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Prologue from Ochrid - October 27 [November 9]

1. The Holy Martyr Nestor.

At the time of the martyrdom of St Dimitrios the Outpourer of Myrrh, there was in Constantinople a young man, Nestor, who had learned the Christian faith from St Dimitrios himself. At that time, the Emperor Maximian, an opponent of Christ, ordered various games and amusements for the people. The Emperor's favourite was a Vandal called Lyaeus, a man of Goliath-like size and strength. As the imperial gladiator, Lyaeus challenged men every day to a duel and slew them, and this blood-letting of his delighted the blood-lust of the idolatrous Emperor. He built a special arena, like a terrace on pillars, for Lyaeus's duels. Underneath this terrace were planted spears with sharp cutting-edges pointing upwards. When Lyaeus had overcome someone in the duel, he would push him from the terrace above onto the whole forest of prepared spears. The pagans stood around with their Emperor, and were delighted when some poor wretch writhed in torment on the spears until he died. Among Lyaeus's innocent victims were a large number of Christians, for, when there was a day when no-one came forward voluntarily to duel with Lyaeus, then, by the Emperor's orders, Christians were compelled to fight with him. Seeing this horrifying enjoyment of the pagan world, Nestor's heart swelled with pain and he resolved to go himself to the arena of the gigantic Lyaeus. He first went to the prison where St Dimitrios was kept, and asked his blessing to do this. St Dimitrios blessed him, signed him with the sign of the Cross on forehead and breast, and said to him: 'You will overcome him, but you will suffer for Christ.' The young Nestor then went to Lyaeus's arena. The Emperor was there with a large crowd, and they all bewailed the probable death of the young Nestor, trying to dissuade him from fighting Lyaeus, but Nestor crossed himself and said: 'O God of Dimitrios, help me!' With God's help, Nestor overcame Lyaeus, felled him and threw him down onto the sharp spears, where the heavy giant soon found death. Then the whole people shouted: 'Great is the God of Dimitrios!' But the Emperor had lost face before the people, and, mourning his favourite, became filled with wrath against Nestor and Dimitrios, and the wicked Emperor ordered that Nestor be beheaded with the sword and Dimitrios run through with spears. Thus this glorious Christian hero, Nestor, left behind his young, earthly life in 306, and entered into the Kingdom of his Lord.

2. Our Holy Father Nestor the Chronicler.

He arrived at the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev at the age of seventeen, while St Theodosius was still abbot. He wrote the first history of the Russian people, into which he interwove the history of Russian asceticism. He was distinguished by a rare humility and meekness. In his glorious literary works, he often refers to himself as unworthy, vulgar, ignorant and filled with every sin. But God, who knows the heart of man, glorified this wonderful man who was so pleasing to Him. When Nestor entered into rest, on October 27th, 1114, his relics performed many miracles.

3. St Andrew, Prince of Smolensk.

From love of Christ, he set aside worldly glory and honour, hid himself in a monastery and there, disguised and unknown, served as verger for thirty years. He entered peacefully into rest in the Lord in 1390, and his wonderworking relics were found in 1540.

Author's note: In the Greek Great Synaxarion, St Procula Claudia is also commemorated on this day. She was that wife of Pilate to whom the Lord appeared in a dream at the time of His condemnation. Because of this, she tried to turn her husband from the

Reflection

A miracle of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica: That the saints of God live, clothed in great glory and might in the heavens, Orthodox Christians know, not by their own reasoning, but by the true help and visitations of the saints. At times the saints appear so that men may see and hear them; at times, only to be either seen or heard; at times, though unseen and unheard, they influence our thoughts, our dispositions and our actions. Among the many miracles of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica the following is recorded: A young man named Onesiphorus was appointed to the service of sacristan in the Church of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica. His primary task was to keep an account of the candles and lampadas. This young man began to steal candles, take them home, and then resell them. St. Demetrius appeared to him and said: "Brother Onesiphorus, your action is not pleasing to me, for you are stealing candles. By this, you bring harm to others and especially to yourself. Cease doing this and repent!" Onesiphorus was frightened and ashamed and, for a time, stopped stealing candles. But he eventually forgot himself, and again began to steal candles. One morning, a distinguished man brought some large candles to the tomb of the saint, lit them, prayed and left. Onesiphorus approached the candles and stretched forth his hand with the intention of taking them, but at that moment a voice like thunder roared: "Are you doing that again?!" As though struck by lightning, Onesiphorus fell to the ground, unconscious. When someone came into the church he found him and lifted him up off the floor; he gradually came to himself and related all that had happened. Everyone was astonished, and glorified God.

Contemplation

Contemplate Peter's wondrous journey with the angel of God (Acts 12):

  1. How the angel led Peter out of prison and brought him to the city;
  2. How they invisibly passed by the first and second guards;
  3. How the locked gates of the city opened to them of their own accord.

Homily

On zeal for the house of God

For the zeal of Thy house has eaten me up and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me (Psalm 69:9).

The heavens are the house of God. The Church of God is the house of God. The bodies of believing people are the house of God. Wherever God is, there is the house of God; and where the house of God is, there is holiness. Men dishonor the holiness of God's house, and the royal prophet is provoked and burns with zeal. He takes upon himself all the offenses against the holy things of God, and they fall upon him like a fire that enkindles him with even more zeal. Men desecrate the heavens when they do not believe that which God Himself revealed to mankind for the sake of their salvation. When men oppose or pervert the truth, as do the heretics, or when, of their own free will, they conceive of Christ according to their corporeal understanding, or when they have doubts about angels and saints, the Judgment, and the Eternal Kingdom of Christ, and refuse to consider the eternal punishment of unrepentant sinners-in all this and more, men attack the house of God and desecrate its holiness like savage animals. This causes zeal against the opponents and the blasphemers of God to rise in the hearts of the righteous. In the same manner, men attack the house of God's holiness when they behave unworthily toward the Church of God, when they are negligent concerning the Church's ordinances, when they are slothful toward ecclesiastical commandments and malicious toward the servants of the Church. Again, zeal for the holiness of the house of God is inflamed in the hearts of the righteous and the devout. Finally, the corrupting of the human body, the surrendering to passions, the service of sin, abduction, murder, brutality, drunkenness and other wicked actions, are all attacks on the holiness of God's house. It is all blasphemy against God and against man. Again, the fervor of the zealots of holiness rises up and shines as a heavenly flame before men. O my brethren, let us look at Christ's zeal for the holiness of God's house, and the zeal of the apostles and the Holy Fathers of our Orthodox Church. Let us have more zeal for our salvation than the devil has, day and night, for our destruction.

O Lord Jesus Christ, the Model of our zeal for holiness, grant us a spark of Thy zeal that we may be like Thee in zeal, and be saved by Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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