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Prologue from Ochrid - October 21 [November 3]

1. Our Holy Father Hilarion the Great.

As a rose growing among thorns, so was this great saint born of pagan parents in the village of Tabatha near Gaza in Palestine. His parents sent him to study in Alexandria, where the gifted youngster quickly assimilated both secular learning and spiritual wisdom. Coming to know Christ the Lord and receiving baptism, he desired to serve the Lord with his whole heart. With this desire, Hilarion visited St Antony the Great in the desert and became his disciple. He then returned to his homeland and lived in asceticism near Maiuma, not far from Gaza. Demons tried to frighten him with various terrors, but he, with prayer to God and the sign of the Cross, overcame them all and drove them away. A great many who were desirous of the spiritual life gathered around him, and St Hilarion became for Palestine what St Antony was for Egypt. A divine teacher, a strict ascetic, a marvellous wonderworker, Hilarion was revered not only by Christians but also by pagans. He, though, fearing the praise of men and crying out through his tears: 'Woe is me, for I am getting my reward in this life!', fled from place to place simply to hide from men and remain alone with his soul and God. He therefore settled and lived for a time in Egypt, Sicily, Dalmatia and finally in Cyprus, where his life of great toil came to an end in about 372, when he had reached the age of eighty. Hilarion's wonderworking relics were taken by Ezekiel, one of his disciples, to Palestine and laid in the monastery that he had founded.

2. St Hilarion, Bishop of Meglin.

He was born of eminent and devout parents. His childless mother had long prayed to God to give her a child and, when she was at prayer, the most holy Mother of God appeared to her and comforted her with the words: 'Don't cry; you will have a son, and he will bring many to the light of truth.' When Hilarion was only three years old, the hymn: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth' was constantly heard on his lips. Well-educated, he became a monk at the age of eighteen and founded a monastery based on the rule of St Pachomius. In 1134, he was consecrated Bishop of Meglin by Eustathius, Archbishop of Trnovo. St Hilarion had an almost lifelong struggle against the Bogomils and the Armenian heretics, but, by his spiritual learning and unequalled holiness, he put them all to shame and brought many of them to Orthodoxy. He entered peacefully into rest and went to the Kingdom of his Lord in 1164.

3. Our Holy Father Philotheus.

Born in Crysopolis in Macedonia, he was taken from his mother, a widow, by the Turks and thrown into prison along with one of his brothers. They were miraculously delivered from prison by the most holy Mother of God, and taken to a monastery in Neapolis in Asia Minor. Their mother later found her sons as monks, and herself became a nun. Philotheus went to the Holy Mountain, where he lived first in the monastery of Dionysiou and then in the wilds. A wonderful ascetic and a great conqueror of demonic powers, he entered peacefully into rest at the age of eighty-four. He left instructions that he was not to be buried, but that his body was to be thrown into the forest for the birds and wild beasts. Later, a fisherman saw a great light in the forest at night, and, being frozen, went to warm himself at it, thinking it was a fire. The light was, however, coming from the wonderworking relics of St Philotheus.

Reflection

The All-seeing eye of God watches over all men and, in a wondrous manner, guides the faithful to salvation. That which seems to the faithful a great loss can show itself over time to be a great gain. The case of St. Philotheus and his brother, who were lost to their mother, is similar to the case of St. Xenophont (January 26), and the case of St. Eustathius and his wife and sons (September 20). When St. Philotheus and his brother were sitting in a Turkish prison in Macedonia, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to them in the form of their mother and said, "Arise, my dear children, and follow me!" and suddenly the young men found themselves in a monastery in the town of Neapolis in Asia Minor. When the young men related to the abbot what had happened to them, he understood that this was from God, and he received the young men and tonsured them. A long time passed after this. Their mother grieved for them but overcame her loss. Finally, she decided to enter a convent and dedicate herself to God. God's providence brought her near the monastery where her sons were. Once, during the patronal celebration of this monastery she came with the other nuns for the celebration. She saw her sons in church but did not recognize them. Just then, one of the brothers called the other by his secular name. The mother's heart was touched by that name, which was dear to her, and she looked carefully into their faces. Then she recognized them and they recognized her. Their joy was exceedingly great, and they gave heartfelt thanks to God. Believing Christians should not despair over even the greatest loss.

Contemplation

Contemplate the wondrous healing of the blind Saul by Ananias (Acts 9):

  1. How Ananias placed his hands on Saul, mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus;
  2. How the blindness departed from Saul like scales falling from his eyes, and he saw and was baptized, and became Paul.

Homily

On the God-inspired heart and tongue

My heart will pour forth good words; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1).

Behold the inspiration of the Spirit of God! The prophet wants to speak of Christ the Lord and his heart swells with power and wisdom. That is why the prophet does not say: "My heart will speak or will pronounce good words, but rather will pour forth as though a part of his own heart rushes out like a torrent of water from an overflowing well. A torrent of water is narrow underground, but when it reaches the opening of the spring, it bursts out in a large stream. Such is the heart of the prophet when he wants to speak of Christ. Such is the power of grace confined in the heart of man. If it does not manifest itself in powerful words or if it does not manifest itself in miraculous works, it will shine within man and work wonders. But when it comes out in words, the tongue of the prophet will become as a reed, as a pen of a ready writer. For such a man does not struggle to formulate his thoughts, nor does he struggle to clothe his thoughts in the garment of words, but grace itself pours out thoughts and words, already prepared, through his tongue. Where does such a power in man come from? From God the Holy Spirit. Why does such a power exist? The prophet wants to speak to the King about Himself: I speak of things which I have made touching the King (Psalm 45:1). Actions and words here are identical, as it often happens in Holy Scripture. Where the Spirit speaks, He also acts; and where He acts, He also speaks. One speaks most powerfully through action. The prophet takes from Christ the King, and gives to Christ the King. He speaks enthusiastically of love for the Savior of the world; he speaks from a heart burning with the zeal of divine love. From the distance of time, he sees the Incarnate Son of God, and his heart dances with joy like a weary night-traveler when he sees the beautiful dawn in the east!

O Lord God, the Holy Spirit, do not deny us Thy holy and powerful grace, that we may be cleansed from sins and made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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