Prologue from Ochrid - October 17 [October 30]
1. The Holy Prophet Hosea.
The son of Beeri of the tribe of Issachar, he lived and prophesied more than eight hundred years before the birth of Christ. His inspired words are found in his book, which contains fourteen chapters. He strongly rebuked Israel and Judah for their idolatry, foretold God's punishment for their sin, the destruction of Samaria and Israel for their apostasy but the showing of God's mercy on the tribe of Judah. He foresaw the end of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, and the coming of the Lord and the rich gifts that He would bring to earth. He lived to great old age, and entered peacefully into rest.
2. The Holy Martyrs Cosmas and Damian, the Unmercenaries.
There were three pairs of holy brothers called Cosmas and Damian. The first entered peacefully into rest on November 1st, the second were stoned to death in Rome on July 1st, and the third were Arabs - and it is of these that we are thinking today. They were doctors by trade and, when they embraced the Christian faith, they healed the sick in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, becoming known on all sides for their miraculous hearings. The wicked pagans seized them and took them before the governor, Lysias, in the town of Aegae. These holy brothers would not deny Christ at any price, so they were first thrown into the sea and then into fire, but God almighty saved them from drowning and from the flames, an angel of God appearing to them and saving them. The pagan governor ascribed this to some magical power of theirs, but they replied: 'We have no sort of magic, nor use any, but we have the power of Christ to save us and all who call upon His holy name.' They were then stoned, but the stones bounced off them, and they were finally beheaded with the sword. Ss Leontius, Anthimus and Euprepius also suffered with them and received wreaths of glory. They suffered in the time of Diocletian and Maximian, in the early fourth century. Many miracles were wrought by their holy relics, such as they had themselves also wrought while living on this earth.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Andrew.
He was a Cretan by birth, and a Christian priest. At the time of the iconoclast persecution, he showed himself a great fighter for their veneration and went to Constantinople to denounce the wicked Emperor Copronymos for his iconoclasm. The Emperor was one day in the Church of the Holy Martyr Mamas. Andrew went into the church, stood before the Emperor and began to rebuke him openly, before all who were present: 'You would do better, 0 King, to look to the work of the army and the governing of the people, than to the persecuting of Christ and His servants.' For this he was harshly flogged and tortured, and dragged through the streets, where a heretic attacked him with an axe and killed him. Thus Andrew gave his holy soul into God's hands, in the year 767. His relics had healing power.
4. St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead.
His chief feasts are on March 17th and Lazarus Saturday at the end of the Great Fast. Today we commemorate the translation of his relics from the island of Cyprus to Constantinople. The Emperor Leo the Wise built a church to St Lazarus in Constantinople, and translated his relics there in 890. When, after almost a thousand years, Lazarus's grave in the town of Kition on Cyprus was dug up, a marble tablet was found with the inscription still legible: 'Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, the friend of Christ'.
The second appearance of the Holy Martyr Longinus: When Longinus appeared to the blind widow whose son had died, he promised to restore her sight and to reveal her son in great glory. Finding the relics of the holy martyr and touching them with her hands, the widow immediately regained her sight, and thus, one promise was fulfilled. The following night, St. Longinus appeared to the widow in radiant attire, holding her son by the hand, who was also clothed resplendently. Caressing the child like a father, Longinus said: "Woman, behold your son for whom you weep so much! Look at the honor and glory given him; look and be comforted. God has numbered him among the heavenly ranks who live in His Kingdom. I have now brought him from the Savior, and he will never be parted from me. Take my head and your son's body, and bury them together in one coffin. Mourn your son no longer, and let not your heart be troubled, for great glory, joy, and endless rejoicing is given him from God." Seeing and hearing all this, the woman was filled with great joy, and she returned to her home, saying to herself: "I asked for bodily eyes and I found spiritual eyes. I was saddened at the death of my son, and now I have him in heaven, where he remains in glory with the prophets and rejoices with them unceasingly."
Contemplate the wondrous vision of St. Stephen the Archdeacon and Protomartyr (Acts 7):
- How Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw the heavens opened;
- How he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56);
- How the Jews stoned him.
On the festering wounds of sin
My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness (Psalm 38:5).
The prophet speaks of the wounds of sins that he himself committed, and from which he sensed in himself the stench of sin. As much as this acknowledgment reveals the impurity of previous sins, so is the subsequent purity of the repentant one also shown. For as long as man follows the corrupt path of sin, he does not sense its suffocating stench; but when he withdraws from this path and sets off on the pure path of righteousness, he senses the inexpressible difference between purity and impurity, between the path of virtue and the path of vice. Imagine a man who has spent the night in a stinking tavern and finds himself in a garden of roses the next morning. In the former there was stench, poison, debasement of soul and body, anger, discord, and the tormenting of himself and others. In the latter is God's great sun overhead, beautiful flowers everywhere, fresh air, wondrous fragrance, serenity and health. Imagine this, and understand that there is an even greater difference between the path of sin and the path of God. My wounds are foul and festering. Thus the great king describes the fruits of his sinful past. Nothing is as foul as sin, nothing festers as much and nothing spreads as much as sin. The stench of bodily wounds suggests, in only a small way, the unbearable stench of a sinful soul. That is why every holy thing distances itself from such a soul. The pure heavenly spirits hide from such a one, and the impure spirits of hades seek its company. Every new sin is a fresh wound on the soul; every sin is corruption and stench. How does sin arise? From my foolishness explains the prophet. A mind derailed from its divine track leads man to sin. Until the mind is cleansed, man cannot be cleansed. But we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), says the Apostle. In other words, we have a mind put back on track, as was Adam's mind before the sinful stench. Hence brethren, all Orthodox teaching on asceticism concentrates on one main point: on the mind of man; on the cleansing and correcting of the mind.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Purity and eternal Source of purity, help us to reject our foolishness; help us to reason according to Thy mind.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK