Prologue from Ochrid - August 31 [September 13]
1. The Feast of the Girdle of the Holy Mother of God.
At her Dormition, the most holy Mother of God left her girdle to the holy Apostle Thomas. This girdle was later taken to Constantinople and kept there in a sealed casket in the church of the Mother of God at Blachemae, founded by the Empress Pulcheria. This casket was never opened until the time of the Emperor Leo the Wise (886-912). Leo's wife, the Empress Zoë, was taken sick in soul and, as the result of a mysterious vision, desired that the girdle of the holy Mother of God be placed upon her. The Emperor asked the Patriarch, and the casket was opened. The girdle was taken out and placed upon the sick Empress, who immediately recovered. This feast was instituted as a memorial of this wonder. One part of this girdle is to be found in Georgia, in Zugdid. This came about as follows: The daughter of the Emperor Romanus was healed by the aid of this girdle and, later, when her father gave her to King Abuchaz of Georgia, she took a part of this girdle with her. By order of the Russian Tsar Alexander 1, a special church was built in Mingrelia in Zugdid, where this piece of the wonderworking raiment of the holy Mother of God is kept.
2. St Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
He followed St Anatolius as Patriarch, and was a contemporary of St Marcian (Jan. 10th) and St Daniel Stylites (Dec. 11th). The famous monastery of the Studion was founded in his time, thus named for the Roman senator Studius, who came to Constantinople and, with Patriarch Gennadius' blessing, built the church of St John the Forerunner and the monastery beside it. Gennadius was very gentle and abstinent. He was never willing to ordain any man who did not know the whole Psalter by heart. He presided at a local Council in Constantinople at which simony in the Church was anathematised. He worked miracles, and learned of his death in a vision. He governed the Church for thirteen years, and went peacefully to the Lord in 471.
3. The Hieromartyr Cyprian.
He was born of unbelieving parents, and was himself reared in paganism. He became known in Carthage as a teacher of philosophy and rhetoric. He was married, but, when he became a Christian, he stopped living with his wife and gave himself to an unceasing study of the Holy Scriptures and the perfecting of his character. For his rare virtues, he was ordained priest and very soon consecrated bishop. He was both compassionate to Christians and firm with heretics. He wrote a number of learned books, guided by the Spirit of God, writing especially strongly against idolatry, Judaism and the Novatian heresy. His writings on virginity, martyrdom, alms, patience, prayer to God and so forth are beautiful and gentle. He suffered in the time of Valerian, in 258. At the time of his death, he prayed to God, blessed the people and left twenty-five gold pieces for the executioner who would behead him. See the matchless generosity and greatness of a true Christian!
4. St John, Metropolitan of Kiev.
A Bulgarian, he went to Kiev in 1080 and at once achieved such eminence that he was quickly raised to the rank of Metropolitan. He wrote a letter to Pope Clement, in which he denounced him for certain practices that the Roman Church had introduced. He governed the Church for eight years, and entered peacefully into rest in 1089.
Christians do not believe in kismet, fate or destiny. Even if God determines the chief lines of our life, He, according to our prayers and merits, can change them. Thus, He prolonged King Hezekiah's life for fifteen years: "Go and say to Hezekiah, thus said the Lord, the God of David Your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold I will add unto your days fifteen years" (Isaiah 38:5), and to the Venerable Dius (July 19) he likewise prolonged his life for fifteen years. God extended the life of St. Basil the Great, according to the prayer of the saint for one day until he baptized the Jew, Joseph, his physician. But, as God can, by prayer, prolong life, so He can shorten it because of sin. Emperor Anastasius adhered to the Severian heresy, so called the Acephalites (the headless ones), who spread the foolishness that the Church does not need bishops and priests but rather that everyone unto himself is a bishop and a priest and that everyone has the right, in his own way, to interpret Holy Scripture and to teach others as he understands and believes. In vain did St. John the Patriarch counsel the emperor to return to the truth of Orthodoxy, and not only did the emperor not accept the counsel but rather ill-treated the patriarch in various ways and contemplated to have him banished. One night, the emperor saw in a dream an awesome man on an exalted throne, who held a book in his hand. This man opened the book, found the name of Emperor Anastasius and said: "I have wanted to permit you to live for a while longer but, because of your heresy, behold, I am erasing fourteen years from your life." And he erased something from the book. Terrified, the emperor jumped up from his dream and related his dream to his followers. After a few days, thunder struck the emperor's place and killed Emperor Anastasius.
To contemplate the rejoicing of David in the Lord (2 Samuel 6 2 Kings 6):
- How David transferred the Ark of the Covenant from Baal of Judah to Jerusalem and how, out of joy, he danced before the Ark;
- How Michal, his wife, sneered at David because of his dancing before the Ark, not being ashamed the women;
- How God punished Michal for that inappropriate sneer so that Michal had no offspring until her death.
About the power and the mission of Christ, as Isaiah prophesied
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance to our God" (Isaiah 61: 1-2).
This great and programmed prophecy, the Lord Jesus read at the beginning of His saving work before the Jews in Nazareth and having read this, He sat down and said: "Today is this scripture fulfilled" (St. Luke 4: 16-21). One of the darkest prophecies for the Jewish scribes and priests, He read, closed the book and said: "Today is this scripture fulfilled." None of the Jews dared to touch this prophecy for no one knew to whom this prophecy pertains. Seven centuries have passed since this prophecy was spoken and written and no one knew to whom it pertains. And when that one [Christ] came, upon whom this prophecy pertains, He read it and applied it to Himself. Thus our great Lord justified His prophet and presented Himself to the world.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." Why does He speak so when He is equal to the Spirit as He is to the Father? As St. Chyrsostom interprets, it is for the sake of witnessing to the people. He does not say the grace of the Spirit [is upon Me], for the grace of the Spirit is upon the faithful people but the Spirit Himself is upon Him as was manifested on the Jordan river. The Spirit is the witness of the Son and the Son was never without the Spirit for one moment. The Lord Jesus often mentions the Father and the Holy Spirit first out of infinite love, toward the Father and the Spirit and love always ascribes its own to others and second for the sake of instruction to proud men that they do not emphasize themselves but rather to give honor to others, equal to themselves.
Everything else that is said in this wonderful prophecy, the Lord fulfilled by His miraculous works, word for word. He came primarily to proclaim the mercy of God to men but at the same time, to proclaim the Dread Judgment to those who would despise and reject that mercy.
This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God, the true prophet.
Brethren, let us venerate Isaiah whose God-inspired mouth foretold the Savior and our salvation and let us worship without ceasing our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We worship You our Lord and Savior and we give You thanks for Your All-wise plan for our salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK