Prologue of Ohrid


March 23


Nicon was born in Naples of a pagan father and Christian mother. He was a Roman officer in Naples and was unbaptized, even though his mother tutored him in the Christian Faith, hiding this from his father. Once, when Nicon was sent into battle with his troops, his mother counseled him to make the sign of the Cross and to call upon Christ for help if any misfortune should befall him. And, indeed, when during the battle Nicon's troops were completely surrounded and extremely close to final destruction, Nicon made the sign of the Cross and in his heart cried out to Christ. Immediately he was filled with extraordinary strength and pursued his enemies. Some he slew, and others he forced to flee. Returning to his home, Nicon continuously cried out in amazement: "Great is the Christian God." After he had made his mother happy with the news of his victory with the help of the Cross of Christ, he secretly sailed to Asia. There he was baptized by Theodosius, Bishop of Cyzicus. Following his baptism, he secluded himself in a monastery, where he devoted himself to study and asceticism. Before his death Theodosius had a vision in which he was told to ordain Nicon as his successor. Immediately the aged Theodosius summoned Nicon and ordained him a deacon, then a priest, and finally a bishop. Shortly thereafter, according to God's providence, Nicon came to Naples where he discovered that his mother was still living. Following his mother's death, Nicon withdrew to Sicily with nine disciples, his former military companions. There he dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel. At that time, however, there was a terrible persecution of Christians. Prince Quintianus captured Nicon with his companions and inflicted great pain and suffering upon them. Nicon's 199 disciples and companions were beheaded. The tormentor tied Nicon to the tails of horses, hurled him from a steep wall into a gorge, beat him, and skinned him. Nicon, however, survived all of these tortures. Finally, he was beheaded and took up his habitation with the Lord. His body was left in the fields to be devoured by the birds. A certain herdsman, possessed by a violent evil spirit, tripped and fell over the body of Christ's martyr, and was immediately healed. He proclaimed the news about Nicon's body, and Christians came forth and honorably buried it. St. Nicon suffered during the reign of the Emperor Decius.


Nicon was a companion of St. Anthony of the Caves and a spiritual father to the Venerable Theodosius. Because of his monastic tonsuring of the boyar Barlaam and of the eunuch Ephraim, Nicon was threatened by Prince Iziaslav; but his wife, the princess, turned the anger of the prince into the fear of God. Then Nicon, the holy one, was left in peace. Desiring to adorn the church with icons, Nicon implored God for assistance. As a result of his prayers, certain Greek iconographers unexpectedly came to Kiev from Constantinople. Saints Anthony and Theodosius had appeared to these iconographers in a vision and directed them to Nicon in Kiev. Nicon was praised because of his courageous asceticism and spiritual wisdom. In his old age Nicon became abbot of the Caves (Pecer) against his will. He reposed in the Lord in the year 1066 A.D. His incorrupt relics are persevered in the Monastery of the Kiev Caves.*)
     *) In the Greek Synaxarion and the Athonite Patericon, the New Martyr Luke, who was born in Jedren, is commemorated on this day. As a child he was captured in Constantinople by the Turks and circumcised. Because of this, he had bitter pangs of conscience. He considered circumcision the devil's mark on him, which could only be destroyed through martyrdom for Christ. Tonsured a monk on Mount Athos, he went with his Elder Bessarion to Mytilene. There he was hanged by the Turks on March 23, 1802. Hanging in the air, the body of the martyr emitted a fragrant myrrh.



Nicon languished in the dungeon,

And day and night he prayed to God.

He prayed to God not for his defense,

Nor for revenge against the wicked Quintianus,

But for strength, to endure sufferings.

God heard Nicon's sighings.

One time in prayer, Nicon had a dream:

The Virgin appeared to him in light

More beautiful and brighter than the sun,

Whiter and gentler than a lamb.

At her side were two archangels,

Their faces radiant and joyful;

With their height they reached the heavens.

One pointed out the river to the other:

"This is the raging River Psimif!"

Then one archangel said to the Virgin:

"We were sent to slay Quintianus

In the waves of the raging Psimif.

But, behold, we are looking at the river

And nowhere do we see Quintianus."

The Virgin spoke as if with honey flowing from her mouth:

"Soon he will come to the river;

He will attempt to cross through the waves,

But, beneath him, his horse will become maddened

And disfigure his face with its teeth.

The river will drown him,

And thus you will complete your task.

That will be the end of the evil torturer of Nicon, my saint."

All of this took place as the Virgin said;

Everything that Nicon dreamed became a reality.


St. Paphnutius prayed to God to reveal whom he (Paphnutius) resembled. He heard a voice which spoke to him: "You are similar to a merchant who seeks goodly pearls; arise and do not be idle!" But why does God not say to every one of us that we are like a merchant who seeks goodly pearls? Because many of us do not seek pearls, but rather bury ourselves under heavy layers of worthless dust. Not everything that the net raises up from the bottom of the sea is a pearl; sometimes it is only mud and sand. The ignorant vie for that mud and sand as though it were a pearl. Only the merchant who recognizes a true pearl casts the net into the sea an untold number of times. He hauls it up, sifts out the mud and sand, until he finds one seed pearl! Why does God compare Paphnutius to a merchant? Because Paphnutius gave away all of his possessions and invested all of his effort and time in order to find that one true seed pearl. That true pearl is a heart cleansed of all passions and evil thoughts and warmed by the flame of love toward God. You too arise, O man, and do not be lazy! Your marketing day is approaching its twilight.


Contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the Cross:

1. How His compassionate love for mankind did not diminish because of His sufferings;

2. How, with love, He offered comfort to His mother, commending John to her as a son in place of Himself;

3. How He prayed with love to the Father for mankind: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:24).


on the weakness of man before the majesty of God

"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead" (Revelation 1:17).

It was St. John who fell as though dead when he saw the Lord Jesus in glory. St. John--the Beloved Disciple of Jesus, the Evangelist, the chaste one, the one who loved the Lord, the zealot for holiness--could neither stand on his feet nor compose himself when he saw his Teacher in His heavenly glory and power! Instead he fell, as though dead. Therefore, how will they who sin against Him, rise up against Him, ridicule His name, despise His love and sacrifice, mock His cross, trample upon His commandments, persecute His Church, shame His priests, and kill His faithful, endure the presence of the Lord and His eyes like a fiery flame? What will happen to them before the face of the Lord if St. John fell as dead when he caught sight of Him? What will happen to educated men who corrupt others? What will happen to teachers who destroy the Faith in young souls? What will happen to skeptics who through their doubt poison the minds of men? What will happen to thieves and robbers, to the immoral, and to the child-killers? What will happen to the enemies of Christ if the friend of Jesus falls, as though dead, before His indescribable, effulgent (glistening) glory?

Such is the glory, power, authority, beauty, lordship, light and majesty of the Lord Jesus, resurrected and ascended, that His closest companions, who for three years on earth gazed upon His face without fear, now fall as though dead when they see His face in the heavens following His passion, death and victory!

O Lord All-glorious and Almighty, illuminate us and enliven us by Thy power and glory.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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