Prologue of Ohrid


June 25


Febronia was the daughter of Prosphorus, a senator from Rome. In order to avoid marriage with a mortal man, Febronia betrothed herself to Christ and was tonsured a nun in the East, in the land of Assyria, in a convent where her aunt Bryaena was abbess. Lysimachus, the son of a nobleman, desired to wed Febronia, but since Emperor Diocletian suspected him of being a secret Christian, he sent Lysimachus to the East with his uncle Silenus to apprehend and kill Christians. Silenus was as cruel as a beast, and he exterminated Christians everywhere without mercy. Lysimachus, on the contrary, spared the Christians wherever he could and hid them from his beastly uncle. Having made Palmyra devoid of Christians, Silenus came to the town of Nisibis, close to which was a convent with fifty ascetics, among whom was Febronia. Even though she was only twenty years old, Febronia was respected both in the convent and in the town because of her great meekness, wisdom and abstinence. In this convent they adhered to the rule of the former abbess, Blessed Platonida, that every Friday be spent only in prayer and the reading of sacred books, without any other type of work. Bryaena had appointed Febronia to read the sacred books to the sisters while she was hidden behind a curtain, so that no one would be distracted and captivated by the beauty of her face. Hearing about Febronia, Silenus ordered that Febronia be brought to him. But, when the holy virgin refused to deny Christ or to enter into marriage with a mortal man, Silenus ordered them to whip her, then knock out her teeth, then cut off her hands and breasts and legs, and finally to slay her with a sword. But a horrible punishment from God befell the torturer that same day: a demon entered into him and he was overcome by a deadly terror. In this fear he struck his head against a marble pillar and fell dead. Lysimachus ordered that Febronia's body be gathered and brought to the convent, where it was honorably buried, and he and many other soldiers were baptized. From the relics of St. Febronia there occurred many healings, and she appeared on the day of her feast and stood in her usual place among the sisters, and all the sisters looked upon her with fear and rejoicing. St. Febronia suffered honorably and took up her habitation in eternal blessedness in the year 310 A.D., and in the year 363 A.D. her relics were translated to Constantinople.


Dionysius was the founder of the Monastery of St. John (Dionysiou) on Mt. Athos. He was born in Koritza in Albania. His older brother, Theodosius, withdrew to Mt. Athos, where he eventually became the abbot of the Monastery of Philotheou. When St. Dionysius had grown up, he went to his brother in Philotheou and his brother tonsured him a monk. By divine providence, while Theodosius was in Constantinople on a work assignment for the monastery, he was chosen and consecrated Metropolitan of Trebizond. A wondrous light began to appear every night to Dionysius on the spot where he later built the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner. Understanding the appearance of this light as a sign from heaven that he should build a monastery there, Dionysius traveled to Trebizond to seek help from his brother Theodosius and from Emperor Alexius Comnenus. The emperor gave him both money and a royal charter, which is still preserved in the monastery. Dionysius founded the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in the year 1380 A.D. When pirates once plundered the monastery, Dionysius again traveled to Trebizond and died there at the age of seventy-two. The Monastery of Dionysiou still exists and flourishes to the present day. In this monastery there is an icon of the All-holy Birth-giver of God called "Of the Praise," that Emperor Alexius Comnenus donated to Dionysius. According to tradition, it was before this icon that the Akathist to the Theotokos [Birth-giver of God] composed by Patriarch Sergius was read for the first time.



The virgin Febronia confessed Christ

Before the court standing, bloody and pale:

Like a palm branch, the young Febronia.

With beautiful fruit, the branch became heavy,

And to Silenus she spoke: "A Bridegroom, have I,

And no honors whatever from you will I accept.

Christ is my glory, Christ is my pride.

Oh yes, the beautiful countenance of my Bridegroom!

Cut off my feet, cut them off--the path they have traveled!

Cut off my hands, cut them off--the work they have completed!

Cut out my tongue, cut it out--with my heart will I pray!

Smash my mouth, smash it--with my heart will I speak!

Whip and crush my body--why do I need my body?
The Bridegroom has prepared a more beautiful garment,

Among many holy ones, in the heavens above,

Among the angels, in sweet Paradise.

Do not think, O Silenus, when I depart,

That the fury of your life will die.

But hear me and remember: behold, the same day

Before the Living God, together we will go,

You as a torturer, and I as one tortured by you.

Each, his deeds, will bring with him."


St. Mark the Ascetic said: "Whoever desires to avert future tribulations must bear the present tribulations with joy." Men consider slander to be a great tribulation, and there are few who bear this tribulation without grumbling. How beautiful is the fruit of tribulation that is endured with good grace! Tribulation is given to us for good spiritual commerce, but we miss the opportunity and thus remain empty-handed in the market place. Behold, even Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, Macarius, Sisoes, and thousands of other followers of the Most-slandered One were themselves slandered. But God, Who orders all things for our salvation, had so ordered that, on the thorn of slander, there would spring forth fragrant roses of glory for all those who are slandered for His Name. Had Stephen not been slandered, would he have seen the heavens opened and seen the glory of God in the heavens? And did not the slander against Joseph the Chaste serve to his even greater glory?


To contemplate the miraculous catch of fish in the deep: But when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch" (St. Luke 5:4):

1. How the apostles went out into the deep and, with the blessing of the Lord, caught an abundance of fish;

2. How I am empty and hungry as long as I stand in the shallows of the senses and fish there for power and wisdom;

3. How I should enter into the spiritual depths, with the blessing of the Lord, and there net a good catch.


About today and tomorrow

"Boast not of tomorrow, for you know not what any day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1).

Brethren, let us not boast of that which is not within our power. The Lord has set the seasons and the years under His authority, and He arranges them. God Himself alone knows whether tomorrow will number us among the living or the dead. Some have died on the eve of their marriage; others have descended into the grave on the eve of their coronation with a royal diadem. Therefore, let no one say: "Tomorrow will be for me the happiest day of my life, for tomorrow I enter into marriage!" or, "Tomorrow I will be crowned with a royal diadem!" or "Tomorrow I am going to a great feast!" or "Tomorrow a great gain is coming to me!" Oh, let no one speak of the happiness of tomorrow. Behold, this very night your soul may depart your body, and tomorrow you will find yourself surrounded by black demons in the tollhouses [Mitarstvo]! This very night, a man can be separated from his relatives and friends, from wealth and honor, from the sun and the stars, and find himself in a totally unknown company, in an unseen place, and at an unexpected judgment.

Instead of boasting of tomorrow, it would be better to pray to God to give us this day our daily bread. Today may be our last day on earth. That is why it is better to spend this day in repentance for all our past days on earth, rather than vainly fantasizing about tomorrow, about a day which perhaps will not dawn for us. Vain fantasizing about tomorrow cannot bring us any good, but repentance with tears for one day can save us from eternal fire.

O righteous Lord, burn up the insane vanity that is in us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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