Prologue of Ohrid

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May 30

1. VENERABLE ISAAC, THE CONFESSOR

During the reign of Emperor Valens there was a great persecution against Orthodoxy on the part of the Arians which the emperor assisted. Hearing about this persecution a hermit Isaac, somewhere from the east, left the wilderness and came to Constantinople to encourage the right-believers and to denounce the heretics. Precisely at that time, the Emperor Valens departed to the north with his army against the Goths, who had come down from the Danube toward Thrace. Isaac came before the emperor and said to him: "O Emperor, open the churches of the right-believers and God will bless your path." The emperor ignored the elder and proceeded on his way. The following day, Isaac ran out again before the emperor and again he repeated his warning and the emperor almost heeded the elder were it not that a certain advisor of his, a follower of the Arian heresy, prevented him. Isaac ran out before the emperor on the third day, grabbed the emperor's horse by the reins and begged the emperor to grant freedom to the Church of God and threatened him with the punishment of God if he acts contrary to his petition. The enraged emperor ordered that the elder be thrown into a chasm of mud and thorns. But three angels appeared and pulled the elder out of the chasm. The fourth day Isaac came before the emperor and prophesied a terrible death for him if he does not grant freedom to the Orthodox: "I am speaking to you, O emperor, you will lead the army against the barbarians but you will not be able to sustain their attack. You will flee from them but you will be captured and burned alive." Thus, it happened. The barbarians cut down the Greek army as grass but the emperor, with his Arianite advisor, fled and hid in a basket. The barbarians arrived at that place and learning where the emperor was, surrounded the basket and set it afire and both the emperor and his advisor were burned alive. Following this, Theodosius the Great was crowned emperor. Theodosius, who heard about the prophecy of Isaac and its fulfillment, summoned Isaac and prostrated himself before him. Since peace reigned in the Church and the Arians banished into exile, Isaac wanted to return to his wilderness but was persuaded and remained in Constantinople. An aristocrat, Saturninus by name, built a monastery for the Elder Issac where he lived a life of asceticism until his death, working many miracles. The monastery overflowed with monks and became a great monastery. Before his death, Isaac appointed Dalmatus, his disciple, as abbot after whom this monastery was later called. The God-pleasing Elder Isaac entered into eternity in the year 383 A.D., to find pleasure in gazing at the face of God.

2. SAINT MACRINA

Macrina was the grandmother of St. Basil the Great. She was wonderful in mind and in her piety. She was a disciple of St. Gregory Neo-Caesarea the miracle worker. During the reign of Diocletian, Macrina abandoned her home and, with her husband Basil, hid themselves in the forests and wilderness. Their property was confiscated but they did not grieve over it. Deprived of everything except their love for God, they settled in a primeval forest where they spent seven years. By God's providence, goats descended from the mountains and offered themselves to them and so they were nourished. They both died peacefully in the fourth century following great suffering for the Faith of Christ.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
VENERABLE ISAAC, THE CONFESSOR

Isaac, as the Prophet Isaiah

By virtue shines, similar to the sun,

The emperor he begs, the evil emperor he threatens,

Because, the great God he defies:

Against whom did you rise up O my emperor

Desolate, your kingdom will remain,

Because, against the Most-high God, you do wage war,

Under his feet, dust and ashes!

With an army, against the cruel barbarians, you set out

In your power, O emperor you hope!

To a little ant, your power is similar,

Whoever is with God, the true power has.

Your foot started out in two wars:

Against God and against men.

With poor men, everything will be easy,

But, make peace with the invincible God.

To Orthodoxy adhere, heresy reject,

For the cruel fire will fry you.

Fire here and over there fire,

Shamefully, both worlds you will forfeit.

The warning of the saint, the emperor does not heed,

Into battle entered; God he did not mention.

Into battle entered; from battle did not return -

As an odius smell, Valens was and passed.

And God, His Church freed,

And Isaac, of Paradise was made worthy.

REFLECTION

The Word of God is food for the soul. The Word of God is both power and light for the soul. He who reads the Word of God gives food, power and light to his soul. He who can, should read the Word of God in Holy Scripture and he who cannot should listen to him who reads Holy Scripture. All the saints emphasized the benefit of reading Holy Scripture. St. Seraphim of Sarov says: "The soul should be provided with the Word of God, for the Word of God, as Gregory the Theologian says, is the bread of angels which feeds the soul that is hungry for God. But, above all, one should read the New Testament and the Psalter. From this proceeds illumination of the mind... It is very beneficial to read the Word of God in solitude and to read the entire Bible with understanding. For such a practice, above other good deeds, the Lord gives His mercy to man and fills him with the gift of understanding. When man provides his soul with the Word of God then he is filled with understanding of what is good and what is evil."

CONTEMPLATION
 
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of the Priesthood [Holy Orders - Ordination]:

1. How that Grace sanctifies, illumines and enables a man for the service of shepherd and teacher;

2. How It empowers and fully empowers the priest for the performing of the other Mysteries.

HOMILY
 
About the Mystery of Ordination

"And when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them" (Acts of the Apostles 6:6).

By laying their hands on the chosen faithful, the apostles consecrated bishops, priests and deacons. It is apparent from this that the Christian Faith is not only a teaching, but also a power. It is not only necessary to know but also to have power. It is not only necessary to be chosen by men but you should be confirmed by God. If power were not necessary for the priestly vocation, neither would the laying on of hands be necessary, but only the teaching from mouth to ear. The laying on of hands, therefore, signifies the transferring of authority and bringing down power on the chosen one. The power is in the Grace of God Who strengthens man, sanctifies and illumines him. Truly, the Grace of God is that which teaches, leads, shepherds and through the Mysteries [Sacraments] strengthens the flock of Christ. A priest is the vessel of this inexpressible, awesome and all sufficient power of Grace. Blessed is that priest who understands what kind of precious treasury he has become! Blessed is he if the fear of God does not leave him day and night until his last breath! There is no greater honor on earth, no greater responsibility than the calling of the priestly service. By the laying on of hands by the bishop, the priest has come into contact with the heavenly and eternal source of Grace and with the authority of the apostles. By that, the priest has become a companion in Grace and co-celebrant with all the Orthodox priests from apostolic times until today with the great hierarchs, with the countless number of saints, confessors, miracle-workers, ascetics and martyrs. He is gently adorned by their dignity but he is burdened by their merits, their examples and their reproaches.

O my brethren, great and most great is the shepherd over Christ's spiritual flock. He is responsible to pray to God for all and all the faithful are required to pray to God for him.

O Lord, Supreme Hierarch, sustain the Orthodox priests in strength, in wisdom, in purity, in zeal, in meekness and in every apostolic virtue by the Grace of Your Holy Spirit.
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