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Prologue from Ochrid - May 18 [May 31]

1. The Holy Martyr Theodotus, and the seven maiden martyrs: Tecusa, Alexandra, Claudia, Favina, Euphrasia, Matrona and Julia.

Theodotus was a married man and an innkeeper in Ancyra in the time of the Emperor Diocletian. Although he was married, he lived according to the words of the Apostle: 'Let them who have wives be as though they had not' (I Cor. 7:29). But he kept the inn on, in order to be able unsuspectedly to help Christians, and his inn was a refuge for persecuted Christians. Theodotus secretly sent help to the Christian refugees in the mountains, and secretly gathered the bodies of those who had been killed, giving them burial. At that time, seven maidens were taken for trial and tortured for Christ. They were tortured, mocked and then thrown into a lake. One of them, St Tecusa, appeared to St Theodotus and told him to take her body out of the lake and bury it. Under cover of night, Theodotus set off with a companion to carry out the martyr's wishes, and, led by an angel of God, succeeded in finding all seven bodies and burying them. But this friend betrayed him to the authorities and the judge put him to harsh torture. Theodotus endured all the tortures as though not in his own body, having his whole mind steeped in God. When the torturers had made his body one great wound and broken his teeth with stones, it was ordered that he be beheaded. When he was taken to the scaffold, many Christians wept for him, but St Theodotus said to them: 'Don't weep for me, my brethren, but glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose aid I am finishing my course and overcoming the enemy.' Saying this, he laid his head on the block under the sword and was beheaded, in the year 303. A priest buried the martyr's body on a hill outside the city and a church dedicated to St Theodotus was later built on the site.

2. The Holy Martyrs Peter, Dionysius, Andrew, Paul and Christina.

Peter - a young and gifted man; Dionysius -a nobleman; Andrew and Paul - soldiers; and Christina - a sixteen-year-old girl; they all courageously confessed Christ the Lord and underwent torture and death for His name in the year 250. One Nicomachus, who was tortured with them denied Christ under torture, and instantly lost his mind, tearing at his body with his teeth and foaming at the mouth until he breathed his last.

3. The Holy Martyrs Heraclius, Paulinus and Benedimus.

They were Athenians, and suffered for the Faith in the time of Decius. They were thrown into a burning furnace for the name of Christ.

Reflection

To conceal your virtues and mortifications was the custom of ascetics, both female and male, not only in the earliest times of Christianity but throughout all ages to the present time. Eudocia, wife of the glorious Prince Dimitri of Don, the liberator of Russia from the Tartars, was left a comparatively young widow in the year 1389 A.D. Imbued with devoutness, this princess built many churches, distributed alms and secretly weakened her body by fasting and long vigils. She wore an iron chain around her body. Meanwhile, she always appeared happy before the public, clothed in opulence and adorned with pearls. The public said many things about her and they began to spread rumors about her immoral life. Her sons heard about this and, insulted and embittered openly informed their mother what was being rumored about her. The mother opened her luxurious robe and the children, with great horror, viewed her body which was completely withered, dried up and drawn in by the iron chains.

Contemplation

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

  1. How the Holy Spirit extends them comfort in sufferings;
  2. How occasionally, according to His pleasure, make their bodies unscathed by fire.

Homily

About the testimony of the Spirit of God

"The Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me" (St John 15:26).

God's Son sent God the Holy Spirit into the world to testify about Him until the end of time. "He will testify to Me."

How will God the Spirit testify about God the Son? God the Spirit will testify in many ways:

By attracting the souls of men to Christ's Church;

By revealing to them the meaning of the Holy Scripture;

By leading their minds to the commandments of Christ;

By giving warmth, freshness, power and gentleness to the words of Christ;

By converting repentant sinners into righteous ones;

By fulfilling all the promises and prophecies of Christ upon men and upon nations and upon God's Church;

By strengthening the Church of Christ and holding it firm against all the tempest of times and all the evils of Hades and menthroughout the ages of ages.

The Spirit which works in these and many other similar ways is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, Good, Life creating and All-powerful.

Not one of Christ's words goes against the Spirit of God nor does the Spirit of God go against a single word of Christ. That is why when the Spirit of God pleases to enter into the heart of man, He becomes alive and becomes a true witness to all that Christ said and did. Then, man believes joyfully and unwaveringly. For how would he not believe the greatest and the most enduring Eyewitness and Participator of all the words, all the miracles and all the works of Christ?

That is why, brethren, let us pray before all and above all that this Eyewitness and Participator, the Holy Spirit and All-powerful, settle in our hearts so that our faith may become alive, unwavering and joy-creating. O God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, come and abide in us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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