Prologue of Ohrid

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May 31

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE HERMAS

Hermas was one of the Seventy Apostles. He is mentioned in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. "Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them" (Romans 16:14). Hermas was a Greek by birth but lived in Rome for a long time. He was a bishop in Philippoupolis and ended his life as a martyr. He compiled a very instructive book called "The Shepherd" according to revelations from an angel of God. Hermas was a wealthy man but because of his sins and the sins of his sons, he fell into extreme poverty. Once while in prayer, a man appeared to him in white raiment with a staff in his hand and told him that he is an angel of repentance who was sent to be with him until the end of his life. The angel gave him twelve mandates:

     1. Believe in God;

     2. To live in simplicity and innocence; do not speak evil and give alms to all who beg;

     3. Love truth and avoid falsehood;

     4. Preserve chastity in your thoughts;

     5. Learn patience and generosity;

     6. To know that with every man, there is a good and an evil spirit;

     7. To fear God and not to fear the devil;

     8. To do every good and to refrain from every evil deed;

     9. To pray to God from the depth of the soul with faith that our prayer will be fulfilled;

    10. To guard against melancholy as the sister of doubt and anger;

    11. To question true and false prophecies;

    12. To guard against every evil desire.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR HERMEAS

Hermeas grew old as an imperial soldier and in his old age suffered for Christ the King. Since the evil judge tried in vain to dissuade him from the Faith of Christ and counseling him to offer sacrifices to the idols, the judge then gave orders that his teeth be knocked out with a stone and the skin peeled from his face with a knife. After that they threw him into a fiery furnace but, by the Grace of God, he was saved and stood up. Following that, by order of the judge he drank a bitter poison which was given to him by a magician, but the poison did him no harm. Witnessing this, the magician was so amazed that he openly confessed Christ for which he was immediately beheaded. Afterwards, they gouged out both of Hermeas' eyes but he did not grieve and cried out to the judge: "Take for yourself these bodily eyes that gaze upon the vanity of the world. I have eyes of the heart by which I clearly see the light of the truth." He was hung then by the feet upside down and those who did this to him were blinded and staggered around him. St. Hermeas beckoned them to come to him, laid his hands on them and, by prayer to the Lord, restored their sight. Witnessing all of this, the judge became as enraged as a lion, drew a knife and severed the head of this godly-man. Christians secretly removed the body of Hermeas and honorably buried it. His relics gave healing to all the sick and to the afflicted. St. Hermeas suffered in the year 166 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Antoninus.

3. THE HOLY MARTYR PHILOSOPHUS

This martyr of Christ was born in the vicinity of Alexandria. During the time of the persecution of Christians, St. Philosophus did not want to deny Christ the Lord before the pagan princes and judges. For that, the pagans subjected him to violent tortures. Since he was tortured in various ways, they finally placed him on a soft bed, tied his legs and hands and permitted an immoral woman to come to him and to lure him into sin. When St. Philosophus sensed that the sin of passion was being aroused in him from the touch of the woman's hand, he placed his tongue between his teeth, bit if off and spit it in the face of the depraved one. Because of that, the passion subsided in him and the immoral woman was so horrified that she immediately fled from him. He was beheaded after that about the year 252 A.D. in his youth and took up habitation in the kingdom of eternal youth.(*)

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT HERMEAS AND THE MAGICIAN

The old and evil magician, poisoner and liar,

In everything very small, but great in fear,

Bitter poison, to the holy Hermeas, he gave,

From this poison, even the serpents would hide!

Hermeas, the poison drank: death did not claim him,

And the old magician, saw and trembled all over,

O that wonderful miracle, aloud he cried out,

Over the soldier of God, the poison has no power!

Let be hidden, the darkened days of my life,

Let be erased, the years of my shameful life!

To dumb deceits, my entire life I dedicated,

My entire life, in the service of these idols dumb.

And just today, in great fear, I see:

The One and the True God, the God of Hermeas is.

Crucified as Christ, the Lord from the heavens

His only, are the miracles truthful.

From now on, Christ's I am: O Christ, forgive me

For the least servant, You, O Good One, receive me.

Forgive me my all too many sins, forgive me,

For You, I will sacrifice, body and lifeless bones!

Bitterly repentant, that, the elder uttered,

At once cleansed, of falsehood and fears,

Among Christians, himself, he openly numbered

The sword over him flashed and with blood, baptized him.

REFLECTION

This life is a spiritual struggle. To conquer or to be defeated! If we conquer, we will enjoy the fruits of victory throughout all eternity; if we are defeated, we will endure the horrors of destruction throughout all eternity. This life is a duel between man and all that is contrary to the Divine. God is an Almighty ally to all who sincerely call upon Him for help. "This life is not a joke or a play thing," says Father John of Cronstadt, "but men turn it into a joke and plaything. But the capricious play around with time given to us for preparing for eternity, play around with empty words. They gather together as guests, they sit and chatter and after that they sit and play in this way or the other way; they gather in theatres and there they entertain themselves. All life for them is an amusement. But, woe unto them who are only entertaining themselves."

CONTEMPLATION
 
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Unction [Anointing with Oil]:

1. How that Grace works through sanctified oil;

2. How according to prayer and faith, It heals every illness and every infirmity.

HOMILY
 
About the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Unction [Anointing with Holy Oil]

"...And anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (St. Mark 6:13).

The holy apostles did this and it is commanded that we do the same. The Apostle James writes to us: "Is there any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (St. James 5: 14-15). You need not call anyone except the priests, the elders of the church; you need not anoint him in any other name except the Name of the Lord, so that it will not appear as witchcraft. No one will be able to raise him except the Lord Himself nor can any other forgive his sins except the One Lord. Why oil and not something else? Because it is commanded and so that we may show obedience and faith. Why is it commanded that we baptize with water and anoint [Chrismate] with oil [myrrh] and communicate with bread and wine? That is God's choice and God's prudence and ours is to believe and to obey. Various elements are used in the different Mysteries [Sacraments], but the Grace of God is one as our Lord is one and everything is from the Lord. Why does our Lord need some materials in order to pour out His Grace upon us? The Lord does not need the material but we do as long as we are material, we need material. Condescending to our weakness, the Lord uses matter. To the incorporeal angels, He gives Grace in an incorporeal manner.

Oil alone is helpless of itself as every other material is helpless of itself, but the Grace of God is All-powerful. Through oil, the Lord gives the Grace of His Holy Spirit and that Grace heals the sick, raises the infirm and restores sanity to the insane.

O my brethren, how inexpressible is God's goodness! What did not God do for us? And what more could we possibly desire? He knew all of our needs beforehand and, for all of them, He foresaw the cures in advance. He only seeks from us that we believe in Him and fulfill His prescriptions. Is it not insolent and shameful that we more often conscientiously follow the instructions of physicians, mortal men such as we are, and neglect the prescriptions of the Immortal God?

O All-good Lord, melt our stony hearts by the power of Your Grace so that before the hour of our death, we may show indebted thanksgiving toward You: toward You O our All-good and our All-wise God!

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

(*) In the Greek Prologue, Philosophus is commemorated on May 1.
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