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Prologue from Ochrid - April 26 [May 9]

1. The Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea.

Licinius, the brother-in-law of the Emperor Constantine, whose sister he had married, dissembled before the great Emperor, saying that he was a Christian. When he received authority over the whole of the East, he began, at first secretly but then publicly, to persecute the Christians and to uphold idolatry. His wife grieved greatly over this, but could not turn her husband back from this dishonour. Giving himself over to idolatry, Licinius gave himself over to all the passions, and especially to brutality towards women. Through this fall into such an impure passion, he desired to deflower the maiden Glaphyra, who was in waiting at the imperial court. She complained to the Empress, who sent her away from the court at Nicomedia secretly to the coast of Pontus. The maiden got as far as the town of Amasea, and was there warmly received by the bishop, Basil, and the other Christians. Glaphyra was very joyful that God had preserved her virginity, and wrote of this to the Empress. And the Empress rejoiced and sent her money for the Church in Amasea. But one letter of Glaphyra's, on its way to the Empress, fell into the hands of an imperial eunuch, who showed it to Emperor Licinius. Discovering where Glaphyra was to be found, he immediately sent orders that she and the bishop be brought to Nicomedia. In the meantime, Glaphyra died, and the soldiers brought only Basil, in bonds. After torture and imprisonment, this blessed man was beheaded and thrown into the sea, in the year 322. His priests, with the help of an angel of God, found his body near the town of Synope, took it out of the water with the aid of fishing nets and carried it to Amasea, where they gave it burial in the church which he had built by his labours. The Emperor Constantine raised an army against Licinius, overcame him, arrested him and sent him into exile in Gaul, where he ended his God-hating days.

2. St Janik of Devic.

He was a Serb from Zeta. As a young man, overcome with love for Christ, he left his home and went off to the region of the Ibar, to the mouth of he Black River, to a narrow cave in which, according to tradition, St Peter of Korisa had lived in asceticism before him. But when his fame began to spread among the people, he fled to Drnica and hid himself in the thick forest of Devic. St Janik spent years there in solitude, silence and prayer. According to tradition, the Serbian Prince George Brankovic brought his mad daughter to him, and the saint healed her. In gratitude, George built a monastery in that place known today by the name of Devic. Here are kept Janik's holy and wonderworking relics. In this monastery there lived almost to the present day a famous and godly nun, Euphemia, better-known in the Kossovo region as Blessed Stojna. She entered into rest in the Lord in 1895.

3. St Stephen of Perm.

A Russian by birth, he gave himself from his youth to prayer and pondering on God, and as a young man went to Rostov, where he became a monk in the monastery of St Gregory the Theologian. Learning about the land of Perm, all overgrown with the weeds of paganism, Stephen conceived the desire to be a missionary in that land. He immediately set about learning the language and, when he had become proficient, compiled an alphabet and translated the service books. With the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow, he, as a priest, set off on his apostolic labours and began with apostolic zeal to preach the Gospel in the thick darkness of Permian paganism. Baptising a number of souls, he laboured to build in Perm a church dedicated to the Annunciation. And, when the Church in Perm grew larger, he was consecrated as its bishop. Enduring all toil, pain, evil and humiliation, he succeeded in dispersing the darkness among the pagan Permians and in illumining them with the light of Christ. He returned once in old age to Moscow, and there went to the Lord in 1396.

Reflection

The saints are alive and their God-given power does not diminish in time. St. Joannicius of Devich works miracles today even as he did during his life on earth, some five-hundred years ago. A certain Milosh from Hercegovina prepared to travel to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the holy shrines. As he was about ready to depart on his way, St. Joannicius appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. Rather than go to Jerusalem, it would be better for you to go to Devich, explained the saint, and there, to restore my church and place it in order. Milosh obeyed the saint and arrived at the neglected Devich, cleaned it, placed it in order and again, made it possible to sing praises to God. At Devich, Milosh was tonsured a monk and remained there until the end of his life. During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer with a detachment of soldiers came to Devich. The officer ushered Damaskin, the abbot of the monastery, before the reliquary of St. Joannicius and asked him what was under the slab? "Holiness," replied the abbot. "What kind of holiness?", the officer laughed. "Some things are hidden under there." He then ordered the soldiers to strike the slab with pick axes and to overturn it. While this was being done, the officer was seized with pain around his waist. He lay down in bed and before evening of the same day, he died. The frightened soldiers left there work undone and fled the monastery.

Contemplation

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

  1. How His Resurrection is a great light which dispels the darkness of our doubt, ignorance and despair relative to life after death;
  2. How His Resurrection is a great light, which illuminates the path on which we must travel in this world in order to arrive to the other world.

Homily

About Christ as the confirmation of all good

"For the son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not "yes" and "no," but "yes" has been in him" (2 Corinthians 1:19).

Christ is not light and darkness but only light. Christ is not truth and falsehood, but only truth. Neither is Christ life and death, He is only life. Neither is He strength and weakness. He is only strength. Neither is He love and hate. He is only love. He is the "yes" for every good and in Him there is no vacillating between "yes" and "no." His teaching is all pure, all truth, all light and all loving of mankind. His path is accurately hewn and He does not permit swerving neither to the left or to the right. Not even a shadow of sin can pause on His teaching nor find a place on His path. His person is the incarnation of good and all that is good is in Him and all that is sin, falsehood, malicious and unjust is outside of Him.

Such teaching, such a path and such a person of Christ, the apostles of God preached: the teaching meant the confirmation of good and the revelation of the infinite treasury of good; the path which leads to the realization and eternal enjoyment of this good; the Person, Who in Himself, contains all good and complete confirmation of good.

Brethren, let us also adhere to this unique Person, this unique path and this unique teaching.

Almighty Lord, help us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that our insignificant life on earth would become a confirmation of good and not the denial of good.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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