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Prologue from Ochrid - May 6 [May 19]

1. Holy, Righteous and Long-suffering Job.

Job was a descendant of Esau the grandson of Abraham, and lived in Arabia about 2,000 years before Christ. His father's name was Zareth and his mother's Bosora; his full name was Jobab. He was an honourable and God-fearing man, and was very rich. But when he reached the age of seventy-nine, God permitted heavy temptation from Satan to fall on him, as is written in detail in the Book of Job. In one day, Job lost all his great possessions and his sons and daughters. Then a great sickness fell on him, from which his whole body was covered with sores from top to toe, and Job lay on a rubbish heap outside the town and scoured his boils with sherds of broken pottery. But Job did not complain of God, but patiently endured all his sufferings to the end. Therefore the Lord restored his health and gave him riches greater than he had had before, and there were born to him seven sons and three daughters; as many as he had had before. And Job lived for 248 years, glorifying and praising God. Job is regarded as the model of patient endurance of every suffering that God sends us, and is a type of the suffering Christ.

2. The Holy Martyr Barbarus.

Barbarus was a soldier in the time of Julian the Apostate. When the imperial commander Bacchus led the Roman army against the Franks, Barbarus was in that army, a secret Christian. In this battle there appeared a hero on the Frankish side, like the earlier Goliath, and he challenged the Romans to send one of their number out to single combat. The commander told Barbarus to go. Barbarus prayed in his heart to the living Lord, went out and conquered this giant. As a result, the Frankish army was confused and overcome. Then the commander made a great Triumph, and ordered that sacrifice be made to idols. But, at this sacrificing, he noticed that Barbarus was standing to one side. When he asked him why, Barbarus revealed that he was a Christian. The commander informed the Emperor, and the Emperor commanded that Barbarus be put to the harshest torture, which Barbarus endured with rare courage and composure. At the time of his martyrdom, many marvels were seen and many soldiers, seeing them, embraced the Christian faith. Among these was the commander Bacchus himself, with Callimachus and Dionysius. All three of them were beheaded for the name of Christ and, after them, Barbarus, in 362. Their souls went to the Kingdom of Christ the immortal King.

3. St Barbarus the Robber.

After much evil-doing, he repented and punished himself, first by going on all fours for three years and eating with the dogs, and then by living for twelve years in a forest, without clothing or roof, and with no food but grass or leaves. He was told by an angel that his sins were forgiven. Some merchants travelling through the forest saw Barbarus from afar and, thinking that he was a wild beast and not a man, aimed arrows and shot him. Dying, he begged them to tell the local priest about him. The priest came and gave him burial, and from his body there came forth a healing myrrh, which healed all sorts of sicknesses and pains among the people.

Reflection

Abba Isaiah said of himself: "I see myself resembling a horse wandering around without a rider. Whoever finds him, sits on him and rides him to his content. When one rider dismounts the horse, another saddles him and does the same, and so with the third and so forth." This great ascetic, about whom everyone spoke with amazement that he had attained perfection, said this of himself either out of humility or from remembrance of his time of imperfection. The main thing is that these words are true in relation to every Christian who walks spiritually unbridled and unrestrained. Just as soon as one passion dismounted from him, another mounted him. Just as soon as one wearied him and left him in despair, another mounted him with deluded hope that it will make him happy. Such a man does not have a rider who would direct him to the true path without digressing to the left or to the right. The only friendly rider which should be greeted with a welcome is the holy and powerful Christian spirit.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:

  1. How He first resurrected bodily and then ascended bodily;
  2. How the souls of righteous men after death first ascend into heaven while the body awaits the general resurrection, general transfiguration and general ascension.

Homily

About the power that God gave to the words of the prophets

"Behold, I made My words in your mouth, a fire. And this people is the wood that it shall devour!" (Jeremiah 5:14).

You see brethren, that the effect of the word of God is different according to different people. The word of God is like fire, in whom the righteous one rejoices, as one frozen in the cold of this world; and the word of God is like fire which burns the unrighteous one whom this material world has overly warmed. The experienced spiritual fathers have left us proof that only the Name of Jesus brings power, joy and refreshment to the faithful - and this Name consumes evil spirits as a living fire. That is the way with every word of God. With some it creates comfort, with others irritation, with some it quiets anger, with others it increases anger, with some it provokes respect with fear and with others scorn. To the healthy it is honey; to the unhealthy it is the honey of wormwood.

But, why should the people be as wood which will be consumed? For, are the people to be blamed if the godless elders and false prophets lead them astray? The people are not to blame to such a degree as their elders and false prophets but nevertheless they are to blame to a certain extent. For God also gave the people to know the right path through conscience and through the preaching of God's word and the people should not blindly follow their blind leaders when they lead them on the false paths and distance them from God and God's law. Brethren, God is Just and He knows the measure of everyone's faults, and He will not permit the illiterate and the least to suffer as much as the literate and the greatest.

O All-seeing God, save us that we neither be blind leaders not blind followers. Strengthen our hearts that, as leaders and as followers, we will always be Your servants and only Your servants.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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