Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY MARTYR MAURICE AND THE SEVENTY SOLDIERS WITH HIM
During the reign of Emperor Maximian there was a great persecution of Christians. In the Syrian town of Apamsea, Maurice was superior of the local army. The pagans reported him to the emperor as being a Christian and a sower of the Christian Faith among the soldiers. The emperor himself came and conducted an investigation. Along with Maurice seventy Christian soldiers were also brought before the emperor among whom was Photinus, the son of Maurice. Neither the emperor's flattery nor threats could sway these heroes. To the threats of the emperor, they replied: "O Emperor, there is no fear in the sound and powerful souls of those who love the Lord!" When the emperor ordered and removed their military belts and garments, they said to him: "Our God will clothe us with incorruptible garments and belts and eternal glory!" When the emperor rebuked them because they despised the military honor given to them by him, they replied: "Your honor is without honor, for you have forgotten God Who gave you imperial authority!" Then the emperor commanded and the executioner beheaded Maurice's son Photinus before his eyes to instill fear in the father and in the others. But, Maurice said: "You have fulfilled our wish O torturer and have sent Photinus, the soldier of Christ before us." Then the emperor sentenced them to a most inhuman death: they were brought to a muddy place, stripped, bound to trees and rubbed them with honey, in order to be bitten by mosquitoes, wasps and hornets. After ten days under the most painful sufferings, they gave up their souls to God and departed to rejoice eternally with the holy angels in heaven. Christians secretly removed their bodies and honorably buried them. These courageous soldiers of Christ suffered about the year 305 A.D.
2. THE MANY MARTYRS IN EUGENIUS NEAR CONSTANTINOPLE
During the reign of Emperor Arcadius, the relics of many martyrs of Christ were unearthed, among whom was the Apostle Andronicus and his female assistant Junia. "Great Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me."(Romans 16:7). These relics were discovered according to a revelation from God to a cleric Nicholas Calligraphus. "Their names are known only to God Who has written their names in the Book of Life in the heavens." In the twelfth century, Emperor Andronicus II built a beautiful church over the relics of the Apostle Andronicus.
3. THE VENERABLES THALASSIUS AND LIMNAEUS
Both Thalassius and Limnaeus were Syrian ascetics. One of their unique forms of asceticism was "silence." Following the death of St. Thalassius in 440 A.D., Limnaeus joined St. Maron (February 14) and with him lived a life of mortification on top of a mountain under the open sky.
4. SAINT PAPIUS OF HIERAPOLIS
Papius was a disciple of the holy apostles and a patristic author. From Papius we have testimony of the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, the four Marys and the brothers of our Lord as well as an incomplete but preserved manuscript: "An Interpretation of the Words of our Lord."
HYMN OF PRAISE
ST. MAURICE AND SAINT PHOTINUS, SOLDIERS OF CHRIST
Of noble root - of noble vine
The young Photinus; to God a sacrifice, beautiful and well-pleasing.
The father witness as they beheaded his son,
As streams of red blood poured out
Maurice, the father courageous; his heart overcome,
Neither screamed he, nor sorrowed nor a tear shed.
To me dear God, you gave him, he said:
O Good One, for all of your love what better could I give?
Of death, make me worthy as You did Photinus,
You Who, for us, sacrificed Your only Son!
Maurice, of the heavenly kingdom, glorious soldier,
Does not receive a gift from earthly rulers,
But, his company, legion of pride, he encourages;
Before the soul-less idols not to bend,
His company into death he leads and through death to life,
To express this rare beauty, the tongue is too weak.
On our flesh, let the wasps and hornets feed,
Nevertheless, we are not defeated; we are not, O soldiers.
Our blood, let the mosquitoes suck; let them be fed,
On that other side, O my brothers, we shall soon be,
Where all of those reign who fought for the Cross,
We did not betray You! To Christ the God, we shall say.
Concerning the constant abiding with God, St. Anthony teaches: "Let your soul abide with the Lord at all times, and let your body abide on earth as a statue. Always stand upright before the face of the Lord. Let the fear of God always be before your eyes; and in like manner, remembrance of death, repulsion of everything worldly. Die every day that you may live; for whoever fears God will live forever. Be constantly vigilant so not to fall into laziness and idleness. Abhor all that is worldly and distance yourself from it or else it will distance you from God. Abhor all that will bring ruin to your soul. Do not deviate from God for the sake of transient things. Do not accept the example of one weaker than yourself rather from the one who is more perfect. Before all else continually pour out prayer, give thanks to God for all that would befall you. If you would fulfill all that is commanded, you will receive the inheritance `What the eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart what God has prepared' " (1 Corinthians 2:9).
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with Martha and Mary:
1. How both sisters cordially receive the Lord and desire to hear His word;
2. How Mary is more worried with the spiritual and Martha about the material hospitality of the Divine Guest;
3. How the Lord rejoices more that He satisfies someone with spiritual nourishment rather than He be satisfied with material nourishment.
About fools, wiser than the world
"We are fools for Christ'ssake" (1 Corinthians 4:10).
Thus speaks the great Apostle Paul who in the beginning was guided by worldly wisdom, which is against Christ, until he recognizes the falsehood and decay of the wisdom of the world and the light and stability of the wisdom of Christ. Then, the holy apostle did not become angry with the world because they called him "a fool for Christ's sake" neither did he, in defiance of the world, hesitate to be called by this name.
It is not of any value to us how the world is going to regard or call us. However, it is important, and extremely important, how the holy angels in the heavens will regard and call us when, after death, we meet with them. This is of crucial importance and everything else is nothing.
Either we are fools for the world because of Christ or we are fools for Christ because of the world. O how short-lived is the sound of a word of the world! If the world would say to us "fool," the world will die and its word will die! What then is the value of its word? But if the heavenly, immortal ones say to us "fool," that will neither die nor is it removed from us as eternal condemnation.
Whoever does not believe in the Living God, nor in eternal life, nor in the Incarnation of the Lord Christ, nor in Christ's Resurrection nor in the truth of the Gospel nor in God's eternal mercy and justice - is it any wonder if he considers that one a fool who does believes in all of this?
O, may every one of us who cross ourselves with the Sign of the Cross not only find it easy to endure but with satisfaction receive the name "fool" for Christ's sake! Let us rejoice and be glad if the non-believers call us such, for that means that we are close to Christ and far away from the non-believers. Let us rejoice and be glad and repeat with a powerful echo in the ears of the world: yes, yes, indeed we are fools for Christ's sake!
O Lord Most-wise, strengthen us by Your power that we not fear the non-believing world neither when they lash us with whips nor when they insult us with words for Your sake.
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