Prologue of Ohrid

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May 14

1. THE HOLY MARTYR ISIDORE

During the reign of Decius, Isidore was drafted by force from the island of Chios into military service. From childhood, Isidore adhered to the Faith of Christ and spent his entire life in fasting, prayer and good works. But when in the army Isidore declared himself a Christian, the commander seized him, required of him an answer and counseled him to deny Christ and offer sacrifices to the idols. The saint replied: "Even if you kill my body, you have no authority over my soul. I possess the True, Living God, Jesus Christ Who now lives in me and after my death, He will be with me and I am in Him and will remain in Him and I will never cease to confess His Holy Name as long as my soul is in my body." First, the commander ordered that Isidore be whipped with oxen tails and after that they cut out his tongue. Even without his tongue, Isidore, by the Spirit of God, spoke and confessed the Name of Christ. Meanwhile, the punishment of God came upon the commander and he, suddenly, became mute. Finally, the mute commander gave the sign to behead Isidore. Isidore was elated at this sentence and after praising God went to the scaffold where he was beheaded in the year 251 A.D. His companion, Ammon, buried his body and following that also suffered and received the martyr's wreath.

2. THE VENERABLE SERAPION, THE SINDONITE

Sindon means "linen cloth" in which the bodies of the dead were wrapped. Serapion was called the Sindonite because he covered his naked body with a single linen cloth. He carried a Book of the Gospels in his hand. Serapion lived like a bird without a roof and without any worries moving from place to place. He gave his sindon to a needy person who was shivering from the frost and remained completely naked. When someone asked him: "Serapion, who uncovered you?" He pointed to the Holy Gospels and said: "This!" After that he even gave the Book of the Gospels away as a ransom for a man in debt whose lender was threatening him with prison for this debt. Once in Athens, he did not eat anything for four days because he had nothing available and began to cry out from hunger. When the Athenian philosophers asked him why he was crying out so, Serapion replied: "I was indebted to three; two of which I have satisfied but the third one is still tormenting me. The first lender is carnal lust which tormented me from my youth; the second lender is avarice and the third lender is the stomach. Those two have left me, but the third one still torments me." The philosophers gave him a gold coin to purchase bread. He went to a baker, purchased only one loaf of bread, left the gold coin and departed. In his old age, he presented himself peacefully to the Lord in the fifth century.

3. BLESSED ISIDORE, "FOOL FOR CHRIST"

Isidore was a German by descent. Having come to Rostov, he fell in love with the Orthodox Faith, and not only became a communicant of the Orthodox Church, but assumed the difficult life of asceticism as a "Fool for Christ." He walked around completely in rags. Pretending insanity through his madness, he spent the entire day teaching men and at night, he spent in prayer. He spent nights in a hut made of branches which he had built in a muddy terrain. Great and awesome were the miracles which this saint performed both during life and after death. To a merchant, who was thrown from a boat and was drowning in the sea, Isidore appeared walking upon the water and led him to the shore. When the servants of the Prince of Rostov refused Isidore a glass of water that he asked for and drove him away from the door, then all the vessels with wine dried up. When Isidore died in his hut on May 14, 1484 A.D., the whole of Rostov smelled from a wonderful aroma. The merchant whom the Blessed Isidore saved from the sea, erected a church in his honor over the spot where his hut was located.

HYMN OF PRAISE

BLESSED ISIDORE, FOOL FOR CHRIST

Blessed Isidore wrestled with himself
Until passionless, as a withered tree, he became,

But even a withered tree, the bees with honey fill,

And from the dry cliff, a spring sometimes erupts.

The body of the blessed, with the Spirit filled

With the honey of Grace, the heart sweetened.

In the foolish body, the fountain of God's power,

In wretched garments, hidden treasure,

Wonderful Isidore, on the garbage heap lay,

On the streets cried out, leaped and fled,

Without roof and bread and without friends,

But under the watchful eye of his Creator

To vain men, he was an "instruction"

And to those beastly bound to the earth, a reproach;

He, by his life, as though he wanted to say:

Men, to misfortune your cares lead.

He is not fortunate, who from God steals,

But who alone possesses God as a treasure.

REFLECTION

Sin which serves as a scandal to others is a two-fold sin. A wise man strives not to scandalize anyone and does not lead anyone into sin by his sinful example. Saint Ambrose praises such sagacity of the Emperor Valentian who died at an early age citing these examples from his life: "The emperor, hearing that he was talked about throughout Rome as a passionate hunter and a lover of wild beasts - which, in reality he was not - and how this passion was taking the emperor away from his duties of State, immediately ordered that all the wild beasts in his preserve be slain. Again, upon hearing how certain malicious people spread the rumor that he ate lunch early (wanting by this to present him as being gluttonous), the emperor imposed a strict fast on himself both privately and publicly. Before the public lunches he was rarely seen to place a morsel of food in his mouth. And again, when his sisters disputed with a certain man over some property, the emperor, even though he had the right to judge the dispute, directed the case to the open court so that he would not be accused of partiality." Indeed, with great fear, this pious emperor upheld the words of the Lord: "Woe to him who shall offend [scandalize] one of these little ones" (St. Matthew 18:6).

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:

1. How the Holy Spirit leads the apostles through all sorrows and tribulations, filling their hearts with consolation and joy;

2. How the Holy Spirit makes that seed of the Gospel grow and succeed which the apostles sow throughout the world, even where it seems to have been scattered in vain.

HOMILY

About Christ as the Branch of David

"In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 33:15).

With these words, the holy Prophet Jeremiah prophesies the coming of the Holy Savior of the world from the lineage of David. The Branch of Righteousness is Jesus Christ Himself. These words could not have referred to anyone else, since, at the time of the coming of the Lord Jesus, a prince from the lineage of David did not sit any longer on the throne at Jerusalem but rather a foreigner, Herod the Idumean. Neither from then until today was there any other prominent branch of David, neither as a worldly ruler nor a spiritual ruler. At the time of the nativity of Christ, there were but a few people from the Tribe of David and they were unknown and impoverished. Among these were numbered the All-Holy Virgin and the righteous elder Joseph, the carpenter. It is clear therefore, that for the past thousand years since this prophecy was spoken, no other majestic branch from the lineage of David appeared, except the Lord Jesus. This becomes more clear from the following words: "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister to Me" (Jeremiah 33:22). These words could only apply to the spiritual descendants of David through Christ the Lord, i.e., upon Christians, for only the number of Christians (and not the physical descendants of David of whom there are not any at all), for these twenty centuries can be measured with the stars in the heavens and with the sand in the sea.

O my brethren, let us rejoice that even we Christians belong to this countless number of people of God; to the greatest people in the history of the world both as to numbers and as to character. Let us rejoice even more that we belong to this heavenly Branch of David Who, by His Blood redeemed us from foreigners and adopted us and made us heirs and co-heirs of the kingdom eternal. O, All-good Lord, You have redeemed us prodigal sons from the contemptible humiliation and hunger and made us sons of the kingdom.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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