Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT METROPHANES ,THE FIRST PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
His father Dometius, the brother of the Roman Emperor Probus, fled from Rome as a Christian during the persecution of Christians and arrived at Byzantium. Titus, the Byzantine bishop, ordained him a presbyter. Following the death of Titus, Dometius became the bishop of Byzantium. After the death of Dometius, his eldest son Probus occupied the episcopal throne and after the death of Probus, Metrophanes assumed the episcopal throne. When Emperor Constantine first saw Metrophanes, he liked him as his own father. At the time of the First Ecumenical Council [325 A.D.], Metrophanes was already a man of one-hundred seventeen years and unable to participate in the work of the Council, so he appointed Alexander his Choriepiscopus as his representative. The emperor, by his intervention at the Council, conferred upon him the title of patriarch. Thus, he was the first patriarch of Constantinople. Further, the emperor invited the entire Council to visit the ailing and aged arch-pastor. When the emperor asked him whom he wished to name as successor to the patriarchal throne, Metrophanes named Alexander. Following that he said to Alexander of Alexandria: "O brother, you will remain my most worthy successor." He then took the hand of Archdeacon Athanasius (later Athanasius the Great and Patriarch of Alexandria) and praised him before all. After this prophecy of his successor Metrophanes sought forgiveness from all and within ten days gave up his soul to God in the year 325 A.D.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR CONCORDIUS
During his life on earth Concordius was an ascetic and a miracle-worker. During the reign of Emperor Antoninus he was arrested because of his faith in Christ. Following imprisonment and tortures, he was led to the stone idol of Zeus in order to worship it. Concordius spat on the idol and because of that was immediately beheaded.
3. THE HOLY MARTYRS FRONTASIUS, SEVERINUS, SEVERIAN AND SILANUS
They were martyred in France during the reign of Emperor Claudius. After they were beheaded, they rose to their feet, took their heads into their hands, crossed over the river Ile, and arrived at the church of the Holy Birth-giver of God where Bishop Frontanius was praying. Entering the Church, they laid their heads before the feet of the bishop and lay down crossing their hands over their chests. They were honorably buried there. During their burial, an invisible host of angels was heard singing.
4. THE VENERABLE ZOSIMUS, BISHOP OF NEW BABYLON [A TOWN IN EGYPT]
Zosimus lived a life of asceticism on Mt. Sinai. He came to Alexandria on business and was consecrated as bishop of New Babylon by the Blessed Patriarch Apollinarius. He was a worthy shepherd of the flock of Christ but when he was overcome by old age and fatigue he, again, withdrew to Mt. Sinai where he rendered his soul to God and received the wreath of glory among the great hierarchs. He lived and died in the sixth century.
5. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR ASTIUS, BISHOP OF DYRRACHIUM
Astius suffered during the reign of Trajan. At first he was beaten with lead rods and after that stripped naked and crucified on a tree. His naked body was rubbed with honey so that wasps and hornets may sting him. In his greatest torment, St. Astius glorified God, died and received two wreaths both as a martyr and as a hierarch.
6. SAINT MARTHA AND SAINT MARY, THE SISTERS OF LAZARUS
Following the Ascension of the Lord, Lazarus set out to preach the Gospel. His two sisters assisted him in this. It is not known where they died.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Hospitality, a virtue which by God is commanded,
Until now, by it, many souls were drawn to Paradise.
Abraham the Wonderful showed infinite hospitality,
Immeasurable and cordial and not hypocritical.
And King David greatly respected hospitality,
That is why, the life of King Saul, he strictly guarded.
And when the Ancient One [Christ] appeared, older than the aged Abraham,
From the Lineage of David, when darkness hid,
Then, Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus,
Showed hospitality these hospitable virgins:
Hosted the Greatest One since the sun flows,
With Hospitality, each one of them heavenly paradise attained.
With hospitality, perfect in heart and food,
Hospitality most worthy in word and in deed.
And the Lord Most-rich, abundantly repaid,
And, this hospitable home, when death saddened
Jesus, the deceased brother to the sisters, resurrected,
And, to them, eternal glory spread throughout the entire world.
This is the reward of hospitality from God Himself,
The Lord loves the Hospitality of a sincere heart.
Holy Church boasts of Martha and Mary,
Teaching that we are also guests at the table of the Lord.
It is a horrible thing to kill a man. There are no words to describe the horror which lays hold on the murderer. While a man is preparing to kill another man, he thinks that to kill a man is the same as killing an ox. When he carries out his preconceived crime then, all at once, he realizes that he has declared war on heaven and earth and that he has become an exile and cut off from both heaven and earth. The victim does not give him peace neither day nor night. A known criminal came to Zosimus on Sinai and begged him to tonsure him a monk. Zosimus clothed him in the monastic habit and sent him to the monastery of Venerable Dorotheus near Gaza to lead a life of asceticism in the Cenobia. After nine years the tonsured criminal returned to St. Zosimus, returned his monastic habit and sought his secular clothes. To the question why are you doing this, the criminal replied that for nine years he has fervently prayed to God, fasted, kept vigil and fulfilled all acts of obedience and that he feels that many of his sins were forgiven but that one of his sins torments him continually. At one time, he killed an innocent child and that child appears to him day and night and asks him: "Why did you kill me?" Because of that he decided to leave and to turn himself in to the authorities that they may execute him and thus to repay blood for blood. Dressing in his former clothes, he went to the town of Diospolis where he acknowledged his crime and was beheaded. Thus, by his blood, he washed away his bloody sin.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the possessed ones [madmen]of Gergesene [Gadarene]: "Now when He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gerasenes, there met Him two men who were possessed, coming from the tombs, so exceedingly fierce that no one could pass by that way" (St. Matthew 8:28):
1. How the Lord cast out the demons from the ones possessed and the possessed ones became calm and meek;
2. How the Lord stands beside me and waits to be called to help me and to cleanse me from every evil spirit which lays hold of me and separates me from God.
About trust in the Lord and not in your own understanding
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own understanding rely not" [Proverbs 3:5).
If all the mountains would move toward you, would you be able to push them back with your hands? You could not. If darkness after darkness of all the mysteries in the heavens and on the earth rushed to the small taper of your understanding would you, with your understanding, be able to illuminate the darkness? Even less! Do not rely on your understanding for, from the perishable matter which you call intellect, a greater portion of it is nothing more than dead ashes. O man, do not rely on your understanding for it is a road over which a mob rushes a hungry, thirsty, motley and curious mob of sensual impressions.
O man, trust in the Lord with all your heart. In Him is understanding without end and all-discerning. The Lord says: "I am understanding; mine is strength" (Proverbs 8:14). He looks on the paths on which your blood flows and all the crossroads on which your thoughts wander. With compassion and love He offers Himself to you as a leader and you rely on your darkened and perishable understanding. Where was your understanding before your birth? Where was your understanding when your body was taking form, when your heart began to beat and flow with blood, when your eyes began to open and when your voice began to flow from your throat? Whose understanding was all this while your mind was still sleeping as charcoal in a coal mine? Even when your understanding awoke, can you enumerate all the illusions which it has delivered to you, all the lies in which it has entangled you, all the dangers which it did not foresee? O my brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart! Until now, He has rescued you numerous times from your own understanding, from illusions and its lies and from danger in which it has pushed you. A blind man is compared to the man who can see, so is your understanding compared to the understanding of God. O blind one, trust in the Leader. O brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart.
O Lord, All-seeing, Eternal and Infallible Understanding, deeper than the universe and more radiant than the sun, deliver us, even now from the errors of our understanding.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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