Prologue of Ohrid

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August 1

1. THE SEVEN MACCABEES, THEIR MOTHER SOLOMONIA AND ELEAZAR THE PRIEST

They all suffered for the purity of the faith of Israel under King Antiochus, called by some "Epiphanos," the "enlightened one" and by others "Epimanis" the "insane one." Because of the great sins in Jerusalem and especially the vying over priestly authority and crimes committed during the occasion of this struggle, God permitted a great calamity on the Holy City. After that, Antiochus wanted by any means to impose upon the Jews the idolatry of the Hellenes in place of their faith in the one living God and he did everything toward this goal. Assisting Antiochus in his intention were some treacherous high priests and other elders of Jerusalem. On one occasion, King Antiochus himself came to Jerusalem and ordered that all Jews eat the meat of swine, contrary to the Law of Moses, for eating pork was an apparent sign that one has disowned the faith of Israel. The elder Eleazar, a priest and one of the seventy translators of the Old Testament into the Greek language [the Septuagint] would not partake of pork. Because of that, Eleazar was tortured and burned. Returning to Antioch, the king took with him the seven sons called the Maccabees and their mother Solomonia. The seven Maccabean brothers were called: Avim, Antonius, Eleazar, Gurius, Eusebon, Achim and Marcellus. Before the eyes of their mother, the wicked king tortured the sons, one by one, ripping the skin from their faces and, afterward, casting them into the fire. They all bravely endured torture and death but they did not disown their faith. Finally, when the mother saw her last son, the three-year old in the fire, she leaped into the flames and was consumed in the fire rendering her soul to God. They all suffered honorably for the faith in the one living God about one hundred eighty years before Christ.

2. THE PROCESSION OF THE HONORABLE CROSS

This feast was instituted by a mutual agreement of the Greeks and Russians at the time of the Greek Emperor Manuel and the Russian Prince Andrew in commemoration of the simultaneous victories of the Russians over the Bulgarians and the Greeks over the Saracens. In both of these battles, crosses were carried by the armies from which heavenly rays shone. It was therefore instituted that, on August 1, the Cross be carried first to the middle of the Church of the Divine Wisdom [Hagia Sophia] and after that, along the streets for the people to venerate as a commemoration of the miraculous help of the Cross in previous battles. This was not an ordinary cross but the true Honorable Cross which was kept in the church of the imperial court. On July 31, the Honorable Cross was carried from the imperial court to the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God and from there it was carried along the streets for the consecration of the earth and the air. Finally, on August 14, it was again returned to the church of the imperial palace.

3. THE NINE HOLY MARTYRS

The names of these martyrs were: Leontius, Attus, Alexander, Cindeus, Mnesitheus, Cyriacus, Menaeus, Catunus and Eucleus. Leontius was a carpenter and the others were farmers. Because of their bold confession of the Faith of Christ and because of their destruction of the temple of Artemis, they were cruelly tortured and beheaded in Perga of Pamphylia during the reign of Diocletian and became heirs of the Kingdom of Christ.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HONORABLE CROSS OF CHRIST

The Honorable Cross of Christ

Before it, all honorably prostrate,

By the power of the Cross of Christ

From temptation, we are redeemed.

The Holy Cross is mightier than the demons

And from every earthly king,

From sickness, the Cross saves

And from the assaults of barbarians.

Prince Andrew, by the power of the Cross

Enslaved lands, saved,

King Manuel, by the power of the Cross

The Saracens, gloriously destroyed.

From the armies of pagans,

From the tyrannical conquerors,

From all evils demonstrated that

The power of the Cross is mightier.

REFLECTION

A weak man usually protects himself by hypocrisy and the strong man protects himself by tyranny. That no man can defend his life before God either by hypocrisy or by tyranny is clearly shown to us by the example of the holy elder Eleazar and King Antiochus. When the tyrannical king brought Eleazar to trial and compelled him to eat pork if he desired to save his life, Eleazar adamantly rejected that. Then some of Eleazar friends handed him a piece of other meat, not swine's meat, begging him to eat that in the presence of the king and the people in order to safeguard both his life and his conscience. The elder refused this offer saying to his friends: "Hypocrisy is not becoming to me an old man to the scandal of many young people." The elder Eleazar was slain in the body but he saved his soul. The punishment of God came upon the tyrannical King Antiochus while he was still living. A dreadful disease from within overcame him and his body swarmed with worms and the stench from his body spread afar. In his despair, the king remembered the shedding of the innocent blood of thousands and thousands of human beings who, by his order, were unmercifully murdered and, frightened of God, he began to confess the one God whom, before that, he persecuted by persecuting His faithful ones. However, heavenly mercy did not manifest itself on him.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the punishment of God upon Israel (Judges 10):

1. How the Israelites committed that which was evil before the Lord, worshipping the Syrian, Sidonian and Moabite idols and others;

2. How the Lord handed them over in bondage to the Philistines who, for eighteen years, trampled upon them and crushed them;

3. How dreadful is the Lord toward apostates from the yrue Faith.

HOMILY

About prophetic visions

"The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos" (Isaiah 1:1).

He who has understanding can know the one and true God. He, who is without understanding, let him listen to the one who understands and the one who understands and the other [who listens] will be saved. It is possible to clearly know God from created nature and still more clearly, from the inspired men of God and most clearly from the Lord Christ. The inspired men of God before Christ were the prophets. Among the first was Isaiah, the son of Amos. The Spirit of God opened his sight and he saw that which other men did not see. That is why he called his message to his people "a vision" [or apparition]. How the prophets saw the heavenly mysteries and the mysteries of future events cannot be described: that can only be experienced by those to whom God gives that gift.

The visions of the holy prophets are true, for those words and those heavenly appearances from these visions, have actually been confirmed later on. They are true because they served for the good of men, turning them from evil to good. Furthermore, they are true because the prophets fearlessly declared them without regard of the suffering which befell them and even without regard for the bitter death which many of them suffered.

What did Isaiah receive from the world and from men for his visions? Riches or honor or an exalted calling? The Jews sawed him in half! This is the riches, this is the honor and this is the glory of the prophet to suffer for the truth of God!

Therefore, let us listen to the prophets of God for they are the paths that lead to the city of the Great King; they are the rays of the Sun of Righteousness Christ which on a distant sphere illumines men with the heavenly light, pointing out the Sun to them.

O Lord Christ, Who revealed Yourself through the prophets and prepared the way for Your descent into our valley, help us. Help us to recognize Your light and Your providence in Your holy prophets.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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