Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLE BARTHOLOMEW
Today commemorates the translation of the relics of St. Bartholomew, although his main feast is celebrated on June 11. When this great apostle was crucified in Albanopolis [Derbend] in Armenia, Christians removed his body and honorably buried it in a lead sarcophagus. When numerous miracles occurred over the grave of the apostle, especially healings of the sick, because of which the number of Christians increased, the pagans then took the sarcophagus containing the relics of Bartholomew and tossed it into the sea. At the same time they also threw four more sarcophagi into the sea containing the relics of four martyrs: Papian, Lucian, Gregory and Acacius. However, by God's providence, the sarcophagi did not sink but were carried by the current and floated: Acacius to the town of Askalon, Gregory to Calabria, Lucian to Messina, Papian to the other side of Sicily and Bartholomew to the island of Lipara. By some mysterious revelation Agathon, the Bishop of Lipara, learned of the approaching relics of the holy Apostle Bartholomew to Lipara. Agathon, with the clergy and people, came to the shore to receive the sarcophagus with great joy. On that occasion, many healings of the sick occurred from the relics of the holy apostle. The relics were placed in the church of St. Bartholomew and there they reposed until the time of Theophilus the Iconoclast about the year 839 A.D. and since the Muslims threatened Lipara, the relics of the apostle were translated to Benevento. Thus, the Lord glorified His apostle by miracles both during his life and after his death.
2. THE APOSTLE TITUS
Titus was one of the Seventy [Apostles]. He was born in Crete and educated in Greek philosophy and poetry. Following a dream, he began reading the Prophet Isaiah and doubted all the wisdom of the Hellenes. Hearing about Christ the Lord, Titus traveled to Jerusalem with other Cretans and personally heard the words of the Savior and witnessed His mighty works. His young heart completely adhered to Christ. Later, he was baptized by the Apostle Paul whom he served as a son to a father in the work of evangelization. Paul loved Titus so much that, at times, he referred to him as son: "To Titus, my beloved son" (Titus 1:4) and, at times, brother: "I urged Titus to go to you and I sent the other brother with him" (2 Corinthians 12:18). Titus traveled extensively with the great apostle of the people [St. Paul] and was appointed by him as the bishop of Crete. Titus was present at the suffering and death of Paul in Rome and honorably buried the body of his teacher and spiritual father. After that, Titus returned to Crete where, with great success, he baptized the pagans and prudently governed the Church of God until old age. Titus entered into rest at the age of ninety-four.
3. THE HOLY CONFESSORS OF EDESSA
They suffered much for the Orthodox Faith in prisons and in exile at the time of Emperor Valens who adhered to the Arian heresy. However, they were all freed under Emperor Theodosius.
4. SAINT MENNAS, PATRIARCH OF CONTANTINOPLE
Mennas wisely governed the Church from 536-552 A.D. Before that, he was in charge of the Home of St. Sampson a home for the indigent and needy. Pope Agapitus, who had come Constantinople at that time for the sake of refuting and deposing the heretical Patriarch Anthimus, participated at the consecration of Menas as bishop.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY APOSTLE TITUS
Only the immature spirit, soothes itself by fables,
For him who seeks the truth, fables do not help.
Titus, the chaste one, on impure Crete was,
Longing for the truth brought him to Christ;
And, when upon the face of Almighty God, he gazed,
All of his fables were as muddied water:
Christ, the truth is: the Cross is the path to truth,
To heavenly heights, the Cross elevates the soul,
Dedicated to the mystery of God's plan,
Titus these labors and countless tortures accepted,
Labors for himself and for the teacher,
For the great Paul, the parent in the spirit.
When, with a sword, the blasphemous Nero beheaded Paul
Because of that, Titus did not lose faith and courage.
But, honorably and peacefully, buried the father,
And to Crete returned to labor twice as much.
The temple of Diana fell, the temple of Zeus vanished,
From Titus' wondrous prayerful power,
The darkness of error dispersed; by Christ, Crete, he enlightened.
Titus, Paul's co-apostle, wonderful and holy.
The superhuman courage and readiness of our Christian foretellers to endure all sufferings and voluntary death for Christ, evoked fear on their tormentors. Emperor Maximian, a fierce and merciless persecutor of Christians, ordered his pro-consul in Antioch to release St. Andrew Stratelates from prison to freedom out of fear that the people, who respected Andrew more than they did the emperor, would rebel. Emperor Valens ordered his eparch in Edessa to slay all Christians who opposed Arius. The eparch had more human compassion than the emperor and secretly warned the Christians at night not to come out of the city the following day into the field where they usually held services (since the Arians had seized all the churches in the city) so that they would not be killed. The next day, contrary to this warning, all the Christians set out happily to the field, rejoicing that they will suffer and die for the True Faith. The eparch, going with the soldiers from the city, saw a Christian woman with a child in her arms as she hurried past the soldiers toward the field. The eparch said to her: "Have you not heard that the eparch, with his soldiers, will come and kill all that he finds there?" The woman answered: "I heard and, because of that, I am hurrying that I may die for Christ with the others." The eparch further asked: "And why are you taking this child with you?" The woman replied: "I also want my child to become worthy of martyrdom together with me." Hearing and seeing this, the eparch became frightened and returned and informed the emperor. The emperor became greatly frightened and revoked his order concerning the massacre.
To contemplate the unusual generosity of David (1 Samuel 24 1 Kings 24):
1. How Saul, pursuing David, entered without knowledge into the cave where David was hiding with the young men;
2. How the young men pressured David to kill Saul but David refused;
3. How David cried out to Saul: "The Lord judge between me and you" (1 Samuel 24:12 1 Kings 24:12).
About the opened prison and the lighted darkness
"That you may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves" (Isaiah 49:9).
Who is the greater prisoner than he who is bound by sin? Is there a greater darkness than the darkness of sin, death and hell? Who can loose from sin? "God alone". Even the Scribes and Pharisees themselves acknowledged this. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (St. Mark 2:7). Christ released many from sin, and made them free and whole. Therefore, if "God alone" is able to release prisoners from sins, then why did not the Jews acknowledge Him as God? The reason being is that they were bound by sin and were unable logically to reflect to the end, nor yet did they allow the Lord to release them from the bonds of sins. Look and see into what kind of stupidity the wise men of the Jews fall: while on the one hand, they confirm that "God alone" is able to loose man from sin while, on the other hand, they accuse Christ that He works with the help of the devil! The devil is the one who binds, so how can the devil lose? The devil is the one who destroys man, how then will he save him? Where there are devils, there also is prison: sin, death and hell. "Christ alone" had the power, the divine, unequaled power to lead and to save the souls of men out from prison. "My son, your sins are forgiven you!" (St. Mark 2:5). "Young man arise!" (St. Luke 7:14) "Lazarus, come forth!" (St. John 11:43). By His mighty word He removed the bonds of the sinners and led the dead into the light of life. By His descent into Hell, he destroyed the throne of Satan and freed the souls of the righteous ones. By His resurrection, He fully and completely revealed His irresistible authority over all the diabolical bonds of the devil, over all the intrigues of hell and over the "last enemy death": "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26).
O Lord, Victor over demons, Liberator from sin, Raiser of the dead, You do we worship and to You do we pray: free us, resurrect us and bless us.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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