Prologue of Ohrid

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July 21

1. THE HOLY PROPHET EZEKIEL

Ezekiel was the son of a priest from the town of Sarir. He was taken to Babylon into captivity with King Jeoiachim along with many other Israelites. Living in captivity, Ezekiel prophesied for twenty-seven years. He was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah. While Jeremiah taught and prophesied in Jerusalem, so Ezekiel taught and prophesied in Babylon. The prophecies of Jeremiah were known in Babylon and the prophecies of Ezekiel were known in Jerusalem. Both of these holy men agreed in the prophecies of each other. Both were mistreated and tortured by the unbelieving Jewish people. St. Ezekiel had frightening and unimaginable visions. By the river Chebar, Ezekiel saw the heavens open, "a great cloud and a fire infolding itself and a brightness was about it" (Ezekiel 1:4) and four wild creatures like molten copper [burnished brass]. One creature had the face of a man, the second the face of a lion, the third the face of a calf [ox], the fourth the face of an eagle [Ezekiel 1:10]. The face of the man signifies the Lord Incarnate as a man, the face of the lion, His divinity, the face of the calf, His sacrifice and the face of an eagle, His resurrection and ascension. At another time he was shown the vision of the resurrection of the dead. The prophet saw a valley full of dry dead bones and when the Spirit of God descended upon them, they came to life and rose to their feet [Ezekiel 37:1-10]. He also saw the most terrible destruction of Jerusalem when the wrath of God mowed down all, except those who were earlier marked with the Greek symbol called Tau [Ezekiel 9: 1-7]. This mark is like our letter T which is also the sign also of the Cross. The evil of the Jews did not even spare this holy man. Infuriated at him because he rebuked them, the Jews tied him to the tails of horses and ripped him in two. He was buried in the same sepulchre with Shem, the Son of Noah.

2. THE VENERABLE SIMEON AND JOHN

These two young men left their homes and relatives: Simeon, his aged mother and John, his young wife. Both received the monastic tonsure at the hands of the Abbot Nicon in the Monastery of St. Gerasimus and withdrew into the wilderness where they lived an austere life of asceticism for many years. Through rigorous asceticism, they mortified their bodies so much that they resembled two withered trees. One day Simeon said to John that, according to God's command, he must depart from the wilderness and go among the people and there serve God. John gave him this counsel: "Guard our heart against all that you will see in the world. Whatever you touch with your hand, do not allow it to touch your heart. Whatever you eat with your mouth, let not your heart be satisfied. When your feet begin to walk, let there be peace within you. And whatever you do outwardly, let not your mind remain disturbed. Pray to God for me, that He does not separate us, one from the other, in the future life." St. Simeon accepted the counsel of his companion, kissed him and, after that, departed the wilderness and went among the people as a "fool for Christ," to teach men and to convert them to the Faith of Christ. He pretended insanity before men but his heart was the temple of the Holy Spirit and, in that temple, was unceasing prayer. He possessed abundant grace from God and was able to discern all the inner secrets of men, both near and far, healing men from evil spirits and other ailments. Dancing in the streets as one insane, he approached men and whispered their sins in their ears and called them to repentance. He even appeared to sinners in dreams, rebuked them for their sins and called them to repentance. Thus it was with Bali, a pagan actor, who openly mocked Christian shrines and to whom St. Simeon appeared in a dream, rebuked and warned him so that he repented and became a model Christian. A young fornicator went out of his mind because of sexual promiscuity. Seeing this insane young man, St. Simeon struck him across the face with his hand and said: "Do not commit fornication." At that moment the unclean demon departed from the young man and he became well.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY PROPHET EZEKIEL
 
The vision of Ezekiel, by God's will:
 
Wide, wide, immense field,
 
Overfilled, overfilled with the bones of the dead,
 
And a voice from heaven to Saint Ezekiel came:
 
Son of man, these bones do you see?
 
Living guests on earth were they at one time
 
At My table, I served them well
 
But very few of them worthily repaid Me.
 
Will they come alive, these dead bones?
 
The prophet became frightened, over to melancholy gave himself:
 
Lord, Lord, that You can know,
 
They must arise, if You command.
 
A rumble and shock and trembling then began,
 
The resurrection of the dead, the prophet, a miracle saw!
 
The bones rose up and bone next to bone lay
 
Then flesh, then sinews and the skin tightened,
 
At this miracle, the terrified prophet gazed
 
And glorified God with his heart and soul.
 
What the prophet of God discerned in the spirit
 
The resurrected Lord clearly showed.
 
When the Spirit wills, the dead will resurrect,
 
As in a new garment, all in a living body
 
And with Christ, the faithful will rejoice,
 
To reign eternally, in His kingdom.
 
REFLECTION

For the sake of his fellow man, St. Simeon left his only friend in the world, his peaceful cell in the wilderness, and made himself out to be a "fool for Christ". It is told how the Spartan King Lycerges, made great sacrifices for the benefit of his fellow citizens. He issued strict laws, instituting a completely new system of educating the young and instituting order in the State. When he issued these laws, he said to his fellow citizens that he desires to go to Delphi, where there was a great shrine and demanded that they all take an oath to faithfully adhere to his laws until his return. When all the citizenry laid down the oath, Lycerges left his country and never did return. It is a great sacrifice to leave one's homeland and voluntarily live in a strange country for the sake of the benefit of one's fellow man. But how much greater is the sacrifice to voluntarily leave one's mind and continually pretend before men to be as one without a mind. Is not insanity the greatest foreign land known to man? To live in this terrible strange land year after year and that, all for the benefit of your fellow men!

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the miraculous crossing of Israel over the Jordan river (Joshua 3):

1. How by the power of God and through Joshua, the waters in the river Jordan parted and the priests with the people crossed over;

2. How the priests with the Ark of the Covenant, during the time that the people crossed over, "stood on dry land in the Jordan" (Joshua 3:17);

3. How even I, need not be afraid of the floods of this world, as long as in the center of my being, i.e., in the heart, I firmly hold the covenant of the Lord.

HOMILY

About the false teachers

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1).

Man is at war in this world. Continual is the battle and numerous are the enemies. Among the most dangerous enemies belong the false teachers. Only if the mind of man is directed toward the Living God will he be safeguarded from these dangerous enemies. False teachers are either as blindmen or as thieves; first, because of their blindness they [false teachers] lead both themselves and others into destruction and second, because of their hatred and envy they intentionally lead others astray, and hand over both their souls and bodies to the fires of hell. The Lord Himself prophesied: "Many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:11). The apostle only confirms the words of his Lord. Both false prophets and false teachers will sow the seed of destruction among the people. These are "damnable heresies" by which some will deny their Lord Who redeemed mankind by His All-pure Holy Blood. Many false teachers have already appeared and have sown many heresies, damnable as tares, throughout the world. Brethren, if you know those "damnable heresies" which the Holy Fathers condemned at the Councils, then you will be able to recognize the principle seed of poison, which the devil through his servants sow in the field, over which the Savior had sown pure wheat.

But even if you know or, if you do not know, direct your mind toward the Lord, enclose your mind with the sign of the Cross, call to your assistance the Holy and All-pure One [The Theotokos], chosen ones of God and especially your guardian angel and do not be afraid. Along with this always ask the Church and the Church, being more experienced and victorious against all falsehoods, will tell you what is the truth. For you are from yesterday and the Church is from time immemorial. Your memory is shorter than the memory of the Church.

O Lord Jesus, You are the only Path, the only Truth, the only Life. O Lord do not permit, that we be led by false teachers and to apostate ourselves from You.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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