Prologue from Ochrid - September 6 [September 19]
1. The Commemoration of the Miracles of the Holy Archangel Michael.
There was in Phrygia a place called Chonae (plunging), not far from Hierapolis, and in that place there was a miraculous spring of water. When the Apostle John the Theologian, together with Philip, was preaching the Gospel in Hierapolis, he looked at this place and foretold that a spring would gush forth in it, a spring of healing water from which many would be restored to health, and that the place would be visited by Michael, the great archangel of God. This prophecy was very soon fulfilled: a spring of water appeared, which became known far and wide for its miraculous power. A pagan in Laodicea had a dumb daughter, which caused him great grief, but the Archangel Michael appeared to him in a dream and urged him to take his daughter to this spring, that she might be restored to health. The father immediately obeyed, took his daughter and there encountered many people who had come to seek deliverance from various ills. They were all Christians. The man asked how he should seek healing, and the Christians told him: 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, you must beg the Archangel Michael.' The father made his petition accordingly and dipped his daughter in the water, and the girl began to speak. Then this pagan was baptized along with his daughter and his whole household, and built a church to the Archangel Michael over the spring.
Later, a young man called Archippus settled there. Pagans did him much malicious harm, for they did not want such power to be felt from a Christian holy place and many people be drawn to it. In their wickedness, they altered the course of a nearby river, so that it innundated the church and the spring. But, at the prayers of Archippus, the Archangel Michael appeared and opened a fissure in the rock at the end of the church, through which the flooding river plunged. So the place was saved, and became known as Chonae plunging - from the river's plunge through the opened fissure. St Archippus lived there in asceticism till the age of seventy, and entered peacefully into rest in the Lord.
2. The Holy Martyr Romulus, and the 11,000 soldiers.
When the Emperor Trajan was waging war in the East, he once ordered a count of the Christians in his army, and it was found that there were eleven thousand Christians in the imperial army. The Emperor ordered that they all be dismissed from the army and sent to Armenia. St Romulus was an official at the Emperor's court. He went to the Emperor and chided him for these dismissals, acknowledging that he himself was a Christian. The Emperor ordered that Romulus be beheaded. Of the exiled soldiers, ten thousand were crucified and the others died under various tortures.
3. St Eudoxius.
A commander in the Roman army, he suffered for Christ in the time of Diocletian, being judged and tortured by the governor of Melitene in Armenia. With him suffered his friends Zeno and Macarius, and 1,104 other soldiers whom Eudoxius had brought to the Christian faith. After his death, he appeared to his wife Vasilissa, who was faithful to Christ till her death and entered peacefully into rest.
4. Our Holy Father David.
He was a robber leader near Hermopolis in Egypt, and only in his later years came to himself, repented and became a monk. He entered peacefully into rest in the sixth century, being worthy of the Kingdom of God through his great asceticism.
Christianity has uprooted many barbaric customs from the society of man. But some of those customs-praiseworthy from the pagan point of view, but shameful from the Christian point of view-are, even to the present day, like hidden corruption oozing from a supposedly healed wound. One of these customs is the unlawful kidnapping of maidens. St. Basil wrote powerfully to one of his priests, after one such incident: "Do all in your power to find and rescue this maiden. Then, return her to her parents and excommunicate the perpetrator. Also suspend those who abetted him-including their entire households-from participation in services for three years. Likewise, suspend everyone in the village to which the maiden was taken, where she was hidden or perhaps kept by force-so that all will know that a kidnapper should be driven away from them like a serpent or some other wild beast or common enemy, and that the abused should be protected."
Contemplate the example of David's self-restraint (II Samuel 23):
- How, during battle against the Philistines, David became thirsty, and asked who would bring him water from the well in Bethlehem, which was held by the Philistines;
- How three heroes slipped through the enemy lines, and brought water back to their king;
- How David did not want to drink, but rather poured the water on the ground, saying: Is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?
On the two births
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit(John 3:6).
Brethren, these words are not the words of a prophet or an apostle, but are the words of the Lord Himself, uttered with His most pure mouth. As there is power and salvation in every one of the Lord's words, so is there power and salvation in these. That is why it is necessary to study these words with fear and great care and apply them in our lives. By these words the Lord emphasizes the precedence of the spirit over the flesh. And, as the flesh is born of the body, so the spirit must be born of the Spirit. The birth of our spirit is of the Spirit of God, according to the grace of God and not according to nature. It is the new birth that the Lord described to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus did not understand these words of Christ, just as, even today, he whose flesh is stronger than his spirit does not understand them. Men whose flesh has overcome their spirit think and judge everything according to the body. Men whose spirit has overcome their body think and judge everything according to the spirit. All those who think and judge according to the body make their spirits fleshly, while all who think and judge spiritually make their bodies spiritual. Just like someone exchanging gold for paper money, the former convert that which is immortal into that which is mortal. The latter are like someone exchanging paper money for pure gold-for they do not destroy that which is immortal, but convert that which is mortal into that which is immortal. The Jews interpreted the Law and the Prophets according to the flesh, and that is why they did not understand the Lord Jesus, but crucified the Lord of Glory. Those who were enlightened by the grace of the Spirit of God interpreted both the Law and the Prophets spiritually, and understood our Lord Jesus Christ. And through Him, they understood not only the Law and the Prophets, but all of created nature as well, and all of their life on earth. Brethren, although the body is necessarily born of the flesh, it would be unnatural for the spirit also to be born of the flesh. Let our spirit be born of the Spirit of God and then we will be natural, both in body and in spirit. This is that higher and sinless nature that Adam had in Paradise before he sinned. It is not possible or necessary for our body to be born again of the flesh. It is possible and necessary, and never too late, for our spirit to be born again of the Spirit of God.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God-help us, that before death we may become reborn of the Spirit of God, and that our spirits, in truth, be born of the Spirit.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK