Prologue of Ohrid

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March 7

1. THE HOLY SEVEN PRIESTLY-MARTYRS IN CHERSON: BASIL, EPHREM, EUGENIUS, ELPIDUS, AGATHADORUS, AETHERIUS, AND CAPITO

All of them were bishops in Cherson at different times. All suffered and were martyred at the hands of unbelievers, whether they were Jews, Greeks or Scythians, except Aetherius, who died peacefully. All of them were sent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem as missionaries to bring the light of the Gospel to these wild and uncivilized areas. They were tortured and suffered for their Lord. In Cherson, Basil raised the son of a prince from the dead which embittered the Jews and they, in turn, brought an accusation against him. He was tied and bound by the feet and dragged through the streets until his soul departed him. Ephrem was beheaded. Eugenius, Elpidus and Agathadorus were beaten with rods and stoned until they gave up their souls to God. Aetherius lived during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. He governed the Church in freedom and peace, erected a large church in Cherson, and died peacefully. When the last of them, Capito, was appointed bishop for the wild and savage Scythians, they sought a sign from him that they may believe. They suggested that he enter into a fiery furnace and, if he was not consumed, they would all believe in Christ. With fervent prayers and hope in God, Capito placed his episcopal pallium over his shoulders, signed himself with the sign of the cross, and entered into the flaming hot furnace, keeping his heart close to God. He remained in the flames for about an hour without any injury or damage, either to his body or to his vesture. He came out in good health. Then, at once, all of them cried out: "One is God, the God of the Christians, great and mighty, Who protects His servant in the flaming furnace." The entire city and all the vicinity were then baptized. This miracle was spoken of at length at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. The participants in the Council all glorified God and praised the steadfast and solid faith of St. Capito. It happened that while Capito was traveling along the Dnieper river, he was captured by the pagan Scythians and was drowned. All these seven priestly-martyrs suffered during the early years of the fourth century.

2. THE VERERABLE EMILIANUS

Emilianus was born in Rome and committed many grave sins in his youth. When Emilianus came to his senses, he refrained from sinning and began to tremble just thinking about the judgment of God. Emilianus immediately entered a monastery and by fasting, vigils and obedience, he tamed and shriveled his body. He was an ideal example to his brethren in all virtuous acts of asceticism. Frequently at night, he would step out of the monastery and enter into a nearby cave to pray. Not knowing where Emilianus was going, the abbot of the monastery secretly followed him one night. The abbot saw Emilianus standing at prayer in reverence and in tears. All at once, a heavenly light, brighter than the sun, encompassed the entire mountain but especially the cave and Emilianus. A voice was heard from heaven saying, "Emilianus, your sins are forgiven you." Filled with fright, the abbot hurried back to the monastery. The next day, he revealed to the brethren what he had seen and heard the previous night. Great respect was shown to Emilianus by the brethren. He lived long and died to the Lord.(*)

(*) On this date St. Lawrence is commemorated in the great Greek Synaxarion. He was a benefactor of the Monastery Phaneromene on the island of Salamis. He lived in Megara as a married man with two sons. He was righteous and pious. The Holy Birth-Giver of God appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to go to Salamis and there to restore her church. He went there and, indeed, he discovered the destroyed ruins and built a new church. Here, he was tonsured a monk and died on March 7, 1770 A.D. Afterwards, many miracles occurred in this monastery over the relics of St. Lawrence.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT EMILIANUS

Emilianus, a grave sinner,

And from sin, the soul aches,

Emilianus, disconsolate

For forgiveness, he prays to God:

O Most High, O Most wonderful,

From Whom the sun has light,

From Whom the angelic choir, its wakeful

Existence, joy and radiance receive!

For You only, O God, do I care,

Repentantly, I return to You,

Only to You do I offer thanks

That now, I truly comprehend life.

Tears, tears, tears, I shed,

Body and spirit now are fasting,

Vision of the world and hearing I conceal,

Forgive, O God, forgive, forgive!

For Your mercy I am a field,

Weed me and cultivate me,

Let my soul be alive,

And the flesh suffer and feel pain.

Of all men, I am the worst,

Behold, I judge myself,

Just do not judge me, O God,

I fear You, Only You!

REFLECTION

A thick rope is made from thin, fibrous strands of hemp. One thin fiber cannot hold you tied nor can it strangle you. For you will easily, as in jest, break it and free yourself from it. If you are tied by a thick rope, you can be held bound and even be strangled by it. Neither can you break it easily nor free yourself from it. As a thick rope consists of thin and weak fibers, so the passions of man consist of minor sins. Man can break off and turn away from the beginnings of minor sins. But, when sin after sin is repeated, the weave becomes all the more stronger and stronger until in the end a passion is created, which then turns man into some kind of monster as only it knows how. You cannot easily cut it off, nor distance yourself from it, nor can you divorce yourself from it. O, if only men would beware and take care of the beginnings of sins! Then, they would not have to endure much in freeing themselves from passions. "To cut off rooted passions is as difficult as cutting off the fingers," said a monk from the Holy Mountain. To free himself from sinful passions, St. Emilianus was helped by thinking thoughts of death and, understandably, the Grace of God, without which it is extremely difficult to rid oneself of the fetters of passion. To think often of impending death, to repent and to implore Grace from Almighty God, these three save a man from the bondage of sin. St. Sisoes was asked, "At which time can passions be uprooted?" The saint replied, "As soon as one passion takes root in you, uproot it immediately."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus at prayer in Gethsemane:

1. How He falls on His face and prays three times, "My Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from me"(St. Matthew 26:39), and again, "Your will be done" (St. Matthew 26:42).

2. How He sweated at prayer, "And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (St. Luke 22:44).

3. How all of this was because of you and me; because of my sins and your sins; and for the sake of my salvation and your salvation.

HOMILY

About the hand of the betrayer

"And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray Me is with Me on the table(St. Luke 22:21).

It is most difficult for a general to wage war when he has an enemy within the camp; not only external enemies, but internal enemies among his own. Judas was considered among his own. However, he was the enemy from within. Rows of enemies crowded and closed ranks around Christ and, from within, Judas was preparing betrayal. His hand was on the table which Christ blessed, and his thoughts were aligned with the enemies where darkest evil, hatred and malice seethed against the gentle Lord.

Is it not also the same today, that the hand of the many traitors of Christ are at the table with Him? Which table is not Christ's? On what table are not His gifts? He is the Householder and He nourishes and feeds His guests. The guests have nothing of their own, nothing! All good and all abundance which is given to them is given to them by the hand of Christ. Therefore, is it not so that Christ is present at every table as a Householder and as a Servant? Therefore, are not those also the hands of all who even today betray Christ on the table together with Him? They eat His bread and they speak against Him. They warm themselves by His sun and they slander His name. They breathe His air and they rise up against His Church. They live off His mercy and they banish Him from their homes, from their schools, from their courts, from their books and from their hearts. They trample His commandments willfully, maliciously and ridicule His law. Are they not then the betrayers of Christ and the followers of Judas? Do not be afraid of them! God did not command that we be afraid of them but wait to see their end. Our Lord was not afraid of Judas nor is He afraid of all the traitorous hordes until the end of time. He knows their end and He already has His victory in His hands. Therefore, do not you be afraid either. Adhere faithfully to Christ the Lord, both when it appears to you that His causes succeed and go forward in the world and then, again, when it appears to you that His causes collapse and perish. Do not be afraid! If you become frightened, perhaps your hand will be found clenched under the hand of Judas at the table of Christ.

O Lord, All-Victorious, sustain us with Your power and mercy.
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