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Prologue from Ochrid - May 2 [May 15]

1. The Holy Martyrs Hesperus, Zoë, Cyriac and Theodulus.

In the time of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), a pagan called Catallus bought Hesperus, his wife Zoë and their sons Cyriac and Theodulus as slaves. Being convinced Christians, they refused to eat anything that had been sacrificed to idols, but threw all that had been thus offered to the dogs, and themselves went hungry. Catallus, discovering this, became very angry and began to torture his slaves cruelly. He first tortured the children, but they remained unfaltering in the Faith and sought yet harsher tortures. At last all four of them were cast into a burning furnace where, after prayers of thanksgiving, they gave their spirits into the Lord's hands. Their bodies remained whole and untouched by the fire.

2. St Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria.

On this day are commemorated the translation of his relics and their miracles. The life and work of this great saint are written on January 18th.

3. The Holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb.

They were sons of the great Prince Vladimir, Baptiser of the Russian people. Until his baptism, Vladimir had many wives, and children by them. Boris and Gleb were brothers of one mother. Before his death in 1015, Vladimir divided the Kingdom among all his sons. But Svyatopolk, his eldest son and Prince of Kiev, desired to take the parts that were set aside for Boris and Gleb, so he sent men to kill Boris in one place and Gleb in another. Both brothers were deeply devout and pleasing to God in all things, and they met death with prayer and the lifting up of their hearts to Him. Their bodies remained uncorrupt and fragrant, and were buried in the town of Vishgorod, where to this day blessed strength flows forth from them to heal men of divers ills and sufferings.

4. St Michael (Boris), King of Bulgaria.

Born and brought up as a pagan, Boris was baptised under the guidance of uncle, Boyan, and his own sister. At his baptism, he received the name Michael. Patriarch Photius sent him priests, who little by little baptised the whole Bulgarian people. Many of the nobles opposed this new Faith, but it was victorious, and the Cross glittered on many churches built by the devout King Michael. The Faith among the Bulgarians, as among the Serbs, was especially strengthened by the Five Followers of Ochrid, disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who preached the knowledge of Christ to the people in the vernacular Slavonic language.

Michael became a monk in old age, and withdrew to a monastery. But when his son Vladimir began to ruin his father's work and exterminate the Christians, Michael again put on his military uniform, took his sword, threw Vladimir down from the throne and replaced him with his younger son Simeon. He then put on his monastic habit again and withdrew to tranquillity, where, in asceticism and prayer, he finished his earthly course peacefully, 'in good faith and a true confession of our Lord Jesus Christ, great and honoured', and went to the heavenly world on May 2nd, 906.

Reflection

Blessed Maksim, "fool for Christ," walked about unclad throughout the streets of Moscow in winter. In response to the advice of men that he dress and protect himself from the cold, Maxim was known to respond: "Yes, it is bitterly cold, but Paradise is sweet!" He also responded: "For patience, God grants salvation!" When Christ Himself did not feel sorrow to give Himself over to suffering and death, why should we feel sorry for ourselves because of ourselves? He [Christ] prescribed a recipe for us; a diet for our spiritual restoration to health and He called that "an easy yoke." "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (St. Matthew 11:30). The yoke which we impose upon ourselves is much heavier, for this yoke pulls us down deeper and deeper into spiritual illness. The earth seeks much greater sacrifices from us and does not promise us any reward after death. The earth seeks that we sacrifice even God, soul, conscience, mind and all of human and divine dignity to it and, for this, it shows a dark and putrid grave as the end of everything and reward for all. Christ seeks that we sacrifice only the earth, our beastliness and sin, vice and all wickedness and, for that, He promises resurrection and eternal life in Paradise. "Yes, it is bitterly cold, but Paradise is sweet!"

Contemplation

To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:

  1. How the disciples worship Him;
  2. How they return to Jerusalem with great joy.

Homily

About the source of living water and the dry cistern

"Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the Lord. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken Me, the sourceof living waters. They have dug, themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water" (Jeremiah 2: 12-13).

Is this spoken only for then or also for us today? Certainly for us today. Is this spoken only for the Jewish people or also for our people? Certainly for our people also. As it is said: Do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness. It was said not only for that time but also for all times and not only for the Jewish people but for all peoples. And so this also. This is valid today and always, for all peoples and for every man who turns his back on the source of living water in his own backyard and digs a cistern and drinks rain water from it.

The source of living water is the Lord Himself; inexhaustible, copius and sweet. The cistern is the work of every man which is performed in opposition to God and God's law and from which men expect progress, happiness and satisfaction for their hunger and thirst. Such a cistern is godless, avaricious, gluttonous, immoral, power-hungry, vain, idolatrous, soothsaying and everything else which has the devil as an advisor, sin as a digger and false hope for a water-carrier. "Be amazed at this O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror" says the Lord as to how man became senseless and began to forsake the living water and to dig a cistern in hot live coals which inflames his thirst even more!

O brethren, our people have also committed two evils for they forgot the Lord as the source of every good and because they went to seek, for themselves, good in evil and good through evil. Can water be found in fire? Or wheat in sand? It cannot; cannot, brethren. Even less can peace, happiness, joy and life or any other good be found in the cisterns of sin and godlessness.

O Lord, immortal source of every good which the heart of man can desire and which the mind of man can imagine, have mercy on us sinners and unworthy ones. With Your powerful right hand, turn us away from our godless and vain works and quench us with Your sweet and living water.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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