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 and enslaved many Christians. Among them were 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 Moslem leaders came to them. They counseled and advised the commanders to embrace the Islamic Faith, but the commanders refused to listen. 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 one of them had many witnesses nearby saying it is his field, and the other had no witnesses, but only himself--whose field would you say was?" The Saracens answered: "Indeed it is his who had many witnesses!" "You have judged correctly," the commanders answered. "That is the way it is 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, whereas Mohammed witnesses to himself that he is a prophet and hasn't a single 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 is 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 this the commanders replied: "If that 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 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 of Emperor Peter the Great, but because of intrigue he withdrew to the Solovki Monastery, where he underwent a life of strict asceticism. In the year 1720 A.D., in his eighty-fifth year, he reposed 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 I leave this world with joy."

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

When the father was already an old man, the son was a youth of seventeen. During the reign of Dometian, 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 hearken 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 he sees his father do,

And he is not ashamed of his father's deeds.

My father teaches me the True Faith,

The true Faith and the knowledge of God,

That I know the One God,

My Merciful Creator;

That I know Christ the Savior,

My Redeemer from death.

Whatever you do with the body of my father,

That 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

As long as you are on earth, consider yourself a guest in the household of Christ. If you are at table, it is He who honors you. If you breathe air, it is His air you breathe. If you bathe, it is in His water you bathe. If you travel, it is over His land that you travel. If you amass goods, it is His goods you amass. If you squander them, it is His goods that you squander. If you are powerful, it is because He allows you to be 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 somewhere, He sees you. If you do anything, He remembers it. He is the most considerate Householder Who ever hosted you. Be considerate 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 with glory on earth.


CONTEMPLATION

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 purifies the body from lust and vice, and restores it to life;

3. As a cure that enlivens a man and makes him a healthy member of the immortal Body of Christ.  But if a man will remain a corrupt member to the end, eventually he will be cut off and cast aside.

HOMILY

on the heir and the slave

"Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant" (Galatians 4:1).

As long as the heir apparent is in the cradle, what would make him better than the son of a slave? His body is not better, nor are his thoughts more elevated, nor are his wishes or desires more pure. Such is the son of the king, the son of a slave and the son of a beggar. For a few years the son of the king does not differ from the son of the slave. However, at some point the king's son reaches maturity and, fullly conscious of his dignity, receives authority over the kingdom. Likewise the slave's son reaches maturity and, with full consciousness, 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 must serve, and the king must 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, but the Christian rules over nature. The pre-Christian era of the history of mankind shows us how man was a slave to the elements of nature, to the flesh, to idols, and to 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 did the Israelites, did not stand before God like children or as heirs before their Father, but were as slaves and servants before their Lord and Judge. But when the fullness of time was come (Galatians 4:4), the Only-Begotten Son of God came to earth. He made it possible that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:5), and by the Spirit of God to address God: Abba, Father! (Galatians 4:6).

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 is such that in the name Christ we can call God "Father."  The duty of the master is to rule over ourselves, our flesh, our thoughts, our desires, and all of nature around us.

O Only-begotten Son of God, by Thy mercy and sacrifice we have received the adoption of sons. Oh, help us that with Thine aid we may persevere to the end in purity and in truth.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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