Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY APOSTLE PETER
Peter was the son of Jonah and the brother of Andrew, the First-called. He was of the Tribe of Simeon from the town of Bethsaida. He was a fisherman and, at first, was called Simon but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas or Peter: "And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonah: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a rock" (St. John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to clearly express faith in the Lord Jesus saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (St. Matthew 16:16). His love for the Lord was great and his faith in the Lord gradually strengthened. When the Lord was brought to trial, Peter denied Him three times but after only one glance into the face of the Lord, Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter appears as a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. Following one of his sermons in Jerusalem, three-thousand souls converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, throughout Illyria and Italy. Peter worked many powerful miracles; he healed the sick, resurrected the dead; the sick were healed even from his shadow. He had a great struggle with Simon the Magician who proclaimed himself as god but in reality Simon was a servant of Satan. Finally, Peter shamed and defeated him. By order of the evil Emperor Nero, Simon's friend, Peter was condemned to death. Installing Linus as Bishop of Rome, counseling and comforting the flock of Christ, Peter proceeded joyfully to his death. Seeing the cross before him, he begged his executioners to crucify him upside down for he considered himself unworthy to die as did his Lord. Thus the great servant of the Great Lord reposed and received the wreath of eternal glory.
2. THE APOSTLE PAUL
Paul was born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin. At first, he was called Saul, studied under Gamaliel, was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christianity. He was miraculously converted to the Christian Faith by the Lord Himself Who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, was called Paul and numbered in the service of the great apostles. With a fiery zeal, Paul preached the Gospel everywhere from the borders of Arabia to Spain, among the Jews and among the Gentiles. He received the title "Apostle to the Gentiles." As horrible as his sufferings were, so much more was his super human patience. Throughout all the years of his preaching Paul, from day to day, hung as one on a weak thread between life and death. Since he fulfilled all days and nights with labor and suffering for Christ, since he organized the Church in many places and since he attained such a degree of perfection he was able to say: "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero at the same time as the Apostle Peter.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PETER SAINT PAUL
Unlearned and learned but equal in spirit
And in the love of God, as strong as angels,
Peter a simple man, Paul educated
Both illumined, by the grace of the Spirit,
Two flaming candles, unquenchable candles,
Towering and beautiful, two brilliant stars.
Traversed the earth and spread the light
Nothing did they take, to men they gave all,
Completely poor, the world they enriched,
Prisoners and servants, conquered the entire world,
With the teaching of Christ, enriched the world,
With a new weapon, conquered the entire world:
By humility and peace and meekness blessed,
Prayer and fasting and mercy powerful.
When to them, that stormy day, arrived the stormy night
Bloodthirsty Nero, their life cut short.
But when the ruler of the world, a command issued
And to suffering, gave over Peter and Paul
The world was theirs and not his [Nero's] anymore,
By death, the apostles gained the Kingdom.
Simon Peter and Simon the Magician. The enemies of Christianity frequently like to cite examples of great miracle-workers among the pagans in order to deceive the gullible, to humiliate the Christian Faith and to elevate paganism, sorcery, soothsaying, Satanism and every other charlatanism. There is no doubt that Satan through his servants also attempted to perform miracles but all of the miracles of his servants do not emanate out of love for man, compassion and from faith in God but rather from pride, selfishness, vanity and hatred for mankind. A Christian should learn from the history of the apostles to differentiate divine miracles from satanic deceits and fantasies. Let the Christian only remember the Apostle Peter and Simon the Magician. Let the Christian compare the miracles of Peter with the so-called miracles of Simon. The apostle converted the stony hearts of men into noble hearts, cured the sick, and raised the dead and all of this by prayer and faith in the Living God. However, Simon the Magician amazed men with the devil's illusions. The Apostle Peter was a friend of God and Simon the Magician was a friend and protege of the perverted Emperor Nero who ended his life by suicide. The miracles of the pagan fakirs belong to the category of illusions and deceits of Simon the Magician. Just as from a distance hot sand resembles water so also the "miracles" of the fakir resemble the life-creating miracles of Christianity.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the blind Bartimeus: "And they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a very great crowd, Bartimeus, a blind man, the son of Timeus, was sitting by the wayside begging" (St. Mark 10:46):
1. How Bartimeus prayed to the Lord: "Have mercy on me!"
2. How the Lord said: "See!" And he saw;
3. How the word of the Lord can give sight to my blinded soul if I pray.
About the fear of God
"Conduct yourselves with fear in the time of your sojourning" (1 Peter 1:17).
These are the words of the great Apostle Peter, words that have a dual foundation: heavenly inspiration and personal experience. By divine inspiration, Peter, a simple fisherman, became a teacher of the people, a pillar of the Faith and a powerful miracle-worker. According to his own experience he learned that all of his wisdom and power was of God and, because of that, one should possess the fear of God. No other fear, except the fear of God.
The foolish one becomes frightened only when lightning flashes and thunder cracks but the wise man fears God every day and every hour. The Creator of lightning and thunder is more awesome than both of them and He does not appear before you, from time to time, as lightning and thunder rather He is continually before you and does not move away from you. That is why it is not enough, from time to time, to have fear of God, but one must breathe in the fear of God. The fear of God is the ozone in the suffocating atmosphere of our soul. This ozone brings purity, easiness, sweet fragrance and health. Until he had become strengthened in the fear of God, Peter was only Peter and not an apostle, hero, teacher of the people and miracle-worker.
O my brethren, let us not rejoice before the harvest. This, our life, is not a harvest but rather, it is a sowing, labor, sweat and fear. The plower lives in fear until he has gathered the fruits from the field. Let us also delay our rejoicing for the day of harvest, for now is the time for labor and fear. Will I be saved? This question should torment every one of us, in the same way that the plower is tormented by the question: "Will I reap the fruit of my labor in the field?" The plower labors and fears everyday. Let us also labor and fear "all the time of our sojourning" on earth.
O awesome and powerful Lord, sustain us in Your fear.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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