Prologue of Ohrid

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April 27

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE SIMEON

Simeon was one of the Seventy Apostles. He was the son of Cleopas who was the brother of Joseph, the betrothed of the All-Holy Mother of God. Seeing the miracles of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Simeon believed and was numbered among the Seventy Apostles. He preached the Gospel of Christ with great zeal and courage throughout Judea. When the nefarious Jews killed James, the brother of our Lord and first bishop of the Church of Jerusalem, by hurling him from the heights of the Temple and beat him over the head with a hoe, then this Simeon, a cousin of James, was appointed Bishop of Jerusalem. And Simeon, as the second bishop of the Holy City, governed the Church of God with wisdom and strength until a ripe old age. He was over one hundred years old when he suffered. His suffering was in this manner: during the reign of Emperor Trajan, a two-fold persecution began: one in Palestine against the descendants of David and the other persecution against the Christians. The wicked people accused Simeon of being both one and the other (a Jew and a Christian). St. Simeon endured enormous pains and finally was crucified on a cross, as was his Lord, Whom he faithfully served on earth.

2. VENERABLE STEPHEN, THE BISHOP OF VLADIMIR

Stephen was a disciple of St. Theodosius of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. For a while, Stephen was abbot of the Monastery of the Caves and labored much in the regulation and organization of the monastic life and in adornment of churches. The devil incited malice among the monks against Stephen and, not only did they remove him as abbot, but banished him from the monastery. God, Who does not abandon the righteous for long under the humiliation of the unrighteous, directed the life of Venerable Stephen so that he was elected as Bishop of Vladimir. As a hierarch of God, Stephen governed the Church until old age and died peacefully in the Lord in the year 1094 A.D.

3. THE BURNING OF THE RELICS OF SAINT SAVA

Sava was the Archbishop of the Serbs. The body of St. Sava was buried in Mileshevo Monastery. During the time of the Turkish tyranny, the Serbian people gathered around the relics of their saint to seek comfort and healing. Fearing that an insurrection might arise from that place against the Turks, Sinan Pasha of Belgrade ordered that the relics of St. Sava be translated to Belgrade and there to be burned on Vracar, April 27, 1594 A.D. With the burning of the relics of this saint, the rabid Pasha did not burn the saint who remained alive before the Throne of God in the heavens and in the hearts of his people on earth.

4. VENERABLE JOHN THE CONFESSOR

John was the Abbott of the Cathar Monastery. This monastery was established near Nicaea during the reign of Justin in the sixth century. Because of his veneration of icons and his defense for the veneration of icons, John suffered much at the hands of the Emperors Leo and Theophilus and died in exile around the year 832 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY APOSTLE SIMEON

Simeon, glistening with youth and strength,
 
When he, the good Teacher approached
 
Saw not a relative, known to him according to the flesh

But, the unknown God in bodily form;
 
And the entire world became dark to him from this great light,
 
When he came to himself, with the world He parted
 
And as a powerful eagle in lofty flight
 
Toward heaven and the heavenly world, he raises his spirit.
 
He, through Christ, recognized the goodness of God,
 
And immortal life and immortal beauty
 
Yet through Christ, True Man he recognized,
 
That is why he scorns glory and the honor of this age;
 
As a honey bee, he devoted himself to labor,
 
Not grieving over youth, not grieving over the body,
 
But, to the end to fulfill the law of Christ
 
And to become worthy of Paradise divine.
 
And crucified on the Cross, the elder centenarian,
 
Did not feel the deadly sting,
 
For with the spirit, long ago he resurrected,
 
Now waits with the body to resurrect gloriously.
 
REFLECTION

The True Faith must be persecuted in this world. The Savior Himself said this clearly and openly to His apostles. St. Apollinaris of Hierapolis in writing against the Montanist heretics says: " Let them tell us before God who, out of all their prophets, beginning with Montanus and his wives, was persecuted by the Jews and killed by the ungodly? No one. Who, from among them was taken away for of the Name of Christ and was crucified on the cross? Again, no one. Have any one of the women ever been flogged or stoned in the Jewish synagogues? Nowhere and never." However, the Orthodox saint wants to say that the True Faith must be persecuted in this world. Heresies are generally closer to the worldly and demonic spirit, which is why the world and the demon do not persecute their own. To be constantly persecuted, with brief intervals in between, is a characteristic of the Faith and of the Orthodox Church. This persecution existed throughout all of history, either from without or within; externally from unbelievers and internally from heretics.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How He commands that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in His Name;

2. How He commands His disciples to await the Father's promise of the power of the Holy Spirit from on high.

HOMILY

About the persecution of the pious

"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts of the Apostles 14:22).

"In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

The Lord Jesus prophesied this and by His example He proved it. The apostles also said this and by their examples they proved it. All the God-bearing Fathers of the Church, confessors and martyrs said this and they proved this by their example. Therefore, is there any need to doubt that, through a narrow door, one enters the kingdom of God? Should we hesitate for a moment that, "it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God?" No, there is no basis nor justification for doubt. Can sheep live among the wolves and not be attacked by them? Can a candle burn in the midst of cross winds and not sway back and forth? Can a good fruit-bearing tree grow along side the road and not be disturbed by passersby? Thus, the Church of pious souls cannot but be persecuted and be persecuted by heathens, by idolaters, by heretics, by apostates, from passions and vices, from sin and transgressions, from the world and by demons. So it is that not one devout soul can remain without persecution, be it externally or internally, until it is separated from the body and the world. Someone might oppose this and prove it otherwise according to his calculation and according to his logic. But, in this case, neither the mind nor the logic of one man is of any avail. Thousands who were crucified speak otherwise, thousands burned alive cry out otherwise, thousands who were beheaded prove otherwise and thousands who were drowned witness otherwise. O my brethren, the Christian Faith is mighty not only when it agrees with sensory reasoning and sensory logic but when, and especially when, it contradicts sensory reasoning and sensory logic.

Those who want to live a godly-life will be persecuted. This the apostle prophesied at the beginning of the Christian era and twenty Christian centuries render a multi-voiced echo to confirm the truth of the prophecy.

O resurrected Lord, grant us light that we may be pious to the end and give us the strength to endure persecution to the end.
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