Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLES SILAS, SILVANUS, CRESCENS, EPAENETUS AND ANDRONICUS
All were numbered among the Seventy Apostles. St. Silas was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to settle the dispute between the faithful there regarding circumcision: namely, that it was not necessary to circumcise pagans when they convert to Christianity. "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole Church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren" (Acts of the Apostles 15:22). After that, Silas traveled with Paul throughout Asia and Macedonia and was appointed as the bishop in Corinth, where he peacefully died.
St. Silvanus assisted both of the Chief Apostles. "By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand" (1 Peter 5:12).
"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea" (2 Corinthians 1:19). As the bishop of Thessalonica, Silvanus labored much and suffered much until he finally exchanged this earthly life for the heavenly life.
St. Crescens was a companion of the Apostle Paul and after that the bishop in Galatia and a missionary in Gaul, where he died as a martyr for Christ during the reign of Trajan. "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia" (2 Timothy 4:10).
St. Epaenetus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul. He was the bishop in Carthage. "Salute my well beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ" (Romans 16:5).
St. Andronicus, the bishop of Pannonia, is commemorated separately on May 17. "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me" (Romans 16:7).
2. THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR VALENTINE
Valentine was the bishop of the Italian City of Interamna. He cured the brother of the Roman tribune, Frontanus, of an illness. When Cherimon, the son of the renown philosopher Craton, took ill and at the advice of Frontanus, Craton summoned Bishop Valentine to Rome. Cherimon was completely crippled, so that his head was bent over between his knees. Valentine closed himself off in a room with Cherimon and spent the entire night in prayer. The next day he brought Cherimon out completely cured and handed him over to his father. Then Craton with his entire household and three of his disciples, was baptized. Cherimon left the home of his father and went with Valentine. Also baptized at that time was Abundius, the son of the Roman eparch. Enraged at this, the eparch arrested Valentine and after much torture he was beheaded. Also beheaded at this time were those three disciples of Craton: Proclus, Abibus and Apollonius. Their bodies were taken by Abundius and he buried them with honor. They all suffered in the year 273 A.D. and became citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom.
3. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR POLYCHRONIUS, BISHOP OF BABYLON
When Emperor Decius overran Babylon, he captured Polychronius with three presbyters, two deacons and two baptized princes, Eudin and Senis. Polychronius did not want to respond before the emperor and remained silent, while St.Parmenius, the presbyter, spoke on behalf of all. The emperor took the bishop and priests to Persia, to the city of Kordoba, and there they were beheaded. The princes, Eudin and Senis, were taken with them to Rome and there, at first, they were thrown to the wild beasts and later slain by the sword. They all suffered honorably in the year 251 A.D.
4. SAINT JOHN THE SOLDIER
John was secretly a Christian. He was sent by Emperor Julian the Apostate to slay Christians but he did not kill them rather assisted them to hide. Julian cast him into a prison in Constantinople. When the evil Emperor Julian was slain, John gave himself over to a life of asceticism, living in purity and holiness. He died peacefully in old age. After his death, he appeared to some who needed his help. Prayers directed to St. John help to seek out robbers.
5. THE VENERABLE MOTHER ANGELINA
Angelina was a Serbian Princess [Despotica]. Her relics repose in the Monastery Krusedol (December 12).
HYMN OF PRAISE
The pagan ruler, the terrible Emperor Decius,
In fury cried out: O Polychronius,
Why do you not honor the gods of Rome, O Elder?
Royal commands, why do you not want to hear?
But the saint remains silent, nothing does he speak.
Again the emperor asks him and the saint does not speak.
This man is a mute! Decius concluded.
Our father is not a mute, Parmenius said,
Does not want to speak but keeps his mouth pure,
Keeps his mouth pure according to the command of Christ:
Do not cast your pearls before swine,
Do not give to the dogs; divine things!
The saint keeps the pearl, keeps it in himself,
So as not to soil his mouth speaking to you.
Decius infuriated as never before in his life,
Ordered that Parmenius' tongue be severed.
They severed his tongue. But to him, what does that mean
The speech of the saint became more beautiful and stronger?
That, the Lord battles for His zealous servants.
Keeps them from shame and the mockery of men.
One needs to distinguish a sinner from a penitent. If you have taken upon yourself the role to rebuke the sinner, guard yourself well, that you do not rebuke the penitent also. How dear the repentant sinner is to God, call to mind the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Therefore, let it be very dear for you, he who has become dear to God. At one time it happened that a monk succumbed to sin for which he was banished from the monastery. This monk went to St. Anthony, confessed his sin, repented and remained with Anthony for a period of time. Then Anthony sent him back again to the monastery but they did not receive him and, again, they banished him. Again, the penitent came to Anthony. Again, Anthony sent him back to the monastery with a message to the fathers of the monastery: "One boat experienced shipwreck and lost its cargo; with great difficulty did that boat arrive in the harbor and you wish to drown even that which was saved from drowning!" Hearing this wise message, the fathers received with joy the penitent brother into the monastery.
To contemplate the miraculous victory of Gideon over the Midianites (Judges 7):
1. How Gideon gathered thirty-two thousand soldiers and set out against the Midianites;
2. How God commanded him to reduce the number, so that the Israelites would not brag about themselves and say that they defeated [the Midianites] and not God;
3. How Gideon selected only three hundred soldiers and defeated the Midianites who were numerous "as grasshoppers" (Judges 7:12).
About the coming of the Dreadful Day of the Lord
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).
Dreadful is the day of the Lord, O how inexpressibly dreadful! Dreadful because of its inexorable justice and also because of its unexpectancy. The Lord Himself commanded: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour" (St. Matthew 25:13), and the apostle who, with his own ears, heard these words only repeats them. He who is afraid of thieves watches every night, so that the thief would not surprise him. He, who is afraid of the Day of the Lord, watches every day and every hour in order that that day and that hour would not unexpectedly catch him in sin. We are so accustomed to the correct rotation of the course of time, and on the correct passage of day and night, that we do not suspect the approaching noise of that day which will overshadow all days and hold back the wheel of time and smash its tiny spokes. So also will it be when the sun places its fiery face over millions of wax candles and blots out their glow and melts their wax. Dreadful, dreadful, dreadful is the Day of the Lord! When that day places its fiery face over the candles of today's day, these will be snuffed out and darkened, "the heavens shall pass away with great noise," the heavens, by which the present average days are counted, "and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" the material elements, the earth, water, air and fire will disintegrate. They will cease to be. Everything will be new. Our earthly homeland and all works on it will be burned up. They will cease to be. Everything will be new. All our works will burn up; when God does not have pity on His works, would He then pity our works? God will not seek works but workers. All workers will appear before Him for judgment and their works He will burn up. And all will be new. Who will be judged, will be judged; who will be rewarded, will be rewarded, for all eternity. Brethren, dreadful, truly dreadful is the Day of the Lord! Dreadful because of its unexpectancy and dreadful because of the inexorable justice of God.
O Just Lord, make us sober and vigilant! Command Your holy angels to keep us in sobriety and vigilance, so that sin does not inebriate us and cause us to sleep.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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