Prologue of Ohrid

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March 5

1. THE HOLY MARTYR CONON OF ISAURIA

He was brought up in the Faith of Christ and baptized in the name of the All-Holy and Life-giving Trinity by the Archangel Michael, the Commander of the Angelic Hosts of God. Until his death, the archangel of God invisibly watched over him. Conon was illumined and empowered by the Grace of the Holy Spirit so that his heart was not driven by anything worldly but only by the spiritual and heavenly. When his parents forced him into marriage, the first evening he took a candle and placed it under a utensil and asked his bride, "Which is better, light or darkness?" She replied, "Light." He then began to talk to her about the Faith of Christ and the spiritual life as being far more superior and more appealing than the physical. In this he succeeded. Afterwards Conon converted his wife and her parents to the Faith of Christ. Conon and his wife lived as brother and sister. Shortly thereafter, his wife and parents died, and he withdrew completely from this worldly life and devoted himself completely to prayer, fasting and pious thoughts. He performed great miracles through which he converted many to Christianity. Among other examples, Conon compelled evil spirits to serve him. During the time of a persecution, he was captured, tortured and pierced throughout with knives. The sick anointed themselves with his blood and they were healed. After that, he lived for two additional years in his town of Isauria and presented himself before the Lord. This glorious saint lived and was martyred in the second century.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR CONON THE GARDENER

Conon was born in Nazareth. He was kind and innocent and in all things found favor with God. During the reign of Decius, Conon was persecuted, suffered and martyred for Christ. Throughout, he remained strong in the Faith. He sharply rebuked and criticized the pagan judges because of their stupidity. With nails driven into his feet and tied to the prince's chariot, this virtuous and innocent saint was dragged until he was completely exhausted and fell. It was then that he prayed for the last time and gave up his soul to God in the year 251 A.D.

3. VENERABLE HESYCHIUS THE FASTER

Hesychius was born near Brusa in the eighth century. He then retreated to Mount Maion which had an evil reputation because of demonic apparitions. There, Hesychius built a hut for himself and a chapel dedicated to the honor of St. Andrew the Apostle. He surrounded it with a garden which he cultivated in order to live by his own labor. By his prayers he performed many miracles. Hesychius prophesied that after his death a convent would be built on that place. A month before, he foresaw the day and hour of his death. At midnight on the foreseen day, some men saw his hut glowing with an extraordinary light. When they arrived, they found him dead. Hesychius died peacefully and was received into the kingdom of His Lord in the year 790 A.D. He was buried in the church of St. Andrew. Later, Theophylactus, the Bishop of Amasea, translated his body to Amasea.

4. VENERABLE MARK THE ASCETIC

Mark was an ascetic and miracle-worker. In his fortieth year he was tonsured a monk by his teacher St. John Chrysostom. Mark then spent sixty more years in the wilderness of Nitria in fasting, prayer and writing many spiritual works concerning the salvation of souls. He knew the entire Holy Scriptures by heart. He was very merciful and kind. He wept much for the misfortunes which had befallen all of God's creation. On one occasion, while crying, he prayed to God for a blind puppy of a hyena and the puppy received its sight. In thanksgiving the mother of the hyena brought him a sheepskin. The saint forbade the hyena in the future to kill any more sheep of poor people. He received Communion at the hands of the angels. His homilies concerning the spiritual law, on repentance, and on sobriety, etc., are ranked among the first-class literature of the Church. These works were praised by the great Patriarch Photius himself.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL

The angels, our older and superior brothers are,

The Will of God Most High, their will.

Than light, more bright are they, swifter and brighter,

Of the air on the mountain, lighter and fresher,

In light they are clothed, the light of their Creator,

Tireless laborers of the work of Christ.

For men they are concerned, men, their only concern:

How to God return, the prodigal son,

How, from a strange land, their younger brothers

To return to the joyful courts of the Householder.

