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Prologue from Ochrid - September 17 [September 30]

1. The Holy Martyrs Vera, Nada and Lubov (Faith, Hope and Love), and their mother Sophia.

They lived and suffered in Rome in the time of the Emperor Hadrian. The wise Sophia (as her name - Sophia - wisdom, indicates) was left a widow and, as a Christian, steeped herself and her daughters in the Christian faith. At the time that Hadrian's persecuting hand stretched out over the virtuous house of Sophia, Vera was twelve, Nada ten and Lubov nine. The four of them were brought before the Emperor, with their arms entwined 'like a woven wreath', humbly but firmly confessing their faith in Christ the Lord and refusing to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. At the moment of their passion, the mother urged her valiant daughters to endure to the end: 'Your heavenly Lover, Jesus Christ, is eternal health, inexpressible beauty and life eternal. When your bodies are slain by torture, He will clothe you in incorruption and the wounds on your bodies will shine in heaven like the stars.' The torturers inflicted harsh torture on Vera, Nada and Lubov one by one. They beat them, stabbed them and threw them into fire and boiling pitch, and finally beheaded them one after the other. Sophia took the dead bodies of her daughters out of the town and buried them, and stayed by their grave in prayer for three days and nights, then gave her soul to God, hastening to the heavenly company where the blessed souls of her daughters awaited her.

2. The Holy Martyr Agathocleia.

She was a servant of one Nicolas and his wife Paulina, who were at first Christians but forsook Christianity and turned again to idol-worship. Holy Agathocleia refused to follow the example of her masters, and for this was harshly tortured both by them and by the judge. Finally, her mistress killed her by pouring burning coals on her neck, but God glorified His handmaid in His heavenly kingdom.

3. The 156 Holy Martyrs of Egypt.

They were all Egyptians, and suffered for Christ the Lord in 310, some by the sword and some by fire. Among them were two old bishops, Peleus and Nilus, a priest, Zeno, and two renowned men, Patermuthius and Elias. With them also suffered Bishop Silvanus and an eminent, blind old man, John, who knew the Scriptures by heart and recited them to gatherings of Christians. They were all crowned with wreaths and entered into the eternal Kingdom of Christ.

4. The Holy Martyr Theodota.

She endured eight years of harsh torture on the part of the governor, Simplicius, who finally went out of his mind. She was beheaded with the sword in the time of the Emperor Alexander Severus, in about 230.

Reflection

A faithful and God-fearing ruler is a true blessing for all people. King Vatslav of the Czechs was such a ruler. His zeal for the sanctity of the Faith and his steadfastness remind us of the ancient ascetics. During the day he devoted himself to the affairs of the state, and at night to prayer. In winter, he often walked barefoot to the church for Matins with his old servant Podivoi. He often prepared and baked prosphora himself, especially when he desired to receive Holy Communion. Because of his care for the Faith, many churches were built, in which daily services to God were celebrated. He especially concerned himself with the poor and needy. He was a lover of peace, yet also a great and fearless hero. When the neighboring Prince Radislav attacked the Czech lands, Vatslav sent him a letter asking why he was waging war. The proud Radislav replied that he wanted Vatslav to cede all the Czech lands, and his throne, to him. Vatslav promptly amassed a large army and confronted his enemy. Yet, pondering on the two powerful armies, he mourned that so many men would die, and sent a message to Radislav: "The quarrel is between you and me; you desire to rule the land of the Czechs and I will not yield. Agree to resolve this matter with a duel between the two of us. Why shed so much blood in a battle between two armies?" Prince Radislav agreed to this duel, and was defeated by Vatslav. On his knees, he begged him for forgiveness.

Contemplation

Contemplate the transgressions of Judah, and God's punishment of those transgressions (I Kings 14):

  1. How the people and King Rehoboam did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord;
  2. How they erected idols in the temples, and how there were many sodomites in the land;
  3. How the king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and plundered all the gold of the Temple.

Homily

On the unity of Essence of the Father and the Son

I and My Father are one (John 10:30).

The more miracles that the Lord Jesus performed, and the closer He came to His death, the more openly He spoke of Himself. The numerous miracles and the increasing length of time to contemplate them worked changes in both the good and the wicked. The good became receptive to the revelation of God's lofty mysteries. The wicked, clinging to evil, darkened themselves all the more, and became incapable of receiving these mysteries. That is why the wicked took up stones… to kill Him (John 10:31).

I and My Father are one. The Father and the Son are one in Essence, but are not one in Person (hypostasis). Otherwise, one could not call them by two names: Father and Son. Both the Son and the Holy Spirit have all the attributes of the Father's Essence. However, the attributes of the Person of the Father belong only to the Father, the attributes of the Person of the Son belong only to the Son and the attributes of the Person of the Holy Spirit belong only to the Holy Spirit. But when the discourse is about the Divine Essence, the Son can say, "I and My Father are one," and the Father can say, "I and the Son are one," and the Holy Spirit can say, "I and the Father and the Son are one."

The Lord Jesus Christ expressed the unity of His Being with the Father in the following words: The Father is in Me and I in Him (John 10:38). Can the divinity of the Son be expressed more clearly? Can the human tongue convey the unity of the Triune God in stronger terms? The dogma of the divinity of the Son of God, as well as the dogma of the unity of the Being of God, was revealed and laid out by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, let no one give credence to the deceits of certain unbelievers and heretics-who pretend that the Lord Jesus did not reveal His divinity, and allege that this dogma was introduced to the Church much later. If Christ had not proclaimed His divinity, why would the Jews have said to Him: Thou… makest Thyself God (John 10:33)? And why would they take up stones against Him?

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, one in Essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us and save us by the power and goodness of Thy divinity, almighty and all-righteous.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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