Prologue of Ohrid

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April 26

1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR BASIL, BISHOP OF AMASEA

Licinius, brother-in-law of Constantine to whose sister he was married, pretended to be a Christian before the great emperor. When he received authority from the emperor, to govern the entire east, he, at first secretly, and later openly, began to persecute Christians and to strengthen idolatry. His wife grieved much about this, but was unable to dissuade her husband from this shamefulness. Giving himself over to idolatry, Licinius also succumbed to infinite passions without restraint but, most of all to infidelity toward his wife. During the assault of these unclean passions, Licinius wanted to defile the virgin Glaphyra who was in the service of the Empress. Glaphyra complained to the empress and the empress secretly sent her away from the imperial court of Nicomedia to the Province of Pontus. The virgin Glaphyra arrived at the town of Amasea and there was cordially received by Bishop Basil and other Christians. Glaphyra was elated that God had saved her virginity and, concerning this, she wrote to the empress. The empress also rejoiced and forwarded money to the church in Amasea. However, a letter of Glaphyra which was directed to the empress, fell into the hands of the emperor's eunuch who showed it to Emperor Licinius. The emperor, learning where Glaphyra was staying, immediately ordered that she and the bishop be brought back to Nicomedia. In the meantime, Glaphyra died and the soldiers brought Basil back to Nicomedia, alone and bound. Following tortures and imprisonment this blessed man was beheaded and tossed into the sea in the year 322 A.D. Through a vision of an angel of God his clergy found his body near the town of Sinope. They removed his body with the aid of a fisherman's net and translated it to Amasea where they honorably buried it in the church which he, by his efforts, had built. The Emperor Constantine raised up an army against Licinius, defeated, captured him and banished him into exile to Gaul where he ended his god-hating life.

2. SAINT JOANNICIUS OF DEVICH

Joannicius was a Serb from Zeta. As a young man he was overwhelmed with love for Christ. He left his home and family and withdrew to the region of Ibar at the mouth of the Black river into a narrow cave in which, according to tradition, before him, St. Peter of Korish lived a life of asceticism. When his fame began to spread among the people, he fled to Drenica and hid in the thick forest of Devich. Here St. Joannicius spent years in solitude, in silence and in prayer. According to tradition, the Serbian Prince George Brankovich brought his mentally ill daughter to him whom the saint healed. Out of gratitude, George built a monastery on this spot, known today by the name of Devich. The holy and wonder-working relics of Joannicius repose in this monastery. In this monastery, more recently, the nun Euphemia, the famous and God-pleasing hermitess lived a life of asceticism in Devich. The nun Euphemia is better known in the area of Kossovo by the name: The Blessed Stojna. She died in the Lord in the year 1895 A.D.

3. SAINT STEPHEN THE BISHOP OF PERM

Stephen was a Russian by birth. From an early age he was devoted to prayer and pious thoughts. As a young man, Stephen went to Rostov where he was tonsured a monk in the monastery of St. Gregory the Theologian. Learning about the Land of Perm, completely overrun with the weeds of heathenism, Stephen desired to become a missionary in this land. He immediately dedicated himself to the studying of the language of the Perms and when he mastered the language, he composed an alphabet and translated the ecclesiastical books into that language. With the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow, Stephen, as a presbyter, started out on his apostolic mission and with apostolic zeal began to preach the Gospel in this dense darkness of the heathenism of Perm. Having baptized a few souls, he endeavored to build a church in Perm dedicated to the Holy Annunciation. When the Church of God flourished in Perm, he was consecrated as its bishop. Undergoing every hardship, affliction, maliciousness and humiliation, he succeeded to dispel the darkness among the heathens of Perm and to illuminate them with the Light of Christ. In his old age he returned to Moscow once more but, there ended his earthly life and took up habitation with the Lord in the year 1396 AD.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT BASIL OF AMASEA

In the dungeon, Basil languishes

For the honorable Cross and the Faith of Christ;

Psalms he chants and to God he gives thanks,

Because of justice, He granted him suffering

The Emperor's Tribune to Basil speaks:

Listen old man, to you the emperor a message is sending

(Emperor) Licinius, the protector of the gods,

That you, sacrifice to the gods, offer,

And, Christ the man to dismiss,

If you do not, an evil death awaits you.

Basil radiates from joy,

And to the Tribune, he wonderfully responds:

Go tell your nefarious emperor:

Even if your entire kingdom to me you gave,

And take away my resurrected Christ,

You will take more than you give.

Traitor of Christ the Savior,

Me, a traitor also, do you want to make?

O Giver of death; of death I am not afraid,

Of Christ the Life-giver, I am a servant.

REFLECTION

The saints are alive and their God-given power does not diminish in time. St. Joannicius of Devich works miracles today even as he did during his life on earth, some five-hundred years ago. A certain Milosh from Hercegovina prepared to travel to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the holy shrines. As he was about ready to depart on his way, St. Joannicius appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. Rather than go to Jerusalem, it would be better for you to go to Devich, explained the saint, and there, to restore my church and place it in order. Milosh obeyed the saint and arrived at the neglected Devich, cleaned it, placed it in order and again, made it possible to sing praises to God. At Devich, Milosh was tonsured a monk and remained there until the end of his life. During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer with a detachment of soldiers came to Devich. The officer ushered Damaskin, the abbot of the monastery, before the reliquary of St. Joannicius and asked him what was under the slab? "Holiness," replied the abbot. "What kind of holiness?", the officer laughed. "Some things are hidden under there." He then ordered the soldiers to strike the slab with pick axes and to overturn it. While this was being done, the officer was seized with pain around his waist. He lay down in bed and before evening of the same day, he died. The frightened soldiers left there work undone and fled the monastery.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How His Resurrection is a great light which dispels the darkness of our doubt, ignorance and despair relative to life after death;

2. How His Resurrection is a great light, which illuminates the path on which we must travel in this world in order to arrive to the other world.

HOMILY

About Christ as the confirmation of all good

"For the son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not "yes" and "no," but "yes" has been in him" (2 Corinthians 1:19).

Christ is not light and darkness but only light. Christ is not truth and falsehood, but only truth. Neither is Christ life and death, He is only life. Neither is He strength and weakness. He is only strength. Neither is He love and hate. He is only love. He is the "yes" for every good and in Him there is no vacillating between "yes" and "no." His teaching is all pure, all truth, all light and all loving of mankind. His path is accurately hewn and He does not permit swerving neither to the left or to the right. Not even a shadow of sin can pause on His teaching nor find a place on His path. His person is the incarnation of good and all that is good is in Him and all that is sin, falsehood, malicious and unjust is outside of Him.

Such teaching, such a path and such a person of Christ, the apostles of God preached: the teaching meant the confirmation of good and the revelation of the infinite treasury of good; the path which leads to the realization and eternal enjoyment of this good; the Person, Who in Himself, contains all good and complete confirmation of good.

Brethren, let us also adhere to this unique Person, this unique path and this unique teaching.

Almighty Lord, help us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that our insignificant life on earth would become a confirmation of good and not the denial of good.
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