Prologue of Ohrid


February 13


Stefan Nemanja [Nehemiah], the great ruler [Great Zupan] of the Serbian people, the consolidator of the Serbian lands, creator of the independent Serbian state, defender of Orthodoxy and eradicator of heresy, was first baptized in the Latin Church, but later he left it and entered the Orthodox Church. In the beginning he was dependent on the Greeks with regard to the state, but later he freed himself from this dependence and became completely autonomous. After Stefan had strengthened the state and the Orthodox Faith in the state, he followed the example of his son Sava. He received the monastic tonsure in Studenica Monastery in the year 1195 A.D., receiving the name Simeon. His wife Anna withdrew to a women's monastery, embraced the monastic tonsure and received the name Anastasija. After two years as a monk in Studenica, Simeon traveled to Athos, the Holy Mountain. There he took up residence in the Monastery of Vatopedi together with his son Sava. Father and son spend their days and nights in prayer. There they built six chapels: to the Savior, the Unmercenary Saints, St. George, St. Theodore, St. John the Forerunner and St. Nicholas. They purchased the ruins of Hilandar and erected a glorious monastery, in which Simeon lived only eight months and then died. When Simeon was on his deathbed, Sava, according to his father's wishes, placed him on a simple mat. With eyes directed toward the icon of the Mother of God with the Savior, the blessed elder spoke these last words, Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6), and took up his habitation with the Lord, on February 13, 1200 A.D.


The glorious and most wonderful life of Martinian is worthwhile to read in its entirety. What did he not endure just to fulfill the commandments of the Lord? At age eighteen, Martinian retreated to a mountain in Cappadocia called the Place of the Ark, where he lived for twenty-five years in fasting, vigils and prayer, struggling with many temptations. When a woman came to tempt him, Martinian, perceiving that he would succumb to sin with her, leapt into the fire barefooted and remained in the fire until the pain brought tears to his eyes and subdued all lust within himself. When another temptation erupted, Martinian fled to an isolated rock in the sea and lived there. Following a shipwreck, a young woman swam to this rock. Martinian jumped into the sea to avoid any further temptation, but a dolphin rescued him on its back and by God's providence brought him to shore. Martinian then decided never to make any place his permanent home but to continually travel. In two years, Martinian passed through 164 towns, correcting and counseling the people. He finally reached Athens, where he reposed in the year 422 A.D.


At first Zoe was a prostitute and a temptress of St. Martinian. When she saw this ascetic leap into the fire to subdue all lust in himself, she bitterly repented. Zoe retreated to a convent in Bethlehem, where, as a faster and recluse, she heroically lived a life of asceticism. Repenting of all her sins, she received from God the gift of working miracles. St. Photina was cast by the winds of the sea onto the island where St. Martinian had isolated himself. Martinian immediately fled the island, and Photina remained there in fasting and prayer until her death.



Zoe looked at the monk in the fire with horror,

How he burned with neither complaint, nor fear, nor sighing!

With horror and with shame, Zoe repented:

"Oh, what this man does, just to save his soul!"

Bowing and begging forgiveness, she began to weep,

Asking how to resist evil,

To save the soul, and resist evil in the flesh.

The man of God, he too began to weep for joy.

To Bethlehem, to the blessed Paula he sent her:

"Depart woman, save yourself. Go and do not perish,

Blessed Paulan will tell you everything else."

Completely humbled, Zoe departed over the turquoise sea;

Paula received her like a little sister, and instructed her.

Zoe cried, Zoe listened, endured and remained silent.

So twelve summers passed, twelve years.

Sister Zoe became known as an ascetic.

She washed her face with tears, and before her death she asked God--

Has God forgiven her? Has He or has He not?

At that moment a blind woman was led before Zoe's door:

"Pray that I might see--pray, pray!"

In tears Zoe prayed, and the woman received her sight.

Thus did Zoe know that she was forgiven.

God is glorified through sinners when they repent;

Then, through their miracles on earth, they shine like the stars.


The great Stefan Nemanja--whose authorative words were unconditionally heeded by everyone, and who caused people and emperors to tremble--became a monk and served the monks of the Holy Mountain as an ideal example of meekness, humility, goodness and piety. Even his death was the death of a truly godly man and spiritual director. He became bedridden on February 7. He summoned St. Sava, placed his hands on him, and blessed him, saying: "My beloved child, the light of my eyes, comfort and protector in my old age! Behold, the time of our separation has arrived. Behold, the Lord is releasing me in peace. But you, my child, do not mourn because of our separation. For parting is the common cup of each and all; here we part from one another, but we will meet there, where there is no separation." On February 12, St. Simeon asked Sava to clothe him in a burial cassock, to spread a mat on the ground, lay him there and place a stone under his head. He then summoned all the monks and asked their forgiveness. At dawn on February 13, the voices of the monks chanting Matins reached the cell of the dying one. Once more St. Simeon's face beamed, and he gave up his soul to his God.


Contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God:

1. As a Lamb born in the dwelling place of lambs;

2. As a Lamb persecuted by men of wolflike temper, such as Herod and others;

3. As the Sacrificial Lamb, Who patiently endured pain and death;

4. As the Victorious Lamb of God on the heavenly throne.


on love above every other love

"He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:37).

The entire Gospel teaches that we should leave the lesser for the sake of the greater, the transient for the enduring, the worst for the best, the less valuable for the more valuable. If the Good News did not promise greater worth, who would leave the lesser? If the Gospel did not reveal the splendor of the precious goods, who would leave the cheaper goods? Who would leave milk and honey if he did not find something sweeter? Who would leave father and mother if he did not find someone closer in kinship? Who would leave children and friends if he did not recognize someone more dear? Who would willingly give his life over to suffering and death if he did not perceive immortal life? The Lord Christ is sweeter than milke and honey; He is a closer kinsman to us than our father and mother; more dear to us than our own children and friends; more precious than all visible treasures; more costly than this life, for He gives life eternal. Compared to Him, everything in the world is inferior, trivial, bitter, weak, cheap and transitory. To whoever receives Him, it is easier to leave everything, because he has received the best and Him Who is the very best.

O Lord Jesus, Treasury of all eternal riches, help us to unbind ourselves from everything and to cling to Thee, our Good and our Life.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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