Prologue of Ohrid

JANUARY
 
 
 
 
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MARCH
 
 
 
 
APRIL
 
 
 
 
 
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August 12

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS ANICETAS AND PHOTIUS

Emperor Diocletian once visited the city of Nicomedia with the evil intention to completely exterminate the Christians. But when he began his merciless torture of Christians, St. Anicetas, one of the high ranking officials of the city, boldly confessed before the emperor his faith in Christ the Lord, God incarnate in the