Prologue from Ochrid - August 22 [September 4]
1. The Holy Martyrs Agathonicus and Zoticus, and others with them.
St Agathonicus was a citizen of Nicomedia and a Christian. He turned the Greeks from idolatry with great fervour, and instructed them in the true Faith. The imperial governor, on orders from the Emperor Maximian, was persecuting Christians with great harshness. In this persecution, he seized St Zoticus in a place called Carpe, crucified his disciples and took him off to Nicomedia, where he also seized and bound Agathonicus, Princeps, Theoprepius, Acyndinus, Severian, Zeno and many others. They were taken, securely bound, to Byzantium. On the way, Zoticus, Theoprepius and Acyndinus died from exhaustion and of their wounds. Severian was killed near Chalcedon and Agathonicus and the others were taken to Thrace, to a place called Silybria, where, after torture before the Emperor himself, they were beheaded with the sword and entered into eternal life and the joy of their Lord.
2. The Holy Martyr Eulalia.
At the time of a terrible persecution of Christians in Spain, there was a maiden called Eulalia, born of Christian parents in Barcelona. Utterly consecrated to Christ her Bridegroom, and steeped in the Holy Scriptures, she applied herself steadfastly to voluntary asceticism of soul and body. When the torturer, Dacian, who was mercilessly slaughtering Christians in Spain, came to Barcelona, Eulalia slipped away from her parents by night, came before the torturer and, in the presence of many of the people, denounced him as a murderer of innocent people, and also pulled down idols, openly confessing her faith in Christ the living Lord. Dacian commanded in fury that she be stripped and beaten with rods, but the holy maiden showed that she did not feel the pain of the torture for her Christ. Then the torturer had her tied to a tree in the form of a Cross, and ordered that her flesh be burned with torches. The torturer asked her, where was her Christ to save her? Eulalia answered: 'He is here with me, but you cannot see Him because of your impurity.' Under great torture, Eulalia gave her soul to God and, when she breathed her last, the people saw a white dove emerge from her mouth. Then a sudden snowstorm came and covered the naked body of the martyr like a white garment. On the third day, St Felix came and, in grief, wept before the hanging body of Eulalia, and a smile appeared on the saint's dead face. Her parents came and, together with other Christians, buried the body of the holy maiden. She suffered for her Lord and entered into eternal joy at the beginning of the fourth century.
3. The Holy Martyr Anthusa, and others with her.
The daughter of rich, pagan parents in Seleucia in Syria, Anthusa heard of Christ and believed in Him with all her heart. She went secretly to Bishop Athanasius, who baptised her, and an angel of God appeared at that moment. After that, Anthusa went off to the desert to live in asceticism, not daring to return to her parents. She lived in the desert for thirty-three years, until, while kneeling in prayer on a rock, she gave her soul into God's hands. She was buried, at her prior request, under this rock. Athanasius and two of Anthusa's servants, Charismus and Neophytus, were beheaded for their faith in Christ in the time of the Emperor Valerian, in about the year 257. They suffered with honour and were crowned with wreaths.
When a man once truly repents, he need not think any more about the sins he committed so that he will not sin again. St. Anthony counsels: "Be careful that your mind not be defiled with the remembrance of former sins and that the remembrance of those sins not be renewed in you." Again, in another place, St. Anthony says: "Do not establish your previously committed sins in your soul by thinking about them so that they not be repeated in you. Be assured that they are forgiven you from the time that you gave yourself to God and repentance. In that, do not doubt." It is said of St. Ammon that he attained such perfection that from much goodness he was not aware that evil exists anymore. When they asked him what is that "narrow and difficult [sorrowful] path" (St. Matthew 7:14), he replied: "That it is the restraining of one's thoughts and severing of one's desires in order to fulfill the will of God." Whoever restrains sinful thoughts, does not think of his own sins or the sins of others neither of anything corruptible nor of anything earthly. The mind of such a man is continually in heaven where there is no evil. Thus, in him, sin gradually ceases to be, even in his thoughts.
To contemplate the wondrous help of God to David (1 Samuel 19 1 Kings 19):
- How David played the harp before Saul;
- How an evil spirit attacked Saul and Saul hurled a spear at David in order to kill him;
- How Saul, even from the closest distance, did not hit David.
About the prophecy of the miracles of Christ
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isaiah 35: 5-6).
Come, brethren, let us be amazed at the power of our living God Who opened the eyes of mortal men to see in the greatest distance of time that which will come to pass. And still to see in the minutest details as though this prophet [Isaiah] himself was an apostle of Christ, walked with the Lord, witnessed the miracles of miracles, how he gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the lame to walk and to the dumb, voice and speech. When John the Baptist in prison sent his disciples to ask Christ: "Are You He who is to come or do we look for another?" (St. Matthew 11:3), the Lord Christ answered them in the words of His prophet Isaiah: "Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up "
(St. Matthew 11: 4-5). Look and see how wonderful the Lord planned our salvation! That which was prophesied about Him through His Prophet Isaiah, that is what He fulfilled. At one time, the Prophet Isaiah spoke His words inspired by the Holy Spirit and now He [Jesus Christ] speaks the words of His prophet. At one time, the prophet quoted Him and now He [Jesus Christ] quotes the prophet. To show by this that when He speaks His words or when He speaks the words of the prophet, He always speaks only His words. To show that even then it was He who spoke and not the prophet and that it is now He who speaks and not anyone else and to justify His prophet as His faithful servant so that no one would be able to say that the prophet spoke falsely. Thus, the prophets served to the glory of Christ the Lord and Christ the Lord glorified His prophets, His true servants.
O Lord Jesus, glorified by Your servants and the Glorifier of Your servants, help us also so that by word, deed and thoughts we may be able to serve the majestic glory of Your Name.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK