Prologue from Ochrid - May 15 [May 28]
1. Our Holy Father Pachomius the Great.
He was an Egyptian by birth and was a pagan in his youth. As a soldier, he took part in the Emperor Constantine's war against Maxentius. After that, learning from Christians about the one God and seeing their devout life, Pachomius was baptised and went to the Tabennisiot desert, to the famous ascetic Palamon, with whom he lived in asceticism for ten years. Then an angel appeared to him in the robes of a monk of the Great Habit at the place called Tabennisi and gave him a tablet on which was written the rule of a cenobitic monastery, commanding him to found such a monastery in that place and prophesying to him that many monks would come to it seeking the salvation of their souls. Obeying the angel of God, Pachomius began building many cells, although there was no-one in that place but himself and his brother John. When his brother grumbled at him for doing this unnecessary building, Pachomius simply told him that he was following God's command, without explaining who would live there, or when. But many men soon assembled in that place, moved by the Spirit of God, and began to live in asceticism under the rule that Pachomius had received from the angel. When the number of monks had increased greatly, Pachomius, step by step, founded six further monasteries. The number of his disciples grew to seven thousand. St Antony is regarded as the founder of the eremitic life, and St Pachomius of the monastic, communal life. The humility, love of toil and abstinence of this holy father were and remain a rare example for the imitation of monks. St Pachomius performed innumerable miracles, and also endured innumerable temptations from demons and men. And he served men as both father and brother. He roused many to set out on the way of salvation, and brought many into the way of truth. He was and remains a great light in the Church and a great witness to the truth and righteousness of Christ. He entered peacefully into rest in 346, at the age of sixty. The Church has raised many of his followers to the ranks of the saints: Theodore, Job, Paphnutius, Pecusius, Athenodorus, Eponichus, Soutus, Psois, Dionysius, Petronius and others.
2. St Achillius, Bishop of Larissa.
This great hierarch and wonderworker was born in Cappadocia. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council, at which he put the heretics to shame and, both by his great learning and his great purity, gave cause for much wonder. Taking up a stone, Achillius called to the Arians: 'If Christ is a creature of God, as you say, tell oil to flow from this stone.' The heretics kept silent, amazed at this demand by St Achillius. Then the saint continued: 'And if the Son of God is equal to the Father, as we believe, then let oil flow from this stone.' And oil flowed out, to the amazement of all. St Achillius entered peacefully into rest in Larissa in the year 330. Samuel, King of Macedonia, when he conquered Thessaly, translated the relics of Achillius to Prespa, to an island in a lake that was named, and is called to this day, Achillius or Ailus.
3. Our Holy Father Silvanus.
He was at first a comedian, mimicking each and all, but then, inflamed by the love of Christ, he became a disciple of St Pachomius. 'I would be ready to give my life,' he said, 'to receive the forgiveness of my sins.'
When a tyrant commits violence against the righteous out of greed, then the violence brings about one benefit and one detriment i.e., a detriment to the tyrant and a benefit to the one who violently suffered. Boris Godunov murdered Dimitri, the eight-year old crown prince in order to gain control of the throne without competition. The imperial days of Boris ended quickly and the tyrant was given over to decay and accursedness and Dimitri was proclaimed a saint. After fifteen years of lying in the grave, the body of Dimitri was exhumed and found to be uncorrupt and miracle-working. There were forty-five miraculous healings which occurred over his body. Whose, therefore, is the detriment and whose is the benefit from tyranny? If the tyrant knew, that by his tyranny, he would help his opponent to be included among the saints and that he would prepare defeat and damnation for himself, he would desist from planned violence. But a crooked-thought is the forerunner and companion of tyranny.
To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
- How, by the Holy Spirit, the apostles receive the mystical visions of the other world;
- How, by the Holy Spirit, the apostles perceive the mysteries in the hearts of men.
About the prophesied and actual destruction of the idols of Egypt
"And the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall burn with fire" (Jeremiah 43:13).
Who will burn them? Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon my servant, said the Lord. This prophecy came true. Nebuchadrezzar conquered Egypt and he destroyed the houses of the false gods by fire; the idols of the Egyptians. He burned them but he did not destroy them forever. For after that came the destruction of Babylon, again according to the prophecy of the holy Prophet Jeremiah and Babylon became and, even until today, remains "heaps, a dwelling place for dragons, an astonishment and a hissing, without an inhabitant" (Jeremiah 51:37). But, in a tradition which was recorded by St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, there remained the other prophecy of Jeremiah about the final destruction of the idols of Egypt: "All the idols will fall," says this prophecy, "and all that is made by hand will be destroyed at the time when the Virgin Mother comes here with the young Child born in a cave and placed in a manger." And this prophecy was preserved by the pagan priests themselves who, from the time of Jeremiah, introduced the custom of depicting the Virgin as she reclines on a bed and her young Child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.
Nebuchadnezzar, the servant by God's permission, could only have mowed evil but not pluck it out by the roots. But mowed evil, like mowed grass, grows again. When the Lord came to earth, He plucked out evil by the roots. Nebuchadnezzar, the servant, burned the temples and the idols but the temples were also rebuilt and new idols were made for they were not plucked out from the souls of men. When the Lord came and began His reign in the souls of the Egyptians, the temples and idols fell forever. So it is the same with the disobedient Jews who waged battle against God. Nebuchadnezzar, the servant, had taken them into bondage for seventy years and the offended Lord scattered them throughout the entire world where many of them find themselves in dispersion today even after two-thousand years. This scattering of the Jewish people throughout the entire world was clearly prophesied by Jeremiah. And so, time justified the prophet of God in all his words.
O All-seeing Lord, grant us that we adhere to the words of Your true prophet.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK