Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLES JASON, SOSIPATER AND THE VIRGIN CERCYRA
The first two were of the Seventy Apostles and the latter was the daughter of a king from the island of Corfu. Jason and Sosipater are mentioned by St. Paul and he calls them his relatives. "Jason and Sosipater, my relatives" (Romans 16:21). Jason was born in Tarsus as was the Apostle Paul and Sosipater was born in Achaea. The first was appointed bishop of Tarsus by the apostle and the other was appointed bishop of Iconium. Traveling about and preaching the Gospel these two apostles arrived on the island of Corfu, where they succeeded to build a church to the honor of St. Stephen the First-martyr and to win over some heathens to the Church. The king of the island threw them both into prison where seven thieves were also imprisoned. Their names were: Sagornius, Jakishol, Faustian, Januarius, Marsalus, Euphrasius and Mamminus. The apostles converted these seven to the Faith of Christ and turned these wolves into lambs. Upon hearing this, the king ordered that these seven be put to death in boiling pitch. Thus, they received the wreath of the martyrs. While the king was torturing the apostles, his daughter, the virgin Cercyra, watched from the window at the suffering of these men of God and learning for what reason they were being tortured, she declared herself a Christian and distributed all of her jewels to the poor. The king became enraged at his daughter and closed her in a special prison. Since he did not succeed to dissuade her from Christ by this imprisonment, he ordered that the prison be burned. The prison burned, but the virgin remained alive. Upon seeing this miracle many people were baptized. The infuriated king then ordered his daughter to be tied to a tree and Cercyra was slain by arrows. Those who believed in Christ fled from the terrible king to the nearest island and hid themselves. The king pursued them by boat in order to apprehend them, but the boat sank into the sea and thus the unrighteous one perished as did the one-time pharaoh. The new king embraced the Faith of Christ, was baptized and received the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater freely preached the Gospel and strengthened the Church of God in Corfu. They lived to a ripe old age and there ended their earthly life and took up habitation in the mansions of the Lord.
2. THE HOLY MARTYRS MAXIMUS, DADA AND QUINTILIAN
Maximus, Dada and Quintilian suffered during the reign of Diocletian. They were tried and tortured by Commander Tarquinius. After imprisonment and torturing, they were all beheaded.
3. THE HOLY MARTYR TIBALD
Tibald was a Slav from Pannonia. During the reign of Diocletian he was brutally tortured for the Faith of Christ and suffered in a place called Tsibal.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY VIRGIN CERCYRA
The virgin Cercyra, both tender and pure,
From the imperial court, heard about the Name of Christ,
And that Holy Name overpowered her heart,
And ready was she to suffer for Him.
The father instructs his daughter, but how? And to what?
God is One, father, bow down to Him!
Through Christ is His love manifested,
With that love now I am seized
For myself I do not mourn, neither of torture am I afraid,
You do what you wish, before God I stand.
Cercyra the virgin in the flame stands,
Quiet, meek and radiant like a dove.
A crimson flame rages, the entire dungeon cracks,
Cercyra's heart beats unafraid,
Prayer and hope nests in her heart,
With that, the fire she overcame, and not the fire her,
With love divine, the virgin pierced with arrows,
From the vanity of the world, easily separated,
Her body, by deadly arrows shattered -
The soul of the virgin, the Lord received intact.
The mystery of our salvation is concluded with the appearance of God among men in the human body. St. Meliton of Sardis writes: "The works of Christ, following His baptism, manifested and proved to the world that in His body, His divinity was hidden. Being God, He was also perfect man. He revealed to us His two natures. Divinity, by His miracles performed throughout the three years following His baptism and, His humanity, throughout those years when the weakness of the flesh hid the signs of His divinity, even though He was truly the Eternal God." The manner of the union of divinity with humanity is difficult to comprehend but the event of the appearance of God as a man among men is perfectly comprehensible from the concept of the love of God for man. Not even the creation of the world, as an event, is more comprehensible; one can say even less comprehensible--than the event above the events: the Incarnation of God.
To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:
1. How He led His disciples to a hill toward Bethany;
2. How, with up-lifted hands, He blesses the disciples.
About seeking the face of the Lord
"Your presence, O Lord, I seek"(Psalms 27:8).
"Let Your face shine upon Your servant" (Psalm 31:16).
King David sought that which the simple fishermen received without seeking. King David was reclining in darkness and was yearning to see the glowing face of the Lord, which was revealed to the simple fishermen in its complete radiance. King David belonged to the period of waiting, but the disciples belonged to the period of fulfillment. There [the period of waiting] it was only the announcement of the coming of the Lord, but here, [the period of fulfillment] the coming of the Lord. There a presentiment and day dreams about the face of the Lord, here radiance and beauty of that same face. The face of the Lord was radiant even before the resurrection and how much more radiant after the resurrection! The inextinguishable flame of Divinity hid behind the icon of His body and shown through that bodily icon. The disciples gazed upon Him fixedly and they rejoiced in their hearts. For forty days they gazed upon His glorified body and they rejoiced in their hearts!
O my brethren, let us also seek the radiant face of the Lord in order to feel the pleasure by which the angels of God become intoxicated. If we are going to seek Him with yearning in this life, then we will see Him, at least, in the other life. If we do not seek Him in this life, then we will not see him either in this life or in the other life. Brethren, let us yearn for the face of Christ! His every word shows us one feature of His face. Each of His apostles shows us some characteristic of His face. His every deed shows us some feature of His face. Each of His saints shows us some ray of His radiant face. With yearning brethren, let us exam the face of the Lord. Let us assemble ray after ray until it reveals the entire sun. Let us enshrine that Sun in the depths of our hearts, that it illuminates our bodily courts from within. Let us plant this inexpressible sweet vineyard in our heart that we may taste of that immortal drink by which the angels become intoxicated.
O Lord, bearer of light, show Your radiant face to us, Your servants.
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