Prologue of Ohrid

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May 18

1. THE HOLY MARTYR THEODOTUS AND THE SEVEN MAIDEN MARTYRS: THECUSA, ALEXANDRA, CLAUDIA, FALINA, EUPHRASIA, MATRONA AND JULIA

Theodotus was married and an innkeeper in Ancyra during the reign of Diocletian. Although married, he lived according to the word of the apostle: "Let those having wives act as not having them" (1 Corinthians 7:29). He maintained the inn in order to unsuspectedly help Christians. His inn was a shelter of the persecuted faithful. Theodotus secretly sent help to those Christians who fled to the mountains and secretly gathered the bodies of those who died and buried them. At that time, seven maidens were brought to trial and tortured for Christ, ridiculed and finally drowned in a lake. One of them, St. Thecusa appeared in a dream to Theodotus and told to him to remove their bodies from the lake and bury them. In the darkness of night, Theodotus, with a companion, went out to fulfill the wish of the martyr and, led by an angel of God, succeeded to locate all seven bodies and bury them. But this companion betrayed Theodotus to the judge and the judge subjected him to cruel tortures. Theodotus endured all sufferings as though he were in someone else's body keeping his whole mind engrossed in the Lord. When the torturer transformed his entire body into wounds and knocked out his teeth with a stone, he ordered him to be beheaded. When he was led to the scaffold, many Christians wept for him and St. Theodotus said to them: "Brethren, do not weep for me but glorify our Lord Jesus Christ Who helped me to complete this mortification and to overcome my enemy." Having said this, he place his head on the block under the sword and was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. A priest honorably buried this martyr's body on a hill outside the town. Later on, a church was built on this spot in the name of St. Theodotus.

2. THE HOLY MARTYRS PETER, DIONYSIUS, ANDREW, PAUL AND CHRISTINA

Peter, a handsome young man; Dionysius, a distinguished man; Andrew and Paul, soldiers; and Christina, a sixteen year old virgin, all courageously confessed Christ the Lord and endured sufferings and death for His Name. Nicomachus, who along with them was tortured, denied Christ in the middle of his tortures and, instantly lost his mind and, as a mad man, bit his body and threw up foam from his mouth until he died. This occurred in the year 250 A.D.

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS HERACLIUS, PAULINUS AND BENEDIMUS

All three were Athenians. They suffered for the Faith during the reign of Decius. For the Name of Christ, they were burned in a fiery furnace.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT THEODOTUS

Near Ancyra, on a hill green,

There, a group of persecuted Christians

With a blessing, lunch they ate.

What the sun is, among the shining stars,

In this group, that Theodotus was,

And next to him, the presbyter Fronto.

And Theodotus to Fronto speaks:

For a church, this spot is suitable

Over the relics of martyrs honorable!

Fronto to Theodotus replies:

You endeavor, most wonderful man,

Relics of the martyrs, obtain for us,

A church, we will easily build,

This place, with a church to adorn.

Theodotus, the all-wonderful smiled,

From his right hand, a ring he removes,

And to the honorable Fronto gives it,

And these words, to him he speaks:

My honorable word I give you and, the ring, a pledge

Relics will I soon procure

And on this spot to place them!

This Theodotus prophesying said:

His own suffering, was prophesying,

And for Christ, his martyrdom,

As he said, so it happened.

There, his relics were placed,

And over them, a church was built,

Of immortal victory, a wonderful memory

Near Ancyra, on a hill green.

REFLECTION

To conceal your virtues and mortifications was the custom of ascetics, both female and male, not only in the earliest times of Christianity but throughout all ages to the present time. Eudocia, wife of the glorious Prince Dimitri of Don, the liberator of Russia from the Tartars, was left a comparatively young widow in the year 1389 A.D. Imbued with devoutness, this princess built many churches, distributed alms and secretly weakened her body by fasting and long vigils. She wore an iron chain around her body. Meanwhile, she always appeared happy before the public, clothed in opulence and adorned with pearls. The public said many things about her and they began to spread rumors about her immoral life. Her sons heard about this and, insulted and embittered, openly informed their mother what was being rumored about her. The mother opened her luxurious robe and the children, with great horror, viewed her body which was completely withered, dried up and drawn in by the iron chains.

CONTEMPLATION
 
To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the martyrs:

1. How the Holy Spirit extends them comfort in sufferings;

2. How occasionally, according to His pleasure, make their bodies unscathed by fire.

HOMILY
 
About the testimony of the Spirit of God

"The Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me" (St John 15:26).

God's Son sent God the Holy Spirit into the world to testify about Him until the end of time. "He will testify to Me."

How will God the Spirit testify about God the Son? God the Spirit will testify in many ways:

By attracting the souls of men to Christ's Church;

By revealing to them the meaning of the Holy Scripture;

By leading their minds to the commandments of Christ;

By giving warmth, freshness, power and gentleness to the words of Christ;

By converting repentant sinners into righteous ones;

By fulfilling all the promises and prophecies of Christ upon men and upon nations and upon God's Church;

By strengthening the Church of Christ and holding it firm against all the tempest of times and all the evils of Hades and men throughout the ages of ages.

The Spirit which works in these and many other similar ways is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, Good, Life creating and All-powerful.

Not one of Christ's words goes against the Spirit of God nor does the Spirit of God go against a single word of Christ. That is why when the Spirit of God pleases to enter into the heart of man, He becomes alive and becomes a true witness to all that Christ said and did. Then, man believes joyfully and unwaveringly. For how would he not believe the greatest and the most enduring Eyewitness and Participator of all the words, all the miracles and all the works of Christ?

That is why, brethren, let us pray before all and above all that this Eyewitness and Participator, the Holy Spirit and All-powerful, settle in our hearts so that our faith may become alive, unwavering and joy-creating. O God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, come and abide in us.
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