Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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1. THE HOLY MARTYR LUPUS
This holy man Lupus was a servant of St. Demetrius the commander of Thessalonica. When Emperor Maximian beheaded St. Demetrius, Lupus dipped the hem of his garment and his ring in the blood of the martyr. With this garment and ring, Lupus worked many miracles in Thessalonica, healing people of every pain and infirmity. Emperor Maximian, who was then still residing in Thessalonica, discovered this and ordered that Lupus be tortured and killed. However, the soldiers who took up weapons against Lupus turned against one another and severely wounded themselves. As he was not yet baptized, even though he was a Christian, Lupus prayed to God that He would somehow plan his baptism before his death. At that moment, rain unexpectedly fell from the clouds upon this holy martyr and thus he received baptism from on high. After great sufferings, Lupus was beheaded and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven.
2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR POTHINUS, THE BISHOP OF LYON
Pothinus was sent by St. Polycarp from Asia Minor to preach in Gaul [France]. He became the first bishop of Lyon and converted many pagans to Christianity. During the time of the persecution of the Christians in the year 177A.D., Pothinus was brought to trial: more correctly, he was carried [in the arms of others] for he was ninety years old. The Pro-consul asked him: "Who is the Christian God?" The aged Pothinus replied: "You will know if you become worthy of that." The pagans attacked him with canes and stones and beat him without mercy. Thrown into prison, St. Pothinus died from the beatings two days later and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven.
3. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR IRENAEUS, THE BISHOP OF LYON
In his youth, Ireneaus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostles, who sent him to preach in Gaul. Following the martyrdom of St. Pothinus, Ireneaus was installed as bishop. In his countless writings, Ireneaus at times defined the Orthodox Faith and, again at times, he defended it from heretics. Ireneaus was martyred and died for Christ at the time of Emperor Severus in the year 202 A.D. along with many thousands of Christians (19,000).
4. SAINT VICTOR
Saint Victor suffered and died in Marseilles [France] in the third century. After prolonged and bitter tortures, he was cast into prison where he converted the guards to the Faith of Christ. He died by crucifixion.
5. SAINT ALBAN
Alban was an English nobleman. At the time of persecution, he concealed a Christian priest in his home and was taught the Faith of Christ by him. Alban gave his clothing to the priest and then he dressed as a priest and gave himself up to the torturers. Sentenced to death, he converted his executioner to the Faith of Christ.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT POLYCARP SAINT IRENAEUS SAINT POTHINUS
Most beautiful is the vine with fruitful branches,
With fragrant fruit, noble fruit;
In his offspring, the parent is wonderful,
Of physical marriage, sons are the glory.
But, more beautiful than the vine and the fruitful marriage
Are the spiritual children of the Holy Spirit.
Polycarp most glorious, had two sons:
Saint Ireneaus and Saint Pothinus,
To him, two children of the spirit and not of the flesh, were they,
With unfading eternal glory crowned.
By the Spirit of God, Polycarp regenerated them,
And for that, more beloved to him were they than if he gave birth to them.
Raised them both, with wisdom he equipped them,
To preach in Gaul, he prepared them both.
Two chosen sacrifices, two pure lambs,
Gave to the slaughter, for the Crucified Christ
Of the New Zion, two wise heralds,
Of baptized Lyon, two courageous bishops
Ireneaus and Pothinus glorified God
And Polycarp, their spiritual father.
Heroically they stood, as martyrs fell,
And, before the benevolent Christ, they stood crowned.
Mysterious is the power of the Cross no matter how unexplainable, it is true and indisputable. Yet, St. John Chrysostom speaks of the custom of his time that the sign of the cross is attached "on the emperor's diadem, on the accouterments of the soldiers and tracing it on parts of the body: the head, the breast [chest] and the heart and also on the table of oblations and over beds." "If it is necessary to expel demons", says he, "we use the cross and it also helps to heal the sick." 'St. Benedict made the sign of the cross over a glass which contained poison and the glass burst as though it were struck by a stone. St. Julian made the sign of the cross over a glass of poison brought to him and drank the poison, but he did not feel any pain in his body. The Holy Female Martyr Basilissa of Nicomedia enveloped herself with the sign of the cross, stood amidst the flames and remained unharmed. The Holy Martyrs Audon and Senis crossed themselves when the wild beasts were released on them and the beasts became docile and meek as lambs. Among the ascetics of old, as it is today, the sign of the cross was the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the demons. The most horrible fears of the devil vanish into nothing, as smoke, when man traces the sign of the cross over himself. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself willed to the one time sign of crime and shame, the Cross, following His crucifixion on the wood of the cross, all victorious power and might.
To contemplate the rapid advancing evil in the soul of Saul from the moment he turned away from God (1 Samuel 22 1 Kings 22):
1. How he hurled a spear at David;
2. How he hurled a spear at his son Jonathan;
3. How he slew eighty-five priests in one day, suspecting that they were aligned with David;
4. How, in every time and with every unrepented sin against God, many other sins are drawn in.
About John the Precursor [the Forerunner] and how Isaiah prophesied concerning him
"The voice of him that cries in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).
When a king wants to visit a certain place, he sends before him in advance his heralds. To an unusual king an unusual herald is appropriate. The herald of Christ the King in the wilderness was Moses; in Jerusalem, the Prophets; in Nazareth, the Archangel; in Bethlehem, the Magi of the East; on the Jordan, John. Not one king in the history of mankind has had such heralds. St. John the Baptist was also as unusual and special as were the other heralds of Christ. He was the voice crying in the two-fold wilderness: in the wilderness of Jordan and in the human wilderness. Just as the wilderness of Jordan was fruitless and dry, so the wilderness of the human spirit, was unfruitful and dry. John was not able to make the human wilderness green and fruitful, but he cleared and plowed it and, in that way, was preparing the earth and leveled it [the earth] for the great Sower Who, by His coming, brings with Him the seed and the rain to sow the seed of knowledge and the rain of grace from on high to make it green and be fruitful. By repentance, John prepared the way and by baptism in water, made the path straight. The way and the paths these are the souls of men. By repentance, the souls of men were prepared to receive the seed of Christ and by baptism in water to bury that seed deep in the earth of their heart. The proud and the lowly when they are immersed naked in the water are all as one, equal in their nothingness before the majesty of the All-glorious Christ the Savior: "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4). The word here is not about earthly valleys and hills but of lowly and proud men. As corpses in the grave are all the same before the eyes of a living man, thus all sinners, lowly and proud, slaves and masters are equal before the living God.
Such a wondrous vision was seen by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of the living God, the one and true God.
O Lord, Heavenly King, to Whom the heavenly hosts worship day and night, look down once again upon our nothingness and because of Your humiliation and passion for us, save us.
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