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Prologue from Ochrid - September 26 [October 9]

1. St John the Theologian, Apostle and Evangelist.

John was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome the daughter of Joseph, the betrothed of the holy Mother of God. Called by the Lord Jesus, John immediately left his father and the fishing nets and followed Christ with his brother James. From that time, he was not parted from his Lord until the end. With Peter and James, he was present at the raising of Jairus's daughter and at the Lord's Transfiguration, and laid his head on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper. When ail the others had forsaken the crucified Lord, John staved beneath the Cross with the holy Mother of God. In obedience to the Lord's wish, he was as a son to the holy Virgin Mary, caring for her and serving her, looking after her right up to her falling-asleep. After her Dormition, John went off with his disciple Prochorus to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor, and mainly lived and worked in Ephesus. By his inspired preaching and miracles, he brought many to Christianity and undermined the foundations of paganism. The vexed pagans bound him and sent him to Rome to the Emperor Domitian. He was tortured and flogged before the Emperor, but, when he was unharmed either by the strong poison that he was given to drink or the boiling oil into which he was put, the Emperor was afraid and, thinking he was immortal, sent him into exile on the island of Patmos. On this island, St John brought many to Christianity by his words and miracles, and strengthened the Church of God. He wrote his Gospel and the Revelation there. In the time of the Emperor Nerva, who gave liberty to all the captives, John returned to Ephesus, where he lived for some time, confirming the work that he had earlier begun. He was over a hundred years old when he went to the Lord. When his disciples later opened his grave, they found that his body was not there. Every year, on May 8th, a fine, fragrant dust, endowed with healing power rose from his grave. After a long and fruitful life of labour upon earth, this beloved disciple of Christ and pillar of the Church entered into the joy of his Lord, to peace and eternal rejoicing.

2. Our Holy Father Nilus of Calabria.

A great ascetic among the Greeks of Calabria, the founder of several monasteries, a wonderworker and defender of the purity of Orthodoxy, he undertook long journeys simply in order to save another man trouble. He had a burning love for his neighbour, and entered into rest in 1005, leaving many disciples of real worth. The best-known among these is St Bartholomew, the writer of several Canons, who died in 1044.

Reflection

Thus writes the Apostle James: Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (James 5:20). The apostles of Christ did not simply speak thus, but confirmed it by their work. St. Clement of Alexandria relates that, somewhere in Asia Minor, St. John the Apostle had baptized a pagan youth and entrusted him to the care of the local bishop, while he went on further to preach the Gospel. In John's absence, this young man became corrupt, and began to drink and steal, and finally joined a band of thieves in the forest, who attacked men and robbed them. After a while John returned, and heard from the bishop what had happened to this young man. Then Apostle John, not wasting a moment, found a horse and a guide and rushed to the forest where the robbers were to be found. Searching through the forest the saint found them, and confronted their leader. When the young man recognized John, he began to flee. Though aged, John chased him and, despite his old age, caught him. The young man fell at the feet of the apostle and, in shame, could not look him in the eye. John embraced and kissed him, as a shepherd does upon finding his lost sheep. The saint brought him back to town and confirmed him anew in the Faith and in virtuous life. Thereafter pleasing God, this young man entered into rest in due time.

Contemplation

Contemplate the divided heart of King Amaziah toward God, and God's punishment (II Chronicles 25):

  1. How Amaziah at first did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and God granted him victory over the Edomites;
  2. How Amaziah brought the Edomite idols (which had not helped the Edomites) to Jerusalem, and worshiped them;
  3. How God permitted the Israelites to defeat him, and a rebellion was raised against him and killed him.

Homily

On prayer inspired by love

Sanctify them by Thy truth. Thy word is truth (John 17:17).

When a mother is led to death, she worries more about the children whom she leaves behind than about herself. Such is the bond of great love. The Lord Jesus Christ had an even greater love for His disciples than that of a mother for her children. Going to His death, the Lord prayed to His heavenly Father for His disciples. He prayed, not because He lacked power to help them, but prayed to the Father to show the unity of His being with, and love for, His Father. But why did He then ascribe Truth to the Father, when before that He referred to the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), saying to the disciples: The Spirit of Truth… will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)? To demonstrate the equality of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Did He not first say of Himself: I am the Truth (John 14:6)? And, afterward, did He not call the Holy Spirit the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth? And He now ascribes truth to the Father as well: Sanctify them by Thy truth! He who would see any contradiction in this does not comprehend God as Unity and Trinity-Unity of Essence and Trinity of Persons. In that He ascribes truth as something essential to each Person of the Divine Trinity, the Lord demonstrates the equality of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For if one Person of the Divine Trinity would possess less truth, He would be lesser, in Essence, than the other two Persons. With a lessening of truth, there is also a lessening of power, love and wisdom. Therefore, the Lord referred to Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit as Truth, so that men would know and believe in Their complete, essential unity. Therefore let none of the faithful be deluded by any lie asserting an inequality of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Everyone should endeavor to wipe his heart clean of sin, as one cleans a mirror: only then can we truly perceive the great truth of the equality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

O Triune and Divine Truth, enlighten us with Thyself, 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