Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLES HERODIAN, AGABUS, RUFUS, ASYNCRITUS, PHLEGON AND HERMES
They were all numbered among the Seventy [Lesser] Apostles. All were mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his epistles. Herodian was a kinsman of Paul. "Greet," writes St. Paul to the Romans, "my relative Herodian" (Romans 16:11). As the Bishop of Neo-Parthia, Herodian suffered much at the hands of the Jews. They beat him over the head with rods, they struck him on the mouth with stones and stabbed him with knives. After they left him for dead, St. Herodian arose and continued to serve the apostles. He assisted the Apostle Peter in Rome and was beheaded along with many other Christians the same day that St. Peter was crucified.
St. Agabus possessed a prophetic spirit. Two of his prophecies are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. First, he prophesied a great famine throughout the world which came true during the reign of Caesar Claudius: "And one of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world and it happened under Claudius" (Acts of the Apostles 11:28). Second, when he met with the Apostle Paul in Caesarea, who was enroute to Jerusalem, Agabus took Paul's belt and bound his own hands and feet saying: "Thus says the Holy Spirit: This is the way the Jews will bind the owner of this belt in Jerusalem, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles" (Acts of the Apostles 21:11).
St. Rufus was a Bishop of Thebes in Greece. St. Paul also mentions him. "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord" (Romans 16:13).
St. Asyncritus was Bishop of Hyrcania in Asia and is mentioned along with the others in Romans 16:14.
St. Phlegon is also mentioned in the same epistle. "Greet ASYNCRITUS, PHLEGON, HERMES, PATROBAS and HERMAS and the brothers who are with them" (Romans 16:14). He was a bishop in the Thracian city of Marathon.
St. Hermas, mentioned with the others, was a bishop in Dalmatia.
All of them, like bees for Christ, spread the honey of the Gospel into the various regions, suffering much for the love of Christ. All were translated into the eternal kingdom of Christ the beloved.
2. SAINT NIPHON, BISHOP OF NOVGOROD
Niphon was distinguished by his great enthusiasm in constructing and restoring the churches of God and by showing great courage in opposing the stances of the tyrannical princes. Thirteen days before his death, St. Theodosius appeared to Niphon and announced his imminent passing over to the other world. He died in the year 1156 A.D.
3. SAINT CELESTINE, POPE OF ROME
A great champion of the Orthodox Faith. At the time of the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus, 431 A.D.), Celestine wrote an epistle against Nestorius, the heretic. He died peacefully in the year 432 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY APOSTLES
Holy apostles, chosen ones of God,
You ran the race and reached the goal.
The vanity of the world, they despised; to God, they reached out,
The worldly they sacrificed, the eternal, they acquired.
Their love for Christ, stronger than all other powers,
To them, it shone through the darkness of paganism.
The race is over, the battle obtained,
The army of heroes brought to Christ.
In Christ there are many victorious wreaths,
Even if you want, you could be wedded.
Apostles holy, pray to God,
That He deprive us not of the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is heroism above heroism and asceticism above asceticism. St. Epiphanius of Cyprus invited Hilarion the Great to dinner and in order to show the greatest hospitality to his distinguished guest, placed fried chicken on the table and offered it to him. Hilarion said to him: "Forgive me, but ever since I was tonsured a monk, I have eaten nothing butchered." To that Epiphanius replied: "And I, ever since I was tonsured a monk, have never lay down in bed until I first forgave my enemy." Amazed, Hilarion said: "Your virtue is greater than mine, Oh holy master!" This is a great lesson for all of us. Fasting is an admirable thing but it is more admirable to forgive insults. Through fasting, man is preparing for charity but, by forgiving insults, man shows charity. Fasting precedes forgiveness but fasting alone, does not save without forgiveness.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
1. In the earthly body before the resurrection; in the body susceptible to hunger, pain and death;
2. In the Heavenly Body after the resurrection; in the body not susceptible to hunger, pain and death.
About the resurrection of the dead
"But someone may say, `How are the dead raised?' With what kind of body will they come back?" (1 Corinthians 15:35).
The Apostle Paul knows in advance the objections which the unbelievers will make concerning the resurrection from the dead and, in advance, he rejects them. Even today, the non-believers who have not seen with the physical eyes the miracle of the resurrection in nature, much less the spiritual resurrection, ask: "How will the dead be raised?" "You fool!" continues the apostle, "What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies" (1 Corinthians 15:36). Until the seed dies in the ground, the plant will not grow, in other words, something totally different than the seed will sprout up. The non-believers see through their eyes and do not see, but further ask: "How will a dead man resurrect?" How? In the same way that Christ resurrected. He lowered Himself lifeless in the tomb and rose alive. Even nature manifests the resurrection from the dead; but stronger than nature, it is manifested by the resurrected Lord. In order to make it easier for us to believe and to hope - to believe in the resurrection in general and to have hope in our own resurrection, He Himself, resurrected from the grave and prior to that resurrecting Lazarus who lay in the grave for four days, the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jarius.
The non-believers ask: "With what kind of body will the dead rise?" In that kind of body which God wills. With God there are many kinds of bodies. The Apostle Paul divides all bodies into two groups: into earthly bodies and into heavenly bodies. Therefore, they who have died in earthly bodies will be clothed with heavenly bodies: the incorruptible will replace the corruptible, the immortal will replace the mortal, the beautiful will replace the ugly. In this heavenly body man will also recognize himself and others around him as man recognizes himself or even when he is clothed in beggar's rags or even when he is clothed in royal purple.
Lord, All-plentious, do not hand us over to eternal corruption but, as royal sons, clothe us in the garment of immortality.
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