Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. SAINT CONSTANTINE AND EMPRESS HELENA
Constantine's parents were Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had other children by another wife, but from Helena he had only Constantine. After his coronation Constantine fought three great battles: one, against Maxentius, a Roman tyrant; the second, against the Scythians on the Danube and the third, against the Byzantines. Before the battle with Maxentius, while Constantine was greatly concerned and in doubt about his success, a brilliant Cross appeared to him in the sky during the day, completely adorned with stars and written on the Cross were these words: "By this Sign Conquer." Astonished, the emperor ordered a large cross to be forged similar to the one that appeared to him and that it be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross he achieved a glorious victory over the enemy who was superior in members. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber river. Immediately after that, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan in the year 313 A.D. to halt the persecution of Christians. Defeating the Byzantines, Constantine built a beautiful capital on the Bosphorus which from that time on was called Constantinople. Before that, however, Constantine succumbed to the dreaded disease of leprosy. As a cure, the pagan priests and physicians counseled him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children. However, he rejected that. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester who will cure him of this dreaded disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian Faith, baptized him and the disease of leprosy vanished from the emperor's body. When a discord began in the Church because of the mutinous heretic Arius, the emperor convened the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, 325. A.D., where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed. St. Helena, the pious mother of the emperor, was very zealous for the Faith of Christ. She visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha and many other churches throughout the Holy Land. This holy woman presented herself to the Lord in her eightieth year in 327 A.D. Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years. He died in Nicomedia in his sixty-fifth year in 337 A.D. His body was interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.
2. THE VENERABLE MARTYR PACHOMIUS
Pachomius was born in Little Russia. The Tartars captured him in his youth and sold him to a Turkish furrier as a slave. He spent twenty-seven years in slavery in the town of Usaki in Asia Minor. He was forced to become a Muslim. He went to Mt. Athos, was tonsured a monk and spent twelve years in the monastery of St. Paul. He decided to suffer for Christ. His spiritual father, the Elder Joseph, accompanied him to Usaki where Pachomius presented himself to his former master as a Christian in the monastic habit. The Turks subjected him to tortures, threw him into prison and beheaded him on the Feast Day of the Ascension, May 8, 1730 A.D. Many miracles occurred from his blood and relics. Pachomius was buried on the island of Patmos in the Church of St. John the Theologian. Thus this Little Russian peasant became a martyr and wreath-bearer in the kingdom of Christ.
To Constantine, the shining Cross appeared,
Constantine saw it and glorified God.
From the Son of God, that sign was,
There is none more beautiful, than this sign.
The sign of suffering, and temporary misery
But also, the sign of final victory.
With this sign, the doer of miracles,
Constantine started out and everywhere conquered.
In the midst of pagan Rome, the Cross-persecuter,
The Cross on high he raised, the glory of the Savior.
Which for three centuries was fractured and cursed,
That, now for Rome, became great and holy!
For three centuries, the Cross was spat upon,
In the blood of the saints, the earth was bathed.
Empires and emperors, arrogant and odious,
Similar to a weak reed, were destroyed one by one,
And the sign of the Cross, upright remained
Miraculously and gloriously shone to the world.
Constantine recognized it and raised it even higher,
That is why, in the calendar, his name is written in red.
We see that vice is something shameful and sinful in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: "Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works." This is why the Savior said: "they come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15). Call a liar, a liar; a thief, a thief; a murderer, a murderer; an adulterer, an adulterer; a slanderer, a slanderer and you will infuriate them. However, call a man whatever you want: honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious and you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, according to Chrysostom, I quote: "good works are something natural in man while vice is something unnatural and false." If a man is even caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garments of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vices!
To contemplate God the Holy Spirit as the Inspirer of justice, peace and joy:
1. How He inspired with justice, peace and joy all the lovers of Christ's justice;
2. How He inspired and, even today inspires, with justice, peace and joy all the sufferers for Christ's justice.
About the children of God
"The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).
He who has the Spirit of God in himself - only he has the witness that he is the child of God. Without the Spirit of God there is no such witness. Not even the entire universe can give this witness. The universe, alone, without the Spirit of God - what else does it witness to us other than that we are its slaves, its victims, which it unmercifully swallows? In essence, the pagans thought that also. The opponents of God today, do they not think likewise? They do think so. For indeed, it is difficult to take that thought away from man who did not recognize the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Witness of Heaven. The same apostle says: "For you have not received the spirit of bondage" (Romans 8:15). What is this spirit of bondage? It is every other spirit except the Spirit of God, Who Christ the Lord sends to those who love Him. The spirit of bondage is the spirit of materialism, the spirit of fortune-telling, the spirit of naturalism, the spirit of pessimism, the spirit of despair, the spirit of vice. Only the Spirit of God is the All Holy Spirit of adoption and freedom.
O what happiness, O what peace, O what joy when the Spirit of God cuddles in the cleansed heart of man as a sparrow does in its nest! Then our hope opens hundreds of doors in the prison of the universe and our embrace, wider than the universe, stretches out to the One Who is greater and more merciful than the universe. To Whom? To the Father! And then we cry out: "Abba, Father!" (Romans 8:15).
The witness of God, which comes through the eyes, can even lead us to doubt that we are the children of God. But, the witness which comes to us from the heart, from the Spirit of God, does not leave even the slightest doubt. God witnesses about God. What kind of doubt can there be? God the Holy Spirit caresses us in the heart of our very being. Can there be any kind of doubt there? No; for then we know and feel completely confident that God is the Father and we, the children of God. No one's servants, no one's slaves, rather the children of God.
O Lord God, Holy Spirit come abide in us and remain with us as a Witness of the Trinity and the Kingdom, as a Witness of the immortal Paradise.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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