Prologue of Ohrid

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May 24

1. THE VENERABLE SIMEON THE STYLITE OF THE WONDERFUL MOUNTAIN

This wonderful saint Simeon was born in Antioch in the year 522 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Justin the Elder. His father perished in an earthquake and he was left alone with his mother Martha. At age six, he withdrew to the desert to a spiritual father John under whose guidance he submitted himself to a life of austere fasting and prayerful asceticism to the astonishment of all who saw him. Enduring horrible demonic temptations, he received great comfort and grace from the Lord and His angels. The Lord Christ appeared to him under the guise of a handsome youth. After this vision, a great love for Christ burned in Simeon's heart. He spent many years on a "pillar" praying to God and chanting psalms. Under God's guidance, he withdrew to a mountain named "Wonderful" by the Lord Himself. Because of the name of this mountain, Simeon was surnamed the "Man of the Wonderful Mountain." Because of his love for God, he was endowed with the rare gift of grace, by which he healed every infirmity, tamed wild beasts, discerned into distant parts of the world and the hearts of men. He left his body and gazed at the heavens and conversed with angels, frightened and cast out demons, prophesied, at times lived without sleep for thirty days and even longer without food and received nourishment from the hands of angels. The words of the Lord were completely fulfilled in him: "He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (St. John 14:12). In the year of our Lord 596 A.D. and in the seventy-fifth year of his life, St. Simeon presented himself to the Lord that he, together with the angels, may satisfy himself gazing upon the face of God.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR MELETIUS STRATELATES, ALONG WITH 1218 SOLDIERS, THEIR WIVES AND CHILDREN

Meletius was accused of demolishing a pagan temple during the reign of Emperor Antoninus. Nailed to a tree, Meletius gave up his holy soul. Many soldiers under his command, who refused to deny Christ their Lord, suffered with him. They all honorably suffered in the eleventh century and took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ the God.

3. VENERABLE NICETAS, THE STYLITE

As a youth, Nicetas lived an unrestrained and sinful life. Entering into church by chance, he heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Wash yourselves (from sin) and you will be clean" (Isaiah 1:16). These words entered deeply into his heart and caused a complete turnabout in his life. Nicetas left his home, wife, property and entered a monastery near Pereyaslavl, where he lived an ascetical life of difficult mortifications until his death. He wrapped chains around himself and enclosed himself in a pillar for which reason he was called a Stylite. God endowed him with abundant grace so that he healed men of various tribulations. He cured Prince Michael Chernigov of palsy. Certain evil doers spotted the chains on him and, because of their brightness, thought they were made of silver. They killed him one night, removed the chains and carried them away. This occurred on May 16, 1186 A.D. After his death, he appeared to the Elder Simeon and ordered that his discovered chains be placed next to his body in the tomb.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT SIMEON THE STYLITE

Glory to wonderful Simeon of the Wonderful Mountain,

Of the Most-high Creator, he was the praise.

Prayer, fasting and all night vigils

A saint he became, with powerful gifts,

With powerful gifts, God's grace.

With Grace, his labor the Lord rewarded,

In works and in deeds, powerful Grace,

Which cures diseases and demons destroys,

Which, according to the truth, every deed he judges,

And, the mysteries of heaven and men he recognizes.

From his childhood years, until his older days

A beautiful and fragrant sacrifice, he was.

His heart, the altar of the Living God was,

For the Spirit All-holy, a glowing sanctuary.

To the greatest spheres, the mind powerfully uplifted,

Where all the objects of faith, with the eyes are seen.

And, toward good his will was extended,

Mightily strengthened in God's law.

What are all riches, and all kingdoms; What are they?

As a quick spark, they glow and extinguish!

Compared to a holy man - even the whole world, what is it?

The world changes, perishes and the saint remains.

If it (the world) does not a saint produce, the world, a fig tree is

Without fruit and worth, a dead barren tree!

Glory to wonderful Simeon, of the Wonderful Mountain,

Of creation and the Creator, he was the praise.

REFLECTION

The Apostle Paul said: "To the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:15). Even the food of man, by itself, cannot be called impure although some food in man can provoke impure thoughts and desires in man. Concerning this, the wonderful St. Simeon the Stylite reflects on a conversation with his Elder John. John the Elder said: "Man does not soil food and drink for the Lord says in Scripture: `Even as the green herb have I given you all things' " (Genesis 9:3). To that Blessed Simeon responded: "If man then does not soil food, nevertheless it gives birth to impure thoughts and darkens the mind and it gives root to and fattens passions and transforms the spiritual man into the physical, nailing his thoughts to earthly desires." Is not the water which falls from the clouds clean? But when too much rain falls, the crops decay from it. Likewise heavy foods provoke the decay of the spiritual and moral being of man.

CONTEMPLATION
 
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation [Confirmation]:

1. How that Grace anoints the soul cleansed from original sin by baptism, with the joy of sonship;

2. How that Grace confirms man in the Faith of Christ and seals him for the kingdom of God.

HOMILY
 
About how the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of men

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (Romans 5:5).

Love is joy and love anoints the heart of man with joy. Brethren, love is power and love anoints the heart of man with power. Love is peace and love anoints the heart of man with peace. And from joy, power and peace, courage is born and love anoints the heart of man with courage.

The love of God, as a fragrant oil, is shed abroad in our hearts by no other than the Holy Spirit, the All-gentle and All-powerful Spirit. Completely undeserved by us, the Spirit of God is shed abroad in us: the love of God in our hearts in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation. However, in time we neglect this love and by sin we alienate ourselves from God and fall into the disease of spiritual paralysis. And the Holy Spirit unwilling to abide in an impure vessel, distances Itself from our heart. When the Holy Spirit distances Itself from us, then joy, power, peace and courage also departs from us immediately. We become sorrowful, weakened, disturbed and fearful. But the All-good Spirit of God only distances Itself from us but does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us but He offers to us who are sick, remedies through the Mystery of Repentance and the Mystery of Holy Communion. When we again cleanse ourselves through the Mysteries [Sacraments] of Repentance and Communion then He, the Holy Spirit of God, again abides in us and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We fall, we rise, we fall and we rise! When we fall, the Spirit of God stands by us and raises us if we desire to be raised. However, when we are raised, the Spirit of God stands within us all until we, by sin and foolishness, do not desire to fall. Thus, we in this life interchangeably become a fertile field and a wilderness, sons of repentance and prodigal sons, fullness and emptiness, light and darkness.

O All-good Holy Spirit of God, do not depart from us either when we want You and when we do not want You. Be with us all the time until our death and save us for life eternal.
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