Prologue of Ohrid

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March 14

1. THE VENERABLE BENEDICT

Benedict was born in Nursia [Norcia] a province in Italy, in the year 480 A.D., of wealthy and distinguished parents. He did not remain long in school for he alone saw that because of lack of knowledge one can lose "the great understanding of his soul." He left school "an unlearned wise man and an understanding fool." He retreated to a monastery where he was tonsured by the monk Romanus after which he withdrew to a steep mountain where he remained in a cave for more than three years in a great struggle over his soul. Romanus brought him bread and lowered it down the steep mountain on a rope to the opening of the cave. When Benedict became known in the vicinity and in order to retreat from the glory of man, he withdrew from this cave. He was merciless toward himself. Once, when an unclean and raging passion of the flesh seized him, he removed all his clothes and rolled around naked in the thorns until he repelled every thought of a woman. God endowed him with many spiritual gifts: he discerned thoughts; he healed; he expelled evil spirits; he raised the dead; he appeared to some openly; and to others who were distant, he appeared in dreams. At one time, Benedict perceived that the glass of wine served to him was poisoned. When he made the sign of the cross over it, the glass burst. In the beginning he established twelve monasteries and in all of them, he placed twelve monks each. Later on, he founded the special order of the Benedictines which exists even today in the Roman Church. On the sixth day before his death, he ordered that his grave which had been prepared earlier be opened for the saint foresaw that his end was near. He assembled all the monks, counseled them and then gave up his soul to the Lord whom he had faithfully served in poverty and in purity. Scholastica, his sister by birth, lived in a convent and looking up to her brother, she greatly mortified herself and reached a high state of spiritual perfection. When St. Benedict gave up his soul, two monks, one traveling on the road and one at prayer in a far away cell, simultaneously saw the same vision. They saw a path extending from earth to heaven, covered with a precious woven fiber and illuminated on both sides by rows of men. At the head of the path, there stood a man of indescribable beauty and light who said to them that this path was prepared for Benedict, favored by God. As a result of this vision, these two brothers learned that their good abbot departed from this world. He died peacefully in the year 543 A.D. and entered into the eternal Kingdom of Christ the King.

2. SAINT EUSCHEMON, BISHOP OF LAMPSACUS

At the time of the Iconoclastic controversy Euschemon endured persecution and imprisonment. He died during the reign of Emperor Theophilus, the Iconoclast (829-842 A.D.).

3. SAINT THEOGNOSTUS

Theognostus was Metropolitan of Kiev. He was a Greek by origin and a successor to St. Peter of Kiev. He suffered much from the Mongol hordes, especially at the hands of Janibeg Khan. Theognostus was slandered by his own Russian people before the Mongolian emperor because he did not render the emperor any tribute for his episcopal rank. When the emperor summoned and questioned him concerning this, Theognostus replied: "Christ our God has redeemed this Church from paganism by His Precious Blood. For what and on what should I pay tribute to the pagans?" In the end he was released and returned home. He governed the Church for twenty-five years. He died to the Lord in the year 1353 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT BENEDICT

Benedict, a mighty-miracle-worker, was he,

A tearful devout person and a companion dear.

Led by the Spirit of God, by faith was correct,

A loving leader, mighty, resolute and humble.

Placid was his novice young;

Once, rising early, to the water Placid, he went,

At that moment holy father [Benedict] prayed to God,

But at once, his spirit perceived in the distance:

Behold, the brook suddenly rose, tumbling stones;

Placid already in death, tosses in the torrent,

The brook seized him and with him was toying,

The saint heard a scream, his own name he heard.

There, faith is necessary, but also pursuit,

Quickly, the Elder, Maurus the monk he sent.

Maurus, with a hurried leap, in the water jumped,

On the water as on a road, to Placid he rushed

And Maurus unaware, that on the water he was walking,

[The] prayers of the saint upheld him on the surface.

When Maurus and Placid to the elder came,

Kissed the elder's hand and Placid sobbed:

I saw you, O elder, above my head,

When my heart was overly-filled with dread

By the hairs you grabbed me and above the water lifted me

Until, in that moment, Maurus to my assistance came!

Through the prayers of Holy Father Benedict,

God, also proclaimed Maurus as a miracle-worker.

REFLECTION

We can hardly find a better example as to how we should not become lazy and how we should not procrastinate in prayer and in work for tomorrow's day than by this example which is given to us by St. Ephrem the Syrian. "Once a brother was inspired by the devil to think: Give yourself rest today and tomorrow rise for vigil." But he answered the thought, "Who knows, perhaps, I will not even get up tomorrow, that is why I need to rise today." Before work, he was also inspired with this thought, "Give yourself rest today and complete your work tomorrow." And again he responded, "No, I will complete my work today and about tomorrow's day, the Lord will take care of it." St. Anthony teaches, " Before the closing of each day, arrange your life as though this is your last day on earth and you will protect yourself from sins."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus before Pilate:

1. How the Lord is silent before Pilate;

2. How Judas, at that time, threw the pieces of silver into the Temple and hanged himself;

3. And again, how Pilate questions and the Lord is silent.

HOMILY

About Christ's prophecy concerning His Glory

"From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven"(St. Matthew 26:24).

He who does not see God as the merciful Samaritan on earth will see Him as the Dreadful Judge in Heaven. So blinded were the leaders of the Jews that they were unable to see in Christ the Lord neither God, nor the Messiah, nor a Prophet, nor even a simple good man. They placed Him beneath ordinary good people. Not only that, they placed Him even lower than the thieves. They released Barabas and they condemned Christ! In general, they did not even consider Christ a man. They spit upon Him; they mocked Him; they made a masquerade of Him, as some cheap and unneeded thing. Exactly at that moment when the Jews maliciously played with Christ as some cheap and unneeded thing, the Lord suddenly opened His mouth and spoke, "From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven." What a distance there is between what Christ is in truth and that which the Jews held Him to be!

The Son of Man, Who sits on the right hand of Power, is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was seen as such soon after that by the Holy Arch-Deacon Stephen and many many others. The Son of Man Who comes on the clouds with angels and countless numbers of powers and heavenly hosts is again that same Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as He was seen in His Revelation, written by St. John, the Theologian and Evangelist.

O my brethren, do not be misled by deluding and illusionary tales of those men who speak, "When we see Christ in the Heavens as God, then we will believe in Him." That faith will be a little too late, and in vain will that vision be. With our faith we must see Christ as God in that humiliated, spat upon, beaten, bloodied, and ridiculed man; in that silent and condemned One in the court of Caiaphas Whom the Jews considered as something cheap and unneeded and Whom they turned into a masquerade. This is the Faith that is valued in the heavens. This is the Faith that is rewarded by resurrection and immortality. This is the Faith which, until now, nurtured and transplanted to heaven numerous armies of the holiest souls, of the strongest characters, the most forbearing heroes and the most illustrious minds. O humiliated Lord, raise us up to this Faith.
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