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Prologue from Ochrid - May 11 [May 24]

1. Saints Cyril and Methodius, Equal to the Apostles.

They were brothers from Salonica, of eminent and wealthy parents, Leo and Maria. The elder brother, Methodius, spent ten years as an officer among the Slavs in Macedonia, and thus learned the Slavic language. After that, Methodius went off to Olympus and gave himself to monastic asceticism, and Cyril (Constantine) later joined him there. When the Khazarite king, Kagan, sought preachers of the Christian faith from the Emperor Michael, the Emperor commanded that these two brothers be found and sent to the Khazars. They converted Kagan to the Christian faith and baptised him, together with a great number of his nobles and an even greater number of the people. After some time, they returned to Constantinople, where they compiled a Slavic alphabet of 38 letters and began to translate the service books from Greek into Slavonic. At the invitation of Prince Rastislav, they went to Moravia, where, with great devotion, they spread and confirmed the Faith, made more copies of the books, brought them priests and taught the young. They went to Rome at the invitation of the Pope, and Cyril fell ill and died there, on February 14th, 869. Then Methodius returned to Moravia and laboured at the confirming of the Faith among the Slavs until his death. After his death - he entered into rest in the Lord on April 6th, 885 - his disciples, the Five Followers, with St Clement as bishop at the beginning, crossed the Danube and moved towards the south, to Macedonia, where, from Ochrid, they continued the work among the Slavs that Cyril and Methodius had begun in the north.

2. The Hieromartyr Mocius.

A Roman by birth, and a priest in Amphipolis in Macedonia, he suffered in the time of Diocletian. He destroyed a statue of the god Dionysius by his prayers, which roused some of the pagans to fury against him but brought others to the Faith. He was beheaded for Christ in 295.

3. St Nicodemus, Archbishop of Pec.

This great hierarch was a Serb by birth. He lived in asceticism on the Holy Mountain, and was abbot of Hilandar. After the death of Sava the Third, he was chosen as archbishop of 'all the Serbian lands and those bordering the sea', in 1317. He crowned King Milutin in 1321. He also translated the Jerusalem Typikon* into Serbian. In the Preface of this book he says: 'Almighty God, who knows our weaknesses, will give us spiritual strength, but only if we first make an effort.' He sincerely loved the ascetic life, and laboured to deepen it in the land of Serbia. He laboured tirelessly to uproot the Bogomil heresy and confirm the Orthodox faith. He entered into rest in the Lord in 1325 and his wonderworking relics are preserved in the monastery at Pec.

* A Typikon is a book of rubrics for the ordering of church services and of monastic life - Translator.

Reflection

In the encampment of the Saracens they asked St. Cyril: "How could Christians wage war and at the same time keep the commandment of Christ about praying to God for their enemies?" To that, St. Cyril replied: "If two commandments were written in one law and given to men for fulfilling, which man will be a better follower of the law: the one who fulfills one commandment or the one who fulfills both?" To that, the Saracens replied: "Undoubtedly, he who fulfills both commandments." St. Cyril continued: "Christ our God commands us to pray to God for those who persecute us and even to do good to them; but, He also said to us: greater love cannot be shown in this world than if one lay down his life for his friends." "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (St. John 15:13). That is why we bear the insults which our enemies do to us individually and we pray to God for them; and, as a society, we defend one another and give up our lives, that you would not somehow enslave our brethren, would not enslave their souls with their bodies and would not kill them in body and soul.

Contemplation

To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:

  1. How from the simple, He makes wise;
  2. How from the inarticulate, He makes them eloquent.

Homily

About the irresistible will of God

"I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it" (Jeremiah 20:9).

If anyone still doubts that God spoke through the prophets, let him read this confession of the great prophet Jeremiah and let him doubt no more. The prophet confesses that he had decided not to speak anymore in the Name of the Lord. Why? Because so few paid attention to his word. If anyone heeded his word the prophet endured "reproach and derision daily" (Jeremiah 20:8). But, when he decided to remain silent, did he, in fact, remain silent? No, he could not: "I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it!" He was so pressed by the irresistible power of the Spirit of God upon him to speak and he had to speak. It is, therefore, not the affair of the prophet whether he is going to speak or not: that is the affair of the All-powerful Spirit of God. The prophet is merely the chosen vessel of the All-powerful Spirit of God. All of Holy Scripture is written thusly - not according to the will of man but according to the will of God, and not according to the mind of man but according to the mind of God.

How does the word of God feel when it enters the prophet from the Spirit of God; this the great Jeremiah explains from his personal experience: "It becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones." That means, inspiration from the All-powerful Spirit of God. Under such irresistible internal pressure - as under the pressure of fire imprisoned in my bones - wrote the holy man of God. And many of them cried out: "I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it anymore." Who will go against the Spirit of God without punishment and destruction? Who will withstand Him when He wants to say something or to do something?

Only my brethren, the action of God the Holy Spirit is irresistible!

O All-powerful Spirit of God, direct us irresistibly on the path of salvation.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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