Prologue of Ohrid

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February 4

1. THE VENERABLE ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM

Isidore was an Egyptian by birth and the son of a prominent family and kinsman of the Alexandrian Patriarchs Theophilus and Cyril. Having studied all the secular disciplines, he renounced worldly riches and glories and devoted himself completely to the spiritual life for the love of Christ. He was a great and ardent defender and interpreter of the Orthodox Faith. According to the statements of Nicephorus the historian, St. Isidore wrote more than ten-thousand letters to various individuals in which he reproached some, counseled some, and comforted and instructed others. In one letter St. Isidore writes: "It is more important to teach by a life of doing good than to preach in eloquent terms." In another, he says: "If one desires that his virtues appear great, let him consider them small and they will surely manifest themselves as great." The first and basic rule for St. Isidore was this: "First do, then teach according to the example of our Lord Jesus." At the time of the persecution of St. John Chrysostom when the entire population was divided into two camps; one for and one against, St. Isidore, this great pillar of Orthodoxy, sided with St. John Chrysostom. He wrote to Patriarch Theophilus saying what a great light of the Church Chrysostom is and begged him to avoid hatefulness toward him. Isidore lived long and accomplished much, glorifying Christ the God with his life and his writings. Isidore took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ about the year 436 A.D.

2. VENERABLE NICHOLAS, THE CONFESSOR

This saint was from the Island of Crete. He arrived in Constantinople to visit his kinsman, Theodore; the abbot of the Studite Monastery and here he remained and was tonsured a monk. As a monk, Nicholas underwent all mortifications for the sake of the salvation of his soul. During the persecution of the Church by Leo the Armenian, Theodore and Nicholas were cruelly tortured, humiliated and beaten with oxen straps and finally thrown into a dungeon where they were imprisoned for three years. After the death of St. Theodore, Nicholas became abbot of the Studite Monastery. Even during his lifetime, he worked many miracles through the power and grace of God. Nicholas healed Eudocia, the wife of Emperor Basil, as well as Helen, the wife of Manuel, the patrician. To Theophilus Melisenus, a prominent nobleman whose other children did not survive birth, Nicholas blessed the newly born daughter and prophesied that she will live and that she will be very fruitful which occurred, to the joy of the parents. On the very day of his death, Nicholas gathered the monastic brotherhood and asked them what they lacked? "Wheat," answered the monks. Then the dying man said: "He Who fed Israel in the wilderness will send you an ample supply of wheat within three days." And indeed, the third day, a boatload of wheat sent by Emperor Basil sailed below the monastery. Nicholas took up habitation in the heavenly kingdom on February 4, 868 A.D., in the seventy-fifth year of his life.

3. THE HOLY NEO-MARTYR JOSEPH

Joseph was born in Allepo. He was pressured by the Turks to embrace Islam. Joseph not only rejected this but also began to expose the falsehoods of Islam and to praise the Faith of Christ. For that, Joseph was tortured and beheaded in the year 1686 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SACRIFICE OF GRATITUDE

Render sacrifice to God; a sacrifice of gratitude,

O you wealthy ones; according to God's mercy!

Who is wealthy and with what; with that let him barter,

Everyone with his gift; let him, the Kingdom acquire.

Whoever is wealthy with money; let him money, offer,

Whoever is rich with wheat; wheat let him distribute,

To whom wisdom is given; others, let him teach,

To him whose hands are strong; let him perform service.

Whoever knows a trade; let him honorably uphold it,

Let him conscientiously consider himself as a debtor of God.

Let him, who knows how to sing; praise God,

Only he is small, who does not know God.

Whoever received what; with that let him serve,

With mercy toward men; let him repay God,

Not all are the same, nor do all possess the same,

But a pure heart, everyone could give to God.

O pureness of heart, a sacrifice most miraculous,

For salvation, you are the crucial virtue,

And on your sacrificial altar, your incense ascends,

Arrives before the Lord, faster than anything.

REFLECTION

Impose upon yourself some form of penance [Epitimija] for the sins of others. If you have judged someone or punished someone, impose upon yourself a form of penance. You should also suffer voluntarily for the sins of sinners. This is pleasing to God. This mystery was known by the saints who condemned themselves for the sins of others. Even non-Christian peoples perceived this mystery. There exists this custom in China: when an executioner beheads a criminal who is sentenced to death, he then approaches the judge and informs him that the verdict was carried out. The judge then reimburses him with a silver coin because he killed the criminal and orders that the executioner be whipped forty lashes because he killed a man. Christian saints profoundly understood the mystery of sin and human injustice. For the saints, all human sin has as long a history, as there is distance from us to Adam.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as Joy:

1. As Joy which refreshes the whole spirit of man;

2. As Joy which enlivens and strengthens in man all power toward good;

3. Joy from His Name, Joy from His Words, Joy from His Works and Joy from His Spirit.

HOMILY

About the providence of Zacchaeus of little stature

"Today, salvation has come to this house" (St. Luke 19:9).

Thus it was spoken by the One Whose word is life and joy and restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself into greenery and flowers from the breath of spring, so does every man, regardless of how arid and darkened by sin, becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is as the nearness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam which restores health, increases life, give fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death and His nearness means salvation and life.

"Today, salvation has come to this house" said the Lord upon entering the house of Zacchaeus the sinner. Christ was the salvation that came and Zacchaeus was the house into which He entered. Brethren, each one of us is a house in which sin dwells as long as Christ is distant and to which salvation comes when Christ approaches it. Nevertheless, will Christ approach my house and your house? That depends on us. Behold, He did not arbitrarily enter the house of the sinner Zacchaeus, rather He entered as a most desired guest. Zacchaeus of little stature climbed into a tree in order to see the Lord Jesus with his own eyes. Zacchaeus, therefore, sought him; Zacchaeus desired Him. We must also seek Him in order to find Him and desire Him in order that He would draw nearer to us and, with our spirit, to climb high in order to encounter His glance. Then He will visit our house as He visited the house of Zacchaeus and with Him salvation will come.

Draw near to us O Lord, draw near and bring to us Your eternal salvation.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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