Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE PRIEST-MARTYR BASIL, PRESBYTER OF ANCYRA
Under Emperor Constantius, Basil endured and suffered much at the hands of the Arians. At that time he was renown as a great zealot of Orthodoxy and a true shepherd of his entrusted flock in Ancyra. When Julian the Apostate ascended the throne, he began to persecute Christians. Because Basil openly unmasked this latest impurity and strengthened his people in the Faith, he was cast into prison. When Emperor Julian came to Ancyra, Basil was brought before him and the emperor tried to persuade him to abandon his faith in Christ, promising him honors and riches. Basil answered the emperor; "I believe in my Christ, Whom you denied and Who gave you this earthly kingdom; but, that will be taken away from you, shortly. Have you no shame of the sacred altar under which you were saved when they sought to kill you as an eight year old child? That is why this temporary kingdom will be taken from you shortly and your body will not be buried when your soul is violently wrested from you in bitter pains." Julian became enraged and ordered that seven strips of skin be pealed from his body everyday. The tormentors did this for several days. When Basil appeared again before the emperor, he took a belt of his own skin and threw it into the face of Julian and crying out to him said, "Take it, Julian, and eat if this kind of food is sweet to you but, for me, Christ is Life." This incident was proclaimed throughout the towns, and the emperor, out of shame, secretly departed from Ancyra to Antioch. They continued to torture Basil with red hot irons until he gave up his soul to God, for Whom he suffered in the year 363 A.D.
2. SAINT DROSIDA
Drosida was the daughter of Emperor Trajan. She was captured with five other women at night while they were gathering the bodies of the tortured martyrs for Christ. For this she was severely disfigured by the emperor. Those five women were horribly tortured and, in the end, were thrown into a vat of molten copper, where they gave up their souls to their Lord. Drosida remained under the strict guard of the emperor. She escaped from the palace and baptized herself in a river. After eight days she gave up her soul to God.
3. THE VENERABLE MARTYR, EUTHYMIUS
Euthymius was born in the village of Dimitsana in the Peloponnese. As a child, Euthymius lived as a Christian but, later on, he went to Romania where he gave himself over to a life of great debauchery. In this debauchery an evil spirit lead him to become a Muslim. As soon as he did that, Euthymius began to repent bitterly. He again returned to the Faith of Christ and was tonsured a monk in Athos, the Holy Mountain. After several years spent in strict fasting and prayer, he decided to die for Christ. With the blessing of his spiritual father, he traveled to Constantinople where he succeeded somehow to come before the Grand Vezir. Euthymius began to cross himself, to praise Christ and to insult Mohammed in the presence of the Vezir. After prolonged torture he was sentenced to death and beheaded on Palm Sunday, March 22, 1814 A.D. Many miraculous healings of the sick occurred over his relics. His honorable head is preserved in the Russian Monastery of St. Panteteimom [Pantaleon] in the Holy Mountain. And so, this twenty-year old youth, at first, died to Christ and after that died for Christ.
HYMN OF PRAISE
CHRIST THE LORD AS A FISHERMAN
A wonderful Fisherman, O Christ the Lord, You are,
Throughout the entire world, the nets You spread,
For pure pearls You trawl from the waters deep,
Invisible net, by the Spirit woven,
Woven with love, moistened with tears,
By angelic hands, everywhere upheld.
Everyone to whom a mother gave birth and by the Spirit reared,
Most beautiful souls all, that the world can give.
All that into the numbers of Your rich catch entered,
All that Your silk net caught.
When nets from the sea of life, You raise
Nothing will remain except the muddy scum.
O, Fisherman, Most Wonderful, of pure pearls,
And we sinners, Your pearls, at one time were,
Now, from Your Throne, we are far away,
Under the sediment of dark passions, covered are we,
But, may Your net also us, to seize,
From Your countenance, we will shine as the stars.
Even in His pain on the cross, the Lord Jesus did not condemn sinners but offered pardon to His Father for their sins saying, "They know not what they do!"(St. Luke 23:34). Let us not judge anyone so that we will not be judged. For no one is certain that before his death he will not commit the same sin by which he condemns his brother. Saint Anastasius of Sinai teaches, "Even if you see someone sinning, do not judge him for you do not know what the end of his life will be like. The thief, crucified with Christ, entered Paradise and the Apostle Judas went to Hell. Even if you see someone sinning, bear in mind that you do not know his good works. For many have sinned openly and repented in secret; we see their sins, but we do not know their repentance. That is why, brethren, let us not judge anyone so that we will not be judged."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the cross:
1. How infinite is His sorrow for mankind blinded by sin;
2. How His thoughts on the cross are directed more to His Heavenly Father than to Himself;
3. How His concern on the cross is directed more at mankind than to Himself;
4. How on the cross He is certain of His Victory and Resurrection.
About the majesty of Christ the Victor
"The hair of His head wasas white wool or as snow andHis eyes were like a fiery flame" (Revelation 1:14).
That is how John the Theologian (the one who gazed upon God) saw Jesus after His resurrection and victory. He saw Him as the Son of Man, clothed in a lengthy garment, girded about with a golden sash, with seven stars in His right hand, and His face "shone like the sun at its brightest" (Revelation 1:16). It was with this kind of power and glory that He appeared, Who on the cross was not radiant and Who seemed to be as the weakest of the sons of men to all the passersby. Why were His hairs like white wool and white as snow? Was not our Lord barely thirty-four years old when they killed Him? From where, then, His white hair? Does not white hair indicate old age? It is true that white hair does indicate old age with mortal man, but with Christ in Glory it indicated more than old age; it indicated eternity. Eternal youthful age! Old age is the past and youth is the future. At the same time, is He not the one and the other? More than all the times past and all future times and even beyond time, Christ is eternity beyond time. Why were His eyes like a flame of fire? Because He is the All-seeing. All sorts of things can be hidden from the sun, but of all that is in the heavens, on the earth or under the earth, nothing can be hidden from His sight. He perceives all the threads of the fabric of nature; He perceives all the atoms in the stones, every drop of water in the sea, every particle of air and all thoughts and all desires of every created soul. This is the One and the same and no other; He who out of compassion for the human race came to earth, clothed Himself in a mortal and suffering body, was ridiculed, was mocked and was spat upon by sinful men. That is the same One, and no other, Who, without radiance, hung on the cross between thieves and, as a dead man, was buried by Joseph and Nicodemus.
O brethren, how awesome it is to think what a great and majestic Visitor the earth had! It is even more awesome to think against Whom the deranged men raised their hands!
O Majestic Lord, forgive us our sins and remember us all in Your Power and Glory.
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