Prologue of Ohrid

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April 22

1. THE VENERABLE THEODORE OF SYKEON

Theodore was born in the village of Sykeon in Galatia for which he was surnamed, the Sykeote. As a child of ten years, he surrendered himself to strict fasting and in all-night vigils after the model of Stephen, an elder who lived in his house. His mother Maria was a wealthy widow and intended to dedicate her son to the military profession. St. George appeared to her in a dream and informed her that Theodore was destined for the service of the King of Heaven and not a king of the earth. St. George appeared to Theodore many times either to instruct him or to save him from certain dangers in which the evil demons placed him. He had several visions of the All-Holy Mother of God. Theodore's life of mortification, by his ascetical severity, surpassed the living ascetics of his time. He mortified his body through hunger, thirst, iron chains and by standing at prayer all night. He did all of this in order to bind his soul with love for God and to make his soul the complete master over his body. In response to Theodore's love, the merciful Lord responded with love. God bestowed upon him great power over evil spirits and over all diseases and afflictions of mankind. He was famous throughout as a wonder-working healer. Because of his purity and devotion, he was consecrated bishop of Anastasiopolis against his will. He remained for eleven years at his episcopal duty and then implored God to free him from this service in order to, again, dedicate himself to his beloved asceticism. After that, he returned to his monastery where, in his old age, he rendered his soul to his Lord, for Whom he willingly suffered much. He died at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Heraclius about the year 613 A.D.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR LEONIDES

Leonides was the father of Origen. He suffered for Christ in Alexandria in the year 202 A.D. He was condemned to death by an edict of the emperor but, before that, all of his property was confiscated. Origen wrote to his father in prison: "Father, do not concern yourself over us and do not avoid martyrdom because of us," i.e., because of his children.

3. THE VENERABLE MONK VITALIS

During the time of the Alexandrian Patriarch John the Merciful, a young monk appeared who, as soon as he arrived, complied a list of all the prostitutes in Alexandria. The mortification (asceticism) of this young monk was exceptional and unique. During the day he would offer himself for hire to do the most difficult jobs and at night, he would enter the houses of ill repute, gave the earned amount of money to some prostitute and close himself in the room with her the entire night. As soon as they were locked up, Vitalis would beg the woman to lie down and sleep and he would spend the entire night in a corner of the room in prayer to God for that sinner. Thus, he would save the woman from sinning at least one night. The second night, he would go to a second, the third night to a third and so on until he had visited them all, and then, he again returned to the one with whom he started. By his counseling, many of the sinners abandoned their sullied trade. Some of them married, others entered convents and still others turned to a respectable work and income. Vitalis forbid all of these women to reveal the reason why he was visiting them. Because of this, Vitalis became a scandal for all of Alexandria. The men began to scold him, spit upon him and to openly beat him on the streets. He bore all patiently, making known his good works to God and concealing them from men. When he died, everything about him became known. Many miracles of healing occurred over his grave. People from different places began to bring their sick to his grave. Spat upon by men, he was and remained glorified by the Omniscient God.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT VITALIS

Vitalis, a monk, in a city large

With prayer in his heart, hurries to his labor,

And the sinful populace pretends to be just,

And scorn the monk and upon his head spat.

The monk wipes his face, endures and remains silent,

Does not respond, neither at anyone, become angry

Then, a certain young man and an aged pervert

Approached Vitalis and struck him.

And the young man, to him, said: shameless monk

How long will you torment our patience?

"Why did you strike me?," Vitalis said,

You will be struck - so that the entire city will assemble

And much time did not pass and the young man went insane

That, he judged the man of God without God.

And the youth howled; the entire city became frightened,

Vitalis, peacefully presented himself to God

Then, to the grave of the saint, the insane one came

And at the grave, for himself, found healing.

And the young man related the most recent tale

And to glorious Vitalis, he gave thanks.

REFLECTION

At the time of the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.], the quarreling clerics wrote accusations one against the other and presented them to the emperor. Emperor Constantine received all of these accusations and not opening them, burned them over a flaming candle. To the amazement of those around him, the emperor said: "If I would see with my own eyes a bishop, a priest or a monk in a sinful act, I would cover him with my cloak, so that no one would ever see his sin." Thus, this great Christian emperor embarrassed the scandalmongers and sealed their mouths. Our Faith prohibits us to be spies of the sins of others and stresses that we be merciless judges of our own sins. The sick person in the hospital is concerned with his own particular malady so that he has neither the will nor the time to question others who are ill or to mock their illness. Are we not all in this world as patients in a hospital? Does not our own common sense underline that we look at our own illness and not at another's illness? Let no one think that they will be cured of their illness in the other world. This world is merely a hospital and a place for healing and, in that world, there is no hospital; there is only a mansion or only a prison.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How by His resurrection, He justified the faith and hope of mankind in immortality;

2. How by His resurrection, He destroyed the fear of death in the faithful.

HOMILY

About the power of God in the weakness of men

"For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

There are no contradictions in Holy Scripture and even in these words there are no contradictions even though they sound like it. The physical is governed by sound and the spiritual by thought. For physical man, there are contradictions everywhere for he is afraid of obstacles and flees from a shadow if this shadow seems to be an obstacle for him. The spiritual man is like a knight who likes to overcome obstacles. For the spiritual man, hidden in these words of Scripture, is the entire teaching about salvation.

"For when I am weak, then I am strong." That is, when I am cognizant of my nothingness and the omnipotence of God, then I am strong. When I know that I, of myself alone, cannot do any good neither for myself nor for others and when I totally entrust myself in the power and mercy of God, then I am strong. When I sense that I am as a drowning person in this world and that I am not in the position to grab on to the extended hand of God, to hold on to it by my own strength, rather cry out to God that He with His hand grab hold of my hand and pull me out of the depths of sinful abyss, then I am strong. When I see that I am weak and that I am a hollow reed amidst the tempest of winds and floods; a reed which God is able to fill with His Almighty Grace and when I pray with faith for God's Grace, then I am strong.

O, my weak brethren, let us entrust ourselves to the power of God that we, in our nothingness, may be strong. Relying on man you are weak but relying on God you are strong. Adhere to God and all the power of God will be with you. Confess your weaknesses before God and God will send you His All-powerful Grace. This is confirmed for you by the apostle through his example and through his experience: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." In truth there is no contradiction in the Holy Scripture. Physical man speaks about contradiction in terms of the sound of the word, but spiritual man enters into the meaning and shatters the illusion of contradiction through experience.

O resurrected Lord, have mercy on our weakness and fill us with Your Omnipotent Grace.
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