Prologue of Ohrid

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January 8

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS JULIAN AND BASILISSA

Julian and Basilissa were of noble and wealthy parents. United in marriage, they vowed to live chastely as brother and sister. They distributed all of their property to the poor and both were tonsured. Julian founded a monastery and Basilissa founded a convent. Julian had about ten-thousand monks and Basilissa about a thousand nuns. When a terrible persecution began under Diocletian, Basilissa implored God that none of her nuns would become frightened of the tortures and would not fall away from the Orthodox Faith. The Lord heard the prayers of His worthy handmaiden and, in the course of six months, received unto Himself all the nuns, one by one and finally their abbess Basilissa. Before her death, Basilissa had a vision of her sisters [nuns] from the other world. To her, all of them appeared to her radiant and joyful as angels of God and beckoned their spiritual mother to come to them as soon as possible. Unlike Basilissa's convent, Julian's monastery was set ablaze by the persecutors and Julian was inhumanly tortured and died from the most difficult sufferings. During his tortures, the Lord watched over him and strengthened him so that he heroically endured, preserved his Faith and glorified the Name of Christ. Beheaded along with Julian were Celsus and Maronilla, the son and wife of the tormentor Marcian, who witnessing Julian's heroism in suffering and torture, were themselves converted to the Faith of Christ. Also beheaded were twenty Roman soldiers; seven brothers from that town; the presbyter Anthony; and a certain Anastasius, whom Julian at the time of his torture, resurrected from the dead by prayer. All suffered honorably for Christ and became citizens of the heavenly kingdom about the year 313 A.D.

2. VENERABLE GEORGE THE CHOZIBITE

George lived an ascetical life in the seventh century in Choziba Monastery in Jericho on the road from Jerusalem, the monastery where the Venerable John Chozibite first led an ascetical life.

3. SAINT DOMNICA

During the reign of Emperor Theodosius, Domnica, unbaptized, came from Carthage to Constantinople with four other pagan maidens. Patriarch Macarius baptized them and gave his blessing to them to live as nuns. With great zeal, St. Domnica gave herself up to a life of asceticism and in that zeal did not waver until her death in extreme old age. She died in the Lord about 474 A.D. She was so enlightened by the Holy Spirit that she was able to discern events in the future and through prayer to work miracles.

4. SAINT GREGORY, BISHOP OF OHRID

Gregory was a devout teacher and shepherd of Christ's flock. He died in the year 1012 A.D. In one of the inscriptions in the Church of St. Sophia in Ohrid, he is referred to as "Gregory, the all-wise."

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINTS JULIAN AND BASILISSA

Bound by marriage, more bound with Christ,

A spiritual union, a union more lasting.

In the Book of the Living, their names the Spirit wrote:

"Brother Julian and Sister Basilissa."

Forsook all and after Christ they followed,

And when the hour chimes, their lives they gave up

For the love of God, the love of the Triune sun,

Glory, they despised, all the glory of the world;

Themselves, they glorified with the love of God;

And a wonderful example to us, they left.

The treasure of the Church, adornment and honor:

The wonder-working blood of these martyrs, wondrous.

REFLECTION

On one of the stones in the Church of St. Sophia, the following words were engraved: "Wash your sins, not only your face." Whoever entered this glorious church read this inscription and remembered that the Christian Faith requires of him moral purity: purity of the soul, purity of the heart and purity of the mind. Just as in the heart of man is concentrated the complete spiritual man, this is what the Lord also said, "Blessed are the pure of heart" (St. Matthew 5:8). Total external cleanliness does not help at all in gaining the kingdom of heaven. Oh, if only we would invest as much effort in washing ourselves from sins as we invest daily in washing our faces, then God would truly be seen in our hearts as though in a mirror!

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the three temptations by which Satan tempted the Lord Jesus:

1. Gluttony: The temptation with bread;

2. Vainglory: Lifting Him above the Temple;

3. Avarice: Offering Him the possession of the entire world.

HOMILY

About the needed caution for those who think that they are secure

"Therefore, whoever thinkshe is standing secure should take care not to fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

The apostle who gives such advice knew human nature perfectly and all its weakness. Day after day, this experience is confirmed: that as soon as man straightens up from the mud of sin, he then sways and falls again. As soon as he is cured of the sin of avarice, he falls into the vice of vainglory. Or, as soon as he extends his hand to help a poor man, pride then topples him to the other side. Or, as soon as he becomes accustomed to prayer, he then opens wide his mouth to degrade those who are not yet accustomed to prayer. Or, as soon as he felt that the Spirit of God is directing him to the path of salvation, he then immediately sets himself up as a teacher to the entire world until unfortunately by that he completely drives away the Spirit from within himself.

When the Lord foretold to His disciples that they would all deny Him and flee, then Peter confident in his stability cried out: "Though all may have their faith in You shaken, mine will never be" (St. Matthew 26:33). Discerning his very heart only and seeing him already fallen into self-conceit and pride, the Lord responded to him, "This very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times" (St. Matthew 26:34). And when such a fall happened to the apostle in the immediate proximity of the Lord, why would it not happen to us? This is why, brethren, when we rise and turn from a certain sin and stand erect, we should ascribe this to the power and mercy of God and not to ourselves and we should be very vigilant to protect ourselves and to implore God that we, again, do not fall, be it to one side or the other side, but walk on the upright path of the Lord.

O All-seeing Lord, help us to stand straight before You by the Spirit, and when we become erect, uphold us that we do not fall anymore.
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