Prologue of Ohrid

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March 28

1. THE VENERABLE MARTYR EUSTRATIUS OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Eustratius was very wealthy and, being touched with love for Christ, distributed his entire estate for the sake of Christ and entered the monastery of Pecer and was tonsured a monk. When the Polovtsians waged war against Kiev in 1097 A.D., they plundered the monastery and slew many Christians, including monks. Eustratius, alone, with some of the faithful, were sold into slavery to a Jew in the city of Khorsum [Chresom]. This Jew ridiculed the Faith of Christ and attempted to coerce the Christians into embracing the Jewish religion. Seeing that they had no other alternative, they all agreed to starve themselves to death and not to deny the True Faith. Eustratius encouraged the Christians to follow that decision. They all died of hunger; some after three days, some after four and some after seven. Being accustomed to fasting, Eustratius, alone, remained alive and endured fourteen days without food. The Jew, angered because he lost money with which he purchased the slaves, took out his revenge on Eustratius by nailing him to a cross. Eustratius praised God from the cross and prophesied a severe and imminent death for the Jew. Wild with rage, the Jew pierced him with a spear. The saint of God gave up his soul to his Savior. His body was thrown into the sea, but it floated to the surface. Great miracles occurred over this martyr's body. Shortly after the death of Eustratius, the Byzantine emperor decreed that the Jews of the city of Khorsum be punished for their wickedness toward Christians. This tormentor of Christians was hung on a tree and received the reward of Judas.

2. VENERABLE HILARION, THE NEW CONFESSOR

Hilarion was the abbot of a monastery of Pelekit, near Hellespont. He glowed as the sun with the spirit of God, healed people and expelled evil spirits. This man of God suffered at the time when Leo the Armenian began the Iconoclastic persecution. With forty of his monks, Hilarion was sent into exile near Ephesus and died there in prison and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in 754 A.D.

3. THE VENERABLE HESYCHIUS OF JERUSALEM

A presbyter and profound theologian, Hesychius was a disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian and a contemporary of St. Euthymius the Great. One should read his glorious work "Concerning Sobriety in Prayer." He died peacefully in the year 434 A.D.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR BOYAN, BULGARIAN PRINCE

Boyan was the son of Krutogan and the nephew of Grubash. Boyan confessed his faith in Christ; however, his brother Milomir was a pagan. By decree of his brother, Boyan was beheaded for the True Faith in the year 827 A.D.

5. THE MIRACULOUS OCCURRENCE OF TAXIOTIS

Taxiotis was a soldier from Carthage. He spent his entire life in grievous sinsbut finally repented, left the military service and lived a God-pleasing life. While he was with his wife on his estate near the city, he committed adultery with the wife of his farm worker. Afterwards, he was bitten by a snake and died immediately. Taxiotis was dead for six hours after which he arose. Then, on the fourth day, he spoke and related how and what kind of level of judgment he had passed through until he came to the level of judgment [Mitarstvo] for adultery. There, he fell into the dark abode of demons from which he was led out by an angel who attested on his behalf and was sent back in the flesh to repent for his latest sin. He repented for forty days, going from church to church, beating his head against the doors and thresholds, always crying and telling of the terrible sufferings which sinners undergo in the other world. He implored men not to sin but to repent for those sins already committed. On the fortieth day, with rejoicing, Taxiotis took up habitation into the Kingdom of the Merciful God.

HYMN OF PRAISE

TAXIOTIS THE SOLDIER



Throughout all of Carthage, Taxiotis sobbed,

Telling to all, the horrors seen:

The horrors, O brethren, what my soul saw!

O malodorous abyss where my soul descended!

O monsters terrible, and mud and shrieks!

O weeping without tears, wailing and screaming!

Not six hours did I think, but a hundred years,

In the world of Hades, that, an inhabitant I was!

Until a radiant angel, a guarantee for me offered,

Raised and lowered me near Carthage,

That I, he said, in the body be clothed again;

For my latest misdeed, to repent.

