Prologue of Ohrid

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January 13

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS HERMYLAS AND STRATONICUS

The Emperor Licinius raised up a persecution against Christians. St. Hermylas, a Christian and a deacon in the Church, was captured and led to court. When Hermylas was informed that he was being led away to be tortured, he greatly rejoiced. In vain did the emperor threaten him. Hermylas openly confessed his faith in Christ and responded to all the threats of the emperor saying, "The Lord is with me; I fear not; What can man do against me?" (Psalm 118:6). Following excruciating tortures, Hermylas was thrown into the dungeon. The guard was Stratonicus, secretly a Christian, who sympathized with the suffering of Hermylas with all his heart. When it was reported to the emperor that Stratonicus was also a Christian, the emperor ordered that both of them be drowned in the Danube river. After that, the executioners tied Hermylas and Stratonicus in a net and both were drowned in the Danube. Three days later, their bodies were washed ashore. Christians discovered their bodies and buried them about eighteen miles from Belgrade. These glorious martyrs suffered for Christ and were glorified in the year 315 A.D.

2. SAINT JAMES, BISHOP OF NISIBIS

As a hermit, James lived in an open field in the summer and in winter he lived in a cave. On one occasion, he went down to the town of Nisibis to see how the Christian Faith was prospering and to see how Christians live. There, he was elected bishop. He participated in the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325 A.D.) and protected Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy. It happened once that the infidel Persians with their armies attacked Nisibis. St. James, in a procession with the Cross and banner [Litija] came before the ramparts of the town. Alone he climbed and walked along the rampart not fearing the arrows of the adversary which were aimed at him. Walking along as he did, he prayed to God to preserve the town and the faithful in this manner: "That He [God] would send a plague of flies and mosquitoes on the Persians and by that to cause them to flee from the walls of the town of Nisibis." However, James did not seek the death of his enemies, nor did he seek whatever kind of catastrophe and defeat rather, one small vexation which would cause them to flee from Nisibis. God heard the prayers of His chosen one and sent a plague of flies and mosquitoes upon the Persians, driving them away. Thereby, the town of Nisibis was spared. St. James lived long and honorably. He died peacefully in old age in the year 350 A.D.

3. THE VENERABLE MAXIMUS KAPSOKALIVITOS

In the fourteenth century, Maximus led an ascetical life as a monk on Mt. Athos in his own unique way. That is to say, he pretended to be a little crazy and constantly changed his dwelling place. His place of abode consisted of a hut made from branches. He built these huts one after the other and then burned them, for this he was called Kapsokalivitos, i.e., "hut-burner. He was considered insane until the arrival of St. Gregory Sinaites to Mt. Athos, who discovered in Maximus a unique ascetic, a wonder-working intercessor and "an angel in the flesh." He died in the Lord in the year 1320 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT MAXIMUS

Prayer in the heart beats as a heart,

Prayer in the heart, together with breathing,

Internal prayer, the light from within,

On Athos, was manifested by Maximus.

As a spirit without a body, Maximus was uplifted,

From prayer, completely radiated with light;

From prayer, was filled with joy

From prayer, was filled with satisfaction

Through prayer, saw the heavens opened.

Through prayer, the human being was glorified,

By prayer, felt the nearness of Christ,

The Holy All-Pure One openly appeared to him.

With heaven the soul of Maximus was sated.

Gregory of Sinai once asked him:

"Tell me, O righteous Maximus, from where do you know

That you have good and not evil visions,

And that all of these are not illusions of the devil,

False temptations and Satan's deceptions?"

"From this, I know," says he, "that they are not lies,

That these visions, the spirit and body console,

That my spirit always yearns after them

That, from the sign of the cross, they will not vanish,

By sweet joy, a temptation, I know it is not,

By blessed joy that warms me completely."

REFLECTION

A good deed done in silence is worth more than a good deed done with an explanation and is incomparably worth more than the most spiritual explanation without a good deed. From St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, no words have remained, but his deeds have remained. On three occasions without any explanations, he came at night to the home of a poor man and secretly tossed a bag of gold through the window. A certain elder of a Scete in Egypt became very ill and desired to eat a little fresh bread, for the bread that the monks ate, at that time, was dried in the sun and lasted for months. Upon hearing this, one of the monks, not saying anything to anyone, departed the Scete and went to a distant town where he purchased fresh bread for the ailing elder. Learning about the effort of this monk, the elder did not want the bread saying: "That is the blood of my brother!" (That is to say, the brother, provided it with great difficulty, with great effort). Then, the other monks implored the elder to eat, saying to him, "Do not despise the sacrifice of the brother." What kind of explanation and what words of brotherly love are able to replace this simple and silent act of brotherly love?

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the hunger and thirst of the Lord Jesus for justice:

1. How He comes into the world to restore down-trodden justice;

2. How He proclaims God's justice and unmasks injustice;

3. How He hurriedly does numerous acts of justice in order to leave us an example.

HOMILY

About the Kingdom of God which is within

"The Kingdom of God is within you" (St. Luke 17:21).

All that belongs to God carries the seal of immortality. And, the Kingdom of God is immortal. If we desire to breathe the air of immortality, we must enter within ourselves, within our hearts, within the Kingdom of God. Outside of ourselves is the air of time, the air of transitoriness and decay in which the soul breathes with difficulty. The kingdom of nature is the sensual kingdom; hence, a foreign kingdom in comparison to our soul which represents our inner kingdom. Why do men love to reside for a long, long time in a foreign land? Why do they rarely and reluctantly enter into their own home? Whenever we think about the world, we think about that which is foreign land. Whenever we converse about the sensual world, we converse about a foreign land. Living by the senses, we are similar to a man who rushes around all day to the homes of strangers, and only at night, returns to his own home to sleep. And so, we dedicate our vigilance to death and our sleep to immortality! We come to ourselves; we return to ourselves only in sleep. But, even our sleep is dreaming of our reality, i.e., even when we are in our own home, in an unconscious state, we dream of foreign homes: Our dreams are sensual, for our consciousness is sensual. And so, we are in a foreign land; we are strangers in reality and in dreams. We are constantly outside ourselves. The Lord wants to return us to ourselves, in His home and to His homeland. For us, the Kingdom of God is within us: outside of ourselves is a foreign land. In order to escape from a foreign land and find our true home, in which we directly encounter God, we must enter within ourselves, into our hearts. There is the King, there also is the Kingdom.

O Lord, King of the angels and saints, show us the riches and the light of Your Kingdom within us. That we may love Your kingdom more than we love the foreign land of the sensual, the kingdom of change and transitoriness.
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