Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY GREAT FEMALE MARTYR DOMINICA [NEDELJA-KIRIAKI]
During the reign of the adversaries of Christ, Emperor Diocletian and his son-in-law Maximian, there lived in Anatolia two pious and elderly souls, Dorotheus and Eusebia. They were devout Christians, wealthy but childless. Unceasing in prayer they obtained a child from God, this holy Dominica. From her childhood, Dominica consecrated herself to God restraining from everything that unruly children do. When she matured, beautiful in body and soul, many suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage but she refused them all saying that she betrothed herself to Christ the Lord and that she desires nothing more than to die as a virgin. One of the rejected suitors denounced Dominica and her parents to Emperor Diocletian as being Christians. The emperor ordered that Dominica's parents be tortured and after torturing them banished them to the town of Melitene where they died enduring much suffering for Christ. Diocletian, however, sent Dominica to Maximian to stand trial. As Dominica confirmed her faith in Christ before Maximian, he ordered that she be placed on the ground and flogged with oxen whips. After that, the emperor handed her over to the commanders, at first Hilarion and then, after his death, to Apollonius. Both of them tortured Dominica in a beastly manner in all possible ways but all was in vain. When St. Dominica lay in the prison cell, completely covered with wounds, Christ the Lord appeared to her, healed her and said: "Dominica, do not be afraid of torture, My grace is with you." And truly, the Grace of Christ saved this martyr both from fire and from wild beasts from which the godless judges thought that she would certainly meet death. Seeing the miraculous salvation of Dominica from so many deaths, many pagans believed in Christ. However, they were all beheaded. Dominica said to Apollonius: "In no manner can you turn me away from my Faith. If you throw me into the fire, I have an example in the Three Youths [Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego]; if you throw me before wild beasts, I have an example in Daniel the Prophet; if you toss me into the sea, I have an example in Jonah the Prophet; if you give me over to the sword, I will remember the honorable Forerunner [John the Baptist]; life for me is to die for Christ." Then Apollonius ordered that Dominica be beheaded. Dominica knelt on her knees, raised her hands to heaven and prayed to God that He would have mercy and save all those who would celebrate her memory and to give rest to her soul together with the souls of her parents. Upon completing her prayer, she rendered her soul to God before the sword was lowered on her head. Dominica suffered honorably and was received into eternal joy in the year 289 A.D. in Nicomedia.
2. THE VENERABLE THOMAS OF MALEA
At first, Thomas was a commander distinguished by his bravery and wealth. He was a very massive individual and instilled fear in his enemies. But when Thomas fell in love with Christ more than the world and everything in the world, he left all and withdrew into the wilderness where he was tonsured a monk and gave himself up to a life of strict asceticism. St. Elijah the Prophet appeared to him and led him to a mountain called Malea next to Athos, the Holy Mountain. There he lived alone and isolated only with God, in prayer day and night. Even though he concealed himself from the world, he could not remain hidden. Upon learning about the sanctity of his life, men began to come to him and to bring their sick. St. Thomas cured men from every infirmity and affliction. When he presented himself to the Lord in the tenth century, his relics continued to help all those who approached them with faith.
3. THE VENERABLE MARTYRS EPITECTUS AND ASTIUS
Astius, the only son of his parents, was persuaded to love the Faith of Christ by Epitectus the priest who baptized him and tonsured him a monk. After that they moved from somewhere in the eastern regions of Scythia and settled in the Scythian town of Almirida (now Ramzina) on the mouth of the Danube on the Black Sea. They were tortured and beheaded for the Faith of Christ about 290 A.D. After their deaths, they both appeared in great radiance to the parents of St. Astius, Alexander and Marcellina, who were converted to Christ and who were baptized by Bishop Evangelus who himself, then was beheaded for Christ: "Evangelus, another angel" as is sung about him.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT DOMINICA [NEDELJA-KIRIAKI]
The only child, Saint Dominica,
Her parents, for the Faith died
Parents; God's saints.
The orphan, Saint Dominica,
What she possessed, to the poor she gave,
Only body and garment remained
And that, she sacrificed for Christ,
Dominica, as the dew, pure,
To be bribed by anything, did not allow,
To be lured by anyone, did not allow
Neither to be frightened by anything did allow.
But to suffering as to a wedding goes
Severe sufferings and deep wounds,
But sweet is the Name of Jesus!
Bitter pains, harsh humiliations,
But sweet is eternal reigning!
Her entire body, with red blood,
But the joy of Paradise is sweet!
O Dominica, God's chosen one,
And for Christ, wonderful martyr,
With a sword from the earth you were driven,
Wedded in glory, in heaven you were
Teach us the Faith to honor,
Encourage us, our life to give for her [the Faith],
By your prayers, help us
Wonderful candle, amidst the candles of Paradise.
The example of St. Dominica, the beautiful virgin, and the example of St. Astius the rich young man, both of whom submitted themselves to torture and death for Christ the Lord, leads us to contemplate that there is nothing comparable in history to the power of Christ by whose help young men conquer themselves and through that, everything else. To obtain victory over one's self is the greatest victory. Such victors, the Church numbers by the thousands and many thousands. In writing about virginity, St. Cyprian says: "To conquer pleasure is the greatest pleasure, neither is there a greater victory than the victory over one's desires. He who conquered one opponent, proved himself stronger than somebody else but he who conquered passion proved himself stronger than himself. Every evil is easier to conquer than a pleasure. For all other evils are repulsive while the pleasure of evil is attractive. He who frees himself from desires, frees himself from fear for, because of desires, fear proceeds."
To contemplate the miraculous bringing forth of water from the rock in Horeb (Exodus 17):
1. How the thirsty Israelites doubted that God is among them and murmured against Moses;
2. How, by God's command Moses struck the rock with his rod and water flowed from the rock;
3. How even my heart has become as hard as stone because of doubt and how brooks of tears begin to flow when the grace of faith touches it.
About the [sincere and pure] milk of the word
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere [pure] milk of the word, that you may grow thereby: If so be, you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Peter 2: 2-3).
"As newborn babes," this is how the great apostle regards Christians. Baptism is a new birth and man counts a new life from baptism. The spiritually new born must be fed with mild food the same as the physically new born. What kind of food does the apostle recommend for Christians? "The sincere and pure milk of the word." The physical child is fed with the milk of insincerity, which is only the image of the "pure [sincere] milk of the word" by which a spiritual child needs to be fed. What then is this sincere and pure milk with which Christians should be fed? The apostle himself answers this when he says: "for you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." Therefore, that is the Lord Jesus Himself, Living and Life-giving. Christ's words are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with the words of Christ, as sweet milk, for your souls will expand and be blessed and you will be prepared for the Kingdom of God.
Christ's miracles are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you will be similar to the angels who sing the praises of the miracles of God day and night.
The Body and Blood of Christ are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you will become members of the Living and Immortal Body of Christ in the heavens.
Christ's resurrected victory over death is the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you will, while yet in this life, walk as victors and in the life to come stand at the right side of Christ the Victor.
Brethren, the whole of Christ is the sincere and pure milk. Let us be eager for this milk above all else that we may grow to salvation. This is the only nourishment for salvation. All else is for decay and the grave.
O Lord Jesus, Lamb of God, You Who are the sincere and pure milk, nourish us with Yourself as You did nourish Your holy apostles so that we may also grow sufficiently to salvation.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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