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 as a pagan but as a young man came to the knowledge of the True Faith and was baptized. Learning about St. Pachomius, he secretly fled from his parent's home to Pachomius' monastery. St. Pachomius tonsured him a monk and admired him because of his unique zeal and obedience. When his mother arrived to ask him to come home, Theodore did not even want to appear before her but 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' 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' monasteries and lived to a ripe old age. Theodore lived a life pleasing to God, directing the 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 Dialogues speaks about her: 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 in such a 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 that, 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. He died in the year 930 A.D. Nicholas is often surnamed Mysticus [The Mystic] and was a member of the emperor's secret council. At first, this saint was a high ranking courtier after which 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, heals the gravest diseases and is especially known to repel 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 patience, overcame the devil;

And 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 beheaded.

Into the green grass, the head rolled,

The saint's head, with light radiated;

And a Christian in silk, wraps this head

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

The disfigured to heal, the blind and the insane.

On all sides, God punished the unbelievers,

And the faithful Nicholas, eternally glorified.

REFLECTION

When Theodore the Sanctified was in Panopolis with St. Pachomius, his spiritual father, a philosopher came to 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 and 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 became mute from 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] looses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in logical provocations and in thoughtful sport while the other [the saint] directed 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 guides the feet of the apostles to distant lands;

2. How the Holy Spirit assembles 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 which was 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 Moses and Elijah were seen in glory by the apostles on Mt. Tabor, thus, at one time Judas Maccabees saw the Prophet Jeremiah in glory. Not even before the resurrected Christ did God the Merciful 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 in life after death, that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone. As inanimate things cannot see the light of day, so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.

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

And yet behold how heaven calls one, whom the earth called false, a traitor and a transgressor! "Lover of the brethren," this is how 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 are praying for us while we are asleep; not eating, they are praying for us while we are eating and have over-eaten; not sinning, they are praying 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 You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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