Prologue of Ohrid

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May 16

1. THE VENERABLE THEODORE THE SANCTIFIED

Theodore was a disciple of St. Pachomius. He was born and raised a pagan, but as a young man he came to the knowledge of the True Faith and was baptized. Learning of St. Pachomius, he secretly fled from his parents' home to Pachomius's monastery. St. Pachomius tonsured him a monk and loved him for his extraordinary zeal and obedience. When his mother arrived to ask him to come home, Theodore did not even want to appear before her. Instead, he prayed that God would enlighten her with the truth. Indeed, not only did her son not return home, but she herself did not return home. Seeing a convent not far away which was under the spiritual direction of Pachomius's sister, she entered the convent and was tonsured a nun. After a period of time Paphnutius, Theodore's brother, also came to the monastery and was tonsured a monk. In time the bishop of Panopolis called St. Pachomius to establish a monastery for those who desired the monastic life. Pachomius took Theodore with him and entrusted him with the duty of establishing this new monastery. After the death of Pachomius, Theodore became the abbot of all Pachomius's monasteries and lived to a ripe old age. Theodore lived a life pleasing to God, directing many monks on the road to salvation. He died peacefully and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Eternal Light in the year 368 A.D.

2. THE BLESSED VIRGIN MUSA

St. Gregory the Dialogist recounts of her that she was only nine years old when, on two occasions, the All-Holy Birth-giver of God, surrounded by radiant virgins, appeared to her. When Musa expressed her desire to also be a member of that radiant company of the Queen of Heaven, the Birth-giver of God said to her that, in one month, she would return to her and take her. She also instructed Musa how to live for these next thirty days. On the twenty-fifth day, Musa took to her bed. On the thirtieth day, the Holy Most-pure One appeared again, calling to her in a soft voice, to which Musa answered: "Behold, I am coming. O Lady, behold, I am coming!", and she gave up her spirit. Musa was translated from this life into life eternal in the fifth century.

3. SAINT NICHOLAS MYSTICUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Nicholas was famous because of the unusual severity of his life. When Emperor Leo the Wise married for the fourth time, the patriarch refused him entrance into the church and defrocked the priest who performed the marriage. As a result of this, the emperor deposed the patriarch and banished him to a monastery. The delegates of the Roman Pope Sergius II approved of the emperor's fourth marriage. When the emperor died, Nicholas was again restored to the patriarchal throne and called an assembly in the year 925 A.D., at which a fourth marriage for a Christian, in general, was forbidden. The name "Mysticus" [The Mystic] signifies the senior member of the emperor's council. At first, this saint had been a high-ranking courtier, but then he left the vanity of the world and was tonsured a monk. He died peacefully in the year 930 A.D.

4. THE NEO-MARTYR NICHOLAS

Nicholas was born in Epira. He was tortured by the Turks for the Faith of Christ and beheaded in Trikkala in 1617 A.D. A reliquary containing the head of this martyr is preserved today in one of the Meteora monasteries in Thessaly. He performs many miracles and heals the gravest diseases. He is especially known to drive grasshoppers from fields.

5. THE VENERABLE MARTYRS OF THE MONASTERY OF ST. SABAS THE SANCTIFIED

During the reign of Emperor Heraclius, about the year 610 A.D., forty-four monks from the monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified near Jerusalem suffered for the Faith of Christ. Their heroism and sufferings were recorded by the eyewitness, St. Antiochus (December 24).

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT NICHOLAS, NEO-MARTYR

Nicholas the martyr, for Christ suffered,

And by painful endurance overcame the devil.

To deny his Savior, the hero did not want,

But glorified God as long as he had a voice;

And in his heart, he glorified Him when his voice gave out.

And for greater sufferings, from his enemies begged.

Cruel as wolves, the Turks beat him;

Every inhuman suffering, they put him through.

And finally, his holy head, they cut off.

Into the green grass the saint's head rolled;

And it was shining with light.

A Christian, in silk, wrapped the head,

And into church he brought it, to be a remedy for many,

The disfigured to heal, the blind and the insane.

On all sides, God punished the unbelievers,

And the faithful Nicholas He eternally glorified.

REFLECTION

When Theodore the Sanctified was in Panopolis with St. Pachomius, his spiritual father, a philosopher approached him and offered to debate with him about the Faith. The philosopher then posed these three questions to Theodore: "Who was not born, but died?" "Who was born and did not die?" "Who died and did not decay?" To these questions, St. Theodore replied: "Adam was not born but died. Enoch was born and did not die. Lot's wife died and did not decay." And the saint added this advice to the philosopher: "Heed our sound advice; depart from these useless questions and scholastic syllogisms; draw near to Christ, Whom we are serving, and you will receive forgiveness of sins." The philosopher was silenced by such a pointed answer and, being ashamed, he departed. From this, the enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. The one [the philosopher] loses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in contests of logic and in mental gymnastics, while the other [the saint] focuses his whole mind on the Living God and on the salvation of his soul. The one is abstract and dead, while the other is practical and alive.

CONTEMPLATION
 

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

1. How the Holy Spirit miraculously guided the feet of the apostles to distant lands;

2. How the Holy Spirit assembled them in Jerusalem from distant lands for the burial of the All-holy Birth-giver of God.

HOMILY
 

About the appearance of the prophet Jeremiah from the other world

"This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prays much for the people and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremiah the prophet of God" (2 Maccabees 15:13-14).

This was the vision seen by the courageous Judas Maccabees. The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest, and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah. Just as the apostles saw Moses and Elijah in glory on Mt. Tabor, so at one time Judas Maccabees saw the Prophet Jeremiah in glory. Even before the risen Christ, then, the merciful God did not leave men without proof of life after death. In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end. Whoever, even after all of this, doubts life after death, remains under the curse of his sin as under a grave stone. As dead things cannot see the light of day, neither can he see the life that is, and of which there is no end.

But behold how the Prophet Jeremiah is crowned with glory in the other life! Gray hairs and exceeding glorious. Around him was a certain indescribable dignity, a certain bright aureole, a certain inexpressible pleasure and beauty. He was dragged and beaten by the men to whom he had imparted the will of God, was a captive in prison and a martyr in a fetid hole, was ridiculed as a liar, was tried as a traitor, and finally as a transgressor, was stoned to death. However, the judgment of sinners in one thing, and the judgment of God is another. The most humiliated among men became crowned with angelic glory before God.

And yet, behold how heaven names one whom the earth called false, a traitor and a transgressor! Lover of the brethren: this is what heaven called him. Lover of the brethren, who prays much for the people. Finally, see how the saints in heaven pray to God for us! Not sleeping, they pray for us while we are asleep; not eating, they pray for us while we are eating---and over-eating; not sinning, they pray for us while we are sinning. O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends. Let us be ashamed, let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us by the saints, and let us join with their prayers. O Lord All-wonderful, forgive us our sinful slothfulness and dullness.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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