Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
The eighth day following His birth, the Divine Child was presented in the Temple and circumcised according to the Law existing in Israel since the time of Abraham. On this occasion, He was given the name Jesus, which the Archangel Gabriel announced to the All-Holy Virgin Mary. The Old Testament circumcision was the proto-type of the New Testament baptism. The circumcision of our Lord shows that He received upon Himself the true body of man and not just seemingly, as was later taught of Him by heretics. Our Lord was also circumcised because He wanted to fulfill the entire Law which He Himself gave through the prophets and forefathers. In fulfilling the written Law, He replaced it with Baptism in His Holy Church as was proclaimed by the Apostle Paul: "For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation" (Galatians 6:15). (In the cycle of the liturgical calendar of the Church, this Feast of the Lord's Circumcision has neither a Forefeast nor an Antefeast).
2. SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, ARCHBISHOP OF CAESAREA
Basil was born during the reign of Emperor Constantine. While still unbaptized, Basil spent fifteen years in Athens where he studied philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and all other secular sciences of that time. His colleagues at that time were Gregory the Theologian and Julian, later the apostate emperor. In his mature years he was baptized in the river Jordan along with Euvlios his former teacher. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for almost ten years and completed his earthly life fifty years after his birth. He was a great defender of Orthodoxy, a great light of moral purity, a religious zealot, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God. Basil fully deserved the title "Great." In liturgical services, he is referred to as the "bee of the Church of Christ which brings honey to the faithful and with its stinger pricks the heretics." Numerous works of this Father of the Church are preserved; they include theological, apologetical, ascetical and canonical writings as well as the Holy and Divine Liturgy named after him. This Divine Liturgy is celebrated ten times throughout the year: the First of January, his feast day; on the eve of the Nativity of our Lord; on the eve of the Epiphany of our Lord; all Sundays of the Honorable Fast [Lenten Season], except Palm Sunday; on Great and Holy Thursday and on Great and Holy Saturday. St. Basil died peacefully on January 1, 379 A.D., and was translated into the Kingdom of Christ.
THE CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
You, Who, gave the Law to the world and to man,
You, the Law-giver, placed Yourself under the Law,
Others, you enjoined by impostition - Yourself, voluntarily.
That is why on the eighth day, in the flesh, You were circumcised.
In fulfilling the Law, with a new one You replaced it:
Circumcision of the flesh, was replaced with a spiritual one.
That impure passions we cut off from ourselves
And with a spirit pure, to gaze upon You.
That, with the spirit, the will of the body to cut and to constrict,
Your will, O Savior, by the spirit we fulfill it -
To this circumcision, the saints learned,
Their fiery example, to us, they left.
Wonderful Basil, to a glowing ray, similar,
To such circumcision, generations, he teaches.
To Basil, be glory, Your servant, great
Great, because of You, humble and constrained He became.
That is why he became great, and Great,
Why is it necessary to listen to the Church and not listen to one man who thinks against the Church, even though he might be called the greatest thinker? Because the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, and because the Church is guided under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Because the Church represents the realm of the Holy, a grove of cultivated fruit trees. If one rises up against the realm of the Holy, it means that he is unholy and why then listen to him? "The Church is an enclosure," says the all-wise John Chrysostom. "If you are within, the wolf does not enter; but if you leave, the beasts will seize you. Do not distance yourself from the Church; there is nothing mightier that the Church. The Church is your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is higher than the heavens. The Church is harder than stone. The Church is wider than the world. The Church never grows old but always renews itself."
To contemplate the Circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ:
1. His glory in the heavenly kingdom where Cherubims serve Him in fear and in trembling;
2. His lowliness and His humility in the ritual of circumcision intended for sinners;
3. To contemplate my heart: how much have I circumcised sinful thoughts, vices and passions from it.
About how we should depart from evil and do good
"Turn from evil, and do good" (Psalm 34:15)
With these words are expressed all our effort by which we should labor here on earth and in the earth, i.e., on this material earth and in this physical body. Therefore, of what then should our labor consist? To achieve two habits: First, to avoid evil and Second, to do good. Concerning that which is good and that which is evil, our conscience tells us incompletely and unclearly because our conscience is darkened by sin; but the teaching of Christ tells us completely and clearly that which is good and that which is evil.
Brethren, what does our Lord ask of us? He asks, that as our altars are always facing the east, so should our souls also be turned toward good. To leave evil behind us; to leave evil in the shadow; to leave evil in the abyss of oblivion; to leave evil in the darkness of the past, that we, from year to year, from day to day, extend ourselves toward good: to think about good; to yearn for good; to speak about good; to do good. The Lord is seeking builders and not destroyers. For whoever builds good, with that alone, he destroys evil. However, he who turns away from destroying evil, quickly forgets how to build good and is transformed into an evildoer.
The apostle of Christ teaches us, "Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good" (Romans 12:9). Hate evil but do not hate the man who commits evil for he is sick. If you can, heal the sick person but do not kill him with your hatred. Adhere to good and only good; for good is from God; for God is the treasury of all good.
O Good and All-good Lord, teach us to avoid evil and to do good for the sake of Your glory and for the sake of our salvation.
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