Prologue of Ohrid

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March 27

1. THE HOLY MARTYR, MATRONA

As an orphan girl, Matrona was a servant in the home of a Jew in Thessalonica. The wife of the Jew continually mocked Matrona because of her faith in Christ.  She tried to persuade her to deny Christ and to attend the synagogue. But the meek Matrona went about her work conscientiously and did not say anything to her mistress. But in secret she prayed to Christ the Lord. On one occasion the Jewess discovered that Matrona was attending church unbeknown to her and, in anger, questioned her as to why she did not attend the synagogue rather than the church? To that, Matrona replied, "Because in the Christian churches, God lives, and He withdraws from the Jewish synagogues." Furious, because of this type of bold reply, the Jewess beat Matrona, locked her up in a dark room, and, in addition to that, bound her hands. The next day as she was kneeling in prayer and glorifying God, her ropes had fallen off by the power of God. Afterwards, on two occasions, she was locked up again and, in the end, died of starvation. This evil Jewish woman then took the body of this holy maiden and hurled it to the ground from the heights of her home. Christians took the body of this martyr and buried it with honor. Alexander the bishop, learning of the many miraculous works of this holy martyr, erected a church over her grave. The evil Jewess received her just punishment when she slipped, fell to the pavement, and was smashed to death from the same spot at the top of the house from which she hurled down Matrona's body.

2. VENERABLE JOHN "THE DISCERNER"

John was a woodsman (carpenter) until his twenty-fifth year and then, driven by an insatiable desire for constant prayer, withdrew into the wilderness where he lived until his death at age ninety. He was a corporeal man but lived as an incorporeal being. He discerned the heart of every person who came to him and was able to discern their name, their desires, and their thoughts. He prophesied to Emperor Theodosius the outcome of his battles. He prophesied for generals, monastics, and for all who found it necessary to know what was hidden for them in the darkness of future days. A prince once begged John to receive his wife, who especially wanted to meet him. The saint did not allow empty inquisitiveness but appeared to the wife of the prince in a dream, showing her what he was like. When the woman described her vision in the dream to her husband, he confirmed that, indeed, this was the likeness of the saint. To every visitor, he taught humility as the basis of the virtues, always citing examples from life of how pride has toppled many exalted characters into dust and led them into serious sins. He endured many assaults of evil spirits. On one occasion, Satan appeared to him with a myriad of demons under the guise of shining angels. They pressured him to worship Satan, lying to him, saying that it [Satan] is Christ. But John answered wisely, "I bow down and worship my King, Jesus Christ, everyday. If that were He, He would not demand me to do so now, especially since I already worship Him." Following these words, all the evil powers vanished as smoke. He died peacefully, kneeling in prayer, in his ninetieth year.

3. THE VENERABLE PAPHNUTIUS

Paphnutius was a disciple of St. Anthony the Great. By his sanctity of life, Paphnutius converted many sinners to the path of repentance, such as St. Thais, who is commemorated on October 8. Paphnutius resembled an incorporeal angel more than a corporeal man. He died toward the end of the fourth century.

HYMN OF PRAISE

VENERABLE JOHN THE DISCERNER ON HUMILITY

John the Discerner, teacher of humility,

With tears of joy, about humility he spoke:

"O beloved children, right-believing children,

The humbler you are, to God more dear.

Asceticism without humility helps not at all;

His soul to the devil, the arrogant one offers.

Your soul, if you empty of self,

The Living God will then fill you.

Than God Himself, Who is more humble?

His precedence, nowhere does He emphasize.

In secret, without clamor; the world He directs,

Therefore the feeble-minded think that He does not even exist.

If the wind would not blow, or shriek, or howl,

The feeble-minded would also say that it does not exist!

He who has humility, himself reprimands;

In every virtue, that one easily succeeds.

Than poverty of spirit, humility is nothing more;

That is the Savior's blessed teaching:

In yourself, do not have any hope,

In God place all of your hope,

That is holy humility. Whoever violates it,

The darkest destruction for his soul, that one prepares.

The thoughts of all the saints, in this they are strict:

Without much humility, no one is saved!

Joyous is the humble one, because God rules with him.

O beloved children, being humble is akin to being saved!"

REFLECTION

"There is no cleanness in him who thinks evil," says St. Simeon the New Theologian; and he further adds, "How can there be a pure heart in one who soils it with impure thoughts as a mirror is darkened by dust?" Do you see, then, the inaccessible height at which the Christianity stands above all other faiths and worldly sophistries? He who only thinks about evil, even though he does not commit any evil, is at fault before God and before his own soul. For he offends God and loses his soul. To be a Christian, in the proper sense, means to invest enormous effort on cleansing evil thoughts from one's heart and mind. What kind of effort is that? There exists a complete study about this--which in our days has become almost completely locked away, even from Christians--and an enormous wealth of actual experience on the part of holy men and women who justified that teaching. To cleanse oneself from these wicked and impure thoughts, the root of all evil, was the goal of all the great ascetics, hermits and silentaries (hesychasts).

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:

1. How He Who raised the dead hung on the Cross, a lifeless body;

2. How He died for our sake, so that we would have more abundant life, and more abundant truth about immortal life.

HOMILY

About Christian as kings and priests

"You made them a kingdom and priests for God" (Revelation 5:10).

The Lord Jesus wants to make all men like unto Himself. As the Son of God, He wants all men to become the adopted sons of God. As a King, He wants them to be co-kings with Him. As a Priest, to be co-priests with Him; as Almighty, to share in His strength; as Eternal, to share in His immortality; as Holy, to share in His holiness; as the Resurrected One, that all should be the children of the Resurrection. This the Lord desired, and that is why He descended to earth: to separate us from the animals, to elevate us above the life of the animals, and to give us dignity over His visible creation, a dignity which Adam had in Paradise before the Fall.

Because of this, His love for mankind and His salvatory plan for all people, the Lord was crucified on the Cross by the Jewish elders. And even from us Christians today, He reaps the thorns of ingratitude and misunderstanding countless times. We show ourselves to be ungrateful and unreasonable whenever we undermine and trample His commandments. By his sins, every sinner plaits a new wreath of thorns and places it on His Sacred Head. When did He ever offend us, that we should do this to Him? When did He ever think evil about any one of us, that we should return Him evil? He lowered Himself into our fetid pit, where we have become accustomed to live with snakes and scorpions, and pulled us higher to the heights, to light and purity in the Kingdom. He wants to make us kings and priests, but we drive away His saving hand and return to the pit with snakes and scorpions.

O brethren, enough and more than enough of this humiliation of Him and destruction of ourselves. Let us firmly grasp the hand of our Savior and follow Him. He desires good for us. He does good for us. For our good, He suffered. He is our One and Only Friend, Who does not change.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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