Prologue of Ohrid

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April 29

1. SAINT BASIL OF OSTROG

Basil was born in Popova, a village in Hercegovina of simple and God-fearing parents. From his youth, he was filled with love for the Church of God and when he reached maturity, he entered to the Monastery of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Birth-giver of God in Trebinje and there received the monastic tonsure. As a monk, he quickly became renown because of his genuine and rare ascetical life. Saint Basil took upon himself mortification upon mortification, each one heavier and more difficult than the last. Later, against his will, he was elected and consecrated bishop of Zahumlje and Skenderia. As a hierarch, he first lived in the Monastery Tvrdosh and from there, as a good shepherd, strengthened his flock in the Orthodox Faith, protecting them from the cruelty of the Turks and the cunning ways of the Latins. When Basil was exceedingly pressed by his enemies and, when Tvrdosh was destroyed by the Turks, he moved to Ostrog, where he lived an austere ascetical life, protecting his flock by his ceaseless and fervent prayer.(*) He died peacefully in the Lord in the sixteenth century, leaving behind his incorruptible relics; incorruptible and miracle-working to the present day. The miracles at the grave of St. Basil are without number. Christians and Muslims alike come before his relics and find healing of their most grave illnesses and afflictions. A great people's assembly (pilgrimage) occurs there annually on the Feast of Pentecost.

(*) A new church was built upon the ruins of the old Tvrdosh Monastery in our day by Nikola Runjevac from the village of Poljica near Trebinje. A wonderful and glorious monumental church (Zaduzbina) before God and before His people.

2. THE NINE MARTYRS IN CYZICUS

These nine brave martyrs, enflamed with love for Christ, refused to offer sacrifices to the idols or to deny Christ the Lord, for which they were brutally tortured and finally beheaded. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, a church was built in Cyzicus in honor of these martyrs where their incorruptible relics were placed. Countless healings have taken place over their relics. Their names were: THEOGONIUS, RUFUS, ANTIPATER, THEOCTIST, ARTEMAS, MAGNUS, THEODOTUS, THAUMASILUS AND PHILEMON. All of them despised everything temporal for the eternal, the corruptible for the incorruptible. That is why the Lord led them to His eternal home and crowned them with unfading wreaths of glory. They suffered honorably and were glorified in the eighth century.

3. VENERABLE MEMNON THE WONDER-WORKER

From his youth Memnon dedicated himself to fasting, prayer and purified himself so much that he became a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. He healed incurable diseases and worked many other miracles. He appeared on the tempests of the seas and rescued ships from disaster. He died peacefully in the Lord in the second century and took up habitation in the heavenly courts of the Lord.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT BASIL OF OSTROG

Saint Basil, one chosen by God,

And of every affliction, wondrous healer,

With the power of your Christ, Whom you greatly loved,

The gravest of the ill, you were able to heal,

Even now, for anyone who honors you, you are able [to do]

And who firmly believe in the Living God.

O glory of the Serbian people, do not cease to help,

For the sinful, do not cease to pray.

In heavenly glory, you are a saint of God

And saints are men with a full healthy spirit,

In you [Basil] we see a true man,

Free from sin and overly filled with healing,

In whom the fire of the Holy Spirit burns,

In whom the love of the resurrected Christ stands.

To the All-powerful God and to you, we are grateful,

Because through you, God pours out abundant mercy,

Through His saint, glorious and of angelic face -

Basil the Serbian, God's chosen one!

REFLECTION

Nothing can be kept secret from our Omniscient God. At every moment, to Him is known all that is being done in the world; both in the external as well as in the internal, spiritual world. Not one intention, not one desire, not one thought of his can man conceal from God. How can you hide from God that which you cannot hide from men; from holy men! One day, Tsar Ivan the Terrible came to church to pray to God. In the church, Blessed Basil, "the fool for Christ," stood for prayer. It is true the Tsar was in church physically, but his thoughts were on the Hill of the Sparrow, a short distance from Moscow, upon which he had begun to construct a palace. Throughout the liturgical services the Tsar thought about how he could extend and complete his palace on that hill. After the services the Tsar noticed Basil and asked him: "Where have you been?" Basil replied: "In church." Basil then immediately asked the Tsar: "O Tsar and where were you?" "I, also, was in church," answered the Tsar. To that the discerning saint replied: "You are not speaking the truth Ivanushka for I perceived how, in your thoughts, you were pacing about on the Hill of the Sparrow and building a palace."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:

1. How the Lord, blessing His disciples, is raised above the earth and is ascending into Heaven;

2. How the disciples watched Him as He was ascending until a cloud hid Him from their sight.

HOMILY

About the incomparable love of Christ

"And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).

"The love of Christ that surpasses knowledge!" Surpasses, not the knowledge of God, but surpasses the knowledge of man, darkened and embittered by sin. God's knowledge is equal to God's love and neither surpasses the other. But man's knowledge, alienated from God, does not comprehend God's love at all, shown through the Lord Jesus Christ. God understands man but man does not understand God. God attempted, by reason, to enable man to understand through nature and through the Old Revelation, through the Law and the prophets, but man did not want to submit to that knowledge. Then, God attempted to overcome men through love and through this love to draw them to Himself. From that [love] comes the Incarnation of the Son of God, from that [love] thence is His sacrifice and His suffering to the death. Such inexpressible love of God, beyond words and knowledge, have captured and returned many to God, i.e., made them to understand; gave them a new knowledge, pure and bright. But, it confused many of them, again, for it did not agree with their darkened and embittered understanding.

"And to know," says the apostle. How can we brethren, know that which is beyond knowing and beyond understanding? In no other way than by a change of mind, awakening and sharpening of the mind, illumination and elevation of the mind: in brief, the acquiring of a new mind, which would have the capability to understand the love of Christ which is beyond the present sinful mind of men.

O the depth of God's wisdom and knowledge! Whoever even approaches just a little closer to You that one feels that You are, at the same time, the depth of the love of God.

O Lord, ascended into heaven, illumine our mind with Your understanding that we may more easily adopt Your unfathomable love toward mankind and weep--weep from sorrow because of our hardened hearts and because of our darkened and malicious minds and weep because of joy, because of Your love toward us, who are darkened and embittered.
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