Prologue of Ohrid

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August 11

1. THE HOLY MARTYR EUPLUS

Euplus was a deacon in Catania, Sicily. Emperor Diocletian dispatched Commander Pentagurus to Sicily to exterminate any Christians he found there. Pentagurus did not find a single Christian, for the few that were there, hid from the persecutor and did not reveal themselves. Then someone accused St. Euplus of taking a book to secret Christians and reading to them. This book was the Holy Gospel. They soon brought him to court, hung that book around his neck and led him to prison. After seven days of imprisonment and hunger Euplus was handed over for torture. While they were beating him with iron rods, Euplus, mockingly said to the torturing judge: "O ignorant one, do you not see that because of God's help, these tortures are for me as a cobweb? If you can, find other harsher tortures, for all of these are as toys." Finally, they led the martyr of Christ out to the scaffold. Then St. Euplus opened the Holy Gospel and read from it to the people for a long time. Many converted to the Faith of Christ. St. Euplus was beheaded in the year 304 A.D. and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven. His miracle-working relics repose in a village near Naples called Vico della Batonia.

2. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR SUSANNA THE VIRGIN, AND OTHERS WITH HER

Susanna was the daughter of a Roman presbyter Gavinius and the niece of Pope Gaius. Gaius and Gavinius were of royal lineage and kinsmen to the then Emperor Diocletian. Emperor Diocletian had an adopted son Maximian Galerius, whom he [Diocletian] wanted to marry Susanna. But Susanna, completely dedicated to Christ the Lord, did not want to hear at all about marriage and particularly not about marriage with an unbaptized man. Those who asked her to marry the emperor's son, the aristocrats, Claudia and Maxima, Susanna converted to the Christian Faith along with their entire household. Enraged by this, the emperor ordered that the executioners take Claudia and Maxima, with their families to Ostia where they were burned alive and their ashes thrown into the sea. However, Susanna was beheaded in the home of Gavinius. The emperor's wife Serena, secretly a Christian, removed Susanna's martyred body at night and honorably buried it, and Pope Gaius converted that house where Susanna was slain into a church and celebrated services there. Shortly following the suffering of this bride of Christ, her father Gavinius and her uncle Pope Gaius also suffered. They all suffered honorably for the Lord and received the wreath of glory in the years 295 A.D. and 296 A.D.

3. SAINT NIPHON, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Niphon was born in Greece. He was tonsured a monk in his youth and, at first, lived a life of asceticism outside the Holy Mountain [Athos] and, after that, on the Holy Mountain in various monasteries, remaining the longest in Vatopedi and Dionysiou. He was loved by all the holy Agiorites as much for his rare wisdom, as well as for his unusual meekness. He became the Bishop of Thessalonica against his will. Two years later, he journeyed to Constantinople on business and there, was elected to the vacant throne of the partiarchate. He was banished by the Sultan to Jedrene where he lived in exile. The Wallachian [Romanian] Prince Radul besought him from the Sultan and named Niphon as archbishop of the Wallachians. Because of Radul's transgressions, Niphon departed Wallachia and returned to Mount Athos to the community of Dionysiou where he lived a life of asceticism until his ninetieth year, when he took up habitation in the Kingdom of God in the year 1460 A.D. He composed the "Prayer of Absolution" read at the Burial Service:

[O Lord Jesus Christ, by His divine grace, as also by

the gift and power vouchsafed unto His holy

Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and

Loose the sins of men: (For He said to them: Receive you

The Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are

remitted; and whosoever sins you retain they are retained.

And whatsoever you shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in Heaven. By the same power, also, transmitted to us from

them, this my spiritual child, [Name], is absolved through me, unworthy though I be, from all things wherein, as mortal [He-She] have sinned against God, whether in word or deed or thought and with all [His-Her] senses, whether voluntary or involuntary; whether with knowledge or through ignorance. If [He-She] be under the ban or excommunication of a bishop or if a priest; or has sinned by any oath; or has been bound, as a man, by any sins whatsoever, but has repented him thereof, with contrition of heart: [He-She] is now absolved from all those faults and bonds. May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of [His-her] mortal nature be consigned to oblivion and be remitted to [Him-Her]: Through His loving-kindness; through the prayers of our Most-holy and Blessed and Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary; of all the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles and all of the Saints. Amen.]

