Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT MARY MAGDALENE
Mary Magdalene was one of the myrrh-bearing women and "equal to the apostles". She was born in the town of Magdala along the shore of Lake Gennesaret and was from the tribe of Issachar. She was tormented by seven evil spirits from which the Lord Jesus freed her and made her whole. She was a faithful follower and servant of the Lord during His earthly life. Mary Magdalene stood beneath the Cross on Golgotha and grieved bitterly and mourned with the All-Holy Birth-giver of God. After the death of the Lord she visited His sepulchre three times. When the Lord resurrected she saw Him on two occasions: once alone and the other time with the other myrrh-bearing women. She traveled to Rome and appeared before Tiberias Caesar and presenting him with a red colored egg, greeted him with the words: "Christ is Risen!" At the same time, she accused Pilate before Caesar for his unjust condemnation of the Lord Jesus. Caesar accepted her accusation and transferred Pilate from Jerusalem to Gaul where, this unjust judge, in disfavor with the emperor, died of a dread disease. After that, Mary Magdalene returned from Rome to Ephesus to St. John the Theologian whom she assisted in the work of preaching the Gospel. With great love toward the resurrected Lord, and with great zeal, she proclaimed the Holy Gospel to the world as a true apostle of Christ. She died peacefully in Ephesus and, according to tradition, was buried in the same cave in which seven youths were miraculously put to sleep for hundreds of years and, after that, were brought to life and then died (August 4). The relics of St. Mary Magdalene were later transferred to Constantinople. There is a Russian Orthodox convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene near the Garden of Gethsemane.
2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR PHOCAS
On this day we commemorate the translation of the relics of St. Phocas from Pontus to Constantinople about the year 404 A.D. The primary feast of this saint is celebrated on September 22 and on that day a brief hagiography of his life and his sufferings is recorded. Today, one miracle of this saint is commemorated. The Arabs captured a man named Pontinus. The Arabs shackled him, bound his hands to his back and left him to die. Lying on his stomach on the ground, and not being able to move, Pontinus cried out: "O Holy Martyr Phocas have mercy on me and save me!" Saying this he fell asleep and, in a dream, saw Saint Phocas approaching him, touched him by the hand and said: "The Lord Jesus Christ forgives you!" When the man awoke, he found himself loosed from all bonds and free. He arose and departed for his home and took St. Phocas as the patron saint of his household.
3. THE VENERABLE CORNELIUS OF PEREYASLAVL
Cornelius was tonsured a monk at age fifteen by an elder called Paul. Later on, he withdrew into the wilderness to a life of silence. Cornelius lived in silence for thirty years not speaking to anyone, not even a word, and many considered him to be a mute. He became so withered through fasting, that he resembled a skeleton. Before his death he received the Schema [The Great Angelic Habit] and found repose in the Lord on July 22, 1693 A.D.
4. THE HOLY-FEMALE MARTYR MARCELLA
Saint Marcella enjoys enormous respect on the island of Chios. In the church dedicated to her miracles occur every year. Not much is known about her life. However, according to tradition, Marcella was an unusually pious girl who, at an early age, was left motherless. Her pagan and bestial father wanted to live with his daughter as with a wife. Marcella fled from her father but he, enraged as a wild beast, caught up with her and hacked her to pieces. In the proximity of her church there are certain stones which, from time to time, become permeated with blood. People take these stones, bring them to church, pray to St. Marcella and place them on the sick who, from that, become healed.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT MARY MAGDALENE
Magdalene, in dark sorrow wrapped herself
Because of the bloody death of the Son of God.
Sorrow is to love, the most bitter sorrow,
It, in the world, has no comfort or companion,
To it, tears are comfort and pain its only companion,
To Saint Magdalene, in darkness the world became wrapped.
The weak creation of man, asked for light,
Without hope, in the dark Mary groped.
His tomb to her is light but behold, the tomb is empty!
Stolen she thought, naked and not anointed!
Bitterly she wept, to weeping never any end,
At that moment, a man's voice beside her, she heard:
Woman, why are you weeping, tell me: Whom do you seek?
Whom do I seek, you ask? To comfort me, do you wish!
But, if you took Him away, where did you place Him?
Tearful and melancholy, Jesus looked at her,
And with a sweet voice called her: Mary!
In Mary's heart, a light began to shine
O familiar voice, with sweetness unsurpassable,
The voice overly generous by life and power!
With that voice, the Lord healed the sick,
With that same voice, He resurrected the dead.
Life-creating voice, a miraculous voice!
Mary recoiled and turned around
Rabbi, she cried out at that moment the sun came out
A New Day dawned to Mary and to the world.
"Blessed are they that mourn" (Matthew 5:4), said the Lord. Blessed are they who mourn asking for the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they who mourn suffering for the Faith in Christ. Blessed are they that mourn repenting of their sins. There can be no true repentance without tears. With what shall we wash away our sins if not through tears or through blood, the blood of martyrdom? The monks of Nitria sent a petition to St. Macarius the Great asking if he would come to them rather that they all come to him. Macarius obeyed and came to them. All the monks gathered around St. Macarius and begged him for a word of instruction. Macarius began to weep and through his tears said: "Brethren, let tears flow from your eyes before you go over there where our tears will fry our bodies." Then all the brethren began to weep.
To contemplate the miraculous appearance of the archangel to Joshua, the son of Nun, when he set out to conquer Jericho (Joshua 5):
1. How the Captain [Commander] of the heavenly hosts appears to Joshua with a drawn [naked] sword in his hand;
2. How the "Captain of the Lord's host" told him to remove his shoes (Joshua 5:15);
3. How even we, in the battle of life, should not rely on our own feet, and in our own equipment, but only in Him who battles for us.
About the inexorable justice of God
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2: 4-6).
O how will the sinful man be spared? "And spared not the old world but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow". Therefore O sinful man, how then can you be spared? Are you dearer and more precious to Him than millions of angels, from so many people drowned by the Flood [Deluge]and from densely populated cities? When the angels are cast into the darkness of Hades, people are drowned by the flood and cities are burned to ashes in what do you hope, sinning, continually sinning and not turning away from sin? You say, in the mercy of God! But, is God more merciful now that He was then? Does God change as man does? Do not hope without measure [limit] but according to the measure [limit] of your efforts as regards the improvement of your life, let that be your hope. Truly, great is the mercy of God, long is the patience of God and infinite is the love of God. Behold, God loves you more and is more merciful to you than you are to yourself and He continually wishes you salvation even more than you yourself do. But he, who to the end mocks the mercy of God and he, who to the very end laughs at the patience of God and he, who to the end opposes the love of God, will God then take him by force into His kingdom and make him a fellow citizen with the angels and saints?
How terrible is the darkness of Hades, the clanging sound of chains and the gnashing of teeth? Those who ridiculed the mercy of God and opposed the love of God dwell there [Hades]. Will you want to go there, O prodigal soul? God does not desire that you go there; the angels mourn because you are headed there; the saints are praying that you return; Holy Church offers sacrifices for you that you would come to your senses. If you despise all of that O why would you despise it all! Then what kind of mercy do you expect from God?
O righteous Lord, help us that we may, in due time turn away from the path which leads to the darkness of Hades, make us to understand and strengthen us in goodness, before You send Your angel to take away our soul.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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