Prologue of Ohrid

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July 11

1. THE HOLY GREAT FEMALE MARTYR EUPHEMIA

Saint Euphemia is commemorated on September 16, the day on which she was martyred. On this day, however, is commemorated the miracle surrounding her honorable relics, which was manifested at the time of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon. This Council was convened during the reign of Emperor Marcian and the Empress Pulcheria in the year 451 A.D., after the death of Emperor Theodosius the Younger. The reason for summoning this Council was the heresy of Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria and Eutyches, an Archimandrite from Constantinople, who spread the false teaching that in Christ the Lord there were not two natures, divine and human, but only one, a divine nature. At this Council Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, played the most prominent roles. Because a conclusion could not be reached through debates and testimonies from either side, Patriarch Anatolius motioned that the Orthodox and the heretics write down their confessions of faith and then place them in the sarcophagus where the relics of St. Euphemia reposed. They all agreed to this. Therefore, the two confessions of faith were written and placed on the bosom of the great female martyr. The sarcophagus was closed, sealed with the emperor's seal and military guards were appointed. All of them spent three days in prayer and fasting. When they opened the sarcophagus on the fourth day, they saw the Orthodox confession of faith in the right hand of the saint and the heretical confession of faith under her feet. Thus the dispute, through the power of God, was decided in favor of Orthodoxy. During the reign of Emperor Heraclius, the relics of St. Euphemia were translated from Chalcedon to Constantinople to the church dedicated to her near the Hippodrome. The iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian ordered that these relics be tossed into the sea but, in a miraculous manner, the sarcophagus was translated to the island of Lemnos and placed in the church of the great female martyr Glyceria. Then, during the reign of the Empress Irene, the sarcophagus with the relics of St. Euphemia was again returned to Constantinople to its former place. Blood flowed from these relics from time to time which helped those who were ill or in misery.

2. SAINT HELENA [OLGA]

Helena, was a great Russian princess who, before her baptism, was called Olga. Olga was the wife of Prince Igor. Patriarch Polyeuctus baptized her in Constantinople. She was very zealous for the Orthodox Faith in Russia. She entered into eternal rest in the year 969 A.D.

3. THE VENERABLE MARTYR NICODEMUS

Nicodemus was born in Elbasan, Albania. He was married and had children. Deceived by the Turks, he embraced Islam and forced his children to embrace Islam also, except for one son, who fled to the Holy Mt. Athos where he was tonsured a monk. Nicodemus traveled to Mt. Athos to bring his son back but Mt. Athos made such an impression on him that he repented and returned to the Faith of Christ and was tonsured a monk. Because of his apostasy he wept for three years and finally decided to return to Albania to repent of his sin where he previously committed it. Upon returning he declared before the Turks that he is a Christian and was beheaded on July 11, 1722. His miraculous working relics, even today, repose intact and uncorrupt.

4. THE VENERABLE MARTYR NECTARIUS

Nectarius was born in Vryoulla in Asia Minor. At age seventeen he was forced to embrace Islam. He had a similar fate as did St. Nicodemus. When, as a Muslim, he appeared before his mother, she cried out: "Depart from me, I know you not. I bore you as a Christian, not as a Muslim." He repented bitterly and departed for Mt. Athos and there in the Scete of Saint Anne was tonsured a monk. Deciding to suffer for Christ and, thereby to wash away his sin, he again returned to Vryoulla where he suffered martyrdom. He was beheaded for Christ by the Turks in his place of birth on July 11, 1820, at the age of twenty-one.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT OLGA [HELENA] SAINT NICODEMUS SAINT NECTARIUS
 
God loves penitents
 
For them, He suffered.
 
To repentance, He, the sinners
 
Even now beckons.
 
Olga, a penitent was,
 
By baptism, she was born
 
And from darkness the Russian people
 
With the Cross liberated.
 
And from Elbasan, Nicodemus
 
From Christ turned away,
 
Repented and returned.
 
And for the sin, by blood paid.
 
From Asia, Nectarius
 
A flower not yet ripened,
 
Out of ignorance, a Muslim became,
 
Saddened the angels.
 
Repented and sorrowed,
 
A brook of tears shed,
 
And death more than life,
 
Painful death, loved.
 
Turban removed and placed it,
 
Before the terrible judge
 
For the Honorable Cross, the head [of St. Nectarius] was taken.
 
Penitents, Christ loves
 
And will always love them.
 
To Christ, who is so dear
 
As a repentant man?
 
REFLECTION

A change of fortune strikes the hardest when it strikes unexpectedly. But, he who expects the stroke and guards himself against it beforehand, should he then be surprised? King Charlemagne the Great ordered his sons to learn a trade and his daughters to learn to spin wool in order to be able to earn a living should their fate change. The famous and renown Belissarius, a great general and a great conqueror, was slandered by the envious before the king and on the basis of these slanders was blinded and his estate taken away from him. The blind Belissarius sat before the gates of Rome and begged for alms saying to passers-by: "Give alms to Belissarius whom fortune raised on high but was toppled by envy and deprived of his sight!" The righteous Job says: "Is not a man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling?" (Job 7:1). Therefore, one must be as a watchful guard and prepared for all that may happen. What is there that cannot happen to a man? And yet, in every suffering one must have hope in God. On the dunghill in all his festering sores, the Righteous Job cried out: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" (Job 13:15).

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the miraculous illumination of the face of Moses (Exodus 34):

1. How, after his conversation with God on Mt. Sinai, the face of Moses was illuminated by light;

2. How the people saw, and dared not approach Moses, and he placed a veil over his face ["He placed a veil on his face" Exodus 34:33];

3. How from sincere prayer and communication with God, the face of God's chosen one is illuminated.

HOMILY

About obedience and humility

"Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves, unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility" (1 Peter 5:5).

Here is the principle of the true catholicity of Orthodoxy! It is based on the unconditional obedience of the younger toward the elders and on reciprocal obedience of equals among themselves, and on the humility of both the elders and the younger. Humility is a good word but better still is the word humbleness and the best word is "humble-mindedness": in essence, humble-mindedness corresponds exactly to the Greek word which the apostle used in his epistle and humble-mindedness signifies lowly thoughts about oneself and higher thoughts about God and constant admission of one's helplessness, one's ignorance, one's viciousness, one's unworthiness and constant recognition of God's power, God's wisdom, God's mercy and God's dignity.

God is the only King of mankind. That is why God opposed the wishes of the Israelites that a king be appointed for them from among the people. God rules and men serve God. Those who rule and those who submit are equally the servants of God. When it is known and recognized that God is King and that all men are servants of God then, by this, the foundation of catholicity is established, the foundation of the angelic society. Upon this foundation then is built the House of God, the angelic society, with the help of the obedience of the younger toward the elders and on reciprocal obedience of peers among themselves and upon the humble-mindness of all. In this manner, two terrible evils are avoided in the world: tyranny, i.e., one ruling over many by force, and anarchy, i.e., mob rule, thereby avoiding mono-tyranny or poli-tyranny.

The principle of catholicity is an organic principle, i.e., the principle of life. This is the principle of mutual service, mutual help and mutual love. Brethren, may God endow us with wisdom to have recourse toward this saving principle in our lives.

Lord Jesus, obedient and humble Lover of Mankind, implant and confirm in us obedience to Your law and mutual obedience out of love and humble-mindedness toward Your unutterable power and wisdom.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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