Prologue of Ohrid

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March 6

1. THE HOLY FORTY-TWO MARTYRS FROM AMMORIA

They were all commanders of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus. When the Emperor Theophilus lost the battle against the Saracens at the city of Ammoria, the Saracens captured the city, enslaved many Christians and among them these commanders. The remaining Christians were either killed or sold into slavery. The commanders were thrown into prison where they remained for seven years. Many times the Muslim leaders came to them. They counseled and advised the commanders to embrace the Islamic Faith, but the commanders did not want to hear about it. When the Saracens spoke to the commanders, saying, "Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ," the commanders asked them, "If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, `This field is mine,' and the other, `It is not, it is mine,' and near by, one of them had many witnesses saying it is his field and the other had no witnesses, but only himself, what would you say, `Whose field is it?'" The Saracens answered, "Indeed, to him who had many witnesses!" "You have judged correctly," the commanders answered. That is the way with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, from Moses to John the Forerunner, whom you also recognize and who witness to and about Him [Christ], but Mohammed witnesses only to himself that he is a prophet and does not have even one witness. The Saracens were ashamed and again they tried to defend their faith in this manner: "Our faith is better than the Christian Faith as proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity." To that the commanders replied, "If it were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith for, at one time, all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows torture and suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins." After seven years, they were beheaded in the year 845 A.D. Their bodies were then thrown into the Euphrates river, but they floated to the other side of the shore where they were gathered and honorably buried by Christians.

2. THE BLESSED JOB

Job was born in Moscow in the year 1635 A.D. Church singing and liturgical services drew him to the Church. He became the spiritual father to Emperor Peter the Great but, because of intrigue, he withdrew into the Slovecki Monastery, where he underwent a difficult life of asceticism. In the year 1720 A.D., in his eighty fifth year, he died in the Lord. Before his death he cried out, "Blessed is the God of our Fathers and as He is thus, I am not afraid but, with joy, I leave this world."

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS CONON THE FATHER AND CONON THE SON

When the father was already an old man, the son was a youngster of seventeen years. During the reign of Domentian, they were sawed in half for their faith in Christ and were glorified and honored in the Church on earth and in heaven. They honorably suffered in the year 275 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT CONON

The emperor counsels the youthful Conon;

From old age, your father is deranged,

You, young man, do not harken to his words.

But deny and forget Christ,

Offer sacrifice to the Roman gods,

And then remain with me in honor.

The youthful Conon courageously replied:

It is written, O emperor torturer,

That the son does what from the father, he sees,

And of the father's deed, he is not ashamed.

My father, the True Faith teaches me,

The True Faith and the knowledge of God,

That I know the One God,

My Creator, Merciful,

That I know Christ the Savior,

From death, my Redeemer.

Whatever you do with the body of my father,

This also do with mine;

But over the soul, you have no authority,

Our souls are our possessions

And the possessions of the Son of God.

REFLECTION

For as long as you are on earth, consider yourself a guest in the Household of Christ. If you are at the table, it is He who treats you. If you breathe air, it is His air you breathe. If you bathe, it is in His water you are bathing. If you are traveling, it is over His land that you are traveling. If you are amassing goods, it is His goods you are amassing. If you are squandering, it is His goods that you are squandering. If you are powerful, it is by His permission that you are strong. If you are in the company of men, you and the others are His guests. If you are out in nature, you are in His garden. If you are alone, He is present. If you set out or turn anywhere, He sees you. If you do anything, He remembers. He is the most considerate Householder by Whom you were ever hosted. Be careful then toward Him. In a good household, the guest is required to behave. These are all simple words but they convey to you a great truth. All the saints knew this truth and they governed their lives by it. That is why the Eternal Householder rewarded them with eternal life in heaven and glory on earth.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Mystery of Communion as a life-giving cure for the soul and body:

1. As a cure that heals and cleanses the soul from sinful maladies and restores it to life;

2. As a cure that heals and cleanses the body from avarice and vice and restores it to life;

3. As a cure that enlivens man and makes him a healthy member of the immortal Body of Christ, who, if he is not, would remain decayed to the end and eventually, he would be cut off and cast aside.

HOMILY

About the heir and the slave

"I mean that as long as the heir is not of age,he is no different from the slave" (Galatians 4:1).

As long as the heir apparent is in the cradle, what would make him better than the son of a slave? Neither is his body better, nor are his thoughts more elevated, nor are his wishes or desires more pure. Such is the son of the king; so is the son of the slave; so is the son of the beggar. For a few years the son of the king does not differ from the son of the slave. However, when the son of the king reaches maturity and with full consciousness of his dignity, he receives authority over the kingdom, and when the son of a slave reaches full maturity and with full consciousness, he succumbs to the yoke of slavery. Then the enormous difference is seen. Then it is clearly manifest that the heir and the slave are not equal. The slave has to serve and the king has to rule. The apostle means to say that it is the same with Christians and with those who are not Christians. The non-Christian is a slave to nature and the Christian rules over nature. The non-Christian era of the history of mankind shows us how man was the slave to the elements of nature, the slave of the flesh, the slave of idols and creatures. The Christian era of the history of mankind shows us how man was master and owner, a nobleman of a royal race and heir to all. Even those who knew about the One True God, as the Israelites knew, were not like children toward God nor heirs toward their father but were slaves and servants toward their Lord and Judge. "But when the fullness of time had come"(Galatians 4:4), the Only-Begotten Son of God came to earth. He made it possible "sothat we might receive adoption" (Galatians 4:5), and to address the Spirit of God and cry out, "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:5). Brethren why did Christ come to earth? He did so to make us better than slaves and to give us the right of sonship and the duty of the master. The right of sonship, that in the name Christ, we can call God, Father, and the duty of the master to rule over ourselves, over our flesh, over our thoughts, over our desires, and over all nature around us.

O Only-Begotten Son of God, by Your mercy and sacrifice, we have received the adoption of sons.

O help us that with Your help we may persevere to the end in purity and in truth.
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