Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT CYRIL, ARCHBISHOP OF JERUSALEM
Cyril was born in Jerusalem during the reign of Constantine the Great and died during the reign of Theodosius the Great [315-386 A.D.] He was ordained a priest in 346 A.D. and succeeded to the throne of Blessed Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem in 350 A.D. On three occasions he was dethroned and banished into exile until finally, during the reign of Theodosius, he was restored and lived peacefully for eight years and then gave up his soul to the Lord. He underwent two difficult struggles: one, against the Arians, who became powerful under Constantius, the son of Constantine, and the other during the reign of Julian the Apostate [this turncoat] and with the Jews. At the time of the dominance of the Arians and on the Day of Pentecost, a sign of the cross, brighter than the sun, appeared which stretched over Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and lasted for several hours from the ninth hour in the morning. Concerning this phenomenon, seen by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a report was written to Emperor Constantius which served much in establishing Orthodoxy against the heretics. During the time of the Apostate, still another sign occurred. In order to humiliate the Christians Julian persuaded the Jews to restore the Temple of Solomon. Cyril prayed to God that this not happen. There was a terrible earthquake which destroyed all that had been newly built. Then the Jews began restoration anew. Again, there was an earthquake which destroyed not only the newly constructed portion but overturned and scattered the old stones beneath the ground which supported the Temple. And so the words of the Lord came true that "there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down" (St. Matthew 13:2 - St. Luke 2:6). Among the many writings of this holy father is his Catechetical Discourses, a first class work preserved to the present which confirms the faith and practice of Orthodoxy. This saint was a unique arch-pastor and a great ascetic. He was meek and humble, exhausted from fasting, and pallid. After a life of many labors and noble struggles for the Orthodox Faith, Cyril peacefully died and took up habitation in the eternal court of the Lord.
2. ANINUS, THE WONDER-WORKER
Aninus was born in Chalcedon. He was of short stature as was Zacchaeus of old but great in spirit and faith. He withdrew from the world in his fifteenth year and settled in a hut near the Euphrates river where he prayed to God and atoned for his sins, at first with his teacher Mayum and, after his death, alone. Through the power of his prayers, he replenished a dry well with water, healed the sick of various maladies and tamed wild beasts. A trained lion accompanied him and was at his service at all times. He discerned the future. When Pionius, a stylite,was attacked and badly beaten by robbers some distance away from Aninus, Pionius decided to descend from the pillar and proceed to complain to the judges. St. Aninus "discerned the soul" of this stylite and his intention. He sent a letter to Pionius, by his lion, counseling him to abandon his intention, to forgive his assailants and to continue in his asceticism. His charity was inexpressible. The bishop of Neo-Caesarea presented him with a donkey in order to ease the burden of carrying water from the river, but he gave the donkey to a needy man who had complained to him about his poverty. The bishop presented him with another donkey and he gave that one away. Finally, the bishop gave him a third donkey, not only to serve as a water-carrier but one that Aninus was to care for and to return. Before his death Aninus saw Moses, Aaron and Or [Egyptian Ascetic] approaching him, and they called out to him, "Aninus, the Lord is calling you, arise and come with us." He revealed this to his disciples and gave up his soul to the Lord, Whom he faithfully served. He was one-hundred ten years old when his earthly life was ended.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM
A large sanctuary light glows before the Altar,
And a small sanctuary light with a smaller flame,
But one and the other gives off the same light
And before the same God, they shine with a glow.
Both, great saints and lesser saints
With the same flame of Christ set on fire.
Among the great saints, a large sanctuary lamp,
Holy Church numbers Saint Cyril.
The Faith, he explained and confirmed,
Whatever he said in words, he confirmed by his life.
His word was of the Holy Spirit,
And his life, a reflection of the flame of heaven.
Arius he shamed and Julian he crushed,
And to many ailing souls he was a balm.
From word to word, he believed Christ
Therefore his word resounds as gold;
And continues today, the weak and those of little faith,
He encourages and makes joyful the right-believers in Christ.
That is why the Church glorifies and honors Cyril,
Throughout the centuries, the name of Cyril echoes.
There are many vindictive people who think that time brought greatness to Christ, and how, in the early centuries of Christianity, the Lord was not thought of as highly as He was thought of in later times. Nothing is easier than to squelch this untruth. Here is the way St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes about the Lord Christ, "This is He Who is and He Who was, [He Is] consubstantial with the Father, [He Is] the Only-Begotten, [He Is] equally enthroned, [He Is] equal in power, [He Is] Almighty, [He Is] without beginning, [He Is] uncreated, [He Is] unchangeable, [He Is] indescribable, [He Is] invisible, [He Is] inexpressible, [He Is] incomprehensible, [He Is] immeasurable, [He Is] unfathomable, [He Is] uncircumscribed. He is the "brightness of His [Father's] Glory" (Hebrews 1:13). He is the Creator [Author] of the substance of all things created. He is the Light of Light, shining from the bosom of the Father. He is God of gods "that such is God, Our God forever and ever" (Psalm 48:15),and God of God who gives us knowledge of Himself. He is the Fountain of Life "For with you is the Fountain of our life" (Psalm 36:9), flowing from the Father's Fountain of life. He is the River of God; "There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God" (Psalm 46:4), "The river of God is full of water" (Psalm 65:9) Who comes forth from the infinity of God but is not separated from Him. He is the Treasury of the Father's good gifts and endless blessings. He is the Living Water that gives life to the world. "But whoever drinks the water I shall give you will never thirst; the water I shall give you will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (St. John 4:14). He is the uncreated light that is begotten but not separated from the First Sun. He is God the Word [Logos]; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (St. John 1:1), Who with one word [He] brought forth all things from non-existence into being. "All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be" (St. John 1:3). This is He Who created us in the image of God and has now made Himself man in our image, but at the same time God. Even today, after sixteen centuries since this Confession of Faith was written, the Orthodox Church adheres to this same Faith, word for word and letter for letter.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus mocked on the cross:
1. How they write this scorn above his head, "King of the Jews" St. Matthew 27:37 - St. Mark 15-27 - St. Luke 23:38);
2. How those passing by scorned Him, shaking their heads and reviling Him;
3. How even the thief on the cross reviles Him;
4. How even throughout the centuries the persecutors of the Christians scorn Him.
About the King who does not wish to defend Himself with an army
"Do you think that I cannot call uponMy Father and He will not provide Me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels" (St. Matthew 26:53).
Thus spoke the Lord to the disciple who drew the sword to defend his Teacher in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is obvious from these words that the Lord could have defended Himself, if He wanted to, not only from Judas and his company of guards, but also from Pilate and the leaders of the Jews. For the might of one angel is greater than the greatest army of men, much less the might of twelve legions of angels.
The Lord did not want to seek this help from the Father. In His prayer in Gethsemane, He said to His Father, "Let Your will be done" (St. Matthew 26:42). With that, He immediately knew the Will of the Father and that it was necessary that He be given over to suffering. He was in agreement with the Will of His Father and set out on the path of suffering. It was necessary to allow the background to be portrayed gloomier in order that the resurrection would be brighter. It was necessary to allow evil to compete as much as it could so that, afterwards, it would explode and disintegrate into nothing. It was necessary to allow evil to cry aloud so that, soon after, it would become speechless before the miraculous resurrection. It was necessary that all the wicked deeds of men against God be manifested so that they would be able to see and appraise the love and mercy of God toward mankind. The angels of God were not sent to defend Christ from the Jews; rather, the angels of God were sent, after three days, to announce the holy resurrection of Christ.
O Lord, All-Powerful and All-Merciful, have mercy on us and save us!
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