Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR EUSEBIUS, BISHOP OF SAMOSATA
Eusebius was a great exposer of Arianism. When the throne of Antioch became vacant, Meletius was elected patriarch at the insistence of Eusebius. Meletius was a great beacon of the Church who, after his death, was found worthy of great praise by St. John Chrysostom. However, the Arians quickly banished Meletius from Antioch. When Constantine's pernicious son Constantius died another much worse than he was crowned, Julian the Apostate. During the time of Julian's persecution of Christians, St. Eusebius removed his clerical attire and donned a soldier's uniform so that, under the guise of a soldier, he visited the persecuted Church throughout Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine strengthening the Orthodox Faith everywhere and installing the necessary priests and deacons and other clergy and, in some places, bishops. Following the stormy death of Julian, St. Eusebius counseled Meletius to convene a Council in Antioch in 361 A.D. at which twenty-seven hierarchs were present and the Arian heresy was condemned once more and the Faith of Orthodoxy was proclaimed in the same manner as it was expressed at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicea 325 A.D]. Along with Meletius and Eusebius, St. Pelagius of Laodicea the famous ascetic and chaste one, made a great impact at the Council of Antioch. This Council was held during the reign of the pious Emperor Jovian. However, Emperor Jovian soon died and the wicked Valens was crowned and again the persecution of Orthodoxy ensued. St. Meletius was exiled to Armenia, Eusebius exiled to Thrace and Pelagius exiled to Arabia. After Valens, Gratian was crowned emperor and it was he who granted freedom to the Church and recalled the exiled hierarchs to their former sees. Thus, they returned: Meletius to Antioch, Eusebius to Samosata and Pelagius to Laodicea. At this time, many dioceses and many parishes were widowed and Eusebius zealously hurried to find and to give to the people canonical shepherds. When he came to the town of Doliche to enthrone the newly elected bishop Marinus and to denounce the heresy of Arius, which was strong in this town, a fanatical heretic hurled a ceramic tile at Eusebius' head and mortally wounded him. This great zealot, saint and martyr of Orthodoxy died to live eternally in the blessedness of Paradise. He suffered in the year 379 A.D.
2. THE HOLY MARTYRS ZENO AND ZENAS
Zeno was a Roman officer in the Arabian town of Philadelphia and Zenas was his servant. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Emperor Maximian, St. Zeno boldly appeared before Commander Maximus, confessed his faith in the One Living God and counseled Maximus that, he too, renounce lifeless idols and embrace the only True Faith. The commander became enraged and cast Zeno into prison. When the faithful Zenas visited his master in prison, he also was seized and arrested. Both of them were tortured for Christ and finally thrown into the fire that the pagans had doused with oil. Their souls were crowned with wreaths in the Kingdom of Christ and their bodily remains were interred in the Church of St. George at the place called Cyparisson.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT EUSEBIUS SAINT MELETIUS SAINT PELAGIUS
The Church is never without shepherds,
Neither without suffering nor without heroes.
When the sharp sword flashes in a Goliath manner,
Resistance offered, the Shepherd of Samosata,
Eusebius and Meletius with him,
As two stars the third: Pelagius.
Zealots of Holy Orthodoxy,
Glorious saints of God's Church.
Suffering for Christians, there was at that time,
On both sides, bitter sufferings,
On one side, the wild heretics
On the other side, the insane emperors.
To preserve the soul, it was difficult
And the truth of God, to withstand,
Against lies and against violence,
Amidst the tares, very little sweet basil there was,
A little, a little immortelle and feather grass!
Three hierarchs three fragrant flowers:
Enough honey for all the poison of the world.
Eusebius as a zealot began
And his life as a martyr ended.
Eusebius, as a high priest,
God's chosen one, bless us!
Why does the good Lord permit assaults and sufferings on the True Faith while He permits the pleasure of tranquility to heresies and paganism? Why? Even St. John Chrysostom asks and immediately replies: "So that you would recognize their weakness (the weakness of the heresies and paganism) when you see that they disintegrate on their own without any disturbance and also to be convinced in the power of faith which endures misfortunes and even multiplies through its adversaries." "Therefore, if we quarrel with the pagans or with the wretched Jews, it is sufficient to emphasize as evidence of divine power that the Faith (Christianity) which was subjected to countless struggles maintained victory" even when the entire world stood against her [the Church]. St. Isaac the Syrian says: "The wondrous love of God toward man is recognized when man is in misfortunes that are destroying his hope. Here, God manifests His power for his [man's] salvation. For man never recognizes the power of God in tranquility and freedom."
To contemplate the miraculous dumbness of Zacharias the high-priest: "And behold, you shall be dumb and unable to speak until the day when these things come to pass, because you have not believed my words which will be fulfilled in their proper time" (St. Luke 1:20):
1. How Zacharias did not believe the angel of God that the old womb of his wife [Elizabeth] could conceive and give birth and how, because of that he was struck dumb according to the words of the angel;
2. How, even I am, as though struck dumb when I cannot sufficiently speak about God's miracles because my faith is small.
About how the slothful man excuses himself
"The slothful man says: A lion is outside; in the streets I might be slain!" (Proverbs 22:13).
In order to justify his slothfulness, the slothful man emphasizes the difficulties and obstacles of a certain task and magnifies them beyond measure. If a man annoys him, he will say that the entire village annoys him; if the leaves rustle, he will justify that he is unable to go to work because of a storm; if a rabbit is in front of his house, he will say it is a lion! He says this in order not to leave the house and to delay his work.
Slothfulness is completely contrary to the nature of man. The nature of man is activity; the nature of man seeks to be occupied, to work and to build. Slothfulness is the sure sign of a distortion of the nature of man. That slothfulness is a terrible vice is clear in that an active man is never envious of the slothful man, while the slothful man is envious of the active man; in the same manner a sober man is not envious of the drunk, while the drunk is envious of the sober man.
O Lord, ever-active Creator, save us from the dull and sinful slothfulness by which we distance ourselves from our primordial nature [created] from Your image and likeness, Master of all things! Inspire us, with Your Holy Spirit, all-compassionate and joy-creating.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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