Prologue of Ohrid

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June 15

1. THE HOLY PROPHET AMOS

Amos was born in the village of Thecua near Bethlehem. He was of simple origin and life. Amos was a swine herdsman for a wealthy man of Jerusalem. But God Who does not look at who is who by his outward appearances but rather by the purity of his heart, and Who took both Moses and David from their sheep, and appointed them as leaders of the people, chose this Amos as one of His prophets. He rebuked King Uzziah and his pagan priests for idolatry and dissuaded the people from worshipping the golden calves in Bethel, teaching them to worship the One Living God. When the chief pagan priest persecuted Amos, he prophesied that the Assyrians will conquer Israel, that they will slay the king and the sons of Amaziah and that the Assyrian soldiers will defile Amaziah's wife before his eyes because he led the people into adultery with idols. All of this materialized. The son of a pagan priest struck the prophet on the forehead with his staff so forcefully that Amos fell. Barely alive, Amos was brought to his village of Thecua where he surrendered his holy soul to God. Amos lived in the eighth century before Christ.

2. THE HOLY MARTYRS VITUS, MODEST AND CRESCENTIA

St. Vitus was born in Sicily of famous but non-believing parents. Modest was his teacher and Crescentia was his governess. St. Vitus was baptized at an early age and, at the age of twelve, withdrew to live a life of great mortification. Angels appeared to him, directed and strengthened him in his mortification and he, himself, was as radiant and beautiful as an angel of God. The hand of a judge who beat him withered but Vitus healed his hand through prayer. Seeing twelve radiant angels in his room "whose eyes were as stars and whose faces were as lightning," his father was blinded. Vitus, through prayer, restored his sight. When his father wanted to kill him, an angel appeared to Vitus and took him together with Modest and Crescentia to Lucania on the shore of the river Silaris. Here, Vitus worked many miracles over the infirm and the insane. At the request of Emperor Diocletian, Vitus traveled to Rome where he expelled an evil demon from the emperor's son for which the emperor did not reward him but, on the contrary, cruelly tortured him because he would not worship the dumb idols. However, the Lord delivered him from all torments and by His invisible hand translated him again to Lucania where he, Modest and Crescentia presented themselves to the Lord. The relics of St. Vitus are located in Prague, the Czech Republic.

3. THE VENERABLE MARTYR DOULAS

Doulas lived a holy life in a monastery in Egypt. One of his brethren, out of envy, accused him of sacrilege, the stealing of ecclesiastical articles. They removed the cassock from the innocent Doulas and turned him over to the prince for trial. The prince ordered him to be scourged and wanted to cut off his hands according to the law for such a crime but, at that moment, that brother repented and declared the innocence of Doulas. After twenty years of exile and humiliation, Doulas was restored to the monastery and, on the third day, reposed in the Lord. His body vanished in a miraculous way.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR LAZAR [LAZARUS], SERBIAN PRINCE

Lazar was one of the Serbian noblemen who ruled the Serbian empire after the death of Tsar Dushan. After the death of Tsar Urosh, Patriarch Ephrem crowned Lazar as the Serbian king. Lazar sent a delegation to Constantinople with the monk Isaiah to implore the patriarch to lift [remove] the anathema from the Serbian people. He fought against the Turkish powers on several occasions. Finally, he clashed [fought] on the Field of Blackbirds [Kosovo Polje] on June 15, 1389 A.D. against the Turkish Emperor Amurat where he was beheaded. His body was translated and interred in Ravanica, his memorial church [Zaduzbina] near Cuprija, and later was translated to Ravanica in Srem and from there, during the Second World War (1942), was translated to Belgrade and placed in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Archangel Michael where it rests today incorrupt and extends comfort and healing to all those who turn to him with prayer. [In 1989, on the occasion of the six-hundred year anniversary of his martyrdom, St. Lazar's relics were again translated to the monastery of Ravanica in Cuprija]. St. Lazar restored the monasteries of Hilendar [Mt. Athos] and Gornjak. He built Ravanica and Lazarica [in Krusevac] and was a benefactor of the Russian monastery St. Pantaleon [Mt. Athos] as well as many other churches and monasteries.

