Prologue of Ohrid

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August 9

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE MATTHIAS

Matthias was born in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah. He studied with St. Simeon the God-receiver in Jerusalem. When the Lord went out to preach about the Kingdom of God, Matthias joined the others who loved the Lord--for he himself loved Him with all his heart, and heard His words and witnessed His works with delight. Initially Matthias was numbered among the Seventy Lesser Disciples of Christ. However, following the Resurrection of the Lord, the place of Judas being empty, the apostles drew lots and thus chose Matthias as one of the Twelve Great Apostles: And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus and Matthias. And they prayed and said: "You Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which of these two You have chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1:23-26). Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Matthias set out to preach the Gospel--first in Judea, and then in Ethiopia, where he endured great tortures for the sake of Christ. It is held that he preached throughout Macedonia, where they wanted to blind him; but he became invisible to his torturers, and thus escaped danger. The Lord appeared to him in prison, encouraged him, and freed him. Finally, he returned again to his work in Judea. There he was accused and brought to court before the high priest Ananias, before whom he fearlessly witnessed Christ. Ananias (the same who had slain the Apostle James) condemned Matthias to death. They led Matthias out, stoned him, and then decapitated him with an axe. (This was the Roman manner of killing a person who was sentenced to death, and the hypocritical Jews applied this method to Matthias, to show the Romans that he had been an enemy of Rome.) Thus this great apostle of Christ died, and took up his habitation in the eternal joy of his Lord.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR ANTHONY

Anthony was a citizen of Alexandria. Brought before the pagan prince, he freely confessed his faith. He was tortured, flogged and scrapped with sharp blades, but he would not deny Christ. He was then thrown into a fire, yet he spoke to the people from amidst the flames: "My beloved brethren, do not be a slave to the body--rather, concern yourself more about the soul, which is given to you by God and is kindred to God and to the heavenly hosts." And so, instructing his people and burning in the fire, Anthony gave up his holy soul to God.

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS JULIAN AND MARCIAN AND OTHERS WITH THEM

In the defense of icons, they all suffered at the hands of the wicked Emperor Leo the Isaurian in the year 716 A.D., and were crowned with unfading glory.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE

Matthias the Apostle spoke of Christ

And openly witnessed to the Jews:

"He is that Messiah of Whom the Scripture writes;

He is the Son of God, Who came down from on High;

He is the Word of God, Divine Hypostasis.

About Him the prophets clearly spoke!

Moses prophesied: 'God will raise up a Prophet

Like unto me from amidst your people;

And his radiance will shine among you.'

King David said: 'All the generations of the earth,

By Him, will be glorified and blessed.'

Courageous Isaiah, to heaven in spirit, flew up,

And saw and said: 'A virgin shall conceive

And bear a Son, and shall name Him

Emmanuel,' meaning God is with us.

Jonah was a figure of His burial--

As he prefigured the burial, so too the resurrection:

As Jonah, in the belly of the whale for three days, lay,

And was again, by God, vouchsafed life.

The prophecies have been fulfilled, the shadows have passed away,

The promised words have been realized in the flesh!"

But in vain does an awakened man speak to one who sleeps:

He who sleeps through the day, does not believe in the day.

REFLECTION

One form of martyrdom--and a sign of one's overwhelming love for one's fellow man--is to take another's sin upon one's self. As death is the consequence of sin, to take another's sin on one's self means: to add to your own death still another death, And sin, when it is finished, brings forth death (James 1:15). However, God rewards with resurrection those who, out of love, take another's death upon themselves. There are many examples of the saints taking upon themselves the sins of their fellow men. Thus, it is said of St. Ammon: A brother came to Ammon and confessed that he had fallen into sin, and because of the sin he committed, he felt he had to leave the monastery and return to the world. Ammon told that brother that he would take the brother's sin upon himself, and counseled him to remain in the monastery. The brother remained in the monastery, and Ammon was steadfast in offering repentance and prayers to God. After a short time, Elder Ammon received a revelation from God--that the sinwais forgiven because of Ammon's love for the brother. When St. Macarius, St. Simeon the Fool-for-Christ, St. Theodora and others were accused of promiscuity, they did not defend themselves, but, taking upon themselves the sin of others, received the weighty [and unjust] punishment for sin, and patiently endured everything, until God revealed their innocence to men.

CONTEMPLATION


To contemplate the punishment of God upon the people of Israel for the sins of the sons of Eli, the judge and high priest (1 Samuel 4 [also known as 1 Kings 4]):

1. How the sons of the high priest [Hophni and Phinehas] sinned openly in Shiloh, and also secretly before the Ark of the Covenant;

2. How God gave the Philistines victory over Israel, and many thousands of Israelites were slain, including the sons of the high priest; and the Ark of the Covenant was seized;

3. How, because of the sins of the elders of the people, God sent suffering on the entire nation.

HOMILY


About the nothingness of the sinful before the majesty of God

"Enter into the rock and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty" (Isaiah 2:10).

This is a bitter derision of an idolatrous Israel by the prophet. The people had rejected the faith in the one true God, and worshiped idols of stone and earth. "What will you do, O evil people, when the fear of the Lord appears? Where will you flee, when the glory of His majesty appears? Flee into the rocks from which you have made a god for yourselves! Flee into the dust, from which you have made a god for yourselves!" Oh, what a terrible mockery by this discerning prophet! Who can enter into a rock and hide himself? Who can flee into the dust and conceal himself from the Most High?

However, brethren, let us leave the idolatry of the Jews--for which they have been punished enough--and, for a moment, let us look at the idolatry among us Christians. What is a heap of gold, but an idol? What are harvested fields but an idol of dust? What are luxurious clothes but an idol made from the skins and hairs of animals? Where will the idolaters of our generation hide when the fear of the Lord appears, and when the glory of his majesty appears? Flee to gold, worshiper of gold! Flee to the earth, worshiper of the earth! Hide in the skins of animals, and bury yourself with the hairs of foxes, and the fibers of the dead silk worm, O you idolators! Oh, bitter irony--all of this will be burned in the Day of the Lord, on that Dreadful Day. Man will stand face to face with the only Majestic and Eternal One. All the idols of mankind will be destroyed by fire before men's eyes; then the Immortal Judge will ask the idolators: "Where are your gods?"

Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God, lived on earth a long time ago--but his vision, even today, is dreadful and instructive, and again dreadful.

You are the only One, the only living Lord, and You do we worship! All else is passing dust. Help us, O Lord, help us--that our minds and hearts adhere not to transitory dust but to You; only to You, the only Living One.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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