Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT TARASIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
His predecessor, Patriarch Paul secretly, relinquished the throne, entered a monastery and received the Schema [The Great Angelic Habit]. Irene and Constantine reigned at the time. By Paul's counsel, Tarasius, a senator and royal advisor, was chosen as patriarch in the year 783 A.D. He was quickly elevated through the ecclesiastical ranks and became patriarch. A man of great learning and great zeal in the Orthodox Faith, Tarasius accepted this rank reluctantly in order to assist Orthodoxy in the struggle against heresies, especially against Iconoclasm. During his tenure, the Seventh Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 783 A.D.} was convened, where Iconoclasm was condemned and the veneration of holy icons was confirmed and restored. Tarasius was very charitable toward orphans and the poor, creating for them shelters and distributed food to them. Toward the powerful, Tarasius was decisive in his defense of faith and morals. When Emperor Constantine banished Maria, his lawful wife and took a kinswoman and lived with her, and sought a blessing for marriage from the patriarch, Tarasius not only refused him a blessing, but first counseled him, after that reproached him, and finally forbid him to receive Holy Communion. Before his death, many saw how Tarasius replied to the demons saying: "I am not guilty of this sin! I am not guilty either of that sin!" Until his weakened tongue could not longer speak, he then began to defend himself with his hands driving away the demons. When he expired, his face lightened up as the sun. This truly great hierarch died in the year 806 A.D. He governed the Church for twenty-two years and four months.
2. THE VENERABLE PAPHNUTIUS OF KEPHALA
This great saint was a contemporary of St. Anthony the Great. It is said about him that he wore the same cassock for eighty years. St. Anthony greatly respected him and used to say that Paphnutius was a true ascetic who was able to come and to save souls.
HYMN OF PRAISE
TO GOD THE CREATOR
The Creator radiant, with light crowned,
By no one described, by nothing expressed,
The wise builders of the Church, he raises,
Zealous defenders and good shepherds.
He permits sufferings, because of our sins
Even though in essence, He is Mercy and Goodness.
Just as the unmalleable earth, with better frost He prepares,
Makes it malleable and for crops makes ready
In the same way our hearts He mellows with bitter sufferings
But by His tender hand leads all to good.
Through the darkness of sin, He gazes into the light,
And the darkness, after a designated time, He does not permit it to linger
He discerns joy, through sorrow and tears,
To the ends of every beginning, He sees the ends
For He began all, He wants to complete all
Who will oppose Him, when He commands?
One would say He is weak, for He adroitly conceals,
And with a shadow of a deed, He conceals and blocks the view of Himself
When the shadow passes and the world reaches its end,
And the Church prepared to heaven is lifted,
Then the Sun of Righteousness which never extinguishes
With the Church, as with porphyry, to cover Himself.
A Christian is similar to betrothed maiden. As a betrothed maiden continually thinks about her betrothed, so does the Christian continually think about Christ. Even if the betrothed is far away beyond ten hills, it is all the same, the maiden behaves as though he is constantly there; by her and with her. She thinks about him, sings to him, talks about him, dreams about him and prepares gifts for him. In the same way a Christian behaves toward Christ. As the betrothed maiden knows that she first must leave and distance herself from the home where she was born in order to meet and totally unite with her betrothed, so the Christian knows that even he cannot totally unite with Christ until death separates him from the body, i.e., from the material home in which his soul, resided and grew from birth.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus sitting in the boat, teaching the people on the shore: "On another occasion He began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around Him so that He got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land" (St. Mark 4:1).
1. How a great multitude of people crowded around to hear Him so that He had to enter the boat;
2. How, in parables He taught them about the sower, the seed and the ground i.e., those comparisons and examples, which from day in and day out, are repeated from the beginning of the world and will be repeated until the end of the world;
3. How He does not teach them with the aid of some rare and unusual events rather by the help of those simple events, which along with man entered into time and together with man, will exit time.
About the impossibility of secrets
"For there is nothing hiddenwhich will not be revealed"(St. Mark 4:22).
All secret works of man will be revealed one day. None of man's works can be hidden. The Jews thought they could hide the slaying of so many prophets from God and that their bloody, nefarious deed against Christ would be able to be hidden from God and man. However, that which they thought to hide became a daily and nightly tale both in the heavens and on earth for thousands of years.
Judas thought to hide his traitorous agreement against his Lord, but the Lord discerned this agreement and declared it to his face. "Jesus said to him, `Judas are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' " (St. Luke 22:48).
The Lord also discerned the hearts of the Pharisees and read their evil thoughts. "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (St. Matthew 9:4). What kind of works, what kind of things, what kind of events in this world can be hidden from Him Who sees and reveals even the most secret thoughts of the hearts of men?
"For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed." Because of this we need to be fearful; because of this we need to be rejoiceful. To be fearful - for all of our secret evil deeds, evil desires and evil thoughts will be brought out in the open. To be rejoiceful - for all the good, which we have committed, or desired or thought in secret, will be brought out in the open. If it is not brought out before men in the open, it will be brought out before the heavenly angels. The greater the fear for sinners, so much greater the joy for the righteous.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, forgive us our sins and do not make them known to our destruction and to the sorrow of Your holy angels.
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