Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT SAMPSON, THE HOSPITABLE ONE WHO RECEIVED STRANGERS
Sampson was born of wealthy and eminent parents in old Rome where he studied all the secular sciences of that time and dedicated himself particularly to the science of medicine. Sampson was compassionate and an unmercenary and administered cures to the sick, both body and soul, counseling everyone to fulfill the requirements of the Christian Faith. Afterward he moved to Constantinople where he lived in a small house from which he dispensed alms, comfort, counsel, hope and medicine to all just as the sun disperses its rays of light and, in general, gave help to the helpless, both spiritually and physically. The patriarch heard of the great virtues of this man and ordained him a priest. At that time, Emperor Justinian the Great became ill and his illness, according to the conviction of all physicians, was incurable. The emperor prayed to God with great fervency and God revealed in a dream to him that Sampson would heal him. And indeed, when the emperor learned of Sampson, he invited him to his court and just as the elder placed his hand on the ailing place, the emperor recovered. When the emperor offered him enormous wealth for this, Sampson thanked him and did not want to accept anything saying to him: "O Emperor, even I had gold and silver and other goods, but I left all for the sake of Christ in order to gain eternal heavenly goods." But when the emperor insisted on doing something for him, holy Sampson implored the emperor to build him a home [hospice] for the poor. In this home Sampson served the poor as a parent serves his children. Mercy toward the poor and the helpless was natural to him. Finally, this saintly man, completely filled with heavenly power and goodness, reposed peacefully on June 27, 530 A.D. and was interred in the church of his relative, the holy martyr Mocius. After his death, Sampson appeared many times to those who called upon him for assistance.
2. SAINT SEVERUS, THE PRESBYTER
Severus lived in central Italy and was a man of extraordinary sanctity. Once he was summoned to hear the confession of and to administer Holy Communion to a man who was dying but because of working in his vineyard, he was late. The news reached him that the sick man had died. Completely frightened as though he had killed the man, Severus began to weep bitterly over the deceased. By his fervent prayer, God restored life to the dead man. Then Severus heard his confession, gave him Holy Communion and prepared him for a Christian departure from this world. On the eighth day, the man again died.
3. SAINT JOANNA, THE MYRRH-BEARER
Joanna was the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward: "Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward" (St. Luke 8:3). When Herod beheaded John the Baptist he disposed of his head in an unclean place. Joanna removed the head of the Baptist and buried it honorably on the Mount of Olives on Herod's estate. Later, during the reign of Constantine the Great, the head of John the Baptist was discovered. St. Joanna is also remembered as being present both at the suffering and at the resurrection of the Lord. She died peacefully.
HYMN OF PRAISE
When a dead person came to life, men asked him;
Tell us, where were you and who awakened you?
In the place of fear and horror, I was,
In the company of black ones, wolves and dogs,
In the depths, full of every uncleanness,
In the bottomless pit of darkness, without a single ray.
And when my soul, despair overcame
By the hand, a radiant young man took me.
Then, from the depths, a cool current blew
And against me charged black ones with heads of dogs:
This one, he is ours, he is ours, where are you taking him now?
As a citizen of Hades, do you not recognize him?
To that the angel said: Severus, for him, is praying!
And by the will of God, I am taking him,
In the body once more he must appear,
Behold, to confess him, Severus is seeking!
To confess him and Holy Communion to administer to him.
Armies of evil and recalcitrants, stay away!
Thus the angel said and, with me, flew away
Throughout the cold Hades, throughout the bottomless darkness,
Until at holiness arrived, even to my body.
That is the history of me, the deceased.
O, to be confessed, what a treasure it is
And Communicated to enter into the world of eternity!
There is no one so stupid as he who cannot see his own sins and cannot see the virtues of others. There is no one so enlightened as he who can see and recognize his own sins and the virtues of others. Those who only see the faults of others and criticize them, St. John Chrysostom equates them to flies that fall on the wounds of others, not in order to heal them but rather to gnaw and to poison them more." God has sent us here for penance [Epitimija]," these are the words of Blessed Theophilus of Kiev (+1853). He who knows and feels that he is here for repentance immerses himself in silence and contemplation about his own sin, which has brought him to repentance. The same Blessed Theophilus further said: "Weep also for the sins of your fellow man; without this not one created human being will be saved." To weep or to proclaim - how is it written my son? With Blessed Theophilus, it is written: "To weep over one's own sins but with Satan, to proclaim the sins of others." About himself, Blessed Theophilus at the point of death left this testament to his brethren: "Remember the odious Theophilus!" This is the testament of the holiest human being in Kiev in the year 1853 A.D.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the man ill with dropsy: "And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy" (St. Luke 14:2):
1. How the Lord touched the man with dropsy and he became whole and went home;
2. How my soul - being under the burden of "the love of the body" - under the burden of the illness of dropsy;
3. How only the Lord with one touch can heal the dropsy of my soul and free it of the excessive burden of passionate dampness.
About shelter from on high
"He who trusts in the Lord is safe" (Proverbs 29:25).
The righteous man is under the shelter of the Lord, under the shelter from on high. Water will not reach him nor will the flood drown him. Even the flood did not drown Noah for the Lord was the shelter from on high.
However, brethren, there is a flood worse than a watery flood, i.e., the flood of passions. When the passions begin to burn, when they begin to smoke and begin to turn black, when they emit and spread their stench all around, where will man flee, and who will save him? Only under the hand of the Lord, only under His shelter from on high. The flood of passions had pursued David but he fled and found shelter under the hand of the Lord; he saved himself from fire, from smoke and the stench of pursuing passions under the shelter from on high.
A man does not save himself from a flood only God saves. God is the Master of the clouds and the tamer of passions. Indeed, He is the shelter from on high. We flee to Him and hide ourselves under His garment. A dog appears like a lion toward the beggar but, before the feet of his master, the dog appears as an empty sack.
O Lord Most-high, Who sits on the throne on high, You are our shelter on high. Be merciful to us our Creator and extend Your hand that we be lifted up to Your shelter. Save us from the turbulent waters [passions] which rush to drown us.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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