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Prologue from Ochrid - October 30 [November 12]

1. The Hieromartyr Zenobius and his sister Zenobia.

From the town of Aegae in Cilicia, they inherited the true Faith and great material wealth from their parents. Inflamed with zeal for the Faith, they, with great love, gave away their riches to the poor. Because they were so open-handed, God shielded these hands from every evil intent by men or demons. The merciful hands of Zenobius, which gave to the poor, were endowed by God with the gift of wonderworking, so that Zenobius was able to heal the sick of every sort of infirmity simply by the touch of his hand, and he was made Bishop of Aegae. At a time of persecution, the judge Licius seized him and said: 'I offer you the two: life and death - life if you bow down to the gods, and death if you do not.' Holy Zenobius replied: 'Life without Christ is not life, but death; and death for Christ's sake is not death, but life.' When Zenobius was put to harsh torture, his sister presented herself before the judge and said: 'I also want to drink this cup of suffering and be crowned with that wreath.' After torture by fire and in boiling pitch, they were both beheaded with the sword in about 285, and thus brother and sister entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ the King.

2. The Holy Apostles Cleopas, Tertius, Mark, Justus and Artemas.

They were of the Seventy. The risen Lord appeared to Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-33). Tertius wrote down Paul's Epistle to the Romans for him (Rom. 16:22), and died a martyr as Bishop of Iconium, after the Apostle Sosipater (Nov. 10th). St Mark (or John, see Acts 12:12) was the son of the devout Mary in whose house the apostles and the early Christians found shelter, and the nephew of Barnabas. He was bishop in the Samaritan town of Apollonia. Justus was a son of Joseph the Betrothed. Together with Matthias, he was selected for the lot to be cast to replace Judas the betrayer, but was not chosen (Acts 1:23-26). As bishop in Eleutheropolis, he suffered for the Gospel. St Artemas was bishop in Lystra in Lycaonia, and died peacefully.

3. The Holy King Milutin.

The son of Uros I and Queen Helena and brother of Dragutin, he fought fiercely to defend his faith and his people. He fought against Michael Palaeologus because the latter had accepted union with Rome and was putting pressure on the whole Balkan people and the monks of Athos to accept the Pope. He fought against Shishman, King of Bulgaria, and Nogai, King of the Tartars, to defend his country from them. All his wars were successful, for he prayed constantly to God and put himself in His hands. He built more than forty churches, both in his own land (Treskavac, Gracanica, St George in Nagorid, the Holy Mother of God in Skoplje, Banjska and so forth) and in Salonica, Sophia, Constantinople, Jerusalem and on the Holy Mountain. He entered into rest in the Lord on October 29th, 1320, and his body was soon seen to be uncorrupt and wonderworking. It is still preserved in that state today in the Church of the Holy King in Sophia.

Author's note: Milutin was married twice, not four times as his detractors would have it; first to Elisabeth, a Hungarian princess, and then to Simonida, a princess of Byzantium.

Reflection

A great son of the Orthodox Church, King Milutin saved the Balkans from Uniatism. At that time in history when the Byzantine emperor's conscience was weakened, this noble and God-bearing Slavic king rose up decisively and, with God's help, saved Orthodoxy-not only in his own land, but also in all the lands of the Balkans. He who closely examines the life of the holy King Milutin will understand why God gave him success after success in all his works throughout his life. When Milutin ascended the throne, he immediately vowed to God that he would build a church for each year that he would reign. He reigned forty-two years and built forty-two churches. Next to some of the churches-for example, in Thessalonica and Constantinople-he also built hospitals for the indigent, where the poor would receive everything free of charge. Beyond that, he especially loved to give alms to the needy from his own enormous wealth. Oftentimes, this powerful and wealthy king dressed in the clothes of a poor man and, with two or three of his servants, walked among the people at night and asked about their misfortunes, and gave to them abundantly. He lived a very simple, familial life, even in the midst of his great wealth-though he never seemed that way to foreigners. He had become accustomed to a simple life while still at the home of his father, King Uro I. It is told how Emperor Michael Palaeologus sent his daughter Anna with a retinue to the court of King Uro , as an offering to Milutin, in order to lure the Serbian king into union with Rome. But King Uro , seeing the foolish extravagance of the princess and her retinue, said: "What is this, and what is it for? We are not used to such a life." And pointing to a Serbian princess with a distaff in her hand, he said: "Behold, this is the kind of clothing we expect our daughter-in-law to wear."

Contemplation

Contemplate the miraculous healing of the crippled man (Acts 14):

  1. How there was a man in Lystra who had never stood on his feet;
  2. How he beheld Paul and believed in the Gospel;
  3. How Paul, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, healed the man-who leaped and walked.

Homily

On the desire for God-the only desire of the righteous

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee (Psalm 73:25).

In heaven and on earth, there is one supreme good for the soul of an awakened man. That good is God. There is countless good in heaven, but the King of heaven is the greatest good. There is countless good on earth, but the Creator of all of this good is incomparable. That is why the soul of the awakened man asks: "What could I have or what could I desire, either in heaven or on earth, beside Thee?" Is the river necessary to the one who is brought to drink at its source? Does one who sits at the king's table desire the shepherd's dinner? God alone is sufficient in Himself to satisfy all of men's hunger and thirst. The heavens are God's, the earth is God's. The Lord of all good is the greatest good; the Creator of all sweetness is the greatest sweetness; the Bearer of all wisdom is the greatest wisdom; the Source of all power and mercy is the greatest power and mercy; the Creator of every kind of beauty in heaven and on earth is the greatest beauty. No kind of good can enter the heart of man-whether openly or in a dream-that is not already in God to the highest degree.

Therefore, my brethren, let us ask God that we may receive all; let us seek God that we may find all; let us become rich in God that we may be rich in all.

O Lord our God, come near us when our souls seek Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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