Prologue of Ohrid


July 10


During the reign of the wicked Emperor Licinius, who ruled the eastern half of the Byzantine Empire, there was a great persecution of Christians. In Armenian Nicopolis, St. Leontius, with several of his friends, appeared before Lysius, the representative of Emperor Licinius, and he declared that they were Christians. "And where is your Christ?" Lysius asked. "Was He not crucified and did He not die?" To this St. Leontius replied: "Since you know that our Christ died, know also that He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven." After a lengthy discussion about the Faith, Lysius scourged them and threw them into prison, where they were given neither food nor drink. A highborn Christian woman, Vlassina, brought them water, handing it to them through the window of the prison. And an angel of God appeared to them to comfort and encourage them. When the time came for sentencing, two jailers appeared before Lysius as Christian converts, and many others as well, numbering forty-five in all. The judge sentenced all of them to death, ordering that their arms and legs be severed with an axe and their torsos then be thrown into the fire. This horrible punishment was carried out, and the souls of the holy martyrs took flight to their Lord, entering into eternal life. They honorably suffered and inherited the Kingdom in the year 319 A.D.


The founder and father of monasticism in Russia, Anthony was born in the small town of Lyubech near Chernigov. At an early age he left his home and went to Athos, the Holy Mountain, where he was tonsured a monk and lived in asceticism in the Monastery of Esphigmenou. In obedience to a heavenly apparition, the abbot sent Anthony to Russia to establish monasticism there. Anthony chose a cave near Kiev. When those who were desirous of a monastic life gathered around him, he appointed Theodosius abbot, and he himself remained in the cave as a hesychast (silentary). Through the blessing of God, the monastery grew and became the mother of Russian monasticism. Anthony endured much evil from men and from demons, but he conquered all by his humility. He possessed the great gift of clairvoyance and of healing the sick. He reposed in the Lord in the year 1073 A.D., at the age of ninety, leaving his spiritual seedbed (nursery) to bring forth good fruit throughout the ages for the Orthodox people of Russia.


At the time of the suffering of our Lord Jesus for mankind, there was among the ranks of the Roman army in Jerusalem a Georgian named Elioz from the town of Mtskheta. His mother had heard of Christ, and believed in Him in her heart. Seeing her son off to the army in Palestine, she had counseled him not to do anything against Christ. When the Lord was nailed to the Cross, the sound of the hammer on Golgotha reached the ears of Elioz's mother in the town of Mtskheta. Hearing this sound, she cried out: "Woe is me, that I did not die before this time. Death would have rescued me from this dreadful sound!" And saying this, she fell dead. At that time Elioz was beneath the Cross, and with the other soldiers he was casting lots for the tunic [robe] of Christ. He won the vesture, and brought it to Mtskheta, giving it as a gift to his sister Sidonia. Hearing about the death of the Lord, and that her brother had been a participant in the shedding of innocent blood, she fell dead, holding the tunic of the Lord firmly in her hands, such that no one was able to tear it away and they were compelled to bury the tunic with her. A cedar tree sprouted from her grave and it poured forth a sweet-smelling healing myrrh. In time, the cedar tree was cut down and carved into a pillar. At St. Nina's prayers an angel raised this pillar, which blazed like a column of fire, over the grace, and it came to rest on the pedestal carved from the stump. King Mirian, upon being baptized, erected a church there, dedicating it to the Holy Apostles. In the year 1625 A.D., Shah Abbas took the tunic and sent it to Moscow as a gift to Prince Michael Fyodorovich and Patriarch Philaret, and it was placed in the Cathedral Church of the Dormition [Assumption] of the Blessed Virgin in Moscow.



The mother of Elioz counseled him:

"Elioz, O sight of my eyes,

Behold, you are entering the imperial army

Precisely in the land of my forefathers.

In that land, the King has appeared,

From of old, awaited, Christ the Lord--

By the prophets, the Savior, foretold.

To Georgia, word of His advent comes;

Unseen miracles, He works till now!

And words like none before He speaks

Among men, establishing the Kingdom of God!

Talk of Him is everywhere!

Men and angels rejoice,

But this joy is darkened

By the malice of the Jewish elders,

Who want to kill Him--

And by this new curse, the people are oppressed.

But, my son, the sight of my eyes,

Of their sin, do not partake,

In the Blood of the Just One, do not wet yourself."

Time passed in its course;

The mother, in spirit, at prayer one day,

The hammer on the Cross she heard,

And screamed as though in raging fire:

"O death, why did you not come to me sooner,

That I would not, that awful sound, hear?

It peals forth the death of the sinless Savior,

And on the Jewish nation, a curse!

O Son, O Elioz,

Your mother, why did you ignore?

The Blood of the Just One, why did you help shed?"

Having said this, the lamenting mother

To the ground fell, and to God her soul gave.


The thought of death is like a downpour of cold rain that extinguishes the fire of passions. The Psalmist David says: For when he dies he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him (Psalm 49:17). Who would not be ashamed when he sometimes sees among the unbelievers a better comprehension of our earthly nothingness than among some Christians? When Caliph Saladin died, in accorance with his last testament, a crier [Telal] went before his coffin with a spear in his hand and with one of the emperor's shirts on the spear, and he cried out: "The great Saladin, who conquered all of Asia, causing many nations to tremble before him, and who was victorious over emperors: behold, of all his glory and all his subjects, he takes nothing with him but this miserable shirt."


To contemplate the miraculous appearance of God to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19):

1. How Moses climbed to the top of Mt. Sinai and entered the darkness where God was: I am coming to you in a dense cloud [Exodus 19:9];

2. How the light of God is so great that, before it, all of nature and her light become darkness;

3. How the heart of man is like Mt. Sinai: in the darkness of the heart, there God encounters man.


About the duties of spiritual shepherds

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint but willingly [in God]; not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind [good heart]; neither as being lords over God's heritage but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5: 2-3).

Here are the precepts for shepherds of the flock of Christ! In a few words, the holy Apostle Peter exposes the three terrible passions that can turn shepherds [of the flock of Christ] into wolves: the passion of pride (not by constraint), the passion of greed (not for filthy lucre), and the passion of power (neither as being lords over God's heritage). In opposition to these pernicious passions, the apostle points out the three virtues which must adorn a shepherd of God flock: the virtue of the fear of God (willingly), the virtue of zeal (of a ready mind), and the virtue of service (being an example to the flock). The apostle gave these precepts not only as a teacher but also as a prophet. For the centuries have revealed two main types of shepherds: some, in their high position in the Church, have been guided by their passions: pride, greed, and lust for power; and others have been guided by the fear of God, by zeal, and by the model of service. The Church has suffered from the former, but has not perished, while they themselves have perished. From the latter, the Church has grown and advanced and shone forth in the world. The former are wolves and the latter are shepherds. The former are enemies both of man and of God, and the latter are friends both of man and of God. Christ the Chief-Shepherd will seek an accounting from the former and the latter concerning every sheep, i.e., every human soul, and He will justly recompense each according to his deeds. Pride, greed and lust for power in the so-called shepherds will be rewarded with eternal fire, while the fear of God, mercy and service of the true shepherds will be rewarded with eternal rejoicing.

O Lord Jesus, the Chief-Shepherd, help the shepherds of Your spiritual flock that, to the end, they may fulfill the commandment of Your holy apostle.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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