5. SAINT EPHREM, SERBIAN PATRIARCH

As the son of a priest, Ephrem from an early age yearned for a spiritual and ascetical life. He fled to Mt. Athos when his parents wanted him to marry. Later, he returned and lived a life of asceticism in the Ibar gorge and in the monastery of Decani [Kosovo]. When rivalry and war broke out concerning precedence in the State and, unfortunately even in the Church, the Assembly [Sabor] chose Ephrem to succeed the deceased Sava as patriarch in 1375 A.D. When he was informed of his election, he wept bitterly but was unable to refuse. He crowned Prince Lazar as Tsar in 1382 A.D., renounced his throne and turned it over to Spiridon and again withdrew to the wilderness. Following the death of Spiridon in 1388 A.D., Tsar Lazar begged him to accept the throne again. He governed the Serbian Church in the difficult time of the defeat at Kosovo [1389 A.D.] until 1400 A.D. when he died in the eighty-eighth year of his earthly life and took up habitation with the Lord Whom he loved. His relics repose in the monastery of Pec [Kosovo].

6. BLESSED AUGUSTINE, THE BISHOP OF HIPPO

Augustine turned from paganism to Christianity, thanks to the counsels, tears and prayers of his mother Monica. He was a great teacher of the Church and an influential writer but with certain unapproved extremes in his teaching. As bishop of Hippo, he glorified the Lord for thirty-five years and lived a total of seventy-six years on earth (354-430 A.D.).

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT VITUS
 
Vitus most beautiful, full of heavenly honey,
 
Before unbelievers, confesses Christ,
 
And mocks the lifeless idols
 
And the idolatrous darkened soothsayers.
 
Glorifies Christ, as the power of God,
 
To his father and to the judge, justice teaches,
 
But against him, both of them took up arms,
 
And for the young Vitus, torments prepared.
 
But God, His sufferers protects
 
And glorifies His glorifiers.
 
Vitus, in the face of the emperor, needed
 
To witness to the Lord Christ,
 
And in Rome, to suffer publicly,
 
That his name would be more glorified.
 
Little Vitus, the angels held,
 
Little Vitus, the angels led,
 
And his soul, the angels bore
 
Into Paradise took it and to God presented it.
 
REFLECTION

It is not always easy to conquer the spirit of vanity and conceit in oneself. In this, only the great spiritual directors have succeeded, primarily with God's grace, with constant vigilance over their souls and with very delicate spiritual sensitivities and distinctions. At one time, Abba Nisteroes was walking with one of his brethren. Suddenly, they spotted a serpent on the road. The brother quickly moved aside and the great Nisteroes fled after him. "Are you also afraid, father?" the monk asked Nisteroes. The elder replied: "No, my son, I am not afraid but I had to flee otherwise I would not have fled from the spirit of vanity." That is: "Had I remained in place, you would have been amazed at me and I would have become vain from that!"

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the miraculous healing of many who were sick: "And besought Him that they might only touch the hem of the His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole" (St. Matthew 14:36):

1. How many who were sick only touched the hem of the Lord's garment and were made whole;

2. How my soul can be healed if I touch the hem of His Body and Blood, as the physical garment of His Divinity.

HOMILY

About the poor man and his Creator

"He who mocks the poor, blasphemes his Maker (Creator)" (Proverbs 17:5).

If you are wealthy, in what are you wealthy, if not in the property of God? The things which constitute your wealth, whose are they, if not God's? Therefore, if you become proud in that which you possess, you become proud with the property of another, you become proud with that which is loaned to you by God. Why do you then mock the poor man who has less of someone else's property in his hands? Why do you mock him if he borrowed less from God than you? If he took less, he owes less; and you who took more, owe more. Not only should you not mock the poor man, you should admire him. Behold, he leads a struggle on the battlefield of this world with much less means than you. Both of you are soldiers, only you fight as a soldier abundantly equipped with all the needs and he fights naked and hungry. If the both of you succumb and surrender to your enemy, he will be judged more leniently than you. However, if you are both victorious, he will receive a greater reward than you and his victory will be more celebrated than yours.

He, who mocks the naked and hungry soldier, mocks his king. He, who mocks the poor, shames his Creator. If you know that the poor man's Creator is your Creator, the one and the same, you would not mock him. If you know that the poor man stands in the same military rank in which you are also, you will cover him, feed him and you will bring him closer to yourself.

O, Omnipotent Lord, boundless is Your wisdom in the economy of Your creation. Illumine us by Your Holy Spirit that we may marvel at that economy and, with reverence and love, gaze upon all of Your creation, gazing upon them through You.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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