Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE THIRD FINDING OF THE HEAD OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
In the eighth century, during the bitter violence of iconoclasm, the head of St. John was brought to Comana, the place of exile of St. John Chrysostom. When iconoclasm ended in the year 850 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Michael and the Patriarch Ignatius, the honorable head of St. John was translated to Constantinople and there was placed in the chapel of the imperial court.
2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR THERAPONTUS, BISHOP OF CYPRUS
Therapontus was a monk and an ascetic on the island of Cyprus. He was found worthy of the episcopal rank, but during the time of the persecution of Christians, he was found worthy of an even greater wreath, the crown of martyrdom. His body reposed in a church on Cyprus. When, during the reign of Emperor Nicephorus in the year 806 A.D., the island of Cyprus was attacked by the Hagarenes, the saint appeared to the sexton of that church and told him that the infidels will attack Cyprus and ordered him to remove his relics to Constantinople. The sexton did this immediately. While the boat was traveling on the sea with the reliquary, a great storm arose but the sea was calm around the boat and a sweet-smelling fragrance emitted around the entire boat in all directions. The sexton opened the reliquary and everyone witnessed that it was filled with myrrh [oil] which flowed from the saint's relics. By rubbing themselves with this oil, many of the sick were healed. A church was built in Constantinople over the relics of this miracle-worker, who continued to grant healing to all those who with faith touched them. By the Grace of God, the gravest illness of possession, of cancer, of hemorrhaging, of insanity, of blindness, of barrenness and of various other maladies were cured by the relics of St. Therapontus.
3. THE HOLY MARTYRS PASICRATES, VALENTIAN, JULIUS AND OTHERS
They were all Roman soldiers. They all suffered for Christ in Macedonian Dorostol about the year 302 A.D. When Pansicrates' brother Papian, who apostatized from Christ because of fear, began to persuade him to deny Christ and remain alive, St. Pansicrates answered him: "Depart from me, you are not my brother!" Pansicrates and Valentian were beheaded together. At the trial, St. Julius said: "I am a veteran; for twenty-six years I have faithfully served the emperor and since I was faithful to a lesser one, how can I not be faithful to a greater one?" i.e., to the Heavenly King. After that, Nicander was brought before Maximus the Perfect. Nicander's wife encouraged her husband to die for Christ. "Foolish old woman" Maximus said to her angrily, "You just want a better husband." The woman answered him: "If you think that of me, give the order and let them kill me now before my husband!" Marcian was also slain with Nicander. Marcian's wife approached the scaffold carrying her son in her arms. Marcian kissed his son and prayed to God: "O All-powerful Lord, You take care of him!" Following that, they were beheaded and were translated into the kingdom of Christ.(*)
Blessed Therapontus, for Christ suffered,
Two heavenly wreaths, for that he received:
As a hierarch of the Church and courageous martyr;
Still, as a flower unfaded, his body remained,
The sick to heal, and the world to aromatize,
The unfortunate to comfort, the faithful to rejoice.
That, the Lord glorified His glorifier,
Of his rational flock, wonderful shepherd.
And that, the Lord made, that it be known and voiced about,
That a forceful death, does not the saint kill,
But with a wreath crowned him and his name proclaimed
Eternally glorified in both churches.
God's glorifier, Therapontus holy,
And wonderful martyr for Holy Faith,
Help us also for the love of God
By your prayers, before the throne most high!
Some misguided men think more about the end of the world than the end of their lives even though it is obvious that for him to whom the end of his life comes the end of the world has come. A brother standing before St. Seraphim of Sarov continually kept in his mind how he was going to ask the saint about the end of the world. St. Seraphim discerned his thought and said to him: "My joy! You think highly of the wretched Seraphim. How could I know when the end of the world will be and that great day when the Lord will judge the living and the dead and render to each one according to his deeds will be? No, no, this is impossible for me to know!" And when the saints did not know how will the sinners know? Why should we know, that which the Savior Himself did not find beneficial to reveal to us? It is much better to think that our death will come sooner than the end of the world rather than the end of the world before our death.
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Repentance and Confession:
1. How that Grace, when it touches the heart of the penitent, the penitent sees all the ugliness of his sin and, through tears, washes them away;
2. How that Grace, when the penitent confesses, enters into man as joy into the sorrowful one, as hope into the hopeless one.
About the nearness of the Judge
"Behold, the Judgestands before thedoor" (St. James 5:9).
Brethren, in one day, you can gain all eternity. And in one day, brethren, you can lose all eternity. You are given thousands of days on earth to determine your own personal eternal salvation or for your own personal eternal damnation. But blessed be a hundred-fold that day in which you repent of all your unclean deeds, unclean thoughts and return to God crying out for mercy! That day will be worth more to you than a thousand other days.
What kind of day is that blessed day? That is a day of self-condemnation. When that day dawns a man who, thus far, judged the entire world, looks all at once and sees himself as the greatest stain on God's world. He becomes ashamed before God, becomes ashamed before every man and becomes ashamed before every created thing of God in the world. Shame begins to burn him as fire. Then he recognizes and confesses: truly, I am the greatest blot in God's world! Truly, all men are better than I! Truly, all things are more pure than I! I am blacker than burned wood and I, until now, thought that I was white! I am uglier than the frogs and, until now, I thought that I was as beautiful as an angel! Lord, Lord, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner and wash me from the mud of sin, so that I can, as much as possible, begin to resemble Your creation!
Brother, do not wait, do not wait for that blessed day of repentance comes by itself. You alone brother, seize firmly the first day that comes to meet you and say: "You are that, my blessed day, by which I will purchase life eternal!" Do not wait, brethren do not wait for "Behold, the Judge stands before the door!" That Judge is the Living Lord Who also created you and, until now, has seen and numbered all of your transgressions. In a day or two, He can draw you to the judgment where you will not have, not even a word of justification. Seize the day! Seize the day of repentance! Seize the day before death has seized you! "Behold, the Judge stands before the door!"
O Lord, awesome and just, prolong the days of the sinner until he repents.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
(*) Philaret thinks that all of these martyrs were Slavs. Refer to: " The Saints of the Southern Slavs."
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