Prologue of Ohrid

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January 15

1. VENERABLE PAUL OF THEBES

Paul was born of wealthy parents in Lower Thebes in Egypt during the reign of Emperor Decius. Paul, along with his sister, inherited all the property of their parents. But his brother-in-law, an idolater, wanted to confiscate Paul's share of the property and threatened to betray Paul before the judge as a Christian if he did not cede his property to him. On one hand, that misfortune and on the other hand those heroic examples of self-sacrifices of Christian martyrs which Paul saw with his own eyes motivated him to give his share of the property to his sister and he, as a pauper, withdrew into the desert where he lived an ascetical life until his death. To what spiritual heights this ascetical giant reached is witnessed by no less a person than St. Anthony the Great who, at one time, visited Paul and saw how the wild beasts and birds of heaven ministered to him. Returning from this visit, Anthony said to his monks, "Woe is me, my children! A sinful and false monk that I am, a monk only in name. I saw Elijah, I saw John in the wilderness and, in truth, I saw Paul in Paradise!" St. Paul lived one-hundred thirteen years and peacefully died in the Lord in the year 342 A.D.

2. VENERABLE JOHN KUSHCHNIK [KALYVITES - THE HUT DWELLER]

John was born in Constantinople of wealthy and distinguished parents during the reign of Leo I. He was the only child of his parents. Drawn by the inclination for the spiritual life, the young John secretly fled with a monk to a monastery in Asia Minor. In this monastery he remained for six years in the greatest restraint, prayer and obedience toward the abbot. Then the devil assailed him with temptation that he should leave the monastery and return home to his parents and there to live with them as a nobleman. Indeed, he returned to the home of his parents dressed as a beggar. He saw his parents, but did not introduce himself. He took up lodging as a beggar in their courtyard, living, so to say, from the crumbs which the servants threw to him and enduring many ridicules from everyone. As such, John lived for three years constantly praying to God that He save the souls of his father and mother. When John fell ill and sensed death approaching, he made himself known to his parents who recognized him by a precious book of the Gospels which they had given him in his childhood and which he had kept for himself as his only possession. And so, this young man, even though he was very wealthy, defeated the devil and saved his soul and the souls of his parents. He died in the Lord about the year 450 A.D.

3. THE VENERABLE GABRIEL OF LESNOV

Gabriel was a Slav and companion of Prochorus of Pchinja and St. John of Rila. He lived a life of asceticism in the tenth century at Kratov on Mt. Lesnov where he erected a church dedicated to the Holy Archangel Michael. He was a miracle-worker during his life and after his death. The present-day beautiful church located there was built by John Oliver, a duke of Tsar Dushan. St. Gabriel died in the Lord toward the end of the tenth century.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR PANSOPHIUS

Pansophius was the son of the Alexandrian Pro-consul Nilus. He abandoned worldly honor and riches and as a young man was tonsured a monk. For twenty-seven years, he lived a strict life of asceticism, uplifting his spirit to the higher world. During the reign of Decius, he was dragged before the court where he was flogged for the Name of Christ until he gave up his soul to his God in great torment.

HYMN OF PRAISE

VENERABLE JOHN KALYVITES [KUSHCNIK]

John was a young lad,

A young and wealthy lad,

But nothing tempted him -

Neither youth nor gold.

His father was a nobleman royal,

And his mother, a lady fine,

But he left them both

For the sake of the love of the Son of God.

His wealth was Christ,

All riches, all beauty.

Christ the Lord he loved

More than his own life.

And, instead of his parents

Now crying out in Hades,

Behold, their son, through poverty

Himself and them, he saved.

Even today, many people

Who, themselves, choke with riches,

John can shame,

And their sinful souls save.

REFLECTION

Do not ever think that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. He hears our thoughts just as we hear the voices and the words of one another. And, if He does not act immediately according to your prayer, i.e., either because you are praying to Him in an unworthy manner or because you ask something of Him which would be detrimental to you, or, because He, in His wisdom and providence delays the fulfillment of your petition until the proper moment. Father John of Kronstadt writes: "As by means of the electric telegraph we speedily communicate with persons who are far away from us, so, likewise, by means of lively faith, as though through the telegraph wires, we speedily communicate with God, with the angels and saints. As we entirely trust to the speed of the electric current and to its reaching its destination, so likewise, we should completely trust to the speed of the prayer of faith and to it reaching its destination. Send your petition to God and the saints by means of the telegraph of faith and you will speedily obtain an answer." And again, in another place St. John writes: "God and the created spirits and the souls of the departed as well as those of the living are thinking beings and thought is rapid and in some sort omnipresent. Think of them with your whole heart and they will be present with you. God will always be with you and necessarily so by the gift and power of God, the others will also be with you."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the purity of the Lord Jesus:

1. The purity of His mind;

2. The purity of His heart;

3. The purity of His will;

4. The purity of His tongue;

5. The purity of His appearance and all of His senses.

HOMILY

About the victorious faith

"And the victory thatconquers the world in ourfaith" (I John 5:4).

Christ the Lord conquered the world. That, brethren, is also our victory. The apostles conquered the world and that is our victory. The saints, virgins and martyrs conquered the world and that is our victory. Brethren, there is nothing more powerful in the world than the Christian Faith. The swords that struck this Faith became blunt and broken but the Faith remained. The kings who fought against this Faith were smothered under the anathema of crimes. The kingdoms that waged war against this Faith are destroyed.The towns that rejected this Faith lay demolished in their ruins. The heretics who corrupted this Faith perished in soul and body and under anathema departed from this world, and this Faith remained.

Brethren, when the world pursues us with its temptations: the temptation of external beauty, the temptation of riches, the temptation of pleasure, the temptation of transient glory; with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victorious if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except by this invincible Faith which knows about something better than all the wealth of this world.

When all the temptations of this world reveal the opposite side of their faces, when beauty turns into ugliness, health into sickness, riches into poverty, glory into dishonor, authority into humiliation and all blossoming physical life into filth and stench--by what shall we overcome this grief, this decay, this fifth and stench, and to preserve oneself from despair, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith which teaches us eternal and unchangeable values in the Kingdom of Christ.

When death shows its destructive power over our neighbors, over our relatives and our families, over our flowers, over our crops, over the works of our hands and, when it turns its irresistible teeth even on us, by what shall we conquer the fear of death and by what shall we unlock the doors of life, stronger than death, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith, which knows about the resurrection and life without death.

O Lord Jesus, the Conqueror of the world, help us also to conquer the world with faith in You.
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