Prologue of Ohrid

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March 21

1. SAINT JAMES, BISHOP AND CONFESSOR

Neither the place of his birth nor the place where James served as bishop are known. Only this is known: he fulfilled the law of Christ and spent much time in mortifying himself through strict fasting and prayer. During the time of Copronymos, James endured great hardships and suffering at the hands of the Iconoclasts, such as hunger, imprisonment and ridicule of all sorts. Finally, he gave up his soul to God, Whom he had faithfully served in this life. He lived and suffered in the eighth century.

2. VENERABLE CYRIL, THE BISHOP OF CATANIA IN SICILY

Born in Antioch, Cyril was a disciple of St. Peter. He governed the flock of Christ well. With the aid of prayer, he had the gift of working many miracles. He did so with bitter water which was unfit to drink. In that place in the summer, there was no other water, but through prayer he changed this bitter water into sweet drinkable water. He died peacefully.

3. SAINT THOMAS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Thomas lived during the reign of the Emperors Maurice and Phocas and at the time of the Patriarchs St. John the Faster and Cyriac. Because of his great piety and zeal, Thomas attracted the attention of St. John and was advanced to the order of patriarchal deputy by that saint. Following the death of Cyriac, Thomas was elected patriarch. At this time, an extraordinary event occurred. On one occasion when there was a procession with crosses, the crosses began to sway on their own and began to strike one another. All the people were amazed at this. When the patriarch learned about this being an actual occurrence, he summoned Theodore Sykeon, the renown hermit who possessed the "gift of discernment." The patriarch implored Theodore to explain to him what this incident foretells. Theodore prayed to God and revealed to the patriarch that this occurrence portents great misfortunes, both for the Church and for the Greek Empire, which will surface as a result of internal religious and internal political dissensions. Christians will fight and annihilate each other. All of this was shortly fulfilled. Thomas implored Theodore to pray for him that God would take him before these tragedies begin. "Do you command that I come to you or that we see each other over there before God." This is how Theodore replied to the patriarch, indicating that the patriarch would die soon. That very same day the patriarch became ill and died. Shortly after him, St. Theodore also died. St. Thomas died and took up habitation with the Lord in 610 A.D.

4. THE VENERABLE SERAPION

Serapion was a companion of St. Anthony the Great. He was the abbot of the Monastery of Arsina in the Nitrian wilderness where there were over eleven thousand monks. Paladius and Sozomenus called him "Great." He died about the year 366 A.D. St. Serapion wrote, "Do not think that sickness is difficult; only sin is difficult. Sickness accompanies us only to the grave but sin follows the sinner even after the grave."

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT SERAPION

Serapion, to save a sinner, he wanted,

The appearance of a sinner upon himself, he then took,

And to the sinner he entered, as if sin to commit,

But before sinning, to her, in this manner, he spoke:

You wait for a while, the entire night we have

Until, my prayer, I complete, then to misdeed we will proceed!

Serapion began the prayers to read

Uplifting his mind toward God, that it not wander anywhere.

And prayer after prayer began to reel off,

Sigh after sigh, to the Most High he uplifts.

The entire Psalter and other prayers he read,

And lengthy prayers for the sinner he began;

With sobbing and sighing, his prayers he interrupts,

Until even the sinful woman began to moan,

To moan and sob as never before in her life,

Realized that the saint, because of sin did not come,

Rather to save her from her perversion

And to raise her to God and from mud to cleanse her.

Then, exclaimed the woman: What should I do?

Behold, ashamed and repulsed with myself, am I!

Serapion, then instructions, gave he to her,

And to the wise sisters, committed her to their care.

Then the path before him, to the wilderness he took

Joyful, because a sinful soul he saved.

REFLECTION

You will hear this kind of justification from many who pursue riches: "When I become rich, I will be able to perform good works!" Do not believe them, for they deceive both you and themselves. St. John Climacus knew in depth the most secret motives of men's souls when he said, "The beginning of love of money is the pretext of alms giving and the end of it is hatred of the poor" (Step 16). This is confirmed by all lovers of money, the rich or the less rich. The average man says, "If only it were that I had money, I would carry out this and that good work!" Do not believe him. Let him not believe himself. Let him look at himself, as in a mirror, at those who have money and who are not willing to do this or that good work. That is how he would be if he acquired some money. Again, the wise John says, "Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; so that through and by this you give help to them, in order to gain the kingdom; remember, for two mites the kingdom was purchased" (Step 16) - (St. Luke 21:2). Truly, the Gospel widow purchased it for two mites, and the rich man, before whose gates Lazarus lay, could not purchase it for all of his countless riches. If you have nothing to give to the poor, pray to God that He will give to them and, by this, you have performed almsgiving and purchased the Heavenly Kingdom. When St. Basil the New prophesied to the empress, the wife of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that she will first give birth to a daughter and then a son, the empress offered him much gold. The saint refused it. The empress implored the name of the Holy Trinity that he should take the gold. Then, St. Basil took only three pieces of gold and gave it to the needy Theodora, who served him saying, "We do not need too much of these thorns, for they prick much."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the cross:

1. His head is sorely wounded by the thorny wreath;

2. His eyes are closed from pain;

3. His mouth is dry from thirst.

HOMILY

About the First and Last who lives

"Do not be afraid. I am thefirst and the last, the onewho lives. Once I was dead,but now I am alive foreverand ever" (Revelation 1:17-18).

Thus says the Lord Jesus to His beloved disciple John in a vision on the island of Patmos. Do not be afraid of what! Do not be afraid of the persecution of the Church by the pagans. Do not be afraid of the tormentors who persecute my faithful on all sides. Do not be afraid of emperors who raise up persecutions against the Christians. Do not be afraid of powerful tyrants of this world who mock and ridicule My humility in My death. Do not be afraid of demons who blind men with passions so that they can't see the truth which I brought to the world. Do not be afraid of anything!

How could I not be afraid, O Lord!, Why then should we not be afraid when the entire world is armed to the tooth and assembled against us who are small in number and unarmed?

Do not be afraid for I am the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. All of those forces armed against you are nothing but a whirlwind of the dead. I am before time and I am after time; before the beginning of all and after the end of all things that were created, I Am! They are all locked in one span of time that I measured out to every created thing and outside of this span of time, they cannot extend. "Do not be afraid, once I was dead but now, I am alive." Do not be afraid, not even of death. I am before death and after death. Death is my servant and I permit my servant to serve me in the world. I gave myself up to my servant for three days and ordered him to release me and "now, I am alive." I am the Master of death as well as of life. I am the Master of time as well as of eternity. Do not be afraid! "I am alive forever and ever." And you will be alive with Me. All they who remain faithful to Me and are not afraid will live with Me. "Do not be afraid, I am the Alpha and the Omega" (Revelation 1:11).

O Lord, Eternal and Immortal, allow these holy words of Yours to ring in the souls of Your faithful always whenever a persecution is raised up against Your Holy Church that, holding on to Your right hand, we may not be afraid.
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