4. THE VENERABLES BASIL AND THEODORE OF THE MONASTERY OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Both Basil and Theodore died by violence at the hands of the avaricious [money-loving] Prince Istislav in the year 1098 A.D. The hagiography of St. Theodore is especially instructive for the avaricious. Theodore was very wealthy and distributed all of his wealth to the poor and was tonsured a monk. After that, he repented and grieved for his wealth and was greatly tempted by the evil spirit of avarice from which St. Basil freed him.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT SUSANNA, THE VIRGIN

Branch of Paradise, planted,

And on earth raised.

The branch grew and matured

With heaven, with the heart combined.

The black earth did not darken her

The evil of the world, did not bend her,

Susanna, a branch of Paradise is,

By God's Spirit, illumined,

Virgin, of Christ the God

The son of the emperor, scorned,

The emperor became angry; the emperor threatened her,

That he will bitterly avenge.

But, Susanna did not even want to listen,

In her, the mind of God contemplates

Her heart, illumined,

To Christ, betrothed.

The kinsmen were amazed

And in Christ, all were baptized

All the kinsmen, baptized were

And, martyrs became.

The emperor, his bloody hand, raised,

Upon Susanna, suffering imposed,

But, all the suffering is aimless,

When the soul, in the faith is powerful.

Susanna's head fell,

And her soul, in Paradise stood

In Paradise, stood before her Christ

Susanna's pure soul.

REFLECTION

If a man sets off on the path of righteousness let him walk only by the path of righteousness with both feet and let him not step with one foot on the righteous path and, with the other foot on the unrighteous path. For God said through the prophet about the righteous who commit unrighteousness: "All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed and in his sins that he has sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezekiel 18:24). The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Niphon out of bondage in Jedrene and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. But suddenly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia while Bogdan's wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Niphon. Niphon prophesied an evil end for Radul, publicly excommunicating him from the Church and departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia and Radul fell into an incurable illness and his entire body was covered with sores. And because of the stench, no one was able to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the self-will of the Jewish people (1 Samuel 8 1 Kings 8):

1. How the Jews sought of Samuel that he appoint a king for them;

2. How Samuel protested this in the name of the Lord Who proclaimed that He is the only King;

3. How the people remained stubborn, rejecting the will of God and the counsels of Samuel.

HOMILY

About how ugliness comes with sin

"Instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness …and burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:24).

This is the word about extravagant and wayward women, about the daughters of Zion who have become haughty and "walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet" (Isaiah 3:16). What was it that made the Hebrew women proud? Was it virtue? Virtue never made anyone proud for, in fact, virtue is a cure against pride. Was it the strength of a people and the stability of the State? No, on the contrary, the prophet exactly fortells the imminent bondage of the people and the destruction of the State. And, as one of the main causes for slavery and destruction, the prophet cites vain extravagance, spiritual nothingness and wayward women. What, therefore, made them so proud and haughty? Ornaments and embroideries stranded beads and necklaces, trinkets and hairpins, garters and girdles, perfumes and rings, quivers and mirrors. Behold, this is what made them proud and haughty! Exactly, all of this is an expression of their ignorant pride but the true cause of their pride is spiritual nothingness. From spiritual nothingness comes pride and that external melange [mixture] of colors which women drape over their bodies is only an obvious manifestation of their ignorant pride. What will become of all this in the end? Stench, disheveledness, baldness and burning. This will occur when the people fall into bondage. As usually happens: first, the spirit is enslaved by the body and then the body is enslaved by an external enemy.

Thus, that will be even then when the inescapable conqueror of our bodies comes death. Sweet smells will not help in the grave, the kingdom of stench. Neither will there be a need for girdles for a naked spine [skeleton]. Neither will braided hair save the skull from baldness nor all the beauty from the black remains of burning. This is the inescapable fate of the most beautiful, the healthiest the wealthiest and the most extravagant women. But this is not the greatest misfortune. The greatest misfortune is that the souls of these women with their stench, disheveledness, baldness, and burning will come before God and before the heavenly hosts of the most beautiful of God's angels and righteous ones. For the stench of the body connotes the stench of the soul from depraved vices; a disheveled body connotes the insatiability of the soul for bodily pleasures; the baldness of the body connotes the baldness of the soul of good works and pure thoughts; burning of the body connotes the burning of the conscience and the mind.

O, how dreadful is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos; dreadful then and even dreadful today; dreadful, because it is true.

O, Lord Holy and All-pure, help the women who make the sign with Your Cross, that they may remember their souls and to cleanse their souls before Your Righteous Judgment, so that their souls, together, with their bodies do not become eternal stench.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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