Prologue of Ohrid

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March 15

1. THE HOLY MARTYR AGAPIUS AND THE SEVEN WITH HIM: PUBLIUS, TIMOLAUS, ROMULUS, ALEXANDER, ALEXANDER, DIONYSIUS AND DIONYSIUS

They all suffered in Caesarea in Palestine at the hand of Prince Urban during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. All seven were extremely young men, none of whom were Christians, except Agapius. Neither were they baptized with water, but theirs was a "baptism by blood." One day these seven young men were observing how Christians were being tortured; one in the fire, another on the gallows and a third before wild beasts. Seeing with what great forbearance these Christians endured all pain and sufferings, these seven became inflamed with a zeal for Christ. They tied their hands behind their backs and came before Urban saying, "We also are Christians." The flattery and threats of Urban remained, but in vain. These young men were joined by a distinguished citizen of this town, Agapius, who, until then, had suffered much for Christ. They became all the more enflamed in their faith and love for the Lord. All were beheaded in the year 303 A.D. and took up their abode in the mansions of the Heavenly King.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR ALEXANDER

Alexander was from the city of Side in Pamphylia. A deputy of the Emperor Aurelius asked Alexander, "Who are you and what are you?" To that, Alexander replied that, he is a shepherd of the flock of Christ." "And where is this flock of Christ?," further inquired the wicked and suspicious governor. Alexander replied, "Throughout the entire world where men live whom Christ the God created, and among those who believe in Him, they are His sheep. But all who are fallen away from their Creator and are slaves to creation, to man-made things and to dead idols, such as you, are estranged from His flock. At the dreadful judgment of God, they will be placed on the left with the goats." The wicked judge then ordered that Alexander, first of all, be beaten with oxen straps and then thrown into a fiery furnace. But the fire did not harm him in any way. After that, he was skinned and was thrown to the wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch him. Finally, the deputy ordered thatAlexander be beheaded. Just as soon as the judge pronounced the sentence, he became possessed by an evil spirit and went insane. Howling, the judge was led before his god-idol and on the way, his evil soul was wrenched from him. St. Alexander suffered between the years 270 - 275 A.D.

3. THE HOLY MARTYR NICANDER, THE EGYPTIAN

Nicander was skinned and then beheaded for his faith in Christ. As a physician, his crime was that he ministered to Christian martyrs and honorably buried their martyred bodies. He suffered honorable in the year 302 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY MARTYRS AGAPIUS, ALEXANDER AND NICANDER

From every state, the Lord chooses His army,

Everyone in whom the flame of love and faith burns;

From among physicians, sages, peasants and laborers,

From among emperors and fishermen--an army of martyrs!

The sword beheaded, the Lord received the wise Alexander,

The sword beheaded, the Lord took the merciful Nicander,

The sword beheaded eight beautiful and young apples,

Beneath the sword, the All-sustaining Hand receives them.

Those whom the world from its sheepfold scoops up and discards

With His tender hand, the Lord gathers as the most beautiful blossoms.

Shoveled aside as a weed, the first citizen

Agapius, the Lord, as His son, received.

Ten martyrs and glorious men

Now, sing in eternity in the angelic choir.

It is not the same to die, to die, although for what:

Some of the dead are blessed and others cursed.

Who dies for Christ's sake, with him is blessing,

Who dies persecuting Christ, curse is with him.

RELECTION

Love for whomever or for whatever, even love for oneself can, in time, grow cold in man, can be lost altogether and can even be twisted into hatred. But the love of man for God, once gained and established, is more difficult to cool off, except if one loses his mind. In the first instance man diminishes or erases his love either out of change in himself or because of a change in the objects of his love. In the second instance man can diminish his love toward God only because of a change in him and never because of a change in God. All of this is neatly and clearly explained by St. Isaac the Syrian saying, "There is a kind of love that is similar to a brook following a rainfall which quickly ceases after the rain stops. But there is a love similar to a spring which erupts through the earth, which never ceases. The first love is humanlove, and the second love is Divine Love." St. Simeon the New Theologian, speaks about Divine Love, "O Holy Love! You are the end of the Law. You overcome me; You warm me; You inflame my heart to immeasurable love for God and my brothers. Out of love, God became man. Out of love, He endured all His life-giving suffering in order to deliver man from the throes of Hades and bring him to heaven. Out of love, the apostles completed their difficult course. Out of love, the martyrs shed their blood in order not to lose Christ."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus when Pilate brought Him out before the Jews:

1. How the Lord was flogged by the Roman soldiers;

2. How after flagellation, He was mocked by them; they placed a thorny crown upon His head and dressed Him in a purple robe;

3. How Pilate presents Him to the Jews saying, "Behold the man!" (St. John 19:5).

HOMILY

About the prophecy concerning the desolate house

"Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate"(St. Matthew 23:38).

Why did our Lord remain silent at the judgment before the Jews and before Pilate? Because, prior to that, He had said everything that needed to be said. He said and foretold how the Jewish elders would hand him over to the unbelievers and how they would kill Him. Many times He had foretold what would personally befall Him. This, His apostles heard and carefully remembered. He also foretold His terrible punishment which the Jews will assume upon themselves by their evil abomination against the Son of God. Even the Jews heard this and forgot it. "Behold, your housewill be abandoned, desolate." The Lord foretold this about the Jews. And this, the Jews heard and forgot. But much later, many remembered these prophetic words, many of whom had participated in the Great Evil when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, plundered it, set it on fire, dispersed its inhabitants and displaced them throughout the world. Many were killed either by suffocation, by starvation or by crucifixion on a cross. The Jews, out of fear and annoyance, forced Pilate to raise his hand against the Lord Jesus. Afterwards, the Roman Empire raised its hand against the Jews. On that day when the prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, the Roman Empire, represented in Jerusalem at one time by Pilate, raised its hand against Jerusalem and their children with a very sharp sword. When Emperor Hadrian restored Jerusalem, he renamed it (Aelia Capitolina)(*) and forbade the Jews from settling in Jerusalem under penalty of death. "Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate." From that time on, until today, Jerusalem was left deserted by the Jews as a people (nation). The children of the wicked ancestors who killed Christ were dispersed everywhere, even to this day, but in their own home.(**) Lord, Almighty and All-Seeing, forgive us our sins.

(*) Hadrian renamed Jerusalem Aelia after his name, for his was called Aelius.

(**)Nota Bene: The State of Israel was established May 14, 1948.
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