Prologue of Ohrid

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May 21

1. SAINT CONSTANTINE AND EMPRESS HELENA

Constantine's parents were Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had other children by another wife, but from Helena he had only Constantine. After his coronation Constantine fought three great battles: the first against Maxentius, a Roman tyrant; the second against the Scythians on the Danube; and the third against the Byzantines. Before the battle with Maxentius, while Constantine was greatly concerned and in doubt about his success, a brilliant Cross appeared to him in the sky during the day, completely adorned with stars. Written on the Cross were these words: "By this Sign Conquer." Astonished, the emperor ordered a large cross to be forged, similar to the one that appeared to him, and that it be carried before the army into battle. By the power of the Cross he achieved a glorious victory over the enemy, which was greatly superior in number. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber River. Immediately after that, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan, in the year 313 A.D., to halt the persecution of Christians. Defeating the Byzantines, Constantine built a beautiful capital on the Bosphorus, which from that time on was called Constantinople. Before this, however, Constantine succumbed to the dreaded disease of leprosy. As a cure, the pagan priests and physicians counseled him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children. However, he rejected that. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester, who would cure him of this dreaded disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian Faith, baptized him and the disease of leprosy vanished from the emperor's body. When a discord began in the Church because of the mutinous heretic Arius, the emperor convened the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325 A.D., at which the Arian heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed. St. Helena, the pious mother of the emperor, was very zealous for the Faith of Christ. She visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, and built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha, as well as many other churches throughout the Holy Land. This holy woman presented herself to the Lord in her eightieth year in 327 A.D. Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years. He died in Nicomedia in his sixty-fifth year, in 337 A.D. His body was interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.

2. THE VENERABLE MARTYR PACHOMIUS

Pachomius was born in Little Russia. The Tartars captured him in his youth and sold him to a Turkish furrier as a slave. He spent twenty-seven years in slavery in the town of Usaki in Asia Minor. He was forced to become a Muslim. Then, he went to Mt. Athos, was tonsured a monk, and spent twelve years in the Monastery of St. Paul. He decided to suffer for Christ. His spiritual father, the Elder Joseph, accompanied him to Usaki, where Pachomius presented himself to his former master as a Christian in the monastic habit. The Turks subjected him to torture, threw him into prison and beheaded him on the Feast Day of the Ascension, May 8, 1730 A.D. Many miracles were wrought by his blood and relics. Pachomius was buried on the island of Patmos in the Church of St. John the Theologian. Thus this Little Russian peasant became a martyr and wreath-bearer in the Kingdom of Christ.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT CONSTANTINE

To Constantine, the shining Cross appeared;

Constantine saw it and glorified God.

From the Son of God, a sign it was;

There is nothing more beautiful than this sign:

The sign of suffering and temporary trouble,

But also the sign of final victory.

By this sign which worked wonders,

Constantine set out and everywhere conquered.

In the midst of pagan Rome, the Cross-persecuter,

The Cross on high he raised, to the glory of the Savior.

That which for three centuries had been broken and cursed,

Now, for Rome, became great and holy!

For three centuries the Cross had been spat upon;

In the blood of the saints, the earth had been bathed.

Empires and emperors, arrogant and odious,

Like weak reeds, were destroyed one by one,

But the sign of the Cross, upright remained;

Miraculously and gloriously it shone on the world.

Constantine recognized it and raised it even higher;

That is why, in the calendar, his name is written.

REFLECTION

We see that vice is something shameful and sinful, in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: "Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works." This is why the Savior said: They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (St. Matthew 7:15). Call a liar, a liar; a thief, a thief; a murderer, a murderer; an adulterer, an adulterer; a slanderer, a slanderer, and you will infuriate them. But iof you want to call a man honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious, you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, according to Chrysostom, I quote: "Good works are something natural in man, while vice is something unnatural and false." If a man is caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garments of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vice!

CONTEMPLATION
 

To contemplate God the Holy Spirit as the Inspirer of justice, peace and joy:

1. How He inspired with justice, peace and joy all the lovers of Christ's justice;

2. How He inspired--and even today inspires--with justice, peace and joy all the sufferers for Christ's justice.

HOMILY
 

About the children of God

"The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

Only he who has the Spirit of God in himself has the witness that he is a child of God. Without the Spirit of God there is no such witness. Not even the entire universe can give this witness. The universe by itself, without the Spirit of God--what else does it witness to us other than the fact that we are its slaves, its victims, whom it unmercifully swallows? In essence, the pagans thought that also. Do not the opponents of God today think likewise? They do think so. For, indeed, it is difficult to take that thought away from those who do not recognize the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Witness of Heaven. The same apostle says: For you have not received the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15). What is this spirit of bondage? It is every spirit except the Spirit of God, Whom Christ the Lord sends to those who love Him. The spirit of bondage is the spirit of materialism, the spirit of fortune-telling, the spirit of naturalism, the spirit of pessimism, the spirit of despair, the spirit of vice. Only the Spirit of God is the All Holy Spirit of adoption and freedom.

Oh, what happiness; oh, what peace; oh, what joy when the Spirit of God nestles in the cleansed heart of man as a sparrow does in its nest! Then our hope opens hundreds of doors in the prison of the universe; and our embrace, wider than the universe, stretches out to the One Who is greater and more merciful than the universe. To Whom? To the Father! And then we cry out: Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15).

The witness of God that comes through sight can lead us to doubt that we are the children of God. But the witness that comes to us from the heart, from the Spirit of God, does not leave even the slightest doubt. God witnesses about God. What doubt can there be? God the Holy Spirit caresses us in the heart of our very being. Can there be any kind of doubt there? No, for then we know and feel completely confident that God is the Father and that we are the children of God. No one's servants, no one's slaves, but rather the children of God.

O Lord God, Holy Spirit, come abide in us and remain with us as a Witness of the Trinity and the Kingdom, as a Witness of the immortal Paradise.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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