Michael, Archistratig, the first among the first,

What Venus is among the stars, he is among the angels;

To every penitent he hurries, to lift him up to God,

No matter how many penitents, he reaches them all.

To serve, serve and serve--for him that is joy,

Even in heaven, service to one's neighbor is paramount.

Service which strengthens life and makes a mother jubilant,

Service which adorns wreaths, unfading,

That service for the angels is joy and celebration

For it is directed to the glory of God and for men, salvation.

REFLECTION

Why do some people, well educated and baptized as Christians, fall away from Christianity and give themselves over to philosophy and to learned theories,pretending these to be something more truthful than Christianity? They do so for two principal reasons: either out of a totally superficial understanding of Christianity or because of sin. A superficial understanding of Christ rejects Him and flees from Christ as does a criminal from a judge. Superficial and sinful Christians were as often enraged and infuriated with Christianity as were the pagans. To the superficial and culpable, it was more comfortable for them to bathe in the shallow swamp of human thoughts than in the perilous depth of Christ. For those who sincerely follow Christ, He constantly calls them to a greater and greater depth; as He once said to the Apostle Peter, "Put out into deep water" (St. Luke 5:4). St. Mark the Ascetic writes that the law of God is understood in accordance with the fulfillment of the commandments of God: "Ignorance compels a person to speak in opposition to that which is beneficial and insolence multiplies vice."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Mystery of Communion as a Mystery of the Perfection of Love:

1. Because on the part of Christ, it means giving completely of Himself to His faithful;

2. Because of this, Christ is received with faith and trust on the part of the faithful;

3. Because of this, it leads to the joyful, fruitful and saving union of God with man.

HOMILY

About traveling with Christ into the deep

"Put out into deep water" (St. Luke 5:4).

This is how our Lord commanded Peter and the rest of the apostles "after He had finished speaking" (St. Luke 5:4). This means that He first gave instructions and immediately following that, He called them to action. This is also important for us. For as soon as we learn something from the Gospels, we immediately need to go out and implement it. The works of the disciple are dear to the Lord, not only the disciple. "Put out into deep water." Along the shore, from the shallow waters, our Lord spoke to the people who were less enlightened in the mysteries of God's Kingdom. He invited the apostles out into the deep. There is less danger in the shallow waters, but the catch is also smaller. In the shallow waters there are snakes, frogs and other lesser repulsive water creatures. That is all the danger. In shallow waters there are only small fish; that is the entire catch. But in the greater depths, the danger is also greater. There you have large sea creatures and great storms. That is dangerous. But there are also much larger and better fish in enormous quantity; that is the catch. O, enlightened one, come therefore into the deep! "Put out into the deep" mysterious sea of life, but do not set out without Christ in your boat. By no means. You might spend the entire night of your life not catching anything, as Peter said, "We have toiled all night and have taken nothing" (St. Luke 4:5). Not only that, but you could face far worse if Christ is not in your boat. Perhaps the winds could carry you away and cast you into an abyss. Perhaps the monstrous and enormous beasts of the sea will consume you. The winds, O enlightened one, those are your own passions which accompany you unavoidably if you set out into the deep without Christ. The enormous and monstrous beasts of the sea are demons who, with the blinking of an eye, can destroy you as with the blinking of an eye "the herd of about two thousand swine rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned" (St. Mark 5:13).

However, if you are going out with Christ into the deep, do not be afraid of anything; but go rejoicefully and courageously glued to Christ. You will lay hold of the best catch; and you will fill both boats with it, the physical and the spiritual. You will snare the best catch, O dedicated one, and, without any dangers, you will arrive to theshore, to the shore of the Kingdom of Christ. Nowhere without Christ! Neither in shallow places nor into the deep. In the shallow places you will become vexed by hunger and by many minor disgusts, but into the deep a greater evil will befall you.

O, my Almighty Savior, You are our Helmsman, our Defense, our Harbor.
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