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Prologue from Ochrid - November 4 [November 17]

1. Our Holy Father Joannicius the Great.

This great spiritual light was born in the village of Marykata in the province of Bithynia, of his father Myritrices and his mother Anastasia. He was a shepherd as a youth. Whilst tending his sheep at pasture, he would often retreat into solitude and remain in prayer the whole day, having encircled his flock with the sign of the Cross so that it should not wander off and get lost. After that, he was called into the army, and caused men to marvel at his courage, particularly in the wars against the Bulgarians. After his military service, Joannicius withdrew to Olympus in Asia Minor, where he became a monk and gave himself entirely over to asceticism, persevering in it till his death in great old age. He laboured in the ascetic life for over fifty years in various places, and had from God most abundant gifts of wonderworking: he healed all sicknesses and pains, drove out demons, tamed wild beasts, possessing a particular power over snakes; he walked dryfoot through water, became invisible to men when he so desired and foretold future events. He was distinguished by an outstanding humility and meekness. In outward appearance, he was like a giant, huge and strong. He took an active part in the destiny of God's Church, for, during the iconoclast period he was at first deluded, but then tore himself away and became an ardent defender of reverence towards the icons. He had a great friendship with Patriarch Methodius of Constantinople. Joannicius lived for ninety-four years, and entered peacefully into rest in the Lord in 846. He was a great wonderworker both during his lifetime and after his death.

2. The Hieromartyrs Nicander, Bishop of Myra, and Hermas the Priest.

Both were ordained by the Apostle Titus. They were distinguished by their great zeal for the Faith and their great labours in winning pagans for Christ the Lord. Because of this, a complaint was brought against them before a certain magistrate, Libanus, and he gave them over to fierce torture. They were stoned and dragged over stones; they underwent imprisonment and suffered hunger, and endured many other tortures which no mortal man could endure without God's special aid. The Lord appeared to them in various ways and, when they were thrown into a fiery furnace, sent them His angel to soothe the flames for them. They were finally buried alive by their soul-less tormentors and covered with earth. But it is in vain that men put others to death when the Lord gives life, and they dishonour in vain those whom the Lord glorifies.

Reflection

Mercy is the fruit of faith. Where there is true faith, there also is true mercy. St. Ioannicius was walking past a monastery one day. Among the many nuns, there were a mother and daughter. Evil spirits continually assaulted the young daughter with bodily temptations, and inflamed the passion of lust in her to such a degree that she wanted to leave the convent to marry. In vain did her mother counsel her to stay. Her daughter would not even hear of it. When the mother saw St. Ioannicius, she begged him to counsel her daughter to remain in the monastery and not expose her soul to perdition in the world. Ioannicius summoned the maiden and said: "Daughter, place your hand on my shoulder!" She did so. Then the compassionate saint prayed to God with a fervent heart that He deliver her from temptation, and that her bodily lust be transferred to him. Thus, it happened. The maiden was completely calmed and remained in the monastery, and the saint of God went on his way. But as he went, the passion of lust was inflamed in him, and his blood began to boil as though on fire. He desired to die rather than to give the passion its way and, seeing a large poisonous snake, ran to it so as to be bitten and to die. But the snake would not bite him. He provoked it to make it bite him, but as soon as he touched it the snake died. At that moment the flame of lust disappeared from Ioannicius.

Contemplation

Contemplate the Lord's coming to Paul in a vision at night (Acts 18):

  1. How the Lord came to Paul at Corinth, in a nighttime vision;
  2. How He told him to fear not and to preach, for He said: I have much people in this city;
  3. How Paul obeyed and remained there for a year and a half.

Homily

On the heirs of the Kingdom through Christ the Lord

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).

All is from the Lord Jesus Christ, all is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and all is of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, we have no proper ties or normal relationships with God, with men or with other created beings. He is our head and our mind, and through Him we have obtained an inheritance. What do we inherit? The Kingdom of God. Why are Christians often called heirs in the New Testament? Inheritance is always associated with someone's passing from this earth. One must die for his heir to inherit. Christians even become heirs while still in this life, for the old man in them dies and the new man comes in his place as heir. The one who outlives the other is the one who inherits. When the body dies, the soul outlives it; the soul therefore inherits all that a man has gathered while in the body, be it good works for salvation or evil works for condemnation. Through the Lord Jesus Christ the inheritance that the Lord Himself rejoiced in is opened to us: the Immortal Kingdom of God. We inherit that Kingdom when we leave the earthly kingdom-when we die to this earth, we will inherit heaven; when we break off the alliance with Satan, we will become fellow heirs in Christ. O my brethren, just think what a rich inheritance awaits us! But let us not sell it cheaply, as Esau sold his birthright!

O Lord Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior, have mercy on us to the end, and save us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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