Prologue of Ohrid

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February 27

1. THE VENERABLE PROCOPIUS - DECAPOLIT

This saint was from Decapolis [Ten Cities] surrounding the Sea of Galilea for which he was called "Decapolit." In his youth, he devoted himself to a life of asceticism and accomplished all prescribed efforts, by which the heart is purified and the spirit elevated to God. When a persecution began by the nefarious Emperor Leo Isaurian regarding icons, Procopius rose up in defense of icons showing that the veneration of icons is not idolatry; for Christians know that honoring icons they do not either bow down or honor lifeless material but rather honor living saints who are depicted on the icons. Because of that, Procopius was arrested, brutally tortured, flogged and scrapped with an iron brush. When the wicked Emperor Leo was slain in the body, [for he had lost his soul earlier], icons were restored in the churches and Procopius returned to his monastery where he spent the remainder of his days in peace. In old age, he was translated into the kingdom of God where he gazes with joy upon the living angels and saints, whose images on icons he honored on earth. He died peacefully in the ninth century.

2. THE VENERABLE THALELAEUS

Thalelaeus was a Syrian ascetic. At first he resided in the Monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified near Jerusalem but later he settled in a pagan cemetery known for the apparitions of evil spirits and frightening things. In order to conquer fear within himself through faith in God, Thalelaeus settled in this cemetery where he lived for many years enduring many assaults from evil spirits both day and night. Because of his great faith and love for God, God endowed him with the gift of working miracles by which he did much good for the sick and suffering people. He died about the year 460 A.D.

3. VENERABLE TITUS OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Titus was a presbyter and had a sincere Christian love for Deacon Evgarius as a brother for a brother. As much as their love in the beginning was true, later it became a mutual blood-feud and hatred sown by the devil. They hated each other so much that when one was censing in the church, the other turned around and walked out of the church. Titus attempted many times to reconcile with his opponent but in vain. Titus became ill and everyone thought that he was going to die. He begged them to bring Evgarius to him in order to forgive him. Forcefully, they dragged Evgarius to the bedside of Titus, but Evgarius broke free and fled saying that he will not forgive Titus either in this world or the other world. As soon as he said this, he fell to the ground and died. Titus arose from his bed healthy and related how the demons were hovering around him until he forgave Evgarius and when he forgave him, the demons fled and attached Evgarius and angels of God surrounded Titus. He died in the year 1190 A.D.

4. THE VENERABLE STEPHEN

At first, Stephen was a palace clerk of Emperor Maurice. After that he resigned his palace duties and, driven by love for Christ, Stephen built a hospice of charity for the aged in Constantinople. He died peacefully in the year 614 A.D.

5. THE HOLY MARTYR JULIAN

Julian suffered severely from gout so much so that he was neither able to stand nor walk. Because of his faith in Christ, he was brought on a pallet before the judge. He was burned alive at the stake in Alexandria with his disciple Cronyon during the reign of Emperor Decius.

HYMN OF PRAISE

FORGIVNESS

That God forgives us, let us forgive men,

As temporary guests, we are on this earth.

Prolonged fasting and prayer, in vain is

Without forgiveness and without true mercy.

God is the true Physician; sins are leprosy,

Whoever God cleanses, God also glorifies.

God rewards with mercy, every mercy of men,

That one perishes without mercy, who returns sin with sin,

With pus from pus - infected wounds, pus is not cleansed,

Neither is darkness from the dungeon dispelled by darkness,

But pure balm heals the wound of pus,

But the darkness of the dungeon, a light disperses.

To the seriously wounded, mercy is like a balm,

As a torch, in her [mercy] everyone rejoices.

This the ignorant says: I have no need of mercy!

But, when he is overcome by misery, he cries out for mercy!

Men bathe upon the mercy of God,

That mercy of God awakes us to life!

That God forgives us, let us forgive men,

As temporary guests, we are all on this earth.

REFLECTION

Whenever we are outside the Grace of God, we are outside of ourselves and, compared with our Grace-filled nature, we do not find ourselves in a better condition than an insane man in comparison to a so-called healthy man. Only a blessed man is a natural man, i.e., a man of higher and unspoiled nature, in which the Grace of God rules and governs. St. Simeon the New Theologian says: "A lamp, even if it is filled with oil and possesses a wick, remains totally dark if it is not lighted with fire. So it is with the soul in appearance adorned with all virtues, if it does not have a light and the Grace of the Holy Spirit it, is extinguished and dark." (Homily, Number 59). As the great apostle also says: "But by the Grace of God I am what I am"

(1 Corinthians 15:10). However to be without grace means to be alienated from God and alienated from the reality of our own individual being. Our being, our personality, confirms our reality and receives its fullness only in the nearness of God and by God. That is why we must look at sinners as we look upon the sick: as weak shadows, without reality and without a mind.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Vine "I am the true Vine" (St. John 15:1):

1. As the Vine from which sprouted numerous fruitful branches in the images of the saints;

2. As the Vine Who with His sap, His blood, waters and feeds all the branches on Himself;

3. As the Vine from Whom the Divine Church branched out on earth and in the heavens;

4. As the Vine from Whom, even I should not separate the branch of my life.

HOMILY

About the power of the Resurrector of the body

"Destroy this temple, anin three days I will raiseit up" (St. John 2:19).

Here our Lord speaks about the temple of His body. Destroy this body and in three days I will raise it up! Thus speaks One Who knows His might and Who, according to His might, fulfilled His words. For His body was destroyed, broken, pierced, buried and covered with darkness for three days. And the third day, He raised it; raised it not only from the grave on earth but raised it up to the heavens. And so, He spoke the word and His word came true.

The Lord gave a sign to the Jews, for they sought a sign from Him. And when He gave them a sign, such as no one else before Him was able to give, they did not believe Him but, confused and frightened, bribed the guards from Golgotha to swear falsely and to proclaim the lie that this miraculous sign did not occur, but that His disciples stole His body from the tomb!

No sign whatsoever helps those do not want to believe. The Jews, with their own eyes witnessed the many miracles of Christ, but nevertheless did not want to believe but, they spoke about justifying their unbelief saying that He performs these miracles "by the help of the prince of the demons!" (St. Matthew 9:34). Whoever does not want to believe in good, all the signs which heaven can give will not help him. A heart filled with evil is harder than granite. A mind, darkened by sin, cannot be illuminated by all the light of heaven, whose light is greater than one-thousand suns.

When man expels evil from his heart and saves his mind from the darkness of sin, then he sees the numerous signs which God gives to those who want to believe - to see and to believe.

O, my brethren, let us not sin against the mercy of God and let us not succumb to the evil of the Jews. O, my brethren, all the signs have already been given, and they all glitter as the stars in the heavenly firmament, to all who have a good heart and a right-thinking mind.
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