Prologue of Ohrid

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April 10

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS TERENTIUS (TERENCE), AFRICANUS, MAXIMUS, [POMPILIUS] POMPEIUS AND THIRTY-SIX OTHERS WITH THEM

They all suffered for Christ and were crowned with the wreaths of glory during the reign of Emperor Decius. By order of the emperor, the governor of Africa announced to the people that everyone must offer sacrifices to the idols. To those who resisted, the governor threatened with cruel tortures. Upon hearing about these threats many fell away from the Faith and worshipped the idols. However these forty remained unwavering in their faith and were exposed to torture. St. Terentius (Terence) encouraged his companions saying: "Brothers, let us be on guard that we do not deny Christ our God, lest He deny us before His Heavenly Father and Holy Angels." The governor divided them into two groups. Thirty-six of them, after flogging, scrapping of the skin and pouring salt into their open wounds, were all beheaded. The first four they cast into prison with heavy iron chains around their necks, their hands and their feet. An angel of God appeared in the prison, touched the chains of the shackled and the chains fell off. After that, the angel prepared a bountiful table for them and fed them. Once again, they were brought out and tortured and, again, they were imprisoned. Then the governor ordered the soothsayers to gather as many poisonous, loathsome creatures as possible, such as snakes and scorpions and to lock them up in the same cell with the martyrs. The loathsome creatures did not want to touch those chosen by God but rather lay compressed in the corner where they remained for three days. On the third day, when the door of the cell was opened, the repulsive creatures rushed out and bit the soothsayers. Finally, the governor pronounced the death penalty upon the four martyrs. When they were brought out to be beheaded, they rejoicefully chanted Psalms and praised God, Who made them worthy of a martyr's death. They suffered honorably in the year 250 A.D., and were found worthy of the Kingdom.

2. THE SIX-THOUSAND MARTYRS IN GEORGIA

In the wilderness of David-Garejeli in Georgia, there were twelve monasteries in which many monks practiced and lived the ascetical life for centuries. In 1615 A.D., the great king of Persia, Shah Abbas I, attacked Georgia, devasted it and beheaded many Christians. Once while hunting early in the morning on the Feast of the Resurrection, Shah Abbas noticed many lights in the mountains. They were the monks from the twelve monasteries in procession around the Church of the Resurrection with lighted tapers in hand. When the Shah discovered that they were monks, he asked in amazement: "Has not all of Georgia been given over to the sword?" He then ordered his solders to immediately go and behead all the monks. At that moment an angel of God appeared to Abbot Arsenius and informed him of impending death. Arsenius informed his brethren. They all received Communion of the All-Pure Mysteries and prepared themselves for death. Suddenly, the assailants arrived and hacked to pieces, first of all, the abbot, who came before the others and, after that, all the rest. They all suffered honorably and were crowned with incorruptible wreaths in the year 1615 A.D. Thus, ended the history of these famous monasteries which, for more than a thousand years, served as the spiritual hearth of enlightenment for the Georgians. Only two of the monasteries exist today: St. David and St. John the Forerunner. The Georgian Emperor Arcil gathered the relics of the monks and honorably interred them. Even today, these relics emit a sweet-smelling Chrism (oil) and heal the sick.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE SIX-THOUSAND MARTYRS OF GEORGIA

Six-thousand chosen ones of God

They rejoiced in the glorious resurrection,

Six-thousand hearts of men,

The entire flock of innocent lambs!

Around the church, with tapers they processed,

Sweet hymns to the Resurrection they sang,

While the terrible wolf, from the midnight darkness

With hungry wolves attacked,

To slaughter the innocent lambs.

Those were not lambs, but shepherds

The suffering Georgian race,

Saints and illuminators,

All monks, wonderful ascetics.

For all, Arsenius foresaw death,

And spoke thusly to the monks:

Brethren of mine, sons of Georgia,

The hour has come to drink of the cup

The sweet cup of suffering for Christ.

Behold, the wolves rush through the mountains

Faster brethren, to the All-Pure Communion.

And, after that, a bloody baptism!

Repent for yourself and for the people,

And all your thoughts to God, direct,

Your evil doers, you forgive,

The doors of Paradise, for us are opening.

Let every brother, forgive his brother.

Christ is Risen - that we resurrect,

Faithful to Him, we are until we die!

REFLECTION

When a man detaches his mind from earth, opens it toward God with the desire to please God, then God reveals His will in various ways. St. Peter of Damascus writes: "If a man has a full intention to please God, then God teaches him His will either through thoughts, through some other person or through Holy Scripture." Such a man becomes attentive, keen and awaits God's promptings from within and from without. For him, chances cease to exist. The entire world becomes as a ten-stringed harp which does not give out one sound without the finger of God.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How He appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus and they did not recognize Him;

2. How the hearts of these two disciples burned within when He spoke to them and how they recognized Him only when He blessed and broke bread for them;

3. How, all at once, before their eyes the Lord became invisible to them.

HOMILY

About living hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christfrom the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

Brethren, who has dead hope and who has living hope? He who hopes in dead things has a dead hope. He who hopes in the Living God has a living hope.

Further, he who hopes in himself and in other people has a dead hope. He who hopes in the Living God has a living hope.

Further, he who hopes in luck and well-being in this brief earthly existence and does not extend his hope beyond the grave, has a dead hope. He who hopes in the resurrection and eternal life in the kingdom of heaven has a living hope.

Truly, a living hope is better than a dead hope; as life is better than death; as light is better than darkness; as health is better than sickness; as understanding is better than ignorance.

But, Who brought and showed man that living hope; Who, and how? The Apostle Peter gives an answer to that question: Our Lord Jesus Christ and that, by His resurrection from the dead. No one else but the Lord Jesus Christ and by nothing else than His own resurrection from the dead. By His resurrection, the Lord gave wings to the pathetic hopes of man, extended him beyond the grave and showed him the goal, purpose and fruit beyond the grave.

All of this is not confirmed by a credulous man but by an apostle who wavered for a long while in his faith and who denied Christ three times. That is why St. Peter's witness of the resurrected Lord and the significance of His resurrection is inexpressibly priceless for us.

O resurrected Lord, Victor over death, uproot from us dead hope and plant a living hope in us through the prayers of St. Peter, Your great apostle.
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