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Prologue from Ochrid - September 19 [October 2]

1. The Holy Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius and Dorymedon.

In the time of the Emperor Probus, in the third century, when Atticus was governing Antioch, two Christians, Trophimus and Sabbatius, both eminent and honoured men, came to that city. Just at that time, there was a pagan festival and offerings to the idol of Apollo in Daphne near Antioch. Atticus made a special effort to ensure that all the citizens took part in the festivities. When someone saw Trophimus and Sabbatius, and told Atticus that these two old men were not taking part, Atticus summoned them for trial, and, when they refused to deny Christ, put them to torture one by one. After beating and torturing Trophimus, he sent him to Phrygia to Dionysius, a yet harsher torturer of Christians, himself taking Sabbatius from prison and trying him. When the torturer asked Sabbatius who he was and what was his rank, he replied: 'My rank and dignity, my homeland, my glory and my riches are Christ the Son of God. who is alive for ever and by whose providence the whole universe is held in being.' He was therefore beaten and flogged with iron flails until his bones showed through his flesh, and he died under these tortures. The torturer put Trophimus to harsh torture, and held him in prison to inflict yet greater torture on him. Then a certain senator, Dorymedon, a secret Christian, came to the prison and ministered to Trophimus. When the torturer discovered this, he put them both to torture and finally threw them to the wild beasts. But the animals would not touch them. Holy Dorymedon even shouted into the ear of a she-bear to eat him up, but the bear only became even more docile. The torturer ordered, in consequence of this, that Ss Trophimus and Dorymedon be beheaded. The souls of these holy martyrs now reign in heaven.

2. The Holy Martyr Zossima the Hermit.

A Sicilian prince, Dometian, went hunting in the mountains with his servants. In the hills, he saw an old man surrounded by wild beasts that were as tame as lambs. Asked who he was, the old man replied that his name was Zossima, and that he was a Christian and had lived a long time with the beasts, who were better than the persecutors of Christians in the city. This outraged Dometian, who was himself a harsh torturer of Christians, and he bound Zossima and sent him ahead to Nazareth, to torture him there and thus intimidate those who believed in Christ. When he had wounded him all over and left him bloodied with blows, he tied a rock round his neck and hanged him from a tree. Then the prince mocked at him: 'Command a wild beast to come, and we'll all believe!' The holy martyr prayed to God, and an enormous lion appeared. Coming up to Zossima, it took the weight of the rock with its head, to ease the martyr. With great fear, the prince freed Zossima, who soon after that gave his soul into the hands of his Lord.

3. St Theodore, Prince of Yaroslavl.

A righteous and merciful man, he received the Great Habit at the time of his death, entering into rest in 1298.

Reflection

Even the dead sense and know the good deeds that are performed for them. Christians need not have any doubt in this. A good deed spreads through the heavenly world like an electrical current. An imperial clerk, Magistrian, was sent by the emperor on an important errand. Along the way, Magistrian saw a poor dead man, completely naked. He was moved with pity, removed his shirt, dressed the dead man, and buried him honorably. After a while, Magistrian had an unfortunate accident: he fell from his horse and broke his leg, and lay sick in bed for a long time. On one occasion, several doctors gathered around him to take counsel concerning his illness. The doctors agreed that his leg would have to be amputated. That night Magistrian could not sleep, but grieved and wept. At midnight a man suddenly appeared in his room and asked him: "Why are you weeping?" When Magistrian explained his condition, the unknown man then rubbed the infected leg with his hand and the leg was healed. "For God's sake, tell me-who are you?" asked Magistrian. The unknown man replied: "Look at me, and see, is not this your shirt? I am he whom you saw naked and dead, and whom you dressed in this shirt. And behold, for your good deed God has sent me to heal you. Give thanks to God!"

Contemplation

Contemplate the sin of King Asa, and God's punishment on him (II Chronicles 16):

  1. How Asa, frightened of a neighboring king, took God's gold out of the Temple in order to buy an alliance with the King of Syria;
  2. How the Syrian king took the gold, but betrayed him;
  3. How God allowed a grave illness to befall Asa.

Homily

On the sorrow of Christ

Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour(John 12:27).

Nothing more real came into this earthly world than the Lord Jesus Christ-nothing more real as God, and nothing more real as man. In truth, besides Jesus Christ, this whole world is like a mirage. Neither earth, nor water, nor air, nor light even comes close to His reality. Behold, all of this will pass, but He will remain. Indeed, He is the cornerstone of the eternal, intransitory world; and only He, and those who cling to Him, will have a part in that eternal, intransitory reality. The stormy but helpless waves of time have furiously assaulted, and continue assaulting, the reality of Christ's divinity and even His humanity. As much effort was needed for Christians to open the eyes of the pagans and to prove the divinity of Christ, as was needed to open the eyes of the heretics to prove His humanity. The omniscient Holy Spirit foresaw this, and, through the Evangelists, prepared the weapons for Christian warriors. Now is My soul troubled. Would the Lord feel sorrow if He were not a true man, subject to all the weaknesses of the physical nature except sin? And He would feel not only sorrow, but also fear: Father, save Me from this hour! This is said by weak human nature which fears death (for this is about death). However, His human nature was not sinful, but sinless, for our Lord immediately adds: But for this cause came I unto this hour. Do you see how important the death of Christ is? By it we are redeemed, and by it we are saved. Therefore, let no one stop at the teachings of Christ; rather, let him take himself to Golgotha, and observe with horror the bloody sacrifice on the Cross that was offered for our sins-for our salvation from the foul jaws of the serpent of the netherworld.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered for our sake and for the sake of our salvation-have mercy on us, again and again.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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