Prologue from Ochrid - May 9 [May 22]
1. The Holy Prophet Isaiah.
This great prophet was of royal birth. He was born in Jerusalem of Amoz the brother of Amaziah, King of the Jews. By the great grace of God that was within him, Isaiah was made worthy to see the Lord of Sabaoth on His heavenly throne, surrounded by six-winged seraphim which cried unceasingly: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord of Sabaoth' (Is. 6). Isaiah prophesied many things, both to individuals and to nations. Once he walked for three days naked through the streets of Jerusalem, prophesying the imminent fall of the city to the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, and warning the King and the leaders of the people not to seek help from Egypt and Ethiopia, because they too would shortly be over-run by the same Sennacherib, but to seek the aid of the all-seeing God. And this prophecy, like all the rest, was literally fulfilled (37:31-35). But his most important prophecies were on the incarnation of God, on the conception of the most pure Mother of God, on John the Baptist and on many events in the life of Christ. This seer, because of his pure heart and zeal for God, also received the gift of working miracles. Thus, when the besieged city of Jerusalem was suffering from thirst, he prayed to God and water flowed out from beneath the hill of Sion. This water was named Siloam (Sent), and it was to that water that, later, the Lord sent the man born blind, to wash himself and receive his sight (Is. 8:6; Jn 9:7). In the time of King Manasseh, when Isaiah thundered against the pagan practices of the king and the leaders of the people, comparing that generation with Sodom and Gomorrah, the anger of the leaders and the people was lifted up against this great prophet, and he was seized, taken out of Jerusalem and sawn in half. He lived and prophesied seven hundred years before Christ.
2. St Nicolas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia.
On this day is commemorated the translation of his relics. In the time of the Emperor Alexius I Comnenus and Patriarch Nicolas Grammaticus, in 1087, the body of this saint was taken from Myra in Lycia to the town of Bari in Italy. This came to pass because of a Moslem attack on Lycia. The saint appeared to a priest in Bari and commanded that his relics be taken there. At that time, the town of Bari was Orthodox and under the administration of an Orthodox patriarch. At the translation of the saint's relics, many miracles were wrought on those who touched them, and a healing myrrh flowed in abundance from them. Also on this day is commemorated the miracle worked by St Nicolas on Stefan of Decani, King of Serbia. This was when the saint restored the sight of the blind King Stefan.
3. The Holy Martyr Christopher.
A great wonderworker, he is especially venerated in Spain. His help is invoked particularly against infectious illnesses and great pestilence. He was martyred for Christ and glorified in 249.
Every Christian can accept for himself martyrdom for the Faith, in time of persecution as well as in time of peace. Abba Athanasius says: "Be tortured by your conscience, die to sin, subdue earthly organs and you will be a martyr according to your wishes. They [the persecuted and the martyrs] fought with emperors and princes; you also have the king of sins - the devil and demonic princes. Before, there were idols, pagan temples and those who offer sacrifice to the idols. And now, they exist as thoughts in the soul. He who is a slave to debauchery worships the idol of Aphrodite. He who becomes angry and enraged worships the idol of Ares. He who is avaricious and closed to the pain and misery of his neighbor worships the idol Hermes. If you refrain from all of this and preserve yourself from passions, you have overcome idols, you have rejected an evil belief and have become a martyr for the True Faith." Therefore, a man need not especially yearn for persecution and martyrdom. Everyone can and at all times endure martyrdom for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.
To contemplate the Descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
- How all the men wonder and marvel listening to the apostles speak in different tongues;
- How some mocked them saying: "They have had too much new wine" (Acts of the Apostles 2:13).
About the curse of man who trusts in man
"Thus says the Lord: cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5).
When man alienates himself from God in his heart he usually trusts in men and in himself, for in who else can he otherwise trust when he untied his rowboat from God's boat? Since he has already untied his rowboat from God's boat, nothing else remains for him except to trust in his rowboat or in the rowboat of his neighbors. Weak trust, but there is no other for him! Weeping trust above the abyss of destruction, but there is no other!
But, O heaven and earth, why did man untie his rowboat from God's boat? What happened to man that he flees from his security? What kind of calculation did he calculate when he discovered it would be better for him alone on the tempestuous waves than in the household of God and near the hem of God! With whom did he make an alliance when he breached the alliance with God? Is it with someone stronger than God? Foolishness, foolishness, foolishness!
"Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings." This, God spoke once and men have repeated this thousands of times. Being disappointed in their trust in men, men have cursed thousands of times those who have trusted in man. God has said only that which men experienced only too well and confirmed by their experience, i.e., how, indeed, cursed is the man who trusts in man!
Brethren, that is why we should have trust in God Who is the stable boat on the tempest and Who does not betray. Let us have trust only in Him for all other trust is a devilish illusion. In You do we trust, O Lord, our fortress and refuge. Tie us along side You and do not allow us to untie ourselves, if we, by our foolishness and cursedness, attempt to untie ourselves from You.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK