Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY MARTYR SABAS THE SOLDIER [STRATELATES]
This glorious Sabas lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Aurelian and held the rank of commander. By ancestry, he was of a Gothic tribe. He often visited Christians in prison and assisted them from his own estate. Because of his extreme chastity and fasting, God had given him authority over unclean spirits. When Sabas was accused of being a Christian, he courageously stood before the emperor, threw down his military belt and openly confessed Christ the Lord. Sabas was tortured in various ways: flogged, scrapped with irons and burned with candles. He did not succumb to these deadly tortures but appeared alive and healthy. His military companions, seeing that God was obviously helping him, embraced the Faith of Christ. Those seventy in number were immediately beheaded by order of the emperor. Christ the Lord Himself appeared in a great light to St. Sabas in prison and encouraged His martyr. After that, he was condemned to death by drowning. Sabas was thrown into a deep river where he gave up his soul to God in the year 272 A.D. His soul went to the Lord to Whom he remained faithful through many tortures.
2. THE VENERABLE ELIZABETH
In her early years, Elizabeth entered the monastic state in the Monastery of St. Cosmas and St. Damian in Constantinople and took upon herself the heavy burden of self-mortification for the sake of Christ the God and for the sake of her soul. She considered herself a bride of Christ and considered this world as though it did not exist. Out of her great love for God, emanated her great compassion toward people, especially toward the sick and the suffering. With the gift that God had bestowed upon her, she cured various diseases and afflictions of the people. During her nightly prayers, she was seen totally encompassed by a heavenly light. Following her death, her relics possessed the power of healing and a great number of the sick and suffering gathered at her grave throughout the ages. She died peacefully and entered into the eternal joy of her Lord in the year 540 A.D.
3. THE HOLY MARTYRS EUSEBIUS, NEON, LEONTIUS AND LONGINUS
These four were military companions of St. George. Witnessing the courageous endurance and miracles of St. George, these wonderful soldiers became Christians for which they were beheaded.
4. THE HOLY MARTYR PASICRATES AND VALENTINE
When the judge urged Pasicrates and the martyr's brother Papianus, who had fallen away from Christ because of the fear of torture, to offer sacrifice to the idols, Pasicrates placed his hand in the fire and cried out: "The body is mortal and is consumed by fire but the soul is immortal and does not feel the visible sufferings!" However, his mother sustained and encouraged him to endure to the end. He was beheaded with Valentine and both took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ about the year 288 A.D.
5. VENERABLE THOMAS, "FOOL FOR CHRIST"
Whenever he was in the city of Antioch on business for the monastery, Thomas always pretended insanity for the sake of Christ. A certain Anastasius did not want to give him alms that Thomas sought for the monastery but struck him with his fist. Thomas then prophesied: "From now on neither will I receive anything from Anastasius, neither will Anastasius be able to give me anything." After a day, Anastasius died and Thomas, prior to his return to the monastery, also died. Thus the prophecy of this holy man was fulfilled. St. Thomas died in Daphni near Antioch at the time of Patriarch Domnus (546 - 560 A.D.).
6. THE NEO-MARTYRS LUKE AND NICHOLAS
This wonderful young man Luke, a tailor by trade, suffered martyrdom for Christ in 1564 A.D. Nicholas suffered martyrdom in the year 1776 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT THOMAS THE DISCERNER
Saint Thomas pretends to be deranged
For the sake of Christ, his Savior,
And God, he glorifies in his heart,
The only One, the Creator of the world,
God's name is in his heart,
Have mercy upon me O Good God!
By this, he nourishes his soul:
Have mercy upon me O Good God!
Holy Thomas is not concerned
What the world about him will say,
Let the world rant, let it threaten,
The true judgment, God will pronounce.
Whoever pleased the world
Before God was found to be false,
And Thomas smiled
At the world which pretends to be important.
O you shadow, above the water,
Why do you pretend to be so important?
All reality is in the Lord
When yourself, you consider as nothing,
With that, you will glorify Him.
In exhorting Christians to attend church for prayer, St. John Chrysostom says: "If someone delivers to subjugated citizens a royal decree, the citizens do not question the life of the messenger, as to whether he is rich or poor or righteous or sinful but all listen attentively to that which he is reading. If someone did not hear, he asks one who has heard. When you have such a great awe of earthly rulers, how much more should you have heed us priests here, where the Creator of the Heavenly Powers speaks through us sinners?" Indeed, what is Holy Scripture but a Grammata [Letter] of the Heavenly King! Why is it that the unique and saving Grammata does not interest us every day and every hour, when the least authority in the country and their trivial orders do interest us? St. Anthony said: "Whatever you do have justification for this in Holy Scripture." But how can you have justification in Holy Scripture if you are not familiar with Holy Scripture?
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
1. How His resurrection drives away from us every confusion, gloom and melancholy;
2. How His resurrection instills serenity, courage and goodwill into the souls of men.
About the vanity of everything in comparison with Christ
"I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8).
The apostle who writes this had worldly knowledge; he had wealth and friends, he had youth and health. He had all the requisites of worldly success among his people. Paul says, "I left all." For the sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, I left all. Before the sages of this world he became a fool; before the rich he became as a beggar; before his friends, he becomes an enemy. He exhausted his youth and health by voluntary sufferings and afflictions. With one stroke he closed for himself all prospects for worldly success. Why did you do this O Holy Apostle Paul? Because, " I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
Brethren, did the Apostle Paul deceive himself leaving everything as rubbish and did he gain something greater in gaining Christ? Twenty centuries are witnessing that the holy apostle did not deceive himself and, that in gaining Christ, he received incomparably more and better than that which he abandoned and sacrificed. He received wisdom above all worldly knowledge and riches unperishable and incorruptible; he gained friends in the form of true angels of God; and eternal youth without disease and aging; and divine success, which lasts without change, in eternal life. All of this he gained in gaining Christ. All of this he received leaving all that the world offers to its favorites.
Indeed, brethren, Christ is better than the world. There are no words which could express His superiority over the world. The world deceives its favorites but Christ rewards His favorites truthfully. The world gives little and takes all. The world offers decay and takes away life. Christ, however, seeks little and gives all. He seeks that we discard decay and He gives us eternal life. Brethren, Christ is our one and only true friend.
O resurrected Lord Christ, help us to renounce rubbish, to renounce decay and grant us eternal life.
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