Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR MARINA
Marina was born in Pisidian, Antioch of pagan parents. At the age of twelve Marina learned about the Lord Jesus Christ; how He became incarnate of the All-Pure Virgin, how He worked many miracles, how He suffered death on the Cross and gloriously resurrected. Her young heart became inflamed with love for the Lord and she vowed that she would never marry and further desired in her soul to suffer for Christ and to be baptized in the blood of martyrdom. Her father hated her because of her faith and did not consider her as his daughter. The imperial deputy Olymbrius, learning from Marina that she was a Christian, first wished that she would become his wife. When Marina rejected that he ordered her to bow down before the idols and to that St. Marina replied: "I will not bow down nor offer sacrifice to the breathless and dead idols who do not recognize themselves nor do they know that we honor or dishonor them. I will not give them that honor which belongs only to my Creator." Then Olymbrius subjected Marina to harsh torture and threw her into prison completely covered with wounds and blood. While in prison Marina prayed to God and, after prayer, the devil appeared to her under the guise of a horrible serpent which entwined itself around her head. When she made the sign of the cross the serpent burst and vanished. Then she was engulfed with a heavenly light and it seemed to her that the walls of the prison vanished together with the roof and a radiant and towering cross appeared and atop the cross a white dove, from which a voice came saying: "Rejoice Marina, rational [discerning] dove of Christ, daughter of Zion in the highest, for your day of rejoicing has arrived." Marina was healed from all her wounds and pains by the power of God. The demented judge tortured her the following day, both in fire and in water, but Marina endured all as though she were in another body. Finally he condemned her to be beheaded. Before her death the Lord Jesus appeared to her with angels. She was beheaded during the reign of Diocletian but in soul and power she remained alive in the heavens and on earth. A hand of St. Marina reposes in the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mt. Athos. However, atop Mt. Langa in Albania overlooking Lake Ohrid, there is a monastery dedicated to St. Marina with a portion of her miraculous relics. Countless miracles have occurred and still occur in this monastery, whose witnesses are not only Christians but many Muslims as well. So much did the Turks have respect for this holy place that they never dared disturb either this holy place or the property of this monastery. At one time a Turk was the guardian of the monastery.
2. THE VENERABLE LEONID USTNEDUM
From his youth this Russian saint lived a spiritual life of asceticism in several monasteries in Solovetz, Mirozh as well as elsewhere. Finally, he founded his own monastery along the Luza River in the province of Vologda. He lived a strict life of mortification until his soul was filled with the light of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a beacon, Leonid attracted many to the ascetical life of mortification. He is called Ustnedum, because at one time when he was bitten by a poisonous serpent, he did not want either to think or to talk about it and he remained alive. Pleasing God in all things, Leonid died peacefully on July 17, 1653 A.D. His relics repose in his monastery.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY MARTYR MARINA
Saint Marina, to the Lord prayed,
And with warm tears, she strengthened her prayers;
Lord Jesus, my God and my Savior,
Everyone who in You hope, You help.
Be near me, near to my soul,
When the unbelievers begin my body to destroy,
Be near me, O Strength of martyrs,
That, without fear and screams, I endure pains.
Before the hungry wolves, as sheep I stand,
As a lonely bird before many hunters,
As a miserable fish snared by the net
But, the Lord of salvation, to You I gaze!
My body, as a cheap sack, let them tear apart,
O Christ, You will I not deny;
Then all decaying pleasures, with You sufferings I like,
Only to Your authority, O Savior I bow down
Conqueror of death, the devil and Hades,
These victories now, through me repeat!
For all, Lord and Savior, to You thanks,
That You help everyone who hopes in You.
Until Christ becomes all for the soul completely all which generally has a certain permanent and unchanging value, until then, man cannot enter into suffering for Christ. How could St. Marina the fifteen-year-old girl enter into suffering for Christ? For to her, Christ was all completely all! How could Saint Julitta have rejoiced upon seeing her three year old son Cyriacus dead for the Faith of Christ? Again, for her, Christ was all completely all. Behold, how St. Tikhon of Zadonsk speaks in detail of how Christ is all to man in the form of a conversation between Christ and man:
"Do you desire good for yourself?
Every good is in Me.
Do you desire blessedness?
Every blessedness is in Me.
Do you desire beauty?
What is more beautiful than Me?
Do you desire nobleness?
What is more noble than the Son of God and the Holy Virgin?
Do you desire height?
What is higher than the Kingdom of Heaven?
Do you desire riches?
In Me are all riches.
Do you desire wisdom?
I am the Wisdom of God.
Do you desire friendship?
Who is a kinder friend than I Who lay down My life for all?
Do you desire help?
Who can help except Me?
Do you seek joy?
Who will rejoice outside of Me?
Do you seek comfort in misery?
Who will comfort you outside of Me?
Do you seek peace?
I am the peace of the soul.
Do you seek life?
In Me is the source of life.
Do you seek light?
'I am the Light of the world' " (St. John 8:12).
To contemplate the miraculous brass serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21):
1. How all the people would have died from the bite of the serpents, until Moses raised the brass serpent on a pole;
2. How all, who were bitten by a serpent, as soon as they gazed upon the brass serpent were made whole;
3. How the brass serpent pre-figures Christ on the Cross.
About the need to repeat and repeat
"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12).
The plower sows in the field. Does not the plower repeat the same task every second? How would he, therefore, plow the field if not plowing from morning to dusk deepening furrow after furrow?
The traveler walks the road. Does not the traveler repeat the same task every second with the same effort? How else would he have traveled the road and reached his destination?
The carpenter prepares the boards in his workshop. Does not the carpenter repeat the same task with every board, with the same labor? How else would he be able to prepare the ordered amount of prepared boards?
Brethren, is not all of our beneficial works comprised of strands and strands of repetition? Therefore, let not the preacher of the truth become slothful and let him not say: "I told them so and I will not repeat it!" Let not the hearer of the truth become proud and let him not say: "I heard it once and I do not need to hear it again!"
O preacher of the truth, do not be afraid to repeat and to repeat: that through repetition you teach and by repetition you remind. Without repetition even the field is not plowed, nor the path traveled, nor the framework [rafters] of the house prepared. And you [preacher of the truth] are to plow, to lead and to prepare.
O hearer of the truth, do not become proud and do not say that you heard the truth once. Truth is food for the soul. You have eaten bread today, yesterday and the day before yesterday and for months and years past. And again you will eat it, so that your body would be healthy. Nourish also the soul. Nourish it with the truth, the same truth, yesterday, today and tomorrow and until death so that your soul may be healthy, strong and radiant.
O Lord Jesus, nourish us every day and every hour with Your truth which is Yourself O Jesus, sweet nourishment!
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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