When, upon the body, the smelly corpse I gazed,

My strength left me and my joy perished:

This smelly corpse, O, how can I enter?

How, in this loathsome carrion, to be clothed?

O, how, until now, could I have in it remained?

For pleasure, that garbage, my soul to lose?

O, radiant angel, spare me pain,

Force me not, anymore, into that fetid shame!

At my crying out, the angel, angry became:

Who in the body sins, in the body repents!

Thus, sternly he said and, added this:

Either, into the body you will, or into Hades again?

When Hades he mentioned, I fell painfully silent,

Rapidly to the body I approached and into the body crawled.

Forty days for repentance, I have,

And a lesson to all and a warning.

Repent, O brethren, quickly repent,

With your sins into Hades, do not stumble.

Repent quickly, only repent,

Repentance will not be allowed you there.

Taxiotis is relating to you what he, himself, saw

O, fetid abyss, where my soul descended!



REFLECTION

St. Simeon the New Theologian, in speaking about a handsome twenty year old youth, George by name, who, despite his beauty and youth and living among the conceited of the world, recognized the path of salvation and was enlightened by spiritual wisdom, concludes with these words: "Do you understand how youth does not hinder nor does old age help a man, if he does not have reason and the fear of God." What prevented the young Apostle John from believing in Christ the Lord? What were the benefits of age to the Jewish elders when they were blinded in mind and in their blindness sentenced the Son of God to death? Nothing, nothing prevents youth in the young, even in our time, from giving their faith and love to Christ, who created them out of love. Nothing benefits the age of the aged in our time if their souls are poisoned with maliciousness toward Christ. Young and old bodies are nothing more than a new and an old garment of the soul. One or the other of these garments can conceal a healthy or a sick soul. Our goal is a healthy and clean soul.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:

1. How all of nature trembled when He gave up the Spirit, as though to protest against this criminal act of the race of men;

2. How the earth quaked, the sun darkened, the rocks were split, the veil of the temple was rent and the graves were opened.

HOMILY

About the horror of nature at the death of Christ

"The earth quaked, rocks weresplit" (St. Matthew 27:51).

O, what a terrible reproach against mankind! Even dead nature recognized Him Whom men were unable to recognize. All mute things trembled and began to protest, each in its own way and in its own language. The mute earth quakes--that is its language. The stones split apart--that is their language. The sun withholds its light--that is its language. All of creation in its own way protested. For all of creation is submissive to Him, as it was to Adam at one time in Paradise, because all of creation recognizes Him as it did Adam in Paradise. How is it that irrational creation knew Him and was obedient to Him, we do not know. It is some kind of inner instinct of irrational creation, which came to them from the word of God, by which they were created. That instinct of irrational creation is more valuable than the mind of man when darkened by sin. Of all the things which are in existence, nothing is more blind than the mind of man when darkened by sin. Not only does he not see what was created to be seen, rather, he sees that which is contrary to being, contrary to God, and contrary to the truth. These are the degrees of the blindness; beneath blindness; these are numbers below zero. This is man of lower creation. For when the priests of God in Jerusalem did not recognize their God, the storms and winds recognized Him; vegetation and animals recognized Him; the seas, the rivers, the earth, the stones, the stars, the sun and even the demons recognized Him. O what kind of shame it is for mankind!

The earth quaked, the rocks split, the sun darkened, as much in anger as in sorrow. All creation grieved over the pain of the Son of God, in Whose pain the priests in Jerusalem rejoiced. Protests and sorrow and fear! The whole of creation was frightened at the death of Him Who cried to them arise from nothing and rejoice in your being. As though it wanted to say: with whom do we remain and who will now uphold us when the Almighty gives up the Spirit?

O brethren, let us be ashamed of this protest, these sorrows and this fear of the mutes of creation! With repentance let us cry out to the Lord, the Victor: forgive, O Compassionate Lord, for indeed, whenever we sin and offend You, we do not know what we are doing.
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