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Prologue from Ochrid - November 17 [November 30]

1. St Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea.

Here is a man of God and a mighty wonderworker, who was called a second Moses! Born of wealthy and eminent pagan parents, Gregory at first studied Hellenic and Egyptian philosophy, but, seeing its barrenness and insufficiency, he turned to Christian teachers, particularly Origen of Alexandria, with whom he studied for several years and by whom he was baptised. Pure in soul and body, he desired to consecrate himself utterly to Christ, to which end he withdrew to the desert, where, in painful asceticism, he spent many years. His fame spread abroad everywhere, and Phaedimus, the bishop of Amasea, wanted to make him Bishop of Caesarea. The discerning Gregory was warned of Phaedimus's intention, and hid in the wilderness from those sent to find him, so that they failed in their quest. Finally, Phaedimus consecrated him by devious means, and Gregory had to accept the work of a shepherd. The most holy Mother of God appeared to him, together with St John the Theologian, and, at her command, St John gave him the Creed that is known by Gregory's name.* Who can enumerate the miracles of this second Moses? He commanded evil spirits, commanded mountains and waters, healed every sort of pain and ill, became invisible to his persecutors and had insight into both distant events and men's thoughts. He finished his earthly course in the year 270, in great old age. When he arrived in Caesarea as bishop, the whole town was composed of pagans, with just seventeen Christians. When he departed this life, the whole town was Christian, with just seventeen pagans. He therefore received a wreath of glory from his Lord in the heavenly Kingdom.

*The Nicene Creed, that Gregory was instrumental in establishing at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 - Tr.

2. Our Holy Father Nikhon of Radonezh.

He was a disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh, and followed him as abbot. When the barbarians fell on Russia, he prayed to God to preserve the Russian people from this misfortune. St Sergius appeared to him, together with St Peter and St Alexis, the departed Metropolitan of Moscow, and told him not to be downcast, for the invasion was by God's permission for the good of the people, but that it would pass and peace would reign once more. He entered into rest on November 17th, 1426.

3. Our Holy Father Gennadius of Vatopedi.

A monk of Vatopedi, he had the obedience of steward. By his agency, a dry well was miraculously filled with oil. This miracle was ascribed to the most holy Mother of God, to whom the monastery is dedicated, and to an icon of hers that stood nearby.

Reflection

Let the following examples from the Life of St. Gregory show how God guards and saves the righteous from assaults. While he was still at the school of philosophy in Alexandria, St. Gregory preserved the purity of his soul and his body, as he preserved it to the end of his life. In this, he was an exception among the dissolute youth of that time. This evoked envy and hatred among his companions. In order to debase Gregory, they found a harlot to help them carry out an evil plan. Once, when Gregory was standing in the square with eminent teachers and philosophers, the foul woman approached him and loudly demanded that Gregory pay her the remainder due for impure relations with her. Some of the people present were scandalized, while others were angry at this shameless woman and began to chase her away; but she shouted even louder, demanding money. The innocent Gregory blushed, as any decent man would before such coarse slander, but he displayed neither anger nor hatred, and asked a friend to give her the amount that she sought so she would leave. The friend heeded Gregory, and gave her the money she wanted. But at that moment God let an evil spirit enter the woman and she fell to the ground and began writhing and convulsing, gnashing her teeth, and foaming at the mouth. Seeing this, everyone was terrified. But St. Gregory, innocent as a lamb, prayed to God for her, and the woman was healed and arose. Thus, instead of humiliation, Gregory acquired even greater glory.

Another example: When a bitter persecution of Christians took place, St. Gregory counseled Christians to hide, and he and his deacon hid on a hill. But the imperial soldiers caught sight of them and pursued them. When they were almost upon them, Gregory prayed to God for help, and God rendered them invisible to their pursuers. The soldiers searched for them in vain, and finally left without them.

Contemplation

Contemplate the creation of the world (Genesis 1):

  1. How God created the greater and lesser lights on the fourth day;
  2. How He created the sun to shine during the day, and the moon and the stars to shine at night.

Homily

On the breadth, length, depth and height

 That ye … may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height (Ephesians 3:17-18).

Behold the fruits of faith and love! Behold the royal gifts that Christ the King confers when He dwells in a man's heart: the understanding of salvific mysteries and the understanding of all that is important to a man's life. This understanding is not personal or exceptional, and it is not individual or novel. It is in accordance with the understanding of the saints-for who are the saints, if not those that are rich in faith and love? They were given the understanding of the mysteries of God because of their faith and love. Therefore, test your understanding against their understanding, and if you see a difference, know that it is you who are not in the right. If, however, your understanding is in accordance with theirs, you have attained the measure of their faith and love, and that means that Christ dwells in your heart.

If that is so, then you will comprehend the breadth of God's love, by which He embraced both Jews and pagans in the plan of salvation, and the length of God's providence by which, from time immemorial, He prepared and developed the plan of salvation through the Law, the Prophets and many miracles. You will also comprehend the depth of the humility of Christ, by which He personally descended into hades to save the souls of the righteous, and the height of the glory of Christ, which He received as a man after the completion of His saving work on earth. Breadth and length and depth and height stand like Christ's Cross: embracing all, explaining all, inviting all, showing mercy to all, and exalting all.

O Lord Jesus Christ, our gracious Lord, have mercy on us 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