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Prologue from Ochrid - November 6 [November 19]

1. St Paul the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople.

When the blessed Patriarch Alexander was lying on his deathbed, the lamenting faithful asked him whom he would leave to follow him as chief pastor of the flock of Christ. Then the sick Patriarch said to them: 'If you want to have a shepherd who will teach you and whose virtues will illumine you, choose Paul; but, if you want a suitable man as a figurehead, choose Macedonius.' The people chose Paul. This was not acceptable to the Arian heretics, nor to the Emperor Constantius, who was at that time in Antioch, and so Paul was quickly deposed and fled to Rome together with St Athanasius the Great. There, both Pope Julian and the Emperor Constans gave them a warm welcome and upheld them in their Orthodoxy. The Emperor and the Pope sent letters which restored Paul to his episcopal throne, but, after the death of Constans, the Arians raised their heads again and drove the Orthodox Patriarch off to Cucusus in Armenia. While Paul was celebrating the Liturgy one day in exile, he was set on by the Arians and strangled with his pallium. This was in the year 351. In the time of the Emperor Theodosius, in 381, his relics were translated to Constantinople, and, in 1236, to Venice, where they still lie. * His beloved priests and secretaries, Marcian and Martyrius, suffered soon after their Patriarch, on October 25th, 355 (see their lives on that day).

*A small piece of their relics is kept at the Russian Cathedral in London -Tr.

2. Our Holy Father Varlaam of Chutinsk, the Wonderworker.

Born and brought up a Christian in Novgorod the Great, he became a monk on the death of his parents and devoted himself to strict asceticism. He founded a monastery on the bank of the Volkhov river, on a site shown to him by a heavenly light. He was a great wonderworker both during his lifetime and after his death, being able to penetrate human secrets, to drive out unclean spirits and to heal all sicknesses. A servant of Prince Vasilii Vasilievitch was taken seriously ill, and he asked to be carried to the grave of St Varlaam, and further asked that, if he should die on the way, they should take his dead body to the saint. And so it came to pass: he died on the road, and they brought him dead into the monastery, where he was restored to life, stood up and prostrated himself before the tomb of the saint. In 1471, Tsar Ivan the Terrible gave orders that the saint's grave be dug up. As soon as they had begun to uncover it, a flame sprang from the grave and blazed along the walls of the church. The Tsar was so terrified that he fled from the church and, in his haste, forgot his staff, which is kept to this day beside the saint's tomb. In commemoration of this wonder, St Varlaam is also remembered on the Friday after the Sunday of All Saints.

3. Commemoration of the falling of ash from the air.

This occurred in Constantinople in 472 (or 475, according to the Greek Synaxarion), during the reign of the Emperor Leo the Great and Patriarch Gennadius.

Reflection

If God can bring forth water from a rock as a comfort to men, He is also able to send down fire from the heavens as a punishment. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is a classic example of God's punishment upon incorrigible sinners. That God can repeat this punishment was demonstrated over Constantinople in the year 472, during the time of Emperor Leo the Great and Patriarch Gennadius. At noon on November 6 of that year, the sky became overcast with thick, dark clouds, causing darkness on the land. These clouds turned red as fire, then became dark, and alternated their appearance continuously. This phenomenon over Constantinople lasted for a full forty days. The frightened people turned to repentance and prayer. With the emperor and patriarch, they walked in procession through the streets from church to church and prayed to God with tears and lamentation. On the final day hot black ash fell like rain from evening until midnight, then stopped. The following day dawned clear and bright, but the sooty ash lay on the ground to a depth of nine inches. With great effort, the people cleaned their houses and streets of this sooty ash, but the crops in the field were utterly destroyed. All who had understanding, understood that this was God's punishment, and that it was God's gentle punishment because the people hastened to repent before Him. Had it not been for this profound repentance for their great and accumulated sins, who knows what would have happened to Constantinople in those days? But the timely repentance of sinners, and the prayers of the Most-holy Theotokos, as well as the prayers of the countless saints and martyrs of Constantinople, greatly lessened the punishment.

Contemplation

Contemplate the wondrous power of healing that proceeded from the Apostle Paul (Acts 19):

  1. How the people took his aprons and handkerchiefs and placed them on the sick;
  2. How all the sick were healed, and evil spirits fled from them;
  3. How the words of the Savior came true, that he who believes in Him will perform greater miracles than He.

Homily

On the Head of the Church and the Body of Christ

And gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Headless humanity is given a head in the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead. The body separated from the head is grafted to its head, part by part, member by member. Not all men are the body-only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. All are called, but only those who respond are received under the Head. The ones who respond comprise the Body that is called the Church, whose Head is the Lord. But, as the risen and glorified man, Jesus is exalted within the Holy Trinity, above all and everything on earth and in heaven, so also will His Church, His Body, be exalted to its Head, above all and everything. The whole Church, together with its Head, will stand at the right hand of the Holy Trinity-for where the head is, there also is the body. The redeemed and repentant sinners, the erstwhile adversaries of God-wandering astray like the Prodigal Son and headless as a dead body, but now adopted through Christ and for Christ, and clothed in the beauty of divine life and splendor-will be exalted to such heights, greatness and glory. For it is a great thing, brethren: the Incarnation of the Son of God on earth, His suffering on the Cross and His death for our sake. His visit to earth brought about a great change in the destiny of men, and in the meaning of all things. He changed all things and made all things new. Therefore, brethren, let us not live and conduct ourselves as the old man, but rather as the new man; let us not live according to sin, but according to righteousness; let us not act according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. May we be made worthy of those heights, of the greatness and glory to which we are called by our Head.

O Lord Jesus, the Holy Head of the Holy Church, make us worthy to be members forever of Thy Most-pure Body.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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