Prologue of Ohrid

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May 3

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS TIMOTHY AND MAURA

The fate of these two wonderful martyrs, husband and wife, is amazing! Because of their Christian Faith, and only twenty days following their marriage, they were brought to court before Arrianus, the governor of Thebaid, during the reign of Diocletian. Timothy was a reader in his local church. The governor questioned him: "Who are you?" To this Timothy responded: "I am a Christian and a reader in God's Church." The governor further said to him: "Do you not see these instruments of torture surrounding you?" Timothy replied: "And do you not see all the angels of God who strengthen me?" Then the governor ordered an iron rod be pierced through his ears, so that the pupils of his eyes protruded from pain. After that, they hung him upside down and placed a piece of wood in his mouth. At first Maura was frightened because of Timothy's sufferings, but when her husband encouraged her, she also confessed her steadfast faith before the governor. The governor then ordered all the hairs of her head pulled out and after that severed the fingers from her hands. After many other tortures, from which they would have succumbed had not the Grace of God strengthened them, they were both crucified facing each other. Thus hanging on the crosses, they lived for nine days, counseling and encouraging each other in perseverance. On the tenth day, they gave up their souls to their Lord for Whom they had endured death on a cross, and so were made worthy of His kingdom. They suffered honorably for Christ in the year 286 A.D.(*)

(*) The name "Maura" means black.  Therefore, in Macedonia, the feast day of these two saints is referred to as Black Day.  On the island of Zakynthos, there exists a church dedicted to Saints Timothy and Maura in which many miracles of healing have taken place.

2. THE VENERABLE THEODOSIUS OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

From his early youth, Theodosius shunned laughter and levity, dedicating himself to godly thoughts and prayers. Because of this, he was often abused by his mother, especially one day when his mother noticed an iron belt around his naked body, which had stained his shirt with blood. Having once read the words of the Savior in the Gospel: He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me (St. Matthew 10:37), Theodosius left the home of his parents and fled to the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev to see the Venerable Anthony. Anthony received him and, shortly afterwards, tonsured him a monk. When his mother found him and asked him to return home, he counseled his mother, and she also entered a convent and was tonsured a nun. Theodosius quickly surpassed all the monks by his asceticism, meekness and goodness, and became very dear to Anthony, who installed him as abbot of the monastery. During the time that he was abbot, the brotherhood of the monastery greatly increased, churches and cells were built, and the Constitution [the Rule] of the Studite Monastery was introduced in its entirety. God endowed Theodosius with abundant grace because of his virginal purity, great labor in prayer, and love for his fellow man. Thus, this man of God possessed great power over unclean spirits, healed diseases, and discerned the fate of men. Along with St. Anthony, Theodosius is considered the founder and organizer of monasticism in Russia. He died peacefully in the year 1074 A.D. His healing relics repose next to the relics of Anthony.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT TIMOTHY AND SAINT MAURA

Timothy and Maura, crucified and pale,

Through the Lord Christ, looked at one another,

And with the spirit they saw each other better than with the eyes,

Being, in their pain, exalted above all things.

And Timothy spoke: "Maura, my sister,

You are of a feminine nature, and your pain is greater!

In prayer strengthen yourself; do not despair, sister,

All of your thoughts, affix to Christ."

Maura replied: "Brother Timothy,

The Spirit of God I feel, my soul it lifts.

He keeps me strong, and in my helplessness, He strengthens me.

Sweetest Jesus, my pains alleviates.

But about you, my glorious pride, I am concerned.

What pain can be compared to yours?

But in just a little while, a little while, my sweet brother:

From the thorns of sufferings, roses will blossom.

By the entire heavenly host you shall be blessed.

Only endure, endure without sound or outcry.

Let us be alert, Brother, let us not fall asleep;

Perhaps the Lord may come; may we not be ashamed.

Behold, the heavens opened, I see,

And unseen treasures for us prepared."

Then Timothy said to Maura: "O sister, wonderful,

Bride of Christ, glorious martyr:

For His wondrous mercy let us glorify God,

That such an honorable death, He has vouchsafed us.

Oh, glory to You, O Savior, Who for us suffered;

Our spirits we now commend into Your hands."

REFLECTION

Abba John the Dwarf asked the monks: "Who sold Joseph?" One monk replied: "His brothers." To this the elder replied: "Not his brethren, but his humility. Joseph could have said that he was their brother and protested his being sold, but he remained silent. His humility, therefore, sold him. Afterward, this same humility made him master over Egypt." In surrendering ourselves to the will of God, we defend ourselves too much from the external difficulties. That is why we lose the good fruits that are harvested at the end of difficulties endured with humility. Abba Pimen wisely spoke: "We have abandoned the easy yoke, i.e., self-reproach; and we have burdened ourselves with a heavy yoke, i.e., self-justification." The Christian accepts every difficulty as payment for present or past sins, seeking in all the will of God with faith and awaiting the end with hope.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the ascended Lord Jesus:

1. How He began His saving work on earth as an ordinary humble worker;

2. How He completed His saving work by His miraculous and glorious Ascension into heaven.

HOMILY

About how the idol-worshippers will be put to shame

"As the thief is ashamed when caught, so shall the house of Israel be ashamed: They who say to a piece of wood, 'You are my father' and to a stone 'You gave me birth:' They turn to Me their backs, not their faces; yet in time of trouble they cry out, `Rise up and save us !' " (Jeremiah 2: 26-27).

In truth, brethren, they will all be put to shame who do not see beyond wood and stone and who, in their ignorance, say that man is composed entirely of vegetable and mineral matter and that he shares the same fate as plants and minerals. With their backs turned to the Creator, they are unable to see anything other than creation, and they forget the Creator, proclaiming creation the creator. They say that nature created and gave birth to man, and that that is why man is subordinate to nature, lower than nature, the servant in the lap of nature, a slave in the chain of nature, and a dead man in the grave of nature. They who speak thus will be shamed when they fall into misfortune and cry out to God: Rise up and save us!

Why do they cry out to God, Rise up, as though God is lying down? God is not lying down, but standing; standing and waiting to be of service to everyone who, with faith and humility, seeks a service from Him. But those who have become enamored with wood and stone while trusting in their own power, have overthrown Him in their lives and excluded Him from their lives. Thus, when they are pressured by difficulties, they cry out to Him: Rise up!

But the Lord is meek and rises and comes to the aid of every penitent. Let the sinner truly repent and, casting off his sinful love, return to God in love, and God will help him. Let him turn his back on dead wood and stone and turn his face to the Living God, and God will redeem him. For the Almighty is not vengeful and vindictive. Neither did He create man for death, but for life.

O brethren, let us seek neither help in the helpless nor life in the lifeless. Let us turn our heads toward our Living Creator, Who gave us a face more radiant than the face of any earthly thing. Let us turn from the western ways to the eastern path, for on this path is salvation. But let us hasten, before our last day on earth has sunk into the darkness of the west.

O ascended Lord, raise our minds to heaven. Cleanse them from darkness and unburden them of the earth, O our Light-bearing Creator.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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