Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR HARALAMBOS [CHARALAMPUS]
This great saint Haralambos was a bishop in Magnesia and suffered for Christ in his one-hundred and thirteenth year. When a terrible persecution began during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, the Elder Haralambos did not hide from the persecutors but freely and openly preached the Faith of Christ. He endured all tortures as though he were in someone else's body. When they skinned him alive, the forgiving elder said to the emperor's soldiers: "Thank you, my brethren, for in scraping my old body you renew my spirit for a new eternal life." He worked many miracles and converted many to the Faith. Even the emperor's daughter, Galina, abandoned the idolatry of her father and become a Christian. Condemned to death and brought to the place of execution, St. Haralambos raised his hands to heaven and prayed to God for all people that God grant them bodily health and spiritual salvation and that He multiply their fruits of the earth. "O Lord, You know that men are flesh and blood; forgive them their sins and pour out Your Grace on all!" After prayer, this holy elder gave up his soul to God before the executioner lowered the sword on his neck. He suffered in the year 202 A.D. The emperor's daughter, Galina, removed his body and honorably buried it.
2. THE VENERABLE PROCHORUS, THE ORACH-EATER(*)
Prochorus was a miracle-worker of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He is called the Orach-Eater because during the time that he lived in the Monastery of the Caves he did not taste of bread, rather he fed on orach, mixing it in his own way and from it prepared a type of bread. Whenever he would give someone his orach bread with a blessing, the bread tasted sweet as though prepared from honey; if someone stole the bread, it was as bitter as wormwood. One time when there was a shortage of salt in Russia, Prochorus distributed ashes to the people as though it were salt. The ashes, which he distributed with his blessing, were as salt. However, the ashes which someone would take on their own, was as ordinary ashes. Prince Svyatopolk ordered all the ashes from Prochorus' cell be taken to his palace without the permission and the blessing of the monk, Prochorus. When the ashes were removed, those who tasted of it were convinced that it was ashes and not salt. Then Prochorus told the people who came to him for salt to go to the emperor's palace and when the prince tosses out the ashes from his residence, to take them and carry them home as though they were salt. The people did so and again, the ashes were as salt. Believing in this, the prince himself was filled with respect and love toward the holy Prochorus, so that when he died in the year 1107 A.D., the prince, with his own hands, placed Prochorus in the tomb along side the great Russian Saints Anthony and Theodosius.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT HARALAMBOS [CHARALAMPUS]
The untrained sword brandished over Haralambos, only to be lowered!
The saint knelt, and a petition to God, raises
O Lord, release me!
Of all sinful men, release the sins;
Have mercy again
Bless their labor and on the field grant abundant fruit!
Let them have everything; blood and flesh they are
Let them sing to you
O grant them health; health and joy,
Let them remember You!
Every evil drive away, from misery save them,
Have mercy on them all,
And after death, to Paradise take their souls,
Lord Have mercy!
Whoever, to Your Haralambos, prays,
And my name mentions,
Help him O God, because of my suffering,
Help because of me!
Then, from heaven, a voice came: I accept your prayer
Now render me your soul!
The saint, his soul releases and to Paradise flies
Before the sword falls!
Many of the weighty difficulties which befall man have their cause, known or unknown, in his past. However, the causes of these weighty difficulties, let us say mental disorder, are nothing else than the transgression of the moral law of God.
When St. Haralambos was being tortured, the persecuting emperor found out about his miracle-working power and ordered an insane man to be brought to Haralambos so that the emperor could be convinced that Haralambos could heal him. The devil tormented this man for thirty-five years driving him into the wilderness and hills and hurling him into mud or into gorges. When this deranged person approached Haralambos, the demon sensed a sweet-smelling fragrance emanating from this holy man and shouted: "I beg you, O servant of God, do not torment me before my time, rather command me and I will depart and, if you wish, I will tell you how it came about that I entered into this man." The saint commanded the demon to relate the story. The demon said: "This man wanted to steal from his neighbor and thought to himself: `If I don't kill the man first, I will not be able to seize his goods.' He proceeded and killed his neighbor. Having caught him in the act, I entered him and behold for thirty-four years I dwelt in him." Upon hearing this, the saint of God commanded the demon to depart from the man immediately and to leave him in peace. The demon departed and the demented man was restored to health and became tranquil.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Beauty of the entire created world:
1. As the Beauty of all created things; the beauty paled from fear and the melancholy of sins;
2. As the Beauty of man, the most rational being in the material world; the beauty paled by fear and melancholy of sins;
3. As the Beauty of a pure mind; of the bodiless world of the angels;
4. As the Beauty of the Holy Trinity revealed by Him and through Him.
About the sin of those who assert that they can see
"If you were blind you would have no sin" (St. John 9:41).
These words were spoken to the Jews by Him Who gave them the Law through the prophets that the Law may serve them as the sight of the soul. The Jews received that sight but they closed their eyes intentionally and nefariously. That is why the Just Lord spoke these righteous words to them.
These words are true justice then, today and forever, for a blind man has no sin if he tramples someone else's crop or if he removes someone else's garment instead of his own. If he who has sight commits this, he will be committing a sin and will incur punishment. If he who has eyes, but intentionally closes his eyes and committed that, he also will be committing a sin and will incur punishment.
Nevertheless, what can be said about those who have received Baptism and Chrismation as the two eyes of the soul and, in spite of that, sin as those who are unbaptized? At the Last Judgment, they will not be treated as those who are born blind, rather they will be treated like transgressors who willfully disfigured and blinded themselves.
Still, what can be said about those who received the other Mysteries of Grace in the fullness of Orthodoxy and who have before them the examples of the saints and who constantly listen to the warnings and admonitions of God's Church but, nevertheless, depart and go astray? At the Last Judgment, such will not be able to justify themselves with any type of blindness, rather they will be judged as transgressors who have disfigured themselves and others around them with blindness.
O awesome Lord, save us from sin. O merciful Lord, open our eyes to the path of salvation.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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