Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLE MATTHIAS
Matthias was born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. He studied with St. Simeon the "Receiver of God" in Jerusalem. When the Lord went out to preach about the Kingdom of God Matthias then joined the others who loved the Lord, for he himself loved Him with all his heart and with delight did he hear His words and witnessed His works. In the beginning, Matthias was numbered among the Seventy Lesser Disciples of Christ but following the resurrection of the Lord, since the place of Judas was vacated, the apostles, by drawing lots, chose this Matthias in place of Judas as one of the Twelve Great Apostles. "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus and Matthias. And they prayed and said: 'You Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which of these two You have chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell that he might go to his own place' " (Acts 1:23-26). Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Matthias set out to preach the Gospel, first of all in Judea and after that in Ethiopia where he endured great tortures for the sake of Christ. It is held that he preached throughout Macedonia where they wanted to blind him but he became invisible to his torturers and thus escaped danger. Being in prison, the Lord appeared to him, encouraged him and freed him. Finally, he returned again to his work in Judea. There he was accused and brought to court before the high priest Ananias before whom he fearlessly witnessed for Christ. Ananias, the same Ananias, who before that, slew the Apostle James, condemned Matthias to death. They led Matthias out, stoned him to death and, after that, decapitated him with an axe (this was the Roman manner of killing a person who was sentenced to death and the hypocritical Jews applied this method on the dead man so as to show the Romans that the slain person was an enemy of Rome). Thus, this great apostle of Christ died and took up habitation in the eternal joy of his Lord.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR ANTHONY
Anthony was a citizen of Alexandria. Brought before the pagan prince, he freely confessed his faith and was tortured, flogged and scrapped but he would not deny Christ. Finally, he was thrown into a fire and, from the midst of the fire, he spoke to the people: "My beloved brethren, do not be a slave to the body but rather concern yourself more about the soul which is given to you by God and is kindred to God and to the heavenly hosts." And so, instructing his people and burning in the fire, Anthony gave up his holy soul to God.
3. THE HOLY MARTYRS JULIAN AND MARCIAN AND OTHERS WITH THEM
They all suffered at the hands of the wicked Emperor Leo the Isaurian in defense of icons in the year 716 A.D. and were crowned with unfading glory.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT MATTHIAS, THE APOSTLE
Matthias, the Apostle, spoke about Christ
And openly witnessed, before the Jews:
He is that Messiah, about Whom the Scripture writes,
He is the Son of God, Who from on High descended,
He is the Word of God, Divine Hypostasis,
About Him the prophets clearly spoke:
Moses prophesied: A prophet as I
From God, with radiance will shine among you.
And King David said: All the generations of the earth
By Him, will be glorious and blessed.
Isaiah, with a courageous spirit, toward heaven flies
And saw and said: "A virgin shall conceive
And give birth to a Son and a name to Him give,
Emmanuel, will He be called 'God is with us' ".
Still Jonah, the prototype of His burial was,
As the burial, so also the resurrection
When, in the belly of the whale, for three days, he lay
And by God again, made worthy of life,
The shadows have past and the prophecies fulfilled,
The promised words, in the flesh, came.
But, in vain does the awake man speak to the one who sleeps,
He who sleeps throughout the entire day, in the day, does not believe.
To take another's sin upon one's self, that is one form of martyrdom and the sign of one's overwhelming love for one's fellow man. As death is the consequence of sin, to take another's sin on one's self means to add to your own death still another death, "And sin, when it is finished, brings forth death" (St. James 1:15). However, God rewards with resurrection those who, out of love, take another' s death upon themselves. There are many examples how the saints took upon themselves the sins of their fellow men. Thus, it is said of St. Ammon: a brother fell into sin and came to Ammon and said to him that because of the sin he committed, he must leave the monastery and return to the world. Ammon said to the brother that he will take his sin upon himself and counseled the brother to remain in the monastery. The brother remained in the monastery and the elder Ammon proceeded to offer repentance and prayers to God. After a short time, the elder Ammon received a revelation from God that that sin is forgiven because of his love for the brother. When St. Macarius, St. Simeon the "fool for Christ", St. Theodora and others were accused of promiscuity, they did not defend themselves but, taking upon themselves the sin of others, received the weighty punishment for sin and patiently endured all until God revealed their innocence to men.
To contemplate the punishment of God upon the people of Israel for the sins of the sons of Eli, the judge and high priest (1 Samuel 4 1 Kings 4):
1. How the sons of the high priest [Hophni and Phinehas] sinned openly and secretly in Shiloh before the Ark of the Covenant;
2. How God gave the victory in battle to the Philistines over Israel in which many thousands of Israelites were slain, together with the sons of the high priest and the Ark of the Covenant was seized;
3. How, because of the sins of the elders of the people, God permits suffering on the entire nation.
About the nothingness of the sinful before the majesty of God
"Enter into the rock and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty" (Isaiah 2:10).
This is a bitter sneer of the prophet to his people, an idolatrous people. The people had rejected the faith in the one true God and began to worship idols of stone and earth. What will you do, O evil people, when "the fear of the Lord" appears? Where will you flee, when the "glory of His majesty" appears? Flee into the rocks from which you have made a god for yourselves! Flee into the dust, from which you have made a god for yourselves! O, how terrifying is the sneer of this discerning prophet! Who can enter into a rock and hide themselves? Who can flee into the dust and conceal himself from the Most High?
However, brethren let us leave the idolatry of the Jews for which they have been punished enough and, for a moment, let us look at the idolatry among us Christians. What is amassed gold, if not idol? What are gleaned fields other than an idol of dust? What are luxurious clothes other than an idol made from the skins and hairs of animals? Where will the idolaters of our generation hide when "the fear of the Lord" appears and when "the glory of his majesty" appears? Flee to gold, worshippers of gold! Flee to the earth, worshippers of the earth! Hide in the skins of animals and bury yourself with the hairs of foxes and the fibers of the dead silk worm, O, you idolators! O bitter irony! All of this will be burned in the Day of the Lord, on that Dreadful Day. And man will stand face to face with the only Majestic and Eternal One. All the idols of mankind will be destroyed by fire before men and the Immortal Judge will ask the idolators: "Where are your gods?"
Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God, lived on earth a long time ago but his vision, even today, is dreadful, beneficial and, again, dreadful.
To You, the only One, the only living Lord, do we worship! All else is passing dust. Help us Lord, help us that our mind and heart does not adhere to the passing dust but to You, only to You, the only Living One.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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