Prologue of Ohrid

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July 14

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE AQUILA

Aquila was one of the Seventy Apostles. As a Jew, he first lived in Italy with his wife Priscilla. When Emperor Claudius decreed that all Jews be driven from Rome and Italy, Aquila settled in Cornith, where the Apostle Paul met him for the first time and remained in his home for a year and a half and baptized him and his wife. Burning with zeal for the Faith of Christ, Aquila and Priscilla escorted Paul to Ephesus and assisted him in his apostolic labors. Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus in which, toward the end, he says: "Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is their house" (1 Corinthians 16:19). After the death of Emperor Claudius, the Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and so Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome. After this the Apostle Paul writing the Epistle to the Romans from Cornith, greets his old friends and his co-laborers: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus; who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles" (Romans 16: 3-4). Later on, we see Aquila in Ephesus where he labors together with St. Timothy the Apostle. Chained in Rome, Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus: "Salute Priscilla and Aquila" (2 Timothy 4:19). As a bishop, Aquila baptized many and illumined them with the Faith, destroyed idols, built churches, ordained priests and spread the glory of the Incarnate Son of God among men. In the end, he was murdered by the wicked heathens and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ.

2. THE VENERABLE HELLIUS

Hellius was an Egyptian monk of the fourth century. From his early youth he dedicated himself to monastic asceticism in the wilderness, that by his life and powerful miracles, he stirred the astonishment of monks and laity alike and even though he fled the glory of men, he was unable to conceal himself. He endured great struggles with the temptations of the devil, especially during the time of prolonged fasting. One time, the devil offered him honey and another time delicious apples but Hellius did not allow himself to be deceived. He was able to discern the hearts of men, was able to discern everyone's passion and thought, not in order to show his inner knowledge, but to correct men.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT AQUILA SAINT PRISCILLA
 
The torch of light from the heavens descended
 
Into the hearts of the apostles entered first,
 
With it, the apostles enlightened men,
 
By it, their successors are strengthened.
 
And with this torch, Saint Aquila
 
Spiritually enlightened by the great Paul
 
And Blessed Priscilla, his faithful wife,
 
Their entire house, the power of the Cross filled
.
Evil and vain amusements, they abandoned
 
Into the world, on the work of the Lord they embarked.
 
Assisted Paul, solitary prisoner
 
Willingly assisted Saint Apollos
 
And to Timothy, Paul's child;
 
Brought many to the flock of Christ.
 
Blessed are the sacrifices of Blessed Priscilla,
 
Blessed are the wounds of Saint Aquila,
 
Good fruit, they bore all over
 
Laborers, inherited the Kingdom of God.
 
REFLECTION

Christians must arm themselves against the abominations of this world. They must be armed against every attack and against all temptations, so that every evil rebounds from them. Armor is not made in a day, nor in two days but is diligently and laboriously wielded by long-lasting exercise. Of what value is all our virtue if we succumb to the first abomination? Speaking of this, Saint Gregory of Nyssa cites an example with a monkey in Alexandria. He says: "An animal trainer in Alexandria taught a monkey to skillfully impersonate a female dancer on stage. The spectators at the theatre praised the monkey who was dressed as a female dancer and danced to the beat of the music. But while the viewers were occupied observing such a novel spectacle, a comedian wanted to show everyone that a monkey is nothing more than a monkey. While they all shouted and applauded at the skill of the monkey, the comedian tossed sweets on the stage, sweets that monkeys particularly like. As soon as the monkey saw the sweets, he forgot the dance, the applause, the expensive clothing and jumped with his paws for the sweets; but as his dress interfered, he began to tear it apart with his nails attempting to remove it. Instead of praise and amazement, laughter commenced among the viewers." For through the torn mask of the "dancer," a monkey was revealed.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the just punishment, which God sent upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16):

1. How these three incited the people against Moses and Aaron and all sought to become leaders;

2. How the earth opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and others with them;

3. How the earth of the body swallows the souls of all those who think bodily and, thinking thusly, they rebel against the law of God.

HOMILY

About the steadfastness of faith

"Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Peter 5:9).

Brethren, the most important fortress of the souls of men is the fortress of faith. It is upon this fortress that the devil vehemently attacks with all his arrows and all of his wiles. For the impure and evil spirit knows that when this fortress is destroyed he enslaves the soul of man forever. That is why the holy apostles prayed to the Lord: "Increase our faith" (St. Luke 17:5). Brethren, let us also pray daily that the Lord increases our faith, that He empower and strengthen our faith. The serpent primarily protects its head in danger, which is why the Lord Himself called it wise. Let us also protect the head of our spiritual life which is faith. Nothing in this world can replace faith in God: neither philosophy, nor science, nor treasure, nor glory, neither the entire world from one end to the other with all its transitory illusions. This the devil knows. That is why he especially attacks our faith, instilling doubt in us, causing us to waver, confusing our thoughts and disturbing our hearts. Since the devil knows that faith is the principle thing, it is all the more necessary that we should know it also. Because of us Christ descended to earth, because of us He suffered on the Cross and gave us the covenant of an All-saving Faith.

We can neither strengthen faith nor increase faith except through suffering. That is why the much-suffering Apostle Peter says: "That the same afflictions (such as yours) are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." The apostle does not speak of his affliction out of humility but rather speaks of the affliction of our brethren in Christ. One in faith and one in affliction. Brethren, you do not suffer alone for the True Faith but your other brethren also suffer for the same Faith.

Let this comfort your afflictions. But most of all let the afflictions of the First-born in suffering, our crucified Lord Jesus Christ Himself, comfort you.

O Lord Jesus, Sufferer above the sufferers and Victor above the victors, increase our faith and strengthen us with the power of Your Grace as you did strengthen Your holy apostles.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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