Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. The Hieromartyr Phocas, Bishop of Sinope
Phocas exercised himself in all the Christian virtues from his youth. As bishop in his birthplace, the town of Sinope on the shores of the Black Sea, he strengthened the faith of the true believers by his example and divine words and converted many idol-worshipers to the true Faith. The hard-hearted pagans were filled with rage against holy Phocas. Through a vision granted him by the Lord, he foresaw his martyrdom: Phocas saw a white dove fly down from heaven carrying a beautiful wreath of flowers in its beak, and lowered the wreath onto his head. And Phocas heard a voice, saying: ``Your cup is full and you should drink it!'' From this vision the God-pleaser realized that he was soon to suffer for Christ. He was not afraid, but with gratitude toward God prepared himself for suffering. Soon after, a certain prince, Africanus, took Phocas for interrogation, and subjected him to harsh tortures. The torturers beat and wounded his whole body, and after a time of imprisonment threw him into boiling water, where this brave soldier of Christ ended his earthly life and settled in the joy of his Lord. Phocas suffered during the reign of Emperor Trajan.
2. The Holy Prophet Jonah
Jonah lived more than eight hundred years before Christ. It is said that he was that son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon whom the Prophet Elias had raised from the dead. By his three-day sojourn in the belly of the whale, he prefigured the three days that Christ lay in the tomb; and, by his deliverance from the belly of the whale, he prefigured the Lord's Resurrection from the dead. Everything else concerning this wonderful prophet can be read in the Book of Jonah.
3. The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener
Phocas was a compatriot of the Hieromartyr Phocas. He had a garden in Sinope, near the Black Sea, that he himself cultivated. He treated all passers-by with the fruits of his garden, not missing an opportunity to feed their souls with the word of God. But a certain prince who persecuted Christians heard of him, and sent soldiers to kill him. Phocas treated the soldiers so cordially that they hesitated to kill him. However, by his own insistent request, they carried out the command and beheaded him. In that place, over his miracle-working relics, a church was soon built in his name. St. Phocas is especially venerated by sailors, and is invoked for help by all who travel by sea. Phocas suffered in the year 320.
4. The Venerable Cosmas of Zographou
Cosmas was of a noble family from Bulgaria. When his parents wanted him to marry, Cosmas fled to Mount Athos. He was a hermit and miracle-worker. He labored ascetically in a cave near the Monastery of Zographou. The Holy Theotokos appeared to him on more than one occasion. He is known as the greatest ascetic and miracle-worker of Zographou. The formidable cell in which Cosmas labored in silence and struggled with demons exists even today to the northwest of the Monastery of Zographou. With spiritual sight and clairvoyance, he described events in distant times and places. He died in old age, on September 22, 1323, and after a life of much labor took up his habitation in the joy of his Lord.
5. Saint Peter the Merciful
Peter was a God-pleaser of the sixth century. (See ``Reflection'' below.)
6. Saint Jonah the Presbyter
Jonah was the father of St. Theophanes, the writer of canons, and St. Theodore the Branded. Jonah was a miracle-worker and died in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified in the ninth century.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Nineveh! Nineveh resounds with sin,
When a man clearly senses God's mercy toward him, he is startled, as from a dull and senseless dream, and becomes ashamed of his long blindness to God's unceasing compassion. In the time of Emperor Justinian, the chief imperial tax collector in Africa was a certain Peter, a very wealthy but very hard and merciless man. The beggars grumbled among themselves, that not one of them had ever received alms from Peter. Then, one of them bet that he would succeed in getting alms from Peter. He persistently begged alms of the miser until Peter, in a rage, hit him with a loaf of bread, since he had nothing else close at hand. Joyfully the beggar took the bread and fled. Immediately after this Peter became seriously ill and had this vision: He was being interrogated by demons in the other world. There was a scale, and on one side of it, the demons heaped Peter's sins, making that side extremely heavy. On the other side-which was empty-angels stood, sorrowing that they had not even one good deed in Peter's life to help balance the scale. One of them said: ``We have nothing to place on the scale except one loaf of bread, with which he struck a beggar the day before yesterday.'' The angels placed this one loaf of bread on the empty side of the scale, and that loaf of bread outweighed the other side of the scale, laden with all of Peter's sins. When the vision was over Peter said to himself: ``Indeed, this was not an apparition but the living truth, for I saw all my sins from my youth. And when I can be helped so much by one loaf of bread that I threw at a beggar, how much help would I receive from many deeds of almsgiving, performed from the heart and with humility?'' And from that time, Peter became the most compassionate man in his town. He distributed all of his possessions to the poor, and when he had finished distributing his possessions, he sold himself into slavery for thirty gold pieces and distributed even his own price as a slave to the poor as alms in the name of Christ. He was, thereafter, called Peter the Merciful.
Contemplate the wrath of God against King Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 18-20):
on God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter
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