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Prologue from Ochrid - August 27 [September 9]

1. Our Holy Father Pimen the Great.

He was an Egyptian by birth and a great Egyptian ascetic. As a boy, he visited various spiritual teachers and gathered proven experience as a bee gathers honey from flowers. Pimen once begged the elder Paul to take him to St Paisius. Seeing him, Paisius said: 'This child will save many; the hand of God is on him.' In time, Pimen became a monk and drew two of his brothers to monasticism. Their mother once came to see her sons, but Pimen would not allow her in, asking through the door: 'Which do you want more: to see us here and now, or in the other world in eternity?' Their mother went away joyfully, saying: 'If I will see you for certain there, I don't need to see you here.' In the monastery of these three brothers, governed by the eldest, Abba Anoub, the rule was as follows: at night, four hours were passed in manual work, four hours in sleep and four in reading the Psaiter. The day was passed, from morning to noon, in alternate work and prayer, from mid-day to Vespers in reading and after Vespers they prepared their meal, the only one in the twenty-four hours, and this usually of some sort of cabbage. Pimen himself said about their life: 'We ate what was to hand. No-one ever said: "Give me something else", or "I won't eat that". In that way, we spent our whole life in silence and peace.' He lived in the fifth century, and entered peacefully into rest in great old age.

2. Our Holy Father Pimen of Palestine.

He lived the ascetic life in Rouba, in the Palestinian desert, in the time of the Emperor Maurice (582-602), and was a shepherd in his youth. Once his dogs fell on a man and tore him to pieces, and he, from capriciousness, did not try to save him. It was revealed to him that, because of this, he would, in the end, be devoured by wild beasts. So it came to pass: he was so devoured, and gave his soul into God's hands.

3. St Hosius of Cordova.

He governed the Church in Spain as Bishop of Cordova for over sixty years, and played a prominent part in the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea. He also presided at the local Council in Sardica in 343. He was so zealous for Orthodoxy that, at the time of his death, he renewed the anathema against the Arian heresy.

4. The Hieromartyr Kuksha and Pimen the Faster.

They were both monks of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Kuksha was successful in preaching the Gospel to the Wallachians and in baptising them. One day, pagans fell on him and killed him, together with his disciple. At that moment, Pimen the Faster was standing in the church in the Monastery of the Caves and, seeing in his spirit the death of his disciple and friend Kuksha, cried out: 'Our brother Kuksha has today been killed for the Gospel!' Thus saying, he also breathed his last. This was in 1113.

In the Greek Great Synaxarion, the Holy Martyr Phanurius is also commemorated. Who he was and when he lived is not known, but he is much venerated in Rhodes and Crete. In 1500, he appeared to some people on the island of Rhodes, where he also showed wonders of healing. There is found there an old icon of him, in which he is depicted as a young soldier holding a cross in his right hand and a burning candle in his left. St Phanurius is also much venerated in Egypt. There is a tradition that his mother was a great sinner, whom not even he could convert. But his filial love for his mother was great beyond measure, and he prayed more for his mother's salvation than his own. When the pagans stoned him to death for Christ, St Phanurius prayed to God: 'For the sake of these my sufferings, Lord, help all those who will pray to Thee for the salvation of Phanurius's sinful mother.' In Egypt, many Christians pray thus: "O Lord, save Ohanurius's mother and help me, a sinner" - and many receive help through this prayer.

Reflection

One who crawls up a steep mountain and scrapes with both hands and feet to take one step forward, not thinking to look back, such were the great Orthodox ascetics in the difficult climb to the Kingdom of God. Their labor and their detachment is indeed for amazement. St. Pimen did not want to see his mother when she came to visit him. A prince wanted to see Pimen but he refused. Then the prince thought of a cunning way, to force the elder to meet with him; he arrested the son of Pimen's sister and said to her that he would release her son only if Pimen himself comes to speak with him. The sister went into the wilderness and, knocking at the door, begged her brother to come out and save her son. But Pimen did not come out. Then sister began to scold and curse him. Hearing of this, the prince ordered that a letter be written to Pimen saying that if he, Pimen, would at least put in writing, (since he did not do so orally) implore the prince to release his nephew, the prince would do so. Pimen replied: "O mighty prince, command to probe well the guilt of the young man and if the guilt is such that he deserves death, let him die, so that by temporal punishment, he will escape the torments in eternity but if the guilt does not merit the penalty of death then castigate him according to the law and then release him." Reading this just and impartial judgment, the prince was greatly astonished, released the youth and his respect for Pimen increased two-fold.

Contemplation

To contemplate Saul's total apostasy from the one God (1 Samuel 28-31 1 Kings 28-31):

  1. How he [Saul] frightened by the Philistines, turned to a pagan sorceress [the witch of Endor] to prognosticate for him;
  2. How the sorceress, through prognostication, evoked a spirit who called himself Samuel and who prophesied Saul's death;
  3. How Saul with his sons perished at the hands of the Philistines.

Homily

About the Day of Christ and how Isaiah prophesied it

"Therefore My people shall know in that day that I am He that does speak: behold, it is I" (Isaiah 52:6).

Brethren, our God is the God of Truth. Even on the sun there are spots of darkness but on our God, there is not a spot of untruth. Every word spoken by God through the prophets came true. When the Word [Logos] of God became incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord, then all the prophecies which referred to Him and which, for the Jews until then were dark enigmas, were revealed as clear as the sun. In the Holy Gospel it is said: "And the Word was made flesh" (St. John 1:14), the Pre-eternal word of God, the eternal Wisdom of God and the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh, every word of prophesy is revealed in bodily form. Until the Lord Christ came in the flesh to visit mankind, the scribes and readers of Holy Scripture could think of many words of the prophets, long and long unfulfilled, that those are only the words of the prophets as men and not words from God. But God did not permit anyone to think lowly of His prophets, that is why He said that men shall know "…in that day that I am He that does speak". Therefore, God wanted to give importance to every word of the prophets and wanted to teach men patience, to patiently await "that day", that wondrous day when the manifestation of the Lord on earth in the flesh will clearly cry out in every ear: "Behold, it is I!" He who recognized the Lord Jesus as God in the flesh, that one recognized in Him, simultaneously, that one Who spoke through the prophets.

"Behold, it is I!" thus speaks Christ today. "I am He" Who speaks through all the created universe. "I am He" Who spoke through the prophets. "I am He" Who, through the lips of the body spoke the words of eternal salvation. "I am He" Who spoke through the apostles, saints and teachers. "I am He" Who speaks and Who will continue to speak through My Holy Church until the end of time. "I am He" Who speaks and "I am He" about Whom it is spoken.

O Lord, To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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