Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY MARTYRS TROFIMUS AND THEOPHILUS AND THIRTEEN OTHERS WITH THEM
They all suffered in Lycia during the reign of Emperor Dioceletian. Because they would not, in any way, deny Christ nor offer sacrifices to the idols, they were subjected to various tortures: they were beaten with stones; they were scrapped with sharp irons; their knees were broken; and finally, so tortured, they were more dead than alive and were thrown into the fire. The power of God preserved them and they remained unharmed. They were then taken out and beheaded. The Lord glorified them both on earth and in His heavenly kingdom. They suffered honorably in Lycia in the year 308 A.D.
2. THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR APOLLINARIUS
Apollinarius was a disciple of the Apostle Peter and was born in the city of Antioch. St. Peter took Apollinarius with him from Antioch to Rome and, in Rome, consecrated him as the bishop of Ravenna. Arriving in Ravenna, Apollinarius entered the home of the soldier Ireneaus, whose son he healed of blindness and through that converted his entire household to the Faith of Christ. He also cured the wife of the military commander of Ravenna of a terrible malady and baptized his entire household. At the wish of the military commander, Apollinarius remained in his home. There they constructed a small domestic chapel. Apollinarius remained there for twelve years preaching the Good News and baptizing unbelievers. On many occasions he was cruelly tortured by the pagan elders but the all-powerful right hand of the Lord sustained and saved him. Finally, he was sentenced to exile in Illyria in the Balkans. The boat upon which Apollinarius traveled was shipwrecked in a storm and sunk and of all the passengers aboard only St. Apollinarius, along with two soldiers and three of his clerics, was saved. Being miraculously saved, the soldiers believed in the power of Apollinarius' God and were baptized. Apollinarius then went to preach the Holy Gospel throughout all the Balkans descending as far as the Danube river. After this, he set out for Thrace where, under great pressure, he also spread the Gospel of the Lord. After three years of labor in the Balkans he was again banished to Italy. He arrived in Ravenna where all the faithful exceedingly rejoiced at his return. Hearing about this, the pagan elder wrote to Emperor Vespasian about Apollinarius as being a magician and asked him whether they should give him over to death as an enemy of their gods. The emperor replied that they should not kill him but only ask him to offer sacrifice to the gods or to banish him from the city for, says the emperor: "It is not dignified to seek revenge against anyone for the gods, for they themselves can avenge against their own enemies if they are angered". In spite of this order from the emperor the pagans attacked Apollinarius and pierced him with knives. This servant of God died of severe wounds and was received into the Kingdom of God. The relics of St. Apollinarius repose in the church dedicated to him in Ravenna, Italy.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Apollinarius, for the sake of Christ the God
Endured sufferings, great and many
Without any kind of anger, without any surprise,
For he knows that there is no salvation without suffering;
He knows that without suffering the Lord did not go
And saw Peter's pierced hands.
Knows about many, slaughtered as lambs
And by a sword into the Kingdom of God sent
And with the soul disposed, for that he was prepared,
That for the Living Christ, to endure public shame,
And the saint, all that the powers of Hades
Had prepared for the torturing of the faithful,
The saint endured all; with faith bore
And growing older, growing older, under the bitter torture
And even when he became old, the torturing did not pass,
Under bitter tortures, for Christ died,
By his heroism, many generations he astonished
Did not die but went to live eternally.
The great teachers of the Church endeavored to teach men great truths, not only by words but also by obvious examples. Thus Abba Isaiah, in order to teach the monks, said that no one would receive a reward from God who, in this life did not labor for God, brought his disciples to a threshing floor where a farm laborer gathered the winnowed wheat. "Give me some wheat also!" said Isaiah to the farm hand. "Did you reap, Father?" "I did not", replied the elder. "How do you expect to obtain wheat when you did not reap?" To that the elder replied: "Does he who did not reap receive wheat?" "He does not receive wheat", replied the farm hand. Hearing such an answer, the elder silently turned away. When the disciples begged him to explain his action, the elder said: "I did this with the intention to show you that he who has not lived a life of asceticism will not receive a reward from God."
To contemplate the suffering of the entire people because of the sin of one man (Joshua 7):
1. How the Israelites were prohibited by God to take any of the possessions belonging to the conquered people of Jericho;
2. How one man took some of the possessions of the inhabitants of Jericho and because of this the Israelites were defeated by the Hai;
3. How even today, because of the transgressing of the law of God by one man, many suffer.
About waterless wells
"These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever" (2 Peter 2:17).
The apostle calls impure men "wells without water" those, "that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10). "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not" (2 Peter 2:12). O "wells without water," which are adorned on all sides but you do not give water why are you then called wells when nothing comes out of you except thirst? O clouds and mist why do you bristle, as though you will flood the entire world, when there is not even one drop of water in you and when a breath of the Spirit of God will destroy and disperse you into nothing at that awesome hour? You are not concerned about purity, that is why you roll around in bodily impurity; neither are you concerned about order, that is why you detest authority; neither are you concerned about saving face [reputation], that is why you are presumptuous [self-willed]; neither are you concerned about knowing the truth, that is why you blaspheme that which you have not made any effort to understand. "The mist of darkness is reserved forever" for you. That is not God's will that is your will. God did not ordain that road, you yourself chose it. God is just and He will not commit a sin but will render to him according to his sin, and according to his unrepentant heart.
Brethren, what are physical desires except "wells without water" and dry clouds and mist? What type of fruit sprouts and blossoms from them except thistles and thorns, which do not require rain? Men with their physical desires are equal to their physical desires and they are blind because of these desires and will be judged according to them.
O Lord, Creator of our souls and bodies, give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit, that we may preserve our body and soul in purity and, in the day of judgment, may present both in purity to You, our Creator.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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