Prologue of Ohrid

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January 4

1. THE ASSEMBLY [SYNAXSIS] OF THE SEVENTY HOLY APOSTLES

Besides the Twelve Greater Apostles, the Lord chose Seventy Lesser Apostles and sent them to preach the Gospel, "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place He intended to visit, He said to them, ` The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.' Go on your way: behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this household' " (St. Luke 10:1-5). But, as Judas, one of the Twelve, fell away from the Lord, so it was with some of the Seventy who abandoned the Lord not with the intention of betrayal but because of human weakness and faintheartedness. "As a result of this, many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him" (St. John 6:66). As Judas' place was filled by another apostle, "So they [The Apostles] proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, `You, Lord, Who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two You have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place'. Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles" (Acts of the Apostles 1:23-26); so also were the places of these lesser apostles filled by others that were chosen. These Seventy Lesser Apostles labored at the same work as did the Twelve Great Apostles; they were co-workers with the Twelve in spreading and establishing the Church of God in the world. They endured many sufferings and malevolent acts from men and demons, but their strong faith and fervent love for the resurrected Lord made them victors over the world and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

2. EUSTATHIUS, ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

Eustathius was born in the district of Budim of God-fearing parents. As a young man he was tonsured a monk in Zeta; then he entered a higher form of asceticism in the Monastery Hilendar [Mt. Athos]. In time, Eustathius became the abbot of Hilendar. As abbot, he was elected Bishop of Zeta and after a certain period of time was elected Archbishop of the Serbs. Eustathius was a man of great charity who governed Christ's flock with zeal and love. He died peacefully in the year 1279 A.D. In his old age he cried out before his death: "Into Your hands, O Lord I give my soul." His relics are interred under the flooring in the Church at the Patriarchate of Pec.

3. THE EUNUCH OF QUEEN CANDACE

The Apostle Philip baptized this black man, a eunuch. Following his baptism the eunuch returned to his home and began to preach Christ. He was the first Apostle of Faith among the blacks in Ethiopia. "Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route. So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the Prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, `Go and join up with the chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the Prophet and said, `Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, `How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. This was the scripture passage he was reading: `Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from earth.' Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, `I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?' Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him. As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, `Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?' Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing. Philip came to Azotus, and went about preaching the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea"

(Acts of the Apostles 8: 26-40). The eunuch died a martyr and became worthy of the Kingdom of God.

4. THE VENERABLE MARTYR ONUPHRIUS OF HILENDAR MONASTERY [MOUNT ATHOS

In his youth, Onuphrius became angry with his parents and declared before the Turks that he was going to convert to Islam. Immediately following that, he repented because of these words and went to Hilendar where he was tonsured a monk. Tormented by his conscience, Onuphrius decided for martyrdom. Because of his determination and with the blessing of his spiritual father, he departed for Trnovo, Bulgaria where he reported to the Turks, proclaimed himself a Christian, and ridiculed Muhammad. Because of that, Onuphrius was beheaded on January 4, 1818, in his thirty-second year. The body of this spiritual knight is not preserved for the Turks tossed it into the sea.


HYMN OF PRAISE

THE SEVENTY HOLY APOSTLES

O knights of the Cross, sons of light,

You have not yet passed, O children of the future,

For you are not dead, as Christ is not,

But lives with life that never decays.

The Lord, You the Wreath-giver, beautifully crowned you

Because His Name, you loudly proclaimed

Before emperors and princes, before executioners terrible.

God, you served; but with torment, the world repaid You.

You walked after Christ, O bees of Christ!

The world you filled with honey; the vessels you filled!

Souls you alleviated; passions you calmed,

With Evangelical sweetness you sweetened life,

With the aroma of Christ, you censed the earth,

Salt, light and incense to the world, you were.

Seventy Companions, all with the same love,

As branches with the tree, with Christ, you were attached;

Seventy Stars, around the Sun - Christ,

And there, the angels are and the Virgin All-Pure,

There, unutterable delight, joy unseen,

Glorious victors of this transitory time.

Holy Apostles, glory and thanks be to you.

From your blood, justice blossomed.

 
REFLECTION

God hears the prayers of the just. This is clearly seen from the lives of Moses, Elijah, and the other Old Testament righteous ones and prophets as well as from the lives of the apostles and saints. While St. Genevieve, as a nun, lived a life of asceticism in Paris, it so happened that Attila with his savage Huns surrounded Paris. Fear and terror overcame the entire population of Paris who, at any moment, awaited the capture of the city by the enemy. Then, St. Genevieve called upon the people to fast and to pray to God and then the calamity will be averted. Many men and women responded to the call of this saint and began to fast and pray to God. Genevieve herself fasted the most and prayed most ardently to God. After a short while the enemy turned away from Paris without any visible reason and departed for another place. That which the sword of many sinners cannot do, the prayer of the righteous person can.


CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the richness of God's power, wisdom and love:

1. The richness of that power, wisdom and love is manifested in created nature;

2. The richness of that power, wisdom and love is revealed to the world through the Lord Jesus Christ.


HOMILY

About the citizens of the other world

"They do not belong to theworld anymore than Ibelong to the world" (St. John 17:16)


Christ the Lord is not of this world rather only in the vesture of this world. That is the Commander [Christ] clad in the clothing of a slave to save the captive enslaved by sin, matter and Satan. As is the commander, so are his soldiers. Even they, according to the spirit, are not of this world: They are not captives but free, they are not slaves but masters; they are not corruptible but immortal; they are not fallen but are saved. Such are all those who Christ recruited and who tasted immortal life willingly, rejected the world and united themselves with Him and remained faithful to Him until the end of their lives on earth. Abba Moses said, "No one can enter the army of Christ if he were not totally as fire; if he does not abhor honors and comfort, if he does not sever all bodily desires; and if he does not keep all of God's commandments." Judas was recruited but he fell away and loved prison more than the royal court, slavery more than freedom, corruption more then immortality, and destruction more than salvation. But the other apostolic recruits, great and small, remained faithful to Him [Christ] to the end, achieved victory for which they are glorified on earth among men and in heaven among the angels. That is why they are glorified and blessed both on earth and in heaven. All who are glorified by the world perish with the world, but those who are glorified by Christ are saved by Christ. The glory of the world is death, but the glory of Christ is life, life eternal and without death.

O Immortal Lord, even though we are of the world according to the body and sin, recruit us into Your army, the army according to the spirit, power, wisdom and love which is not of this world. So, even when we die to the world, we may live in Your immortal kingdom with the angels, apostles and saints because of the love and prayers of Your holy apostles.
 

 

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