Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE PRIEST-MARTYR ARTEMON
Artemon was a priest in Laodicea during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Before his tormenting judge, he spoke of himself: "I am called Artemon, a slave of Christ, my God. For sixteen years I was a lector and read books in the Church of my God. For twenty-eight years, I was a deacon and read the Holy Gospel. With the help of Christ, I have fulfilled thirty-three years as a presbyter teaching men and placing them on the path of salvation." The judge brought him to the temple of Aesculapius, where the soothsayers nursed large reptiles dedicated to this "god." They all assumed that the snakes would bite Artemon. Artemon crossed himself and by the power of the cross nailed all the snakes to the ground rendering them unable to move. After that, he brought them all out into the courtyard, breathed upon them and all of them died instantly. All of the soothsayers were in great fear. Upon seeing this miracle, Vitalis, the chief soothsayer of this temple, fell to his knees before Artemon and cried out: "Great is the Christian God!" The martyr then baptized him along with several of his friends. The malicious judge remained persistent in his malice and tortured the aged Artemon in various ways. Once, he wanted to throw him into a vat of boiling pitch but, he fell off his horse into the pitch and he himself was incinerated. Two eagles were seen who swooped down upon the judge, lifted him from the horse and dropped him into the pitch. St. Artemon remained free for a period of time and traveled about, always accompanied with his two beloved deer, and instructed the people. Again, he was captured and was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. and his soul took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ our God, Whom St. Artemon faithfully served.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR CRESCENS
Crescens was from the city of Myra in Lycia. He was an honored and well known citizen. He openly confessed his faith in Christ and mocked the dead idols. Because of that he was burned to death by the pagans.
3. THE HOLY MARTYR THOMAIS
Thomais was born in Alexandria of honorable parents. She was taught piety from her youth. At the age of fifteen, she was married to an honorable man. Her father-in-law was a vile old man and in the absence of his son, attacked his daughter-in-law and desired to seduce her. Becoming terrified, Thomais, in fear reminded her father-in-law of the Law of God and slipped out of his hands. After a prolonged struggle, the father-in-law drew a knife and murdered his daughter-in-law and then cut her in half. At that moment, the punishment of God fell upon him. He was blinded instantly and was unable to find the door from which to leave. Here, in this room, he was apprehended in the act and turned over to the court which sentenced him to death. Thus, Thomais suffered for the Commandment of God regarding spousal fidelity and chastity. After that, many who would be tempted by adulterous passions directed their prayers to St. Thomais and received strong assistance from her. Daniel the great ascetic, translated her relics to the Scete [Monastery] and buried them in the cemetery of the heiromonks [priest-monks]. St. Thomais suffered in the year 476 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Whoever suffers because of his evil deeds
Does not have a share with the angels:
Whoever suffers for the will of God,
And for the sake of Christ, misfortunes endures,
Either from the faithful or from the unfaithful,
That one, will gaze upon the face of God.
Thomais, handmaiden of God,
According to her heart, was, a true, devoutly-praying person [Bogomoljka].
But, for the sake of God's law, she suffered
From her father-in-law, arrogant.
Leave, O father-in-law, my poor body alone!
Of the Most High God are you not afraid?
The human body, even though it is plain mud
Because of the soul, by God, to us, it is given.
If, with sin, the body we defile,
From the Living God, we are separating it,
And to the unclean one, we give it as a booty.
From passion blind, the father-in-law axed her to pieces;
May God forgive! The righteous one uttered.
But to the murderer, blindness befell -
The two-fold blindman, around Hades crawls.
When they brought the martyr Crescens, a nobleman of Myra in Lycia, to court the judge, in order to persuade him to worship idols, counseled him for a long time. When he did not succeed, he finally said to Crescens: "Worship [idols] only in the body and bow down before your God in the spirit!" To that, the honorable Crescens replied: "The body cannot do anything independent of the soul, which is its driving force and leader." For that Crescens was killed. An obvious lesson that a Christian cannot be duplicitous. Still another lesson: A Christian has an obligation to serve his Creator even with the body and not only with the soul. By this is refuted the false position of certain Christians who live physically as pagans and meanwhile praise themselves that they believe in God and love God with their souls. They divide themselves in two and place themselves in the service of two masters, even though the holiest lips [The Lips of Jesus Christ] proclaimed that as an impossibility.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
1. How because of Thomas, momentarily, the only one unbelieving among the disciples, He appeared again in His glorified Body;
2. How Thomas, believed again, when he placed his finger on the scars of the wounds of the All-Pure Body of the Lord and believed.
About the test by Thomas
"My Lord and my God" (St. John 20:28).
When the Apostle Thomas felt the wounds of the Lord Jesus, he cried out: "My Lord and my God!"
When Mary Magdalene heard the voice of the resurrected One in her soul, she cried out: "My Lord and my God!"
When Saul saw the light and heard the words of the resurrected One, he acknowledged: " My Lord and my God!"
When the pagans, in amazement, observed how the countless numbers of martyrs joyfully undergo pains and asked them: "Who is this Christ?" All of them replied: "My Lord and my God!"
When the scoffers ridiculed the army of ascetics and asked them: "Who is He, for Whom they took upon themselves the awesome burden of mortification? They all had one answer: "My Lord and my God!"
When the scorners derided the virgins who vowed their virginity and asked them: "Who is He for Whom they renounced marriage?" They all had one answer: "My Lord and my God!"
When the avaricious in astonishment asked the very wealthy: "Who is He for Whom they distribute their wealth and become beggarly?" All of them replied, one and the same: "My Lord and my God!"
Some have seen Him and have said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have only heard Him and said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have only felt Him and said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have only observed Him in the fabric of events and in the destinies of peoples and said: "My Lord and my God!" Some have felt His presence in their lives and cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Some have recognized Him by some sign, on themselves or on others, and cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Still some have only heard about Him from others and believed and cried out: "My Lord and my God!" Truly, these last ones are the most blessed!
Let us also exclaim, with all our hearts, regardless of how we have come to recognize Him or how we have come to learn about Him: "My Lord and my God!"
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