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 named 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 in the form 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 called "Wonderful" by the Lord Himself. Because of the name of this mountain, Simeon was surnamed "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, beheld distant parts of the world, and saw into the hearts of men. He left his body and gazed at the heavens and conversed with angels; he frightened and cast out demons; he prophesied; at times he lived without sleep for thirty days; and at times he lived even longer without food, receiving 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 delight eternally 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 second 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 change in his life. Nicetas left his home, wife, and property, and entered a monastery near Pereyaslavl, where he lived an ascetical life of difficult ascetic labors until his death. He wrapped chains around himself and enclosed himself atop 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 of 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 chains, when they were found, be placed next to his body in the tomb.


HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT SIMEON THE STYLITE OF THE WONDERFUL MOUNTAIN

Glory to wonderful Simeon of the Wonderful Mountain;

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

Through prayer, fasting and all-night vigils

A saint he became, with powerful gifts,

With powerful gifts of God's grace.

With grace, his labors the Lord rewarded,

In deeds and in words, powerful grace--

Grace which cures diseases and destroys demons;

Grace by which, according to the truth, every deed he discerned,

And into the mysteries of heaven and men, he saw.

From his childhood years to end of his days,

A beautiful and fragrant sacrifice he was.

His heart, an altar of the Living God was,

Of the Spirit All-holy, a radiant sanctuary.

To the highest realms, his mind was powerfully raised up,

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

Toward goodness his will was extended,

And mightily strengthened in God's law.

What are all riches and kingdoms; what are they?

Like a brief spark, they glow and are extinguished!

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

The world changes and perishes, and the saint remains.

If the world does not a saint produce, a fig tree it 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 glory.

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 can evoke impure thoughts and desires in man. The wonderful St. Simeon the Stylite pondered on this in a conversation with his Elder John. John the Elder said: "Man cannot make food and drink impure, for the Lord says in Scripture: Even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:3)." To this Blessed Simeon responded: "Although man cannot make food and drink impure, nevertheless they can give birth to impure thoughts and darkens the mind; they can give root to and fatten the passions, transforming a spiritual man into a carnal man nailing his thoughts to earthly desires." Is not the water that falls from the clouds clean? But when too much rain falls, the crops rot because of it. Likewise, strong foods provoke the corruption 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 a 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, like a fragrant oil, is poured out upon our hearts in no other way than by the Holy Spirit, the All-gentle and All-powerful Spirit. Though we are completely undeserving of it, the Spirit of God is poured out upon us: the love of God is shed 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 Himself from our heart. When the Holy Spirit distances Himself from us, then joy, power, peace and courage likewise depart from us immediately. We become sorrowful, weakened, disturbed and fearful. But the All-good Spirit of God only distances Himself from us; He does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us, but rather offers us, as sick men, 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 poured out upon 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. And when we are raised, the Spirit of God stands within us all until, through our sinfulness and foolishness, we fall again. Thus, in this life we 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, neither when we want You nor when we do not want You. Be with us all the time, until our death, and save us for life eternal.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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