Prologue of Ohrid

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April 28

1. THE HOLY APOSTLES JASON, SOSIPATER AND THE VIRGIN CERCYRA

The first two were of the Seventy Apostles and the latter was the daughter of a king from the island of Corfu. Jason and Sosipater are mentioned by St. Paul and he calls them his relatives: Jason and Sosipater, my relatives (Romans 16:21). Jason was born in Tarsus, as was the Apostle Paul, and Sosipater was born in Achaea. The first was appointed bishop of Tarsus by the apostle and the other was appointed Bishop of Iconium. Traveling about and preaching the Gospel, these two apostles arrived on the island of Corfu, where they succeeded in building a church to the honor of St. Stephen the First-martyr and in winning over some heathens to the Church. The king of the island threw them both into prison, where seven thieves were also imprisoned. Their names were: Saturnius, Jakischolus, Faustianus, Januarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius. The apostles converted these seven to the Faith of Christ, and turned these wolves into lambs. Upon hearing this, the king ordered that these seven be put to death in boiling pitch. Thus they received the wreaths of martyrdom. Later, while the king was torturing the apostles, his daughter, the virgin Cercyra, watched from the window at the suffering of these men of God. Learning for what reason they were being tortured, she declared herself a Christian and distributed all of her jewels to the poor. The king became enraged at his daughter and closed her in a special prison. Since he did not succeed to dissuade her from Christ by this imprisonment, he ordered that the prison be burned. The prison burned, but the virgin remained alive. Upon seeing this miracle, many people were baptized. The infuriated king then ordered his daughter to be tied to a tree and Cercyra was slain by arrows. Those who believed in Christ fled from the terrible king to the nearest island and hid themselves. The king pursued them by boat in order to apprehend them, but the boat sank into the sea and thus the unrighteous one perished as once did pharaoh. The new king embraced the Faith of Christ, was baptized, and received the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater freely preached the Gospel and strengthened the Church of God in Corfu unto deep old age. There they ended their earthly lives and took up their habitation in the mansions of the Lord.

2. THE HOLY MARTYRS MAXIMUS, DADA AND QUINTILIAN

Maximus, Dada and Quintilian suffered during the reign of Diocletian. They were tried and tortured by the commander Tarquinius. After imprisonment and torture they were all beheaded.

3. THE HOLY MARTYR TIBALD

Tibald was a Slav from Pannonia. During the reign of Diocletian he was brutally tortured for the Faith of Christ, and suffered in a place called Tsibal.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY VIRGIN CERCYRA

The virgin Cercyra, both tender and pure,

From the imperial court, heard about the Name of Christ.

That Holy Name overpowered her heart,

And ready was she to suffer for Him.

A father instructs his daughter--but how? And in what?

"God is One, Father. Bow down to Him!

Through Christ is His love manifested;

With that love now I am seized.

For myself I do not mourn, nor of torture am I afraid.

Do what you wish: before God I stand."

Cercyra the virgin in the flame stood,

Quiet, meek, and radiant like a dove.

The crimson flame raged, the entire dungeon cracked.

Cercyra's heart beat unafraid;

Prayer and hope nested in her heart.

With these, the fire she overcame, and not the fire, her,

The virgin, pierced with arrows, easily separated herself

From the vanity of the world by divine love.

Her body, by deadly arrows, was shattered,

But the soul of the virgin, the Lord received intact.

REFLECTION

The mystery of our salvation is concluded with the appearance of God among men in a human body. St. Meliton of Sardis writes: "The works of Christ, following His baptism, manifested and proved to the world that His divinity was hidden in His body. Being God, He was also perfect man. He revealed to us His two natures: His divinity, by His miracles performed throughout the three years following His baptism; and His humanity, throughout those years when the weakness of the flesh hid the signs of His divinity, even though He was truly the Pre-eternal God." The manner of the union of divinity with humanity is difficult to comprehend, but the event of the appearance of God as a man among men is perfectly comprehensible from the viewpoint of the love of God for man. Even the creation of the world, as an event, is not more comprehensible--one can say even it is less comprehensible--than the event above the events: the Incarnation of God.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:

1. How He led His disciples to a hill near Bethany;

2. How, with up-lifted hands, He blessed the disciples.

HOMILY

About seeking the face of the Lord

"Your presence (face), O Lord, I seek" (Psalms 27:8).

"Let Your face shine upon Your servant" (Psalm 31:16).

King David sought that which the simple fishermen received without seeking. King David was in a state of darkness and yearned to see the radiant face of the Lord, which was revealed to the simple fishermen in its complete radiance. King David belonged to the period of waiting, but the disciples belonged to the period of fulfillment. There [the period of waiting], it was only the announcement of the coming of the Lord, but here [the period of fulfillment], it is the coming of the Lord. There, a presentiment and reverie about the face of the Lord; here, the radiance and beauty of that same face. The face of the Lord was radiant even before the Resurrection, and how much more radiant after the Resurrection! The inextinguishable flame of Divinity hid behind the icon of His body and shown through that bodily icon. The disciples gazed upon Him fixedly and they rejoiced in their hearts. For forty days they gazed upon His glorified body and they rejoiced in their hearts!

O my brethren, let us also seek the radiant face of the Lord in order to feel the delight with which the angels of God are elated. If we seek Him with yearning in this life, then we will see Him, at least, in the other life. But if we do not seek Him in this life, then we will not see Him either in this life or in the other life. Brethren, let us yearn for the face of Christ! His every word shows us one feature of His face. Each of His apostles shows us some characteristic of His face. His every deed shows us some feature of His face. Each of His saints shows us some ray of His radiant face. With yearning, brethren, let us exam the face of the Lord. Let us assemble ray after ray, until it reveals the entire sun. Let us enshrine that Sun in the depths of our hearts, that He may illumine our bodily courts from within. Let us plant this inexpressible sweet vineyard in our hearts, that we may taste of that immortal drink with which the angels are filled.

O Lord, Bearer of light, make thy face to shine upon us, Your servants.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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