Prologue of Ohrid

JANUARY
 
 
 
 
FEBRUARY
 
 
 
 
 
 
MARCH
 
 
 
 
APRIL
 
 
 
 
 
MAY
 
 
 
 
JUNE
 
 
 
 
 
JULY
 
 
 
 
AUGUST
 
 
 
 
SEPTEMBER
 
 
 
 
 
OCTOBER
 
 
 
 
NOVEMBER
 
 
 
 
 
DECEMBER
 
 
 
 

May 27

1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR THERAPONTUS, BISHOP OF SARDIS

Therapontus converted many Hellenes [Greeks] to the Faith of Christ and for that he was cruelly tortured by the pagans through starvation, imprisonment and flogging. Naked, they placed him on the ground and tied him to four dry stumps and whipped him unmercifully until his flesh was ripped from his bones. But the martyr remained alive and those four stumps turned green and grew into tall trees from which many who were ill received healing. Finally, St. Therapontus was slaughtered like a lamb during the reign of Valerian about 259 A.D. and with his soul took up habitation in the kingdom to behold the glory of God in eternity. He suffered honorably in the year 259 A.D.

2. THE HOLY MARTYRS THEODORA AND DIDYMUS

During the reign of the nefarious Emperor Maximilian there lived in Alexandria a virgin Theodora, of noble descent and upbringing. As a Christian, Theodora was brought to trial before the pagans. After a prolonged period of torture for the Faith of Christ, the prince-torturer ordered that she be brought to a place of ill repute and permitted the soldiers to enter and to approach her for the satisfaction of their carnal passions. St. Theodora fervently prayed to God to save her from defilement and while she was praying, a soldier by the name of Didymus came to her and told her that he also is a servant of Christ, dressed her in his military attire and he, in her female attire. Then, he permitted her to leave and he remained in the house of ill repute. Later, he was arrested, brought to trial, admitted that he is a Christian, that he saved Theodora and that he is ready to die for Christ. Didymus was sentenced to death and led to the scaffold. Theodora ran up to him and cried out: "Even though you saved my honor, I did not ask you to save me from death. Yield to me, a martyr's death!"

St. Didymus said to her: "My beloved sister, do not prevent me to die for Christ and, by my blood, to wash away my sins!" Hearing this discussion, the pagans sentenced them both to death and both were beheaded and their bodies incinerated. They honorably suffered and both obtained the wreath of eternal glory in the year 304 A.D. at Alexandria.

3. SAINT DAVID OF GARESJA

David was one of the thirteen fathers of Georgia commemorated on May 7. He was called Garesja because of the wilderness near Tiflis where he lived the ascetical life [from the Georgian gare, 'outside' and jdoma, 'to sit']. In his old age, David decided to visit the Holy Land with a few of his disciples. He entrusted the care of the monastery to the Elders Lucian and Dodo and began his journey. When they arrived at a hill from which Jerusalem was visible, David began to weep and said: "How can I be so bold as to walk in the footsteps of the God-man with my sinful feet?" David then told his disciples that they, being more worthy, go to worship at the holy shrines, and he took three stones and began to return. But the Lord would not allow such humility to be hidden from the world and an angel appeared to Elijah the Patriarch of Jerusalem and said to him: "Immediately send for the elder who is returning to Syria. In his possession are three stones. He took with him all the grace of the Holy Land: for him one stone is sufficient for a blessing and the other two should be returned to Jerusalem. That elder is Abba David of Garesja." The patriarch immediately sent men who caught up with the Elder David, took the two stones and released him. That third stone remains, even today, on his tomb and possesses the miraculous power of healing.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT DIDYMUS AND SAINT THEODORA

Didymus beautiful, to his death went
 
And joyfully chanted psalms.

When the young Theodora, this heard,
 
From the city, hurried after Didymus,

With Didymus she debated

And about death, with him was vying:

O Didymus, O my benefactor,

Let them first kill me!

You, my virgin's honor saved

But from me, took the martyr's wreath.

O Didymus, yours the honor and glory,

But this death, let it be mine!

Remove yourself, let me the sword behead!

To that, Didymus to Theodora said:

Theodora virgin, sister of mine,

Here is the fortune about which I have always dreamed!

Here the opportunity for Christ to die,

For you it is enough that a virgin pure you are,

You the Lord serve in purity,

Give to Didymus, God to repay!

His counsel, Theodora does not accept,

Before Didymus, hurries ahead to death.

And a head for beheading, have I,

And I, a soul in need of salvation!

This debate, O most beautiful!

About death, O blessed competition!

But both, one sword can behead:

Twice like lightning, beheaded both

With the heavenly hosts, now numbered

With their prayers, helping us.

REFLECTION

Bodily health is undoubtedly a gift from God. But bodily health is, by no means, the greatest good of this world as many people speak and write about. For whatever kind of bodily health it is, it is transitory; and that which is transitory cannot be called the greatest blessing for man. Intransient values are more precious than transient values, as eternity is more precious than time. Intransient values enter into the framework of the health of the soul. Father John of Cronstadt writes: "Oh, I myself feel that when I am completely healthy and, when by labor do not exhaust myself, then I am dying in the spirit and there is no kingdom of God within me, then my body controls me and the devil controls the body."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion:

1. How that Grace makes the consecrated bread and wine a living sacrifice of Christ;

2. How It acts within the bread and wine in the same way as It acted within the body of the All-pure One [The Theotokos] at the time of the Incarnation of the Lord.

HOMILY

About the Grace of God revealed throughout the ages

"That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His Grace" (Ephesians 2:7).

With the prophetic gift, the Apostle Paul prophesied about the riches of the Grace which, throughout the ages, will be poured out on the generations of mankind. We who live nearly twenty centuries separated from the apostle can attest to that which the apostle prophesied in ages past. Just as beehives are filled with valuable and honey-bearing bees, so all the centuries from Christ until today are filled with praiseworthy men, virgins and women.

O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself on countless souls who, at first, were sinful and later became holy!

O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself on men and women who were, at first, weak and fearful and after that heroically confessed Christ the Lord and joyfully suffered for Him!

O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself throughout the centuries on the simple and illiterate who, after that, became true wisemen and spiritual generals of the faithful armies of Christ!

Brethren, just think how much more hidden holiness, unrevealed sacrificing, unrecorded heroism, unsung virtues lay hidden in the depths of twenty centuries of Christianity! When all of that is made known, all that which was in the past centuries and in those centuries which will come until the end of time, then will the angels and men be astonished before the unspeakable riches of the Grace of God. Then the Apostle Paul himself will have to cry out: "Even though I was an apostle, nevertheless, my word was too weak to express all the immeasurable richness of the Grace of God which, out of love for man, was proclaimed in the world."

O Most Holy Trinity, our mankind-loving God, uplift our hearts that we continually glorify and praise the exceeding great richness of Your Grace.
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