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Prologue from Ochrid - September 29 [October 12]

1. Our Holy Father Cyriacus the Solitary.

Born in Corinth of parents named John (a priest) and Eudoxia, he was a kinsman of the local bishop, Peter. He was made reader in the cathedral by the bishop while still a young man. Reading the Holy Scriptures, the young Cyriacus marvelled at God's providence, how it glorified every true servant of the living God and ordered the salvation of the human race. At the age of eighteen, his desire for the spiritual life led him to Jerusalem. There, he entered the monastery of a godly man called Eustorgius, who grounded him in the monastic life. He then went off to St Euthymius, who discerned in him future spiritual greatness, clothed him in the Great Habit and sent him to the Jordan, to St Gerasim, where Cyriacus spent nine years. After Gerasim's death, he returned to St Euthymius' monastery, where he remained in silence for ten years. After this he moved from place to place, fleeing the praise of men. He lived in ascetic labour also in the community of St Chariton, where he finished his earthly course, having lived for a hundred and nine years. A glorious ascetic and wonderworker, St Cyriacus was massive and strong of body, and stayed thus in great old age, despite strict fasts and vigils. In the desert, he sometimes lived for years only on raw vegetables. He was very zealous for the Orthodox faith, denouncing heresies, especially the heresy of Origen. Of himself he said that, while he was a monk, the sun never saw him eat or be angry with any man. According to the rule of St Chariton, the monks ate only once a day, after sunset. Cyriacus was a great light, a pillar of Orthodoxy, the boast of monks, a mighty healer of the sick and a gentle comforter of the sorrowful. Living long in ascetism and giving aid to many, he entered into the eternal joy of his Lord in 557.

2. The Holy Martyrs Dada and Gobdelas.

Dada was a Persian noble and a kinsman of King Sapor, and Gobdelas was the son of the same king. When St Dada openly confessed his faith in Christ, King Sapor ordered that he be harshly tortured. During these tortures, Dada worked great miracles in Christ's name, which made such an impression on Gobdelas that he also embraced the Christian faith. The pagan king did not spare his son, but gave him over to harsh torture. Both Dada and Gobdelas glorified God in their patient endurance and many miracles, and gave their souls to God under the tortures. They suffered in the fourth century. With them there suffered - for they had also come to faith in Christ - Gobdelas' sister Kasdoa and Gargal, the chief of the pagan priests.

3. St Theophanes the Merciful.

A wealthy citizen of Gaza, he was so merciful that he gave away his goods to the poor and himself became one of them. Near the end of his life, he was stricken with dropsy and died of this sickness. A healing myrrh flowed from his body, by which many of the sick were healed.

4. St Mary of Palestine.

She was at first a reader of the Psatter in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, but, being beautiful, she was a source of scandal to the sinful-minded. In order not to be a cause of sin in others, Mary withdrew to the wilderness of Souka with a basket of beans and a flask of water. She spent eighteen years in the desert and, by God's power, never lacked either beans nor water. Disciples of St Cyriacus found her during her lifetime, and later buried her.

Reflection

In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death. Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied: "I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness." And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it. God had even done for him according to the man's will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world-so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance! Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied: "In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God." Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied: "I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that." But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age.

Contemplation

Contemplate the punishment with which God punished King Uzziah (II Chronicles 26):

  1. How, in his conceit, Uzziah unlawfully approached the sanctuary of God;
  2. How leprosy suddenly appeared on his forehead.

Homily

On knowing the Father through the Son

O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee (John 17:25).

An equal knows his equal best. The lower does not know the higher, or the mortal the immortal. The Old Testament prophets and some of the wise men of ancient times knew God as the Creator and the Provider, but no one knew Him as the Father of the Son. Those who knew Him in ancient times knew Him through creation, and not through birth. Through creation they knew something of the righteousness, wisdom and power of God; but they did not know His love, for love is known through birth. A father knows the mystery of the one born, and the one born knows the love of the parent. It could be put this way: "The world hath not known Thee, for the world looked at Thee as Lord and itself as a slave; But I have known Thee, for I see Thee as Father and feel Thine inexpressible love. The world looks at Thee through the veil of Thy works; but I look at Thee face to face, in the eternal beauty of Thy love." The Lord brought this illuminating flame of eternal filial and paternal love among men, so that men could see God in this flame, in this new and hitherto unknown light. The Lord passed this new knowledge of God's love to His apostles, and through them to us.

Oh, may this flame of divine eternal love burn in us! May we thus know God as our Father, and ourselves as His children, adopted through the sacrifice of the Only-begotten Son of God.

O God of Triune Flame, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: illumine us also, darkened as we are by sin, with the eternal glory of Thy love.

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