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Prologue from Ochrid - September 8 [September 21]

1. The Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God.

The holy Virgin Mary was born of her aged parents, Joachim and Anna. Her father was of the tribe of David and her mother of the tribe of Aaron, and so she was of royal blood from her father and priestly blood from her mother. By this, she foreshadowed Him who would be born of her as King and High Priest. Her parents were already old and had no children, and, because of this, were ashamed before men and humble before God. In their humility, they prayed with tears that God would bring joy to their old age with the gift of a child, as He had once given joy to the aged Abraham and Sarah, giving them their son Isaac. God, almighty and all-seeing, gave them a joy far exceeding all their expectations and their wildest dreams, for He gave them not just a daughter, but the Mother of God; He illumined them not only with temporal joy but with eternal. God gave them just one daughter, who later gave them just one grandson - but what a daughter and what a grandson! Mary full of grace, blessed among women, the temple of the Holy Spirit, altar of the living God, table of living bread, ark of God's holy things, tree of the most delicious fruits, glory of the human race, praise of womanhood, fount of virginity and purity - this was the daughter given by God to Joachim and Anna. Born in Nazareth, she was after three years taken to the Temple in Jerusalem, whence she returned again to Nazareth and shortly afterwards heard the tidings of the holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, from her most pure and virginal body.

2. The Feast of the Kalishto Icon of the Holy Mother of God.

In the monastery of the most holy Mother of God near the village of Kalishto, to the west of Struga, the holy Mother of God revealed her power and mercy through numerous miracles. Many of the sick were miraculously healed, and robbers that intended plundering or desecrating the monastery were fiercely punished by an unseen power. The miraculous icon of the most holy Mother of God stands in the church, and nearby are two healing springs - of St Peter and St Ananias. Not far from the main church, in a cave, stands the chapel of St Athanasius.

3. The Feast of the Pochaev Icon of the Holy Mother of God.

In the province of Volinsk there stands the famous monastery of the Mother of God in Pochaev, where she first appeared in about 1340 to two monks who were living the ascetic life in a cave. From that time, the place became an inexhaustible fount of innumerable miracles.

Reflection

St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes of the immeasurable joy, the outer and inner radiance, and the indescribable fragrance that he sensed in the presence of the Holy Theotokos when he visited her in Jerusalem. In his zeal, he says that if he had not known the One True God, he would have recognized her, the Holy Virgin Mary, as God. The Holy Virgin made such a powerful and unique impression on men during her earthly life-and she received an incomparably greater power and glory after her physical death when, by the will of God, she was exalted above the heavenly hosts. Her power comes from her ceaseless prayer for the faithful, for all those who turn to her for help. When St. John of Novgorod and his people prayed to her for help against a hostile army, he understood that she was simultaneously praying to the Lord with tears in their behalf, and Novgorod was miraculously saved. As she was compassionate toward her crucified Son, so the Holy Most-pure One is also compassionate toward all those in need, and who turn to her for help. It could be said that the entire earth is covered by the miracles of her mercy. Even today, there lives in Belgrade a café owner (C. J.), who was born in the village of Labunište (Macedonia) outside Struga. His mother brought him blind to the Monastery of Kališta, where, after the priest prayed over him before the icon of the Holy Theotokos, he received his sight. The first monk at Pochaev saw a fiery pillar extending from earth to heaven, and in that flaming pillar he saw the Holy Theotokos. She was standing on a rock. On the spot where she stood, a spring of healing water sprang forth: even today, it heals many of the sick.

Contemplation

Contemplate God's wonderful gift to Solomon (I Kings 3):

  1. How the Lord appeared to Solomon in Gibeon, and asked him his desire;
  2. How Solomon asked for an understanding heart, in order to judge the people and recognize good and evil;
  3. How God gave him that which he sought, as well as that which he did not seek.

Homily

On the equality of the Son and the Father

The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do(John 5:19).

Brethren, how are we to understand these words? In the same way as some heretics understood them-that is, that the Son is lesser and weaker than the Father? In no way. The mouths that interpreted these words of the Lord this way spoke blasphemy. We must understand these words as our Holy Fathers understood them-that the Son is equal to the Father in all things; and that, because of their equality of will, love, and wisdom, the Son can do nothing contrary to the Father's will, or contrary to the love of the Father, or contrary to the wisdom of the Father. Thus, the Father cannot do anything contrary to the Son, and the Holy Spirit cannot do anything contrary to the Father or the Son. Everything that the Father wills and loves and thinks, is also willed, loved and thought by the Son and the Holy Spirit. Harmony unequaled; unity undivided; being inexpressible! Therefore, it is obvious that the Son can and will do nothing of Himself-nothing of His own accord, nothing without harmony and unity with the power of the Father and the will of the Father. The Lord Himself further witnesses that this interpretation is true by His words: For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will (John 5:21). Do you see the equality of will and power? That which the Father wills, the Son wills also; that which the Father can do, the Son can also do. Therefore, let no one separate Their Divinity, and thus bring down a curse upon himself. God cannot be divided, and one who tries to divide Divinity-and to lessen one Person and to exalt the other Person-cannot be saved.

O Most-holy Trinity our God, Three in Persons, and One in Essence- Life, Light and Love-look down upon us, and have mercy on us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK