Prologue of Ohrid

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June 8

1. SAINT EPHREM, PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH

During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius, Ephrem was commander of the eastern regions. He was known to all for his great piety and charity and because of this was greatly respected. When it was necessary to rebuild Antioch, destroyed by earthquake and fire, the emperor assigned Ephrem the commander to direct this task. Ephrem fulfilled his duty with diligence and love. Among the ordinary masons was a bishop who, for unknown reasons, had left his episcopal see and labored as an ordinary laborer and no one knew that he was a bishop. One day he, with the other laborers, lay down to rest from the exhausting work and fell asleep. The commander Ephrem glanced at him and saw a fiery pillar rising from this man to the heavens. Amazed and frightened, Ephrem summoned this man and made him swear to tell him who he was. The man hesitated, but finally acknowledged that he is a bishop and prophesied to Ephrem that he will shortly be consecrated as patriarch of Antioch for the throne of the patriarchal see was vacant because the aged Patriarch Euphrasius perished in the earthquake. Indeed, Ephrem was elected and consecrated patriarch. Because of his goodness, purity and zeal for Orthodoxy, God gave him the great gift of working miracles. One time, in order to convince a heretic that Orthodoxy is true, he placed his pallium in a fire and prayed to God. His pallium remained in the fire for three hours and remained intact. Seeing this, the heretic was astonished and rejected the heresy. St. Ephrem died in peace in the year 546 A.D. and took up habitation in the Kingdom of God.

2. THE VENERABLE ZOSIMUS OF PHOENICIA

St. Zosimus was bom in the village of Synda in the proximity of the town of Tyre. There he lived a life of asceticism in his monastery. Not having any cloud on his conscience, with his spirit he discerned things at a distance and knew what was happening in the world. Thus, he discerned and saw the destruction of Antioch by an earthquake and, weeping bitterly, prostrated himself on the ground and prayed to God that this city not be completely destroyed. Once it happened that a lion on the road killed and ate his donkey. The saint commanded the lion to serve him in place of the donkey and to carry his load. The lion showed himself meek as a lamb before the saint and accepted the load and bore it to the gate of Caesarea where Zosimus released and freed him. Saint Zosimus died peacefully in the sixth century.

3. THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES

This saint is commemorated on February 8 and on that date his life is recounted. However, June 8 commemorates the translation of his relics from Heraklion to Euchaita. Before his martyrdom, Saint Theodore left the following instructions in his will to Varus his servant: 'Bury my body in Euchaita on the estate of my ancestors.' St. Anastasius of Sinai wrote about the miracle of the icon of St. Theodore: In the town of Karsat near Damascus, there was a church dedicated to St. Theodore Stratelates. When the Saracens conquered Damascus, a group of Saracens took up residence in this church with their wives and children. There was a fresco of the image of St. Theodore on the wall. One of the Saracens shot an arrow and struck the image of the saint in the face. At once blood flowed from the image. Soon after that, the entire group of those Saracens perished in the church. St. Anastasius said that he was personally in that church, saw the image of the saint on the wall and traces of congealed blood.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT EPHREM
 
Saint Ephrem, brimming with piety,
 
Was a soldier against evildoers,
 
Against sinful heresies and the stupid
 
And for the Church that Christ purchased
 
By [His] Blood shed on the Cross,
 
By [His] Blood eternally glorified.
 
Ephrem guards the flock from wolves
 
And the nests of the spiders, he destroys.
 
Ephrem holy, chosen one of God,
 
A light in Antioch, he was,
 
The Church shown through his mouth
 
As at the time of the glorious Chrysostom,
 
God glorified His glorifier
 
By miraculous healing power.
 
Ephrem, the star in the glorious past,
 
Ephrem, the glory of the Orthodox Church.
 
REFLECTION

Fear in suffering and fear of not suffering - this is one and the same fear and it signifies the fear of a spiritual man as to whether or not God has distanced Himself from him. When St. Catherine suffered many and difficult tortures, our Lord appeared to her and she asked Him: "Where were You until now, O Lord, to comfort me in so many sufferings?" The Lord answered her: "I was here in your heart." But as great a fear can come upon a spiritual man when sufferings do not come his way for a long time. A monk once entered a church in Alexandria and saw a woman kneeling before the icon of the Savior and weeping tears cried out to the Lord: "You have abandoned me, O Lord, O Merciful One, have mercy on me!" Following the prayer the monk asked her: "Who has wronged you that you so bitterly complain to God?" The woman replied: "Up to now, no one has wronged me, that is why I am weeping because God has abandoned me and for three years did not visit me with any sufferings. During this time, I was neither sick, nor my son, nor has any of my household livestock perished."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the miraculous healing of the two blind men: "As Jesus moved on from there, two blind men came after Him crying out, 'Son of David, have Pity on us' " (St. Matthew 9:27):

1. How the blind men cried out to the Lord in order that He open their eyes

2. How the Lord touched their eyes and did to them according to their faith and they saw;

3. How even the Lord can touch my blind soul and restore my spiritual sight if I cry out to Him in faith.

HOMILY

About the King of kings

"By Me kings reign and princes decree Justice. By Me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. I love them that love Me" (Proverbs 8:15-17).

Let not a king think that he rules by his wisdom and power for he will be mocked by the weak and the foolish. Let a ruler not think that he establishes justice among the people by his intelligence and will, that he not think foolishness, which is even absurd for children. Let princes, rulers and judges not think that they rule according to someone else's will and mercy contrary to God's will and mercy, for all those who forget God will be fatally damaged upon the ice on which they are sliding. 'I love them that love Me,' says the Lord. This, the Lord speaks in the first place to the kings, princes and judges of mankind. For, if they love the Lord, they are very dear to the Lord. If they love the Lord, the people over whom they rule and judge will love Him also. And, if the people love the Lord, they will love their kings, princes and judges.

Inasmuch as a man is elevated by power and authority over people, so much closer should he be to God than the people over whom he is elevated.

O my brethren, the Lord was crucified on a Cross for us and, by this, He showed His love for us. He Who was crucified for us truly loves us more than he who merely rejoices with us at the table. And yet when we love so many of our friends with us at the table, how then should we not love Him Who, out of love for us, was crucified on the Cross?

O Blessed Lord, open for us our spiritual sight that we may see the entire immeasurable depth of Your love and that we may be inflamed with love toward You!.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen
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