Prologue of Ohrid

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March 24

1. SAINT ARTEMON BISHOP OF SELEUCIA

Artemon was born and educated in Seleucia. When the Apostle Paul came to that city, he met Artemon, strengthened him even more in the Faith of Christ, and appointed him bishop of that city. Artemon governed his entrusted flock with love and zeal. He was a physician of the souls as well as the bodies of men. He entered into eternity in ripe old age.

2. VENERABLE JAMES THE CONFESSOR

James suffered while defending icons under Emperor Leo the Armenian. He was a monk and a member of the brotherhood of the Studite Monastery. When the Studite Theodore the Great was in exile, James was subjected to severe tortures in order to persuade him to renounce the veneration of icons. To the end he remained steadfast and faithful to Orthodoxy. Beaten and tortured, he was finally sent back to the monastery after the wicked Emperor Leo came to a wretched end. As a result of severe blows, he died in the monastery and took up habitation among the heavenly citizens.

3. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR PARTHENIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Parthenius was born on the Island of Mytilene. He was the bishop of Chios for a long time. Afterwards he was elected patriarch of Constantinople. Because of false rumors that he allegedly worked against the State, the Turks initially proposed that he become a Muslim. When he adamantly refused, they hanged him in the year 1657 A.D.

4. THE COMMEMORATION OF THE MIRACLE IN THE MONASTERY OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Two companions, John and Sergius, vowed to adopt each other as blood brothers before an icon of the Holy Mother of God in this monastery. John was a wealthy man, and he had a five year old son Zacharias. John became very ill. Before his death, John commended his son to the care of Sergius and bequeathed a large amount of gold and silver to him for safekeeping, so that Sergius would hand it over to his son Zacharias when he reached maturity. When Zacharias reached maturity, Sergius denied that he received anything from the deceased John. Then Zacharias said, "Let him swear before that very icon of the All-Holy Mother of God, before whom he entered into a blood-brother relationship with my deceased father; and if he swears that he did not receive anything from my father, John, then I will not seek anything from him." Sergius agreed. When Sergius swore this, he wanted to approach and venerate the icon, but a force held him back and would not allow it. Sergius then began to cry out in a crazed manner to the Holy Fathers Anthony and Theodosius: "Do not allow this unmerciful angel to destroy me!" That was the demon that attacked him by God's permission. After that, Sergius showed them all the money that John had entrusted to him. When they opened the chest, they discovered that the amount had doubled. This amount was doubled by God's Providence. After receiving the money, Zacharias gave it to the monastery and was then tonsured a monk. Zacharias lived for a long time and was made worthy of the great gifts of God, and was translated peacefully into eternity.

5. THE VENERABLE ZACHARIAS [OF EGYPT]

Zacharias was the son of Carion the Egyptian. Carion left his wife and children and became a monk. He took Zacharias with him because his mother was unable to care for him. Even though Zacharias was younger than most of the elders in the Scete, he was favored with greater gifts of Grace than many of the others were. He felt that his whole being was on fire with the Grace of God. To the question of St. Macarius: "Who is the ideal monk?" Zacharias replied, "He who continually compels himself to fulfill the commandments of God." To the question of Abba Moses: "What does it mean to be a monk?" Zacharias removed his monastic head gear [Kamilavka] and trampled it underfoot, and said, "If a man is not shattered as this, he cannot be a monk." He was a great light among the monks of the wilderness and, while still young, died to the Lord.

HYMN OF PRAISE

VANITY

What is the worth of man, You asked, O Lord,

That the whole vast world as his property, he acquires,

When, either today or tomorrow, he must die,

And the accumulated wealth outlive him will?

What worth is it that upon his head, a crown he sets,

When behind him, he must leave it?

To him, what good is gold and a pile of silver,

When through his withered ribs, grass grows?

What good are silk, pearls and food,

When, upon him alive, the sun does not gaze?

Of what help is the world, if he loses his soul?

Without the soul, the body is lowered into the grave.

His body and soul--both have died,

And to the grave each of them hurries.

Two lifeless ones, then men, do bury;

For neither of them do men bitterly mourn.

Anyone who has a mind over his soul, let him guard,

You gave to all a reminder clear:

The soul is the only thing that can be saved;

All else in the world, and even the world itself, will perish.

When we know Your counsel, O dear Lord,

Still, Your power and help we need.

Help our sinful souls, O Good One,

That the smoke of vanity suffocate them not.

REFLECTION

Abba Daniel and Abba Ammoe were traveling. Abba Ammoe said, "Father, when will we arrive at the cell?" (that is, so that they could pray to God). Abba Daniel replied, "And who is taking God away from us now? The same God is in the cell and outside the cell." By this we are taught unceasing prayer, thoughts about God, and contemplation of God's works in us and around us. The Church facilitates prayer and intensifies it. So it is the same with solitude and confinement; each in its own way facilitates and intensifies it. He who does not want to pray will not be bound to pray either by a church or a cell. Neither will he who has felt the pleasure of prayer be able to separate his nature or his journeyings from prayer.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus on the Cross crucified:

1. Counting the drops of His All-Holy Blood and counting my sins;

2. Counting His painful sighs, and counting the mindless days of my laughter.

HOMILY

About faithfulness in suffering and the crown of life

"Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

By His suffering our Lord eased our suffering. He endured the greatest of pain and emerged as the Victor. That is why He can encourage us in our lesser sufferings. He suffered and endured in righteousness while we suffer and endure in expiating our own sins. This is why He can doubly remind us to endure to the end as He, the Sinless One, endured. Not one of us has helped or alleviated His pains and endurance, yet He stands along side each one of us when we suffer and He alleviates our pains and misfortunes. That is why He has the right to tell each one who suffers for His Name's sake: "Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer," says Christ, "for I alone have endured all sufferings and am familiar with them. I was not frightened by a single suffering. I received them upon Myself, and in the end I overcame them all. I did not overcome them by dismissing them or fleeing from them but by receiving them all upon Myself voluntarily and enduring them all to the end. And so you also should accept voluntary suffering, for I see and know how much and for how long you can endure.

"If your suffering should continue to death itself and if it is the cause of your death, nevertheless, do not be afraid: I will give you the crown of life. I will crown you with immortal life, in which I reign eternally with the Father and the Life-Giving Spirit."

God did not send you to earth to live comfortably, rather to prepare you for eternal life. It would be a great tragedy if your Creator were unable to give you a better, longer, and brighter life than that which is on earth, which reeks of decay and death and is shorter than the life of a raven.

O my brethren, let us listen to the words of the Lord and all of our sufferings will be alleviated. If the blows of the world seem as hard as stones, they will become as the foam of the sea when we obey the Lord.

O Victorious Lord, teach us more about Your long-suffering; and when we become exhausted, extend Your hand and sustain us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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