Prologue of Ohrid

JANUARY
 
 
 
 
FEBRUARY
 
 
 
 
 
 
MARCH
 
 
 
 
APRIL
 
 
 
 
 
MAY
 
 
 
 
JUNE
 
 
 
 
 
JULY
 
 
 
 
AUGUST
 
 
 
 
SEPTEMBER
 
 
 
 
 
OCTOBER
 
 
 
 
NOVEMBER
 
 
 
 
 
DECEMBER
 
 
 
 

July 2

1. THE PLACING OF THE GIRDLE OF THE ALL-HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD IN THE CHURCH OF BLACHERNAE IN CONSTANTINOPLE

During the reign of Emperor Leo the Great (458-471 A.D.), Empress Verina and Patriarch Gennadius, two noblemen from Constantinople, Galibus and Candidus, traveled throughout the Holy Land to venerate and to worship before the holy shrines. In Nazareth, they stopped for a while at the home of a Jewish maiden who kept the girdle of the All-Holy Mother of God in a secret room. Many who were ill and in need received healing from their sufferings through prayer and by touching the vesture. Galibus and Candidus took this sacred article and brought it to Constantinople and reported it to the emperor and patriarch. This brought about great joy in the imperial city. The vesture was solemnly translated and placed in the Church of Blachernae. This church was built by Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria on the shore of an inlet and was called Blachernae after the name of a Scetis commander who was slain there. And in remembrance of the placing of this vesture of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God in this Blacheran church, this feast day was instituted.

2. SAINT JUVENAL, PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

Juvenal was a contemporary of the great illuminators of the Orthodox Church: Euthymius, Theodosius, Gerasimus, Simeon the Stylite and others. He participated in two Ecumenical Councils: the Third Council in Ephesus [431 A.D.] and the Fourth Council in Chalcedon [451 A.D.]. With great power and zeal, he fought against the blasphemous heresies: in Ephesus against Nestorius who called the Birth-giver of God the Birth-giver of Christ and in Chalcedon against Eutyches and Dioscorus who taught that there was only one nature in Christ, i.e., only a divine nature without a human nature. Following the victory of Orthodoxy at both councils, Juvenal returned to his throne in Jerusalem. Even though the heresies were condemned, the heretics were not eliminated. Through the intrigue and violence of Theodosius, a friend of Dioscorus, Juvenal was banished from the patriarchal throne and Theodosius, on his own, elevated himself in Juvenal's place. In the beginning, this heretic Theodosius was supported by Empress Eudocia, the widow of Theodosius the Younger who, at that time, took up residence in Jerusalem. Hesitant and indiscreet, Eudocia finally went to see St. Simeon the Stylite in order to ask him wherein lies the truth. The saint of God unmasked all the heretical teachings and instructed the empress to adhere to the teachings of Orthodoxy as confirmed at the councils. The empress heeded, repented and she herself became embittered against the false Patriarch Theodosius. During that time Marcian and Pulcheria reigned in Constantinople. A letter from the emperor was sent to Commander Athanasius ordering him to banish Theodosius and to return and reinstate Juvenal to his throne which the commander quickly did. Juvenal governed the Church in Jerusalem for thirty-eight years as its hierarch and at a ripe old age presented himself to the Lord in the year 458 A.D. to receive from Him the reward for great suffering and misery which he had endured for the truth. During the reign of St. Juvenal, the celebration of Christmas was established on December 25.

3. SAINT PHOTIUS, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW

Photius was of Greek descent. He prudently governed the Russian Church for twenty years. Photius died in the year 1430 A.D. A week before his death an angel of God appeared to him and informed him of the exact time of his departure from this world.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY THEOTOKOS [THE HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD]
 
To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate
 
And through her, the mercy of God we seek.
 
In eternal glory, she glistens
 
And to the Lord Christ, for us prays.
 
Full of power are Her prayers.
 
Precious are the prayers of the Mother to the Son.
 
All who Her Son created She loves,
 
As a taper burns, with prayers for all
 
And reaches everywhere, for petitions to hear,
 
Everywhere to comfort, where sorrow poisons.
 
To the sick, Her name is sweetness,
 
To the demons, Her name is a scourge.
 
Where they are invoked, His Cross and Mary,
 
There, courage and new strength, they give.
 
To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate
 
And through Her, the mercy of God we seek.
 
REFLECTION

Every device of which man boasts as an invention of his mind is revealed by Divine Providence and every invented device has its two-fold significance: one physical, the other spiritual. Even the clock is a wonderful device but it was not invented merely to tell us the time of day and night but also to remind us of death. This is its spiritual significance. When the small hand completes its rounds of seconds and minutes then the large hand arrives at the ordered hour and the clock strikes. So will the clock of our life strike when the days, months and years of our life are numbered. That is why St. Tikhon of Zadonsk counsels every Christian to reflect:

1. How the time of our life continually passes;

2. How it is impossible to bring back time that is past;

3. How the past and future times are not in our control but only that time in which we are now living;

4. How the end of our life is unknown;

5. How we must be prepared for death every day, every hour and every minute;

6. How because of that we must always be in the state of continual repentance;

7. How we must be repentant in every hour and spiritually disposed as we would wish to be at the hour of our death.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the burning bush on Horeb (Exodus 3):

1. How the bush was completely engulfed by flame and was not consumed;

2. How also, the All-pure Virgin bearing within herself the Divine Fire, the Lord God-Man, and was not consumed by Him;

3. How the Grace of the Divine Fire, also rejuvenates, heals and illuminates even my sinful soul.

HOMILY

About the trial of our faith

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearance of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).

Brethren, our faith is tried more often than is the reed rocked by the winds. Trials are like the winds: a weak faith they will uproot and a strong faith will be strengthened even more. Trials are also like the flame in which straw is burned and gold is purified.

Man's intellectual pursuits and suppositions also try our faith. These are very strong and bitter winds. But we can overcome them if we are willing to adhere to the words of God and if, in opposition to those intellectual pursuits, we are able to emphasize the teachings of the Faith of Christ.

Our faith is further tried by fear and shame: fear of men who persecute the Faith and shame of men who arrogantly despise the Faith. These also are strong winds which we must resist if we wish to remain alive. How will we resist them? By the fear of God which should always be greater in our soul than the fear of men and of shame before the apostles, saints and martyrs who were not ashamed of their faith before emperors, princes and sages of this world.

Our faith is further tried by suffering and misery. This is the fire in which our faith either has to be burned like straw or to be tempered as pure gold. We will resist these trials if we would but remember Christ crucified on the Cross for us and so many thousands of martyrs for the Faith who, in their patience, conquered all and emerged from the flames as gold and who for centuries glow among the angels and among men.

Our faith is also tried by death, the death of our relatives and friends and the death of mankind in general. This is the bitter fire in which the faith of many have been burned. Is death the end of everything? It is not, but rather believe that it is the beginning of everything; it is the beginning of a new and just life. Believe in the Resurrection of Christ, believe in life beyond the grave and believe in the general resurrection and the Dreadful Judgment.

O Good Lord, strengthen the faith in us and have mercy on us.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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