Prologue of Ohrid

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February 29

1. THE VENERABLE JOHN CASSIAN

John, this great spiritual man, was born in Rome of renowned parents. In his youth he studied all the secular sciences, especially philosophy and astronomy. After that, he devoted himself completely to the study of Holy Scripture. Striving from good to better and desiring even higher levels of perfection, Cassian traveled from Rome to Constantinople to personally hear and see St. John Chrysostom. Chrysostom instructed him and ordained him a deacon. Benefiting much from the wise Chrysostom, Cassian traveled farther east, to learn even more and become more perfected. He remained in Egypt, the longest time in Nitria, among the famous spiritual athletes from whom he learned the art of every virtue. He finally returned to the west and settled in the town of Marseilles [French Seaport]. Here he established two monastic communities: one for men and one for women. At the request of the monks, Cassian wrote many essays which are especially beneficial for the lovers of the spiritual life: "Eight Books on the struggle against the eight principle passions" [Institutes of the Monastic Life and Conferences on the Egyptian Monks]. Of great importance is his essay against the heretic Nestorius. This essay was written at the request of Archdeacon Leo. He served our Lord faithfully and enriched many with his wisdom and took up habitation in eternal life in the year 435 A.D. The relics of St. Cassian repose in Marseilles [France] even today.

2. THE VENERABLE BARSANUPHIUS

Barsanuphius was born a pagan in Palestine and was baptized in his eighteenth year and immediately was tonsured a monk taking the name of John. When he became known for of his virtuous life, Barsanuphius was elected archbishop of Damascus. He did not remain long at this position. Yearning for the reclusive, ascetically spiritual life, he secretly left Damascus and went to the wilderness of Nitria. Here, he presented himself as the monk Barsanuphius and immediately, was assigned, as an obedience, to be a water-carrier for the monastery. The former archbishop accepts this obedience with joy. With his wise reflections, meekness and diligence, Barsanuphius soon became a model example to all the monks. Only before his death was it revealed to the monks who this Barsanuphius was. Thus this saint, by his example, served as a reproach to the proud and power-loving and as a comfort to the humble and meek. He died peacefully and took up habitation with the Lord in the year 457 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT CASSIAN ON PASSIONS

Cassian numbered eight terrible passions

And still the ninth - impure thoughts.

In food and drink, Gluttony the first,

To the spirit and body, Promiscuity the second,

Avarice, shackles which tie one to the metal,

Anger, of man's heart the frost which freezes and constricts.

Melancholy, which erodes the soul; the insatiable worm,

Slothfulness, drowsiness to a soul, which spins [weaves] death,

Vanity, a serpent; a many headed serpent,

It is everywhere and nowhere, the grass conceals it,

Pride, a double-edged sword that cuts and hems,

Both the young and old mercilessly destroys,

And the ones vigorous, and arrogant [proud] because of strength,

And the spiritual elders, to themselves, dear.

Of all these passions, our defense God is

By the prayers of the holy Saint Cassian.

REFLECTION

St. John Cassian writes of the struggle with the spirit of lust in this manner: "Struggle with the spirit of lust is a bitter struggle; longer than other struggles; a daily struggle victoriously accomplished completely only by a small number of people. This struggle begins with the first mature growth and does not cease until all other passions are defeated. In this struggle, a two-fold weapon is necessary. For the achievement of this perfect and pure chastity bodily fasting alone is not sufficient (although fasting, before everything else is necessary): along with this, meekness of the spirit and unremitting prayer is necessary against this most impure spirit [lust]. After that, continual study of Holy Scripture together with prudent mental exercises and after that physical labor and handiworks, all of which keeps the heart from lusting and restores it to itself and, above all, profound and true humility without which victory over any passion can never be achieved. Victory over this passion [lust] is conditioned with the perfect purification of the heart from which, according to the words of the Lord, flows the poison of this sickness [lust]. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (St. Matthew 15:19). One must have stable humility and patience in the heart as well as careful protection of oneself from anger and other passions during the course of the day. For in as much as the fire of anger enters in us, afterward so much easier, does the ember of passions penetrate us. It is interesting that even many other great spiritual fathers bring into causal tie the passion of anger and the passion of lustful desire from which follows, that the most angry ones are the most lustful ones.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the vigilant Watchman over His Church: "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20).

1. How He watches over the entire created world and especially His Church acquired by His Blood;

2. How He watches over every baptized soul as a gardener over His planting;

3. How He through serenity and through tempest, leads His Church, leading her [The Church] to ultimate victory;

4. How He watches even over my life, that it grow and that it may be built in His eternal kingdom.

HOMILY

About the living presence of Christ

"I am with You always, even to the end of the ages" (St. Matthew 28:20).

Here is consolation above consolations!

Here is consolation for those whom the tempest breaks! Let them only remember: There Christ is beside them and let them not be afraid. He is the Helmsman.

Here is consolation for those who are sick! Let them know that Christ is there beside their bed and let them not despair. He is the Physician.

Here is consolation for those who grow old! Let them not lose sight that Christ travels with them through time to all eternity, into eternal youth and let them be at peace.

Here is consolation for those who are tormented by men! Let them not think that they are abandoned, for Christ is with them in all suffering; at judgment and in prison and let them rejoice. He is the Judge.

Here is consolation for those who are disturbed by evil spirits! Let them remember that Christ is the conqueror over evil spirits, He is on their side and let them be strengthened. He is the Victor.

Here is consolation for all who seek the light of justice and truth! Let them believe that Christ is closer to their soul than their eyes and let them adhere to His leadership. He is Light.

O, my brethren, in truth, Christ is constantly with us as light is constantly with the eyes, which see. But O, our sorrow if the eyes of our soul are closed and, in vain does the light labor to encounter the pupil of our vision! O, our sorrow and grief when we are not with Christ!

He goes out to meet us. Are we going out to meet Him? He wants to be with us. Do we want to be with Him? If we want consolation, we must be with Him all days to the end of our time.

O Lord, our only consolation, do not leave us!
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