Prologue of Ohrid

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May 20

1. THE HOLY MARTYR THALELAEUS

Thalelaeus was born in Lebanon. His father was called Berucius and his mother was called Romila. Thalelaeus was an eighteen-year old youth, handsome of countenance, physically tall and with reddish yellow hair. He was a physician by profession. He suffered for Christ during the reign of Numerian. When he bravely confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before his tormenting judge, the judge ordered the two executioners, Alexander and Asterius, to bore through his knees with a drill, to thread a rope through the perforated bones and to hang him from a tree. But God through an invisible power, took away the sight of the executioners. In place of Thalelaeus they bored through a board and hung it from a tree. When the judge-torturer found out, he thought that the executioners did this intentionally and ordered them both to be flogged. Then Alexander and Asterius, in the midst of their flogging, cried out: "The Lord is alive to us and, from now on, we are also becoming Christians. We believe in Christ and suffer for Him." Upon hearing this, the judge-torturer ordered that both be beheaded. Then the judge took the drill to bore the knees of Thalelaeus himself but his hands became paralyzed and he begged Thalelaeus to save him, which the innocent martyr of Christ did, with the help of prayer. Following that, Thalelaeus was thrown into water but appeared alive before his tormentor (for Thalelaeus prayed to God inwardly to prolong his sufferings that he not die immediately). When he was thrown before wild beasts, they licked his feet and were amiable toward him. Finally, Thalelaeus was beheaded and took up his habitation in life eternal in the year 284 A.D.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR ASCLAS

Asclas suffered in the town of Antinoe in Egypt during the reign of Diocletian. He was flogged, scraped, burned with candles but he remained unwavering in the Faith to the end. When the tormentor Arrian was crossing the Nile by boat Asclas, through prayer, stopped the boat in the middle of the river and would not allow it to move until Arrian wrote that he believes in Christ as the One and Almighty God. But, ascribing this miracle to a magical skill of Asclas, the tormentor forgot what he wrote and continued to torment the man of God. Finally, they tied a stone around his neck and tossed him into the Nile river. On the third day Christians found the body of Asclas along the shore with the stone around his neck (as the martyr foretold them before his death) and honorably buried him in the year 287 A.D. Leonides, the holy martyr, also suffered with him. Arrian, their tormentor, later repented, believed in Christ with his whole heart and openly began to express his faith before the pagans. The pagans also killed him and so Arrian, a one-time tormentor of Christians, was made worthy of the martyr's wreath for Christ.

3. THE VENERABLE STEPHAN OF PIPERI

This saint was born into the Niksich clan in the village of Zupa of poor but devout parents, Radoje and Jacima. According to tradition, he first lived a life of asceticism in the monastery of Moraca where he was abbot. The Turks drove him out of Moraca and he settled in Rovacki, Turmanj in the place which today is called Celishte. Later, he settled in Piperi in a cell where he remained in labor and God-pleasing asceticism until his death. He died peacefully in the Lord on May 20, 1697 A.D. His relics repose there even today and with many miracles they glorify Christ the God and Stephan, God's chosen one.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY MARTYR THALELAEUS

Attention, men and angels,

In suffering and at the moment of death

Thalelaeus, to God, prayed:

O Lord, Creator of the world,

Yours is the mercy, Yours is the vengeance!

To You, I pray; prolong my life,

That for You, more pain I may endure.

In truth, little, have I endured,

In order to merit Your kingdom.

Horrible, Your sufferings on Golgotha,

Horrible sufferings for You, Sinless One!

To the sinners, more horrible they should be,

Through torturing, in order to cleanse oneself

And salvation, worthily receive.

What most wonderful Thalelaeus prayed for,

What he prayed for, God granted,

His petitions were dear,

God, on him, permitted sufferings abundant,

To the end, Thalelaeus endured all

All, with joy and with thanksgiving,

All from suffering to suffering he walked,

As from celebration, to an even greater celebration,

Thus, the saint glorifies Orthodoxy!

REFLECTION

When a man acquires a Christian conscience, he zealously labors to correct his life and to please God. For him, all else becomes of little importance. We have examples of such men not only among the great ascetics and spiritual fathers but also among powerful rulers themselves. Emperor Theodosius the Great gives us such an example who, for a brief time, fell into heresy after which he repented. St. Ambrose, his earlier critic, spoke over his lifeless body: "I loved this man who, divesting himself of all imperial insignias, openly in church bewailing his sin and, with sighs and tears, begged forgiveness. What ordinary men are ashamed to do, the emperor was not ashamed to do. After his glorious victory over the enemies of the empire, he decided not to approach Holy Communion until the return of his sons only because his enemies were slain in battle."

CONTEMPLATION
 
To contemplate God the Holy Spirit as an Inspirer of meekness and gentleness:

1. How He inspired meekness and gentleness to the ascetics and hermits throughout the ages;

2. How He inspired and, even today, inspires meekness and gentleness to all truly repentant souls.

HOMILY

About the spirit of the world and the Spirit from God

"We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God" (1Corinthians 2:12).

Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness. The apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ did not receive the spirit of this world rather the Spirit "which is of God," i.e., who proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance as from flowers and as a good fragrance pours out on the soul of man making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant.

Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertulain writes: "the soul of man by nature is Christian." But, by the spirit of this world, it is irritable and enraged. The spirit of this world made wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit Who is from God makes lambs out of wolves.

The apostle still adds that we received the Spirit of God "that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). Therefore, that we may know what is from God in us and what is not from God and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness from that which is not from God, rather from the spirit of this world. As long as man is outside of his nature, beneath his nature, he considers bitterness as sweetness and sweetness as bitterness. But, when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweet as sweetness and bitter as bitterness.

Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit Who is from God.

Therefore brethren, let us pray that God grants us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints. And when that Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the kingdom of God has arrived in which is all sweetness itself, only good, only light, only meekness and only gentleness.

O Holy Spirit, the Spirit of meekness and gentleness, come and abide in us.

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