Prologue of Ohrid

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July 24

1. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR CHRISTINA

Christina was born in the city of Tyre the daughter of Urban, the imperial deputy, an idol worshipper. The reason her parents gave her the name of Christina is unknown but it concealed the mystery of her future following of Christ. Until age eleven, she knew nothing of Christ. When she reached the age of eleven her father, in order to conceal her from the world because of her extraordinary beauty until she fully matured, designated the highest floor of a tall tower for her to live. All the comforts of life were afforded her; slaves were given to serve her, gold and silver idols were placed in her quarters so that she may offer daily sacrifices to them. However, in this idolatrous environment, it was difficult for the soul of young Christina. Looking out through the window each day at the sun and all the beauty of the world then, again at night, at the miraculous cluster of shining stars, Christina, through her own natural understanding came to the firm belief in the One Living God. The merciful God, seeing her longing for the truth, sent His angel who traced the sign of the cross upon Christina and called her the bride of Christ and completely instructed her in godly understanding. Christina then smashed all the idols in her quarters and provoked wild fury in her father. Her father brought her to trial and handed her over to be tortured and, after that, threw her into the dungeon with the intention to behead her the next day. That night Urban, completely healthy, parted from his soul and went to the grave before his daughter. After that two imperial deputies, Dion and Julian, continued to torture this holy virgin. Christina's courageous endurance and her miracles, which she worked by the power of God, converted many pagans of Tyre to Christianity. During the torturing of Christina, Dion suddenly fell dead in the midst of the people. Dion's successor, Julian, severed the breasts and tongue of Christina. The martyr took her tongue and threw it into Julian's face and he was instantly blinded. Finally her suffering for Christ ended by death beneath the sharp sword and her life continues in the immortal kingdom of the angels. Christina honorably suffered in the third century.

2. THE VENERABLE POLYCARP, ABBOT OF THE MONASTERY OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Polycarp possessed "love toward God and his fellow men, joy because of an untainted conscience, peace because of victory over all passions, patience in time of temptation and misfortune, goodness in submission toward all, benevolence toward the poor, undoubting faith in fulfilling the commandments, truth in fulfilling his vows, meekness in not knowing anger, restraint and so forth." So well did he govern the Lavra of the Caves in Kiev that, after his death, a worthy successor among the monks could not be found (for those who were worthy did not want to accept the rank of abbot out of humility), so that the brethren were compelled to take Basil, a secular priest, as their abbot. St. Polycarp reposed in the Lord in the year 1182 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT CHRISTINA
 
Glorious martyr, the virgin Christina,
 
Of the Son of God, chosen bride,
 
Had in her father, the worst enemy
 
By him, was she torn apart by iron.
 
Daughter, the gods, if you do not acknowledge,
 
My daughter, will I not call you any longer.
 
Thus, the father said to the daughter: And to that the daughter replied:
 
For that, with you will I never be angry
 
The servant of Christ I am and you the servant of Satan.
 
Neither father nor friend in you do I see.
 
Daughter do not call me, happy that makes me,
 
The Lord is my father. My sweetness He is.
 
Infuriated beast the servants, the father ordered,
 
Her flesh to scrap that he her bones see!
 
From the tender body, the flesh fell,
 
All wound next to wound, nowhere flesh intact,
 
The holy martyr, a hand full of flesh grabbed
 
And in the middle of the profane face, struck the father:
 
O odious Urban, my flesh here it is,
 
Here beast, eat flesh of your own child!
 
That night, from his body Urban departed
 
And in Hades with the devil he united his soul.
 
Christina suffered and her blood shed,
 
Heroically she resisted against the world of enemies
 
Virgin Christina, martyr wonderful,
 
With the glory of the Son of God, glorified herself.
 
REFLECTION

The Faith of Christ mostly sanctifies and illumines the souls of men when the preachers of the Faith shine in their own lives. Blessed Polycarp, the abbot of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, was so completely illumined with the Faith of Christ, both in words and in deeds and in his entire being. Because of this, he had an unusual influence not only on ordinary people but also on princes and noblemen. Listening and seeing this godly man the Prince of Kiev, Rostislav Mstislavitch, became so illumined with the Faith of Christ and thus became so subdued and gentle, that he became a model of life in his immediate surroundings and to his entire people. During the Great Lenten Fast Season, Prince Rostislav received Holy Communion every Sunday and, in all places, sought out those who were in need and those less fortunate and helped them. In the end, he resolved to embrace the monastic order and spoke to Saint Polycarp about this: "Holy father, princely rule in this world cannot be without sin and it has already embittered me and has rendered me incapable." Polycarp answered him: "If you desire this monastic state from your heart, then let it be God's will." Once while in Smolensk, the prince became ill and close to death and ordered that he be quickly taken to Kiev, so that before his death he may receive the monastic tonsure. However he died before his wish was fulfilled.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the miraculous victory of the Israelites over the Haians (Joshua 8):

1. How the Haians pursued the Israelites and almost defeated them;

2. How, according to the command of God, Joshua raised the banner in the air and held it upraised, until the Haians were defeated;

3. How I should also in time of danger lift up my heart to God as a banner and with the cross and prayer in my heart walk to victory.

HOMILY

About the holy apostolic warning

"For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error" (2 Peter 2:18).

The holy apostle knows men better than the learned scribes for he is a saint and an apostle. A saint and an apostle penetrate deeply into the heart of man. About whom does the apostle speak? He speaks about the "impure, impudent and the self-willed", whom he earlier called "wells without water and clouds and mist" (2 Peter 2:17). The "impure, impudent and self-willed" are men of many and high sounding [high falutin] words. They speak proud and false words to men. By these proud and false words, they both conceal and reveal their hearts concealing it for the uneducated and for those who do not understand and revealing it for those who are steadfast in the Faith and enlightened by Grace.

When the impure speak of their purity, by that they are declaring their impurity; when the impudent defends his character, by that he reveals his impudence; when the self-willed interprets the will of God, by that he shows his self-will. Whoever attentively follows his words can sense the stench of their bodily desires. The inattentive and uneducated cannot sense this stench but believe and are deluded. Those "who have just begun to escape" from the illusion of the body, the world and the devil are ensnared by proud and false words, as a fish in an invisible net. The fish does not know that it is in a net, until the net is pulled out on the hot sand. Then it knows but then it is too late. O may it not be too late for those pitiful souls of mankind who are ensnared in the net of proud and false words! Brethren know that every teacher who, by his teaching, condones bodily desires and who yields to sinners in bodily desires, is false.

Lord Jesus, Holy and All Pure, send Your Holy Angels to defend all beginners and fledgings in Your Faith from proud and false lips.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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