Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLES ARISTARCHUS, PUDENS AND TROPHIMUS
They were numbered among the Seventy Apostles. Aristarchus was bishop of Apamea in Syria. The Apostle Paul mentions him several times. "The city was filled with confusion and the people rushed with one accord into the theater, seizing Gaius and Aristarchus" (Acts of the Apostles 19:29). "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you greetings, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions) if he comes to you, receive him" (Colossians 4:10). "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as well as Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my co-workers" (Philemon 1:23,24). Aristarchus was captured in Ephesus with Gaius by a multitude of people who had risen up against Paul. The Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians: "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner sends you his greetings" (Colossians 4:10). In the Epistle to Philemon, Paul calls Aristarchus "my co-worker" together with Mark, Demas and Luke.
Pudens was a distinguished citizen of Rome. The Apostle Paul mentions him once. "Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers send greetings"(2 Timothy 4:21). At first, the home of Pudens was a haven for the Chief Apostles [Peter and Paul] and later it was converted into a place of worship, called the Shepherd's Church.
Trophimus was from Asia. "Sopater, the son of Pyrrhus, from Beroea, accompanied him, as did Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia" (Acts of the Apostles 20:4). He accompanied the apostle on his travel. In one place the Apostle Paul writes: "I left Trophimus sick at Miletus" (2 Timothy 4:20).
During the reign of Nero's persecution, when the Apostle Paul was beheaded, all three of these glorious apostles were also beheaded.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR SABAS OF GOTHLAND [SABAS THE GOTH]
In Gothland, there was a brutal persecution against Christians. A certain prince of the Goths [Atharidus] entered the village where this devout Sabas lived and asked the villagers: "Are there any Christians living in your village?" They convinced him by swearing that there are none. Then Sabas stood before the prince and the people and said: " Let no one swear for me; I am a Christian!" Upon seeing Sabas, wretched and poor, the prince let him go in peace saying: " This one can neither harm nor benefit anyone." The following year, around Easter, a certain priest Sansala came to this village and celebrated the glorious Feast of the Pascha [Resurrection] with Sabas. Upon learning of this, the heathens suddenly attacked the home of Sabas and began to beat this holy man of God unmercifully with canes and, besides this, they dragged the naked body of Sabas through thorns and then tied both Sabas and Sansala to a tree and offered them the meat of the idolatrous sacrifices to eat. These men of God called to mind the words of the apostles and refused to eat of the unclean sacrifices of the devil. Finally, Prince Atharidus condemned Sabas to death and handed him over to the soldiers. Full of joy, Sabas arrived at the scaffold praising God. Recognizing him as a good man, the soldiers wanted to release him along the way and, because of that, Sabas became very sorrowful and said to the soldiers that they are duty-bound to carry out the order of the prince. The soldiers then brought him to the Mussovo river [at Targoviste, Romania, near Bucharest] tied a stone around his neck and tossed him into the water. His body was washed up along the shore. Later on, during the reign of Emperor Valens when the Greek Commander Ioannis Soranos was warring with the Goths, he discovered the body of Sabas and translated it to Cappadocia. Sabas, the saint, suffered at the age of 31 in the year 372 A.D.
3. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYRS BASILISSA AND ANASTASIA
Basilissa and Anastasia were two pious and devout Romans. During the reign of Emperor Nero, they gathered the slain bodies of the disciples of the apostles and buried them with honor. For this, they were accused and imprisoned. After prolonged torture, during which their breasts and tongues were severed, they were finally beheaded.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY MARTYRS
Martyrs radiant, their blood they shed,
And the entire black earth, with their blood they stained
The fire was powerful in which they were burned,
But, more powerful the love, with which they loved Christ.
For the greatest good, a martyr to be
With what kind of riches, can this be compared?
All-victorious Christ, the King of that age,
Your brave souls in heaven welcomed.
From the hands of the angels, He took them to Himself,
And all your weighty pains, He blessed.
Concerning contemplation, St. Gregory Sinaites writes: "We confirm that there are eight principle subjects for contemplation: First, God, invisible and unseen; without beginning and uncreated; the First Cause of everything that exists; Triune; the one and only pre-existing Divinity; Second, the order and rank of rational powers: [the bodiless powers of heaven; the angelic world]; Third, the composition of visible things; Fourth, the plan of the Incarnation of the Word; Fifth, the general resurrection; Sixth, the awesome second coming (Second Advent) of Christ; Seventh, eternal torment; Eighth, the Kingdom of Heaven. The first four have already been revealed and belong to the past. The last four have not yet been revealed and belong to the future, even though these four are clearly contemplated by those who, with the help of acquired Grace, attained complete purity of mind. Whosoever approaches this task of contemplation without the illumination of Grace, let him know that he is building fantasies and does not possess the art of contemplation." Thus wrote the great and discerning Gregory Sinaites who, that which he knows, he knows form personal experience.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
1. How he is concerned about the physical nourishment of His disciples; How He breaks and blesses bread for the disciples in Emmaus;
2. How by the shore of the lake he asked His disciples: "Have you caught anything to eat?" (St. John 21:5). When they answered Him that they have not, He prepared bread and fish and gave it to them.
About how we will resemble Him Whom we love
"Beloved, we are God's childrennow; what we shall be has notyet been revealed. We do knowthat when it is revealed we shallbe like Him, for we shall see Himas He is" (1 John 3:2).
Until now, we were slaves and now we are the children of God. We were the slaves of evil and now we are the servants of good; the supreme good in heaven and on earth. We were slaves to all of that which is lower and worse than man and now, we will serve the All-Highest and the All-Good. We were squashed by darkness and now, we will labor in the light. Until now, the devil, sin and death held us in continual fear and now, we will live close to God in freedom and joy.
Now, when now? Now, when the Lord appeared on earth in the flesh, when He gave us the knowledge of light, freedom and life; when He gloriously resurrected and manifested Himself in His glorified body; when He fulfilled all the prophecies of the prophets and all of His promises. Now we, too, are the children of God: "The sons of light and the heirs of the Kingdom."
"We shall be like Him." Truly, this has not yet materialized but He has manifested Himself and, for now, that is sufficient. He Himself showed how beautiful man is in the resurrection and we know that we will also be the same as He. The Apostle John says: "We know that we shall be like Him." He does not say we suspect or it has been told to us but he does say: "We know that we shall be like Him." For He did not resurrect for His sake, but for our sake. He did not resurrect from the grave, only to show His power to the dead who are without hope, but to assure the dead that they, too, will live again and to show them how they will be when they become enlivened. Neither did the apostles write: " We know," because of their vanity before the ignorant, but because of brotherly love toward man, that all men may know the same and "that we may also know."
O resurrected Lord, confirm in us also this saving knowledge through the prayers of Your Holy Apostles.
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