Prologue from Ochrid - May 16 [May 29]
1. Our Holy Father Theodore the Sanctified.
He was a disciple of St Pachomius, being born and growing up an unbeliever. Coming to the true Faith as a young man, he was baptised and, having heard of St Pachomius, fled to him in his monastery unknown to his parents. St Pachomius made him a monk and came to love him for his rare zeal and his obedience. When his mother came to fetch him back home, he would not let her see him, but prayed to God to enlighten her with the truth. And indeed, his mother not only did not take her son back home but herself did not return. Seeing a women's monastery, ruled by Pachomius's sister, close by, she entered it and was tonsured. After a certain time, Paphnutius, Theodore's brother, also came to the monastery and was tonsured. It once happened that the Bishop of Panopolis invited Pachomius to build a monastery for the many people who were desirous of the monastic life. Pachomius took Theodore with him, and entrusted to him the duty of building the monastery. Upon Pachomius's death, Theodore became abbot of all Pachomius's monasteries and lived until great old age, guiding a multitude of monks on the way of salvation. He entered peacefully into rest and went to the Kingdom of eternal light in the year 368.
2. The Blessed Maiden Musa.
St Gregory the Dialogist relates of her that she was a mere nine years old when the most holy Mother of God appeared to her on two occasions, surrounded by virgins bathed in light. When Musa expressed her desire to be included in the resplendent company of the Queen of heaven, the Mother of God told her that she would come for her and take her within a month, outlining for her how she should spend those thirty days. On the twenty-fifth day, Musa took to her bed and on the thirtieth day the most pure and holy Mother again appeared to her, calling to her in a quiet voice, to which Musa replied: 'Here I am waiting, my Lady! I'm ready!', and she breathed forth her spirit. She passed from this life to life eternal in the fifth century.
3. St Nicolas Mysticus, Patriarch of Constantinople.
He was renowned for the rare austerity of his life. The Emperor Leo VI had married four times, and the Patriarch therefore forbade him entry to the church, and the priests who had married him were unfrocked. The Emperor cast the Patriarch out and drove him into a monastery. The delegates of the Roman Pontiff, Sergius III, gave their approval to the Emperor's fourth marriage, but, when the Emperor died, Nicolas was restored to the patriarchal throne and called a Council in 925, at which fourth marriages were in general forbidden to Christians. 'Mysticus' signifies the senior member of the imperial council. This saint was such at first, then a high-ranking courtier, but after this he forsook the vanity of the world and was tonsured. He died peacefully in 930.
4. The Holy New Martyr Nicolas.
Born in Epirus, he suffered at the hands of the Turks for the Christian faith and was slain at Trikkala in 1617. The martyr's head is preserved to this day in one of the monasteries of the Meteora in Thessaly, and performs many miracles, heals the gravest sicknesses and is particularly renowned for driving locusts from crops.
5. Our Holy Fathers, the Martyrs of St Sava's.
In the time of the Emperor Heraclius, in about 610, forty-four monks of the community of St Sava the Sanctified suffered for the Christian faith. Their heroism and sufferings were recorded by St Antiochus (Dec. 24th).
When Theodore the Sanctified was in Panopolis with St. Pachomius, his spiritual father, a philosopher came to him and offered to debate with him about the Faith. The philosopher then posed these three questions to Theodore: "Who was not born, but died?" "Who was born and did not die?" "Who died and did not decay?" To these questions, St. Theodore replied: "Adam was not born and died. Enoch was born and did not die. Lot's wife died and did not decay." And the saint added this advice to the philosopher: "Heed our sound advice; depart from these useless questions and scholastic syllogisms; draw near to Christ Whom we are serving and you will receive forgiveness of sins." The philosopher became mute from such a pointed answer and being ashamed, he departed. From this, the enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. The one [the philosopher] looses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in logical provocations and in thoughtful sport while the other [the saint] directed his whole mind on the Living God and on the salvation of his soul. The one is abstract and dead, while the other is practical and alive.
To contemplate the action of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
- How the Holy Spirit miraculously guides the feet of the apostles to distant lands;
- How the Holy Spirit assembles them in Jerusalem from distant lands for the burial of the All-holy Birth-giver of God.
About the appearance of the prophet Jeremiah from the other world
"This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prays much for the people and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremiah the prophet of God" (2 Maccabees 15:13-14).
This was the vision which was seen by the courageous Judas Maccabees. The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah. Just as Moses and Elijah were seen in glory by the apostles on Mt. Tabor, thus, at one time Judas Maccabees saw the Prophet Jeremiah in glory. Not even before the resurrected Christ did God the Merciful leave men without proof of life after death. In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end. Whoever, even after all of this, doubts in life after death, that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone. As inanimate things cannot see the light of day, so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.
But, behold with what kind of glory is the Prophet Jeremiah wedded in the other life! "Gray hairs and exceeding glorious." Around him a certain indescribable dignity, a certain bright aureole, a certain inexpressible pleasure and beauty. He who was dragged and beaten by men to whom he communicated and imparted the will of God and who was a captive in prison and a martyr in a fetid hole and who was ridiculed as folly and was tried as a traitor and finally, as a transgressor, was stoned to death. However, one is the judgment of sinners, another is the judgment of God. The most humiliated among men became wedded with angelic glory before God.
And yet behold how heaven calls one, whom the earth called false, a traitor and a transgressor! "Lover of the brethren" this is how heaven called him. "Lover of the brethren" who prays much for the people. Finally, see how the saints in heaven pray to God for us! Not sleeping, they are praying for us while we are asleep; not eating, they are praying for us while we are eating and have over-eaten; not sinning, they are praying for us while we are sinning. O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends. Let us be ashamed, let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us by the saints and let us join with their prayers. O Lord All-wonderful, forgive us our sinful slothfulness and dullness.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK