jehoiakim that his burial would be like that of an ass; that is, he would be cast dead out of Jerusalem and his body would be for a long time dragged around the ground without burial (22:18). For this, Jeremiah was thrown into prison. Being unable to write there, he sent for Baruch, who stood outside the window of the prison while Jeremiah dictated to him. When the King read this prophecy, he took the paper in fury and threw it into the fire. By the providence of God, Jeremiah was saved from prison, and the words of the prophecy were fulfilled upon Jehoiakim. He prophesied to King Jeconiah that he would be carried off to Babylon with his whole family and that he would die there, all of which quickly came to pass (24: 1; 27:20). Under King Zedekiah, he put a yoke on his neck and walked through Jerusalem prophesying the fall of the city and slavery under the yoke of Babylon (27:2). He wrote to the slaves in Babylon, telling them that they would not return to Jerusalem but would remain for seventy years in Babylon, which came to pass (25:11). In the valley of Topnet, near Jerusalem, where the Jews had brought children to the idols for sacrifice, Jeremiah took a whole pot in his hands and smashed it in front of the people, prophesying the imminent crushing of the Jewish Kingdom (19: 10-11). The Babylonians soon over-ran Jerusalem, killed King Zedekiah, burned the city down and utterly destroyed it. They slaughtered an enormous number of Jews in the valley of Topnet, in the place where children had died as sacrifices to idols and where the prophet had broken the pot. Jeremiah, with the Levites, took the Ark out of the Temple and bore it off to the mountain of Nebo, where Moses had died, and hid it in a cave. He hid the fire from the altar in a deep well. He was forced by some Jews to go with them to Egypt, where he lived for four years and was then stoned to death by his countrymen. He prophesied to the Egyptians the destruction of their idols and the coming there of a Virgin with a Child. There is a tradition that Alexander the Great himself visited the grave of the Prophet Jeremiah,* and ordered that his body be moved and buried in Alexandria.

* Author's note: The Egyptians almost deified St Jeremiah, and they therefore buried him as a king. He was regarded as a wonderworker after his death. The dust from his tomb was taken as a medicine against snake-bite, and today many Christians invoke his help against it.

2. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Acacius the Slipper-Maker.

He was from the village of Neochorion, near Salonica. Being much ill-treated by his master in Serres, he became a Turk. After that, as a penitent and a monk, he lived at Hilandar. His poor and devout mother counselled him: 'As you voluntarily denied the Lord, so you must now voluntarily and courageously receive martyrdom for our sweet Jesus'. The son obeyed his mother, and, with the blessing of the fathers of the Holy Mountain, went off to Constantinople, where he was beheaded by the Turks on May 1st, 1815. His head is preserved in the monastery of St Panteleimon.

3. Our Holy Father Paphnutius of Borovsk.

The son of a Tartar noble who had earlier accepted the Christian faith, he became a monk at the age of twenty and remained in his monastery to the age of ninety-four, when he entered into rest in the Lord. He was a virgin and an ascetic, and, because of this, a great wonderworker and seer. He died in 1478.

Reflection

The Venerable Paphnutius of Borovsk said to his disciples that a man's soul and his hidden works can be known by the look in his eyes. To his disciples, this seemed unbelievable until this man of God confirmed this in reality on more than one occasion. Discerning the fate of others, Paphnutius also discerned his own fate. A week before, while still in good health, he prophesied that he would depart from this world on the following Thursday. When Thursday dawned, he cried out rejoicefully: "Behold, the day of the Lord, rejoice O you people; behold, the awaited day came!" Behold, this is how a man meets death; a man who, during his entire life, contemplated about separation from this world and about the encounter with God.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:

  1. How two angels appeared to the disciples while they were still gazing after the ascended Lord;
  2. How the angels proclaim that the Lord will come in the same manner as the disciples saw Him ascending into heaven.

Homily

About the power of the Lord's word

"Is not My word like the fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rocks " (Jeremiah 23:29).

Yes Lord, Your word is indeed like fire; like fire which warms the righteous and burns the unrighteous. And, indeed, Your word is like a hammer; a hammer which softens the stony hardness of the heart of a penitent and pulverizes the hearts of the unrepentant sinners into dust.

"Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us" (St. Luke 24:32), the apostles asked after talking with the resurrected Lord? When the heart in man is correct, it burns from the word of the Lord and it melts from pleasure and expands with love. But, when the heart in man is not correct and hardened by sin, then the heart bakes from the word of the Lord and becomes even harder. "And pharaoh's heart was hardened" (Exodus 8:19).

In vain do sinners fortify themselves in the fortresses of stone, in their fortresses of iron, in their fortresses of silver and gold and reject the armor of God's justice. As a powerful and irresistible hammer, such is the word of the Lord when He pronounces judgment upon these fortresses of stone in which sinners fortify themselves.

In vain does the unbeliever fortify his house with impregnable stones and the statesman fortifies the State, hardened with the wisdom of the world, and not hoping in the Living God. The word of the Lord comes down like a hammer upon all that was built apart from God or against God; as a powerful and irresistible hammer.

O brethren, let us not trust in our creations of stone, neither of marble nor of gold or of silver stones nor of the godless stones of our individual thoughts. All of these are weaker before the power of God than dust before the power of the wind.

O Lord Almighty, help us to receive Your word and, that on Your word, we may build our entire life both in this world and in the next world.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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