Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, THE APOSTLE
Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Great Apostles. In all probability, it appears that Bartholomew and Nathaniel are one and the same person. He was a companion of the Apostle Philip and Philip's sister, the virgin Mariamna and, for some time, a companion of St. John the Theologian. Bartholomew preached the Gospel first throughout Asia and, after that, in India and finally in Armenia where he died a martyr's death. In Hierapolis, these holy apostles by prayer, caused the death of a large serpent which the heathens kept in their temple and worshipped. In this same city and, by prayer, they restored sight to Stachius who was blind for forty years. It was here that a mob rose up against them and they crucified Philip and Bartholomew (Bartholomew was crucified upside down). At this time, an earthquake occurred in which the evil judges and may people perished. Feeling that this was a punishment from God, many ran to remove the apostles from the crosses but Philip was already dead while Bartholomew was still alive. After this, Bartholomew went to India where he preached and translated the Gospel of St. Matthew into the Indian language. Following this, he entered Armenia where he cured the daughter of the king from insanity. But the envious brother of King Astyages seized God's apostle, crucified him on a cross, skinned him and finally beheaded him in Armenian Albanopolis [Derbend]. Christians honorably buried his body in a lead sarcophagus. Because many miracles occurred over his relics, the pagans took the sarcophagus and tossed it into the sea. But the water carried the sarcophagus to the Island of Lipara where Bishop Agathon, through a revelation in a dream, met and buried it in the church. St. Bartholomew, attired in a white garment, appeared in church to Venerable Joseph, the Hymnographer, blessed him with the Gospel that he may be able to sing spiritual hymns saying: "Let heavenly waters of wisdom flow from your tongue!" He also appeared to Emperor Anastasius (491-518 A.D.) and told him that he would protect the newly established town of Dara. Later, the relics of this great apostle were translated to Benevento and then to Rome. Great and awesome miracles have occurred over these relics.
2. SAINT BARNABAS, THE APOSTLE
Barnabas was one of the Seventy Apostles. He was born in Cyprus of wealthy parents from the tribe of Levi and studied together with Saul under Gamaliel. At first, he was called Joseph but the apostles then called him Barnabas, Son of Consolation, because he was exceptionally capable of comforting the souls of the people. After Saul's conversion, Barnabas was the first to introduce Saul to the apostles and after that, with Paul [Saul] and Mark he preached the Gospel in Antioch and throughout other places. In all probability, he was the first to preach in Rome and Milan. He suffered on the island of Cyprus at the hands of the Jews and was buried by Mark beyond the western gate of the town of Salamis with the Gospel of St. Matthew on his chest which he, by his own hand, had copied. His grave remained unknown for several hundred years and since many received healing from sickness on this spot, this place was called: "the place of health." At the time of Emperor Zeno and the Chalcedon Council [451 A.D.], the apostle appeared to Archbishop Anthemius of Cyprus on three successive nights in a dream and revealed to him the location of Barnabas' grave. That appearance of the apostle occurred exactly at the time when Peter, the power-hungry Patriarch of Antioch, sought that the church in Cyprus be under the jurisdiction of the throne of Antioch. After the appearance and discovery of the miraculous relics of the holy Apostle Barnabas, it was established that the church in Cyprus, as an Apostolic Church, should always be independent. Thus, the autocephaly of the Church in Cyprus was established.
3. THE COMMEMORATION OF THE HOLY ICON AXION ESTIN, [DOSTOJNO JEST - IT IS TRULY MEET TO BLESS YOU]
AND THE MIRACLE THAT OCCURRED BEFORE IT DURING THE REIGN OF PATRIARCH NICHOLAS CHRYSOVERGES (983-996 A.D.)
The miracle consists of this: One night a monk was reading the Canon to the Holy Birth-Giver of God and was singing "More honorable than the Cherubim" in his cell in the monastery of the Pantocrator, now called "Axion Estin" after the icon. His elder had gone to Karyes. Suddenly a man appeared in church and began to sing: "Truly it is Meet." That hymn so far was unknown in the church. The monk upon hearing this hymn, became excited not only because of its contents but also because of the beautiful heavenly singing. "Among us, we sing it in this manner," said the elder to the monk. The monk wanted to have this hymn written down and brought a tablet on which the stranger wrote down this hymn with his finger as though upon wax. Suddenly he vanished. That stranger was the Archangel Gabriel. This tablet was taken to Constantinople and the hymn remains even today in the Church.
HYMN OF PRAISE
A MONK AT PRAYER
A monk at night, alone in church
With a fervent prayer, dispels darkness from his soul,
All at once, a monk arrived, about him, nothing unusual,
And, as an experienced cantor, began to chant.
Then, the first monk began: "More Honorable"
Glorifying the Mother of God, Mother "More Glorious".
To him, the miraculous guest spoke about this hymn of praise:
"Among us," said he: "this hymn we sing differently,
As you began, we do not begin,
Rather with "Truly it is Meet," venerable father!"
And the entire hymn: "Truly it is Meet" he uttered,
And the monk tried, not a word to omit.
Now I breathe easier, O my virtuous brother
Of your hymn, allow me to copy it!
But pencil he has not and not even paper has he,
The church a place for prayer is and not for writing!
Then the guest at midnight traced the church with a cross
And on the stone with his finger he began to write.
As on soft wax, on the stone he wrote,
At this man, the monk was amazed.
Of the unusual guest, the monk inquired: "Who are you?"
For you, may it be enough that my name is Gabriel.
At once he disappeared. The monk with horror
Recognized the Archangel in the monastic habit.
That which he wrote, no one erased
With heavenly fragrance, the church was filled.
A true friend prays to God for his friend. A true friend is concerned about the salvation of the soul of his friend. To dissuade a friend from false paths and to direct him on the path of truth, that is precious friendship. The saints of God are the best friends of mankind. Two youths, Barnabas and Paul, were friends while together they were attending the school of Gamaliel. When Barnabas became a Christian, he persistently and tearfully prayed to God that He would also enlighten the mind and turn the heart of Paul in order that he becomes a Christian. Barnabas often spoke to Paul about Christ the Lord but Paul ridiculed him and considered him as one led astray. However, the Good Lord did not leave the prayers of Barnabas without fruit. The Good Lord appeared to Paul and turned him from the path of falsehood to the path of truth. The converted Paul then fell before the feet of his friend and cried out: "O Barnabas, teacher of truth, I am now convinced that everything which you spoke to me about Christ is the truth!" Barnabas wept with joy and embraced his friend. Barnabas, the friend saved the soul of his friend by his fervent prayer. If Barnabas has succeeded to place Paul as the emperor of Rome, he would have done less for him than what he succeeded in doing with prayer to bring him to the truth.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the blind-dumb man: "Then was brought to Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spoke and saw" (St. Matthew 12:22):
1. How the Lord healed the man, blind and dumb;
2. How the Lord can instantly heal even my soul, blind and dumb because of my remoteness from Christ, only if I bring my soul to the Lord.
About the master and the slave
"He who spares his rod hates his son but he who loves him takes care to chastise him" (Proverbs 13:24).
God's love for men transcends the love of men for men as the heaven transcends the earth but, nevertheless, the Man-loving God chastises men. God chastises men not in order to destroy them but to correct and save them. O blessed chastisement which emanates from love! "For whom the Lord loves, He chastises; and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6). With what does God chastise? With a rod! What kind of rod? The rod of sickness, the rod of misfortune, the rod of loss, the rod of hunger, the rod of crop failure, the rod of drought, the rod of floods, the rod of death of relatives and friends, the rod of evil demons, when He permits them authority over man. These are the rods of God by which God chastises His children in order that He may correct them and bring them back to their senses, enlighten and save them.
Why should the parent not chastise his children if he truly loves them? The rod is a tool of great love and concern. If the child is not sensitive to spiritual chastisement, the child is sensitive to the rod. The more a child is insensitive to the spirit and conscience, it is more sensitive to the body. The body was not given to man that by itself it has meaning, but the body is to be a servant of the spirit to help the spirit and to benefit the spirit. If corporal punishment arouses the spirit in man and the spirit arouses the conscience, then the body has completely fulfilled its duty toward the spirit, its master. If the master [spirit] sleeps, then the servants are struck in order to arouse the master [the spirit]. If the servants awaken their master in the hour of danger, they will not lament the blows that they have received for they saved their master. And the awakened and saved master will know how to repay his servants. Hence, in truth, "He who spares his rod hates his son." Whosoever spares the servant, betrays the master.
O All-wise Lord, open the hearts of the parents that they may receive this holy instruction of Yours.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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