Prologue of Ohrid

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January 17

1. VENERABLE ANTHONY THE GREAT

Anthony was an Egyptian and was born about the year 250 A.D. in the village of Koman near Herculea. Following the demise of his noble and wealthy parents, he divided the inherited estate with his sister, who was a minor, and provided for her with some relatives. Anthony distributed his half of the estate to the poor and, he, in his twentieth year, dedicated himself to the ascetical life for which he yearned from his childhood. In the beginning Anthony lived a life of asceticism in the proximity of his village but, in order to flee the disturbances of people, he withdrew into the wilderness on the shore of the Red Sea, where he spent twenty years as a recluse not associating with anyone except with God through constant prayer, reflection and contemplation, patiently enduring unspeakable temptations from the devil. His fame spread throughout the entire world and many disciples gathered around him whom he placed on the path of salvation by his example and words. During the eighty-five years of his ascetical life, only twice did he go to Alexandria. The first time to seek martyrdom during the time of the persecution of the Church and, the second time at the invitation of St. Athanasius, in order to refute the accusation of the Arians: supposedly that he, too, was an adherent of the Arian heresy. Anthony died in the one-hundred fifth year of his life, leaving behind an entire army of his disciples and imitators. Even though Anthony was not a scholar, nevertheless, he was a counselor and teacher of the most learned men of that time, as was St. Athanasius the Great. When certain Greek philosophers tempted him with literary wisdom, Anthony shamed them with the question: "Which is older, the understanding or the book? Which of these two was the cause of the other?" Ashamed, the philosophers dispersed for they perceived that they only had literary knowledge without understanding and Anthony had understanding. Here is a man who attained perfection in as far as man, in general, can attain on earth. Here is an instructor to instructors and a teacher to teachers, who, for a full eighty five years perfected himself and only in that way was he able to perfect many others. Filled with many years of life and great works, Anthony died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D.

2. THE HOLY EMPEROR THEODOSIUS THE GREAT

This glorious and zealous emperor in the Faith reigned from 379 A.D. to 395 A.D. Constantine the Great banned the persecution of Christians. Theodosius the Great went one step further, he outlawed the offering of idolatrous sacrifices in his realm. He assisted with strengthening and spreading the Christian Faith throughout the world.

3. THE HOLY NEO-MARTYR GEORGE OF IOANNINA

George was an Albanian. He was born in the village of Churkli, Albania of very impoverished farmer parents. The Turks used force to persuade George to embrace Islam, but he remained steadfast in the Christian Faith for which he was hanged in Ioannina on January 17, 1838 A.D. Even unto today, George is a great miracle-worker and healer.

HYMN OF PRAISE

ST. ANTHONY THE GREAT - ST. THEODOSIUS THE GREAT

ST. GEORGE THE NEW MARTYR

Above all divisions, above all classes,

The fearless God stands; the Lord above armies.

The wealthy he does not despise, nor, of the poor, is He ashamed.

Of the powerful, He is not afraid and, to the sinful, He beckons: Come!

Saints from everywhere, for Himself, He recruits

This one who begs and that one who rules

As a cherry-picker that plucks only the sweet cherries

Without concern, whether the branches are coarse or smooth,

Into one beautiful wreath, the Lord weaves all,

Only when the souls are repentant and holy.

Anthony the wonderful, throughout his life fasted,

Theodosius, the whole world, treated with Christ.

And George of Ioannina, his blood for Christ, shed -

All three, the Lord loved, eternally.The Lord does not have loathing toward His crops

Nor toward other weaknesses of the created world.

Toward all, He is the same, but toward Him, all are not,

To everyone, He is of service; to everything merciful,

Always, above everything and above all classes,

Always, the fearless God; the Lord above armies.

REFLECTION

St. Anthony teaches: "Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repugnant before God but the most repugnant of all is pride of the heart. Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your effort will be destroyed and your boat will reach the harbor empty. If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death. Know, that according to nature, you too are susceptible to death and that every soul sheds its body from itself as the final garment." In Byzantium there existed an unusual and instructive custom during the crowning of the emperors in the Church of the Divine Wisdom [St. Sophia]. The custom was that when the patriarch placed the crown on the emperor's head, at the same time, he handed him a silk purse filled with dirt from the grave. Then, even the emperor would recall death and to avoid all pride and become humble.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the persecution of the Lord Jesus for righteousness sake:

1. His persecution as a child by Herod;

2. His persecution as a man and Messiah by the Jewish scribes and elders;

3. His persecution as God by many of our contemporary scribes and elders both Jewish and Christian.



HOMILY

About two different types of wisdom

"For the wisdom of this worldis foolishness in the eyesof God" (I Corinthians 3:19).

Even this scriptural concept is one great news which Christianity proclaims to the world. One is the wisdom according to God and from God and the other is the wisdom according to the world and from the world. Wisdom, according to God, is from the Holy Spirit. The apostles were filled with such wisdom when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Wisdom, according to the world, is from the senses and from material and it represents true insanity before God if it is not seasoned and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.

All worldly wisdom which is guided only by the physical senses, without regard for the Holy Spirit, is insanity before God and before God's angels; for such a wisdom does not perceive either the spirit or the purpose of this world; rather it knows this world only as ashes from without and ashes from within; as ashes which the wind of chance piles up and strews at one moment this way and at another moment that way.

All wisdom of man which is directed only by the senses and by physical conceptions and fantasies is insanity before God and before angels and saints of God, for it does not know man as man; that is, as a spiritual being related to God, rather it knows man only as a body from without and as a body from within; as a body according to form and as a body according to essence. It is the same as if a monkey, looking at an iron locomotive, described it and said, "This is iron on the outside and iron on the inside; iron which heats it and iron which operates it, iron which gives it direction and iron which stops it!"

Brethren, who is able to be filled with the wisdom of God except him who, at first, empties himself of the insanity's of the world? With God's help, each one of us can do this. However, to our desires and to our efforts, without Faith, God's help goes to assist us. For God alone is Goodness, Wisdom and Holiness.

O Good Lord, Wise and Holy, fill us with Your Life-creating wisdom.
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