Prologue from Ochrid - September 2 [September 15]
1. The Holy Martyr Mamas.
He was born in Paphlagonia of eminent Christian parents, Theodotus and Rufina, who were thrown into prison for the name of Christ. In the prison, Theodotus was the first to die, and Rufina, after giving birth to a son, soon followed her husband, and the newborn child was left in the prison beside the bodies of his parents. God the Provider sent His holy angel to a noble widow, Ammia, whom the angel told in a dream to go to the prison and take the child. Ammia asked the city governor's permission to bury the dead and take the child into her own home. The child was dumb until the age of five, and then his first word was' Mama', because of which he was given the name Mamas. At school, he showed an unusual brightness, and, being brought up at home in a Christian spirit, did not conceal his faith but confessed it before his contemporaries, mocking at the idols. In the time of the Emperor Aurelian, there was a vicious persecution of Christians, and the pagans did not spare even Christian children. Mamas was fifteen years old when he was taken before the Emperor. The Emperor told him to deny Christ only with his lips. To this Mamas replied: 'I shall not deny my God and King Jesus Christ either in my heart or with my lips.' The Emperor ordered that he be beaten, burned with torches and finally thrown into the sea, but an angel of God saved him and took him to a high mountain near Caesarea. There he lived in solitude and prayer, and fierce wild beasts were tamed by his holiness. He was eventually found there by the persecutors and put again to torture. Overcoming both the power of fire and the fierceness of wild beasts, holy Mamas was stabbed with a trident by a pagan priest. He thus gave his holy soul to the God to whom he had remained faithful in all his sufferings. Many of the sick have been healed by his relics.
2. St John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople.
St John is also commemorated on August 30th. He was a goldsmith at first, then, by God's providence and for his great virtues, was ordained priest. As a young man, St John was once walking with an old monk from Palestine, Eusebius. Suddenly, a voice came to Eusebius from some invisible source: 'Father, don't walk on the right of great John!' This, the voice of God, was predicting the high service to which John was soon to be called. After blessed Eutychius' death, John was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople. He was most unwilling to accept, but was overawed by a heavenly vision and thus gave his consent. He was a great faster, a man of prayer and a wonderworker right up to his death, entering into rest in 595. After his death, his only possessions were found to be a wooden spoon, a linen shirt and an old cassock. His writings on repentance and confession are well-known.
3. St Eleazar.
The son of Aaron and second High Priest in Israel, he helped Moses to number the Israelites and Joshua the son of Nun to apportion the Promised Land among the twelve tribes. He faithfully guarded the Ark of the Covenant in Shiloh, and died peacefully.
4. Feast of the Miracle of the Kaluga Icon of the Mother of God.
This is recorded in the passage for consideration below.
The life of the Orthodox Church provides us with numerous examples of how Almighty God manifests His power through small and lifeless things-especially those things that serve as signs of the Incarnation, life and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such things include the Cross, icons of the Theotokos and the saints, holy water, oil, myrrh, and so forth. For example, a miracle was wrought through an icon of the Holy Mother of God in the year 1748, in the home of a boyar named Khitrov, near the Russian city of Kaluga. Two of the boyar's servants, rummaging in Khitrov's attic one day, came upon a rolled-up piece of cloth that depicted the beautiful image of a woman's face. The image emanated holiness and piety. One of the servants was humble and modest, while the other was vain and talkative. The former, looking at the image on the cloth, called it "The Abbess." Evdokia-the vain and talkative one, whose name we know-did not honor this name, but coarsely mocked her humble companion. To give even more force to her vulgarity, she spat on the painting. At that instant Evdokia fell to the ground, writhing with her whole body, blind and dumb, and began foaming at the mouth. That night the Theotokos appeared to the parents of the unfortunate girl, and told them what had happened to their daughter. She told them to get a priest and have him pray before the image that had been found and sprinkle the girl with holy water, and then she would be healed. When this was done, Evdokia was healed, and from then on she amended her disposition and was more modest. Thus was a miracle-working icon of the Holy Theotokos discovered. This icon was taken to a church in Kaluga, where it can be found today, still working miracles.
Contemplate God's punishment of David for his adultery and murder (II Samuel 12):
- How God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, told David that because he took another's wife, his own wives would be taken by other men;
- That his son would die;
- That the sword would not depart from his house-all of which came to pass.
On the Word of God, the Creator of the world
It [the Word] was in the beginning in God. Everything came into existence by Him (John 1:2-3)
Brethren, the Evangelist is speaking of the wondrous Logos of God, of the rational, intelligent Word, of the eternal Wisdom of God, of the co-eternal Son of God. This wondrous Word is of one Essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, yet hypostatically different from the Father and the Spirit, for He was begotten of the Unbegotten Father. He always was, is, and shall be. When was the Word in God? The Evangelist says: In the beginning. What does In the beginning mean? It means the same as "first" or "first of all." So, first of all, the Word of God was in God, and has always been of one being with the Father, and has always been the Son, in hypostasis, but not yet incarnate. Later, the Word of God became incarnate, and appeared in a body for the sake of mankind. When He was still the unincarnate Word in God, everything came into existence by Him. Heaven and earth, and the whole inhabited heavenly and earthly worlds-everything came into existence by Him, by the Word of God, when He was in God, and not yet incarnate. Without the Word of God, no created thing came into existence. He was Life and Light, and the Light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5). First of all, death and sin represent darkness. That darkness did not overcome the Son of God. The whole created world itself is darkness before God, yet in this darkness shines the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, rational, intelligent and majestic. All of creation would be in utter darkness if the mystical light of the Son of God-by Whom all things were created-did not illuminate it.
It [the Word] was in the beginning in God… then what happened? And the Word was made flesh (John 1:14). The history of the creation of the world leads up to this point, and from this point the history of man's salvation begins. In taking on flesh, the Word of God did not estrange Himself from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit-for the Divine Trinity is undivided-but, rather, He clothed Himself in the body and soul of man, so that, in the shadow of the body, He, the Sun of suns, could draw near to men and save men.
O my brethren, how sweet and inexpressibly wonderful is the mystery of the Incarnation of God. If we embrace this mystery with our heart, it will be easier to approach it with our mind.
O Lord, gentle Savior, the glory of the Father and the joy of the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us 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