Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR TATIANA
Tatiana was a Roman whose parents were of great nobility. She was a Christian and a deaconess in the church. After the death of Emperor Heliogabalus, Emperor Alexander, whose mother Mammaea was a Christian, reigned in Rome. The emperor himself was wavering and indecisive in the Faith for he kept statues of Christ, Apollo, Abraham and Orpheus in his palace. His chief assistants persecuted the Christians without the emperor's orders. When they brought out the virgin Tatiana for torture, she prayed to God for her torturers. And behold, their eyes were opened and they saw four angels around the martyr. Seeing this, eight of them believed in Christ for which they also were tortured and slain. The tormentors continued to torture St. Tatiana. They whipped her, cut off parts of her body; they scraped her with irons. So all disfigured and bloody, Tatiana was thrown into the dungeon that evening so that the next day, they could, again, begin anew with different tortures. But God sent His angels to the dungeon to encourage her and to heal her wounds so that, each morning, Tatiana appeared before the torturers completely healed. They threw her before a lion, but the lion endeared himself to her and did her no harm. They cut off her hair, thinking, according to their pagan reasoning, that some sorcery or some magical power was concealed in her hair. Finally, Tatiana along with her father were both beheaded. Thus, Tatiana ended her earthly life about the year 225 A.D., and this heroic virgin, who had the fragile body of a woman but a robust and valiant spirit, was crowned with the immortal wreath of glory.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR PETER APSELAMUS
Peter was born in Eleutheropolis in Palestine. In his youth, Peter suffered for the Faith of Christ in 311 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Maximian. After much torture, he was condemned to death. Upon hearing his death sentence, he rejoicefully cried out: "That is my one wish; to die for my God!" Peter was crucified in the same manner as our Lord Himself and expired on the cross.
3. THE FEAST OF THE ICON OF OUR LADY NURSING THE CHRIST CHILD [MLEKOPITATELNICA]
This is the name of the icon of the All-Holy Mother of God which the Serbian Saint Sava [Sabas] brought from the Monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified, near Jerusalem. And so, the prophecy spoken of by St. Sabas the Sanctified, some eight-hundred years earlier, that a certain Serbian priest by the name of Sava [Sabas] will come and that this icon and his crozier (staff) be given to him, was fulfilled. When St. Sava the Serbian visited the Monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified, the monks recalled the prophecy of the founder of their monastery and gave to Sava the Serbian this icon and crozier. This icon [Mlekopitatelnica] was placed on the right side of the Royal Doors on the iconastasis, in Sava's hermitage [Isposnica-House of Silence] in Karayes [Mt. Athos] and the crosier placed in an adjacent cell known as the "Paterica".
4. THE VENERABLE MOTHER THEODORA
Theodora was a glorious nun and teacher of the nuns from Alexandria. "Just as trees require winter and snow in order to bear fruit, so trials and temptations are needed for our life," spoke this holy woman. She died peacefully at the beginning of the fifth century.
HYMN OF PRAISE
You grieve over the youth of your body, Oh, be reasonable!
Youth which passes, is it worthwhile to grieve over; you judge!
There is only one youth, youth in eternity,
That is the true youth, youth without aging,
This is worthwhile to ask for, and for it, to shed tears,
Even if you have to pay for it with the death of the body.
Tatiana purchased the costly with the less costly.
For dust and water, the Divine wine;
For the body that ages, eternal youth
And for a few tears, Cherubic joy.
Betrothed to Christ, the Immortal King,
She remained faithful to her Betrothed;
By the power of a pure spirit, crushed temptations
And bravely endured frightening tortures.
Around her were heard angelic footsteps;
As a wrinkled cloth, her body she shed,
And a soul free of earthly ties
Was raised to the wedding feast in the Kingdom without tears.
There is no greater honor or greater calling on earth than to be a Christian. When the judge-torturer Sevirus asked the young Peter Apselamus, "Of what lineage are you?" Peter replied, "I am a Christian." The judge further inquired of him, "In what rank are you?" To that Peter responded, " There is no greater nor better rank than to be a Christian." Father John Kronstadt writes: " The whole world is but a cobweb in comparison to the Christian human soul." The Christian is an earthen vessel into which is poured divine power and light. Will this vessel be placed on the golden royal throne or will it be lowered in the dark hut of the beggar; by this, his value will neither be magnified nor diminished. Does not gold have the same value whether it is wrapped in a silk handkerchief or in a cabbage leaf?
To contemplate the meekness of the Lord Jesus:
1. His meekness about His hidden life in Nazareth until the age of thirty;
2. His meekness in dealing with the sick and with the sinners;
3. His meekness in dealing with Judas the traitor and with the unjust judges.
About how man is most dear to God and God to man
"For I want not what is yours, but you" (I Corinthians 12:14).
With these words, which could have only been spoken by the fiery apostolic love toward one's neighbor, is expressed the essence of the relationship of the Christian toward God and God toward the Christian. The love of God could very well say: "You, O Christian, fast for My sake; for My sake you distribute alms; for My sake you lift up heartfelt prayers; for My sake you build churches; for My sake you offer sacrifices and you perform many other good deeds. All of this is good, and all of this is pleasing to Me, but you are more precious to Me than all of this. In the end, I seek nothing of all of this rather, I seek you, only you."
The love of a Christian could very well say:
"O Lord, You gave me health and that is good. You turn on the light; You permit the rain to fall; You refresh the air by Your thunder and that is good. You bestow wealth, wisdom, many years, offspring and many other good things which You bountifully place on the table of this life. All of this is good and overly-good. I receive all of this with gratitude. But, in the ultimate end, that is only the hem of Your garment. Ultimately, I do not seek anything of that but You, O Lord, You alone I seek."
O my brethren, that is not God which is seen with the physical eyes, neither is that man which is seen with the physical eyes. That which is seen in the whole of nature is only something of God; and that which is seen in the physical garment is only something of man. Brethren, God is Love which heaven lowers to earth; Brethren, man is love which raises earth to heaven.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, Creator and Almighty, take up Your abode more and even more in us with Your Life-giving Spirit that we may live; that we may be alive in Your kingdom without death.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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