Prologue of Ohrid

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February 8

1. THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES

There are martyrdoms more precious than precious. The preciousness of martyrdom depends upon the greatness of the good which a Christian abandons and in lieu of that, accepts suffering; and still, it depends upon the greatness of the suffering which he endures for Christ's sake. St. Theodore, a Roman commander in the army of Emperor Licinius and mayor of the town of Heraclea, scorned his youth, handsome appearance, military rank and the good graces of the emperor. In place of all that, he accepted horrible tortures for the sake of Christ. At first, Theodore was flogged and received six-hundred lashes on his stomach. After this, he was raised on a cross and was completely pierced with lances. Finally, Theodore was beheaded. Why all of this? Because, St. Theodore loved Christ the Lord above all else in the world. He abhorred the stupid idolatry of the superstitious Emperor Licinius. He smashed the idols of silver and gold and distributed pieces of them to the poor. He converted many to the Faith of Christ and called upon Emperor Licinius himself to reject idolatry and to believe in the One Living God. During the entire time of his tortures, St. Theodore said repeatedly: "Glory to You my God, glory to You! St. Theodore suffered on February 8, 319 A.D., at 3:00 p.m. and entered into the kingdom of Christ. St. Theodore is considered the Protector of Soldiers who call upon him for assistance. His miracle-working relics were translated from Euchaita to Constantinople and interred in the church of Balchernae.

2. THE HOLY PROPHET ZECHARIAH

Zechariah was the eleventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets and together with Haggai, persuaded Prince Zerubbabel to restore the Temple of Jerusalem. Zechariah prophesied the solemn entrance of Christ into Jerusalem: "On a colt, the foal of an ass" (Zechariah 9:9). He also prophesied Judas' betrayal for thirty pieces of silver: "And they counted out my wages, thirty pieces of silver" (Zechariah 11:12) and the abandoning of Christ by the apostles during the time of His passion: "Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed" (Zechariah 13:7).(*) The Prophet Zechariah is called the "sickle-beholder" because he saw in a vision, a sickle coming down from heaven to mow down the unjust; especially thieves and blasphemers of the Name of God. Zechariah died in the latter half of the reign of Darius Hystapes about the year 520 B.C.

3. SAINT SAVA II, ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

Sava was the son of King Steven (Stefan) the First-crowned and nephew of Saint Sava I. Before tonsuring, Sava was called Predislav. Following the example of his great uncle [St. Sava] Predislav was tonsured a monk and zealously dedicated himself to a life of asceticism. He was chosen Archbishop of the Serbs, succeeding St. Arsenius under the name of Sava II. He governed the Church with great devotion and love. Sava II died in the year 1268 A.D. His relics repose in the Monastery at Pec.

HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT SAVA II, ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS


Predislav stared,

The young Predislav wept,

The Queen Mother asked him,

Where does your gaze roam?

At what are you looking, Predislav?

At Saint Sava, the face of my uncle.

King Stefan, to his son, said:

To marry you off my sweet son,

Time flows and, I am aging,

Whom do you love? Tell me the name!

And Predislav, to his father, listens

And about a wife, does not want to hear.

Predislav fashions himself as a monk

With the words of Christ, he is satisfied

And, Sava the Second, he was called,

Shedding tears and then speaks:

Saint Sava, place me

On the true Evangelical path!

The King and Queen died

And also Patriarch Arsenius,

The Church remained a widow

From honors, Sava hides
Upon him descended dual honors:
He was a bishop and also a saint.

REFLECTION

Saint Seraphim of Sarov writes about despair: "Just as the Lord is concerned about our salvation, so does the devil, the slayer of men, concern himself about bringing the soul of man to despair. Judas the betrayer was faint-hearted and inexperienced in struggle, which is why the devil, seeing him in a state of despair, attacked and persuaded him to hang himself. Peter, the formidable rock, falling into great sin and experienced in struggle, did not despair and did not lose the presence of the spirit, rather he shed bitter tears from a warm heart and, seeing that, the devil fled from him as though burned by fire. Thus, brethren, the Venerable Antiochus teaches that when despair befalls us, we should not succumb to it but, strengthened and enveloped by Holy Faith, say with great bravery to the cunning spirit [the devil]: `what have you to do with us, O apostate from God, fugitive from heaven and a slave of evil! You are unable to inspire us to do anything; for Christ, the Son of God, has authority over us and over all. And you, O murderer, depart from us! Strengthened by His Honorable Cross, we trample upon your serpent's head.' "

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Commander:

1. As a Commander Who enters into battle against Satan;

2. Who entered into battle against sin in men;

3. Who took up the defense of good against evil in this world;

4. Who defeated Satan, sin and death.

HOMILY

About how a true Christian encounters hatred in the world

"You will be hated forall for My Name's sake" (St. Luke 21:17).

All those who love themselves more than they love God will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.

All those who love the body more than they love the soul will hate the followers of the Lord Jes

All those who love this world more than they love the eternal kingdom of God will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.

All those who love sin more than they love virtue will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.

The number of those who hate the Name of Jesus is sometimes greater and sometimes smaller. However great is their number brethren, do not be afraid for the number of angels and saints is myriad. The number of your kinsmen in the heavens, i.e., those who love the Lord Jesus, exceeds the number of stars in the firmament and the sands by the sea. O do not be afraid, Christ is with you and that means that you are always mightier than those who hate you. When the most Omnipotent One is on your side, you are always more numerous for you are always stronger than any number of your adversaries.

O Lord Jesus, Lord All-powerful always be with us and help us that we may inseparably be with You always and then our fear will vanish.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

(*) St. Matthew 26:31 - St. Mark 14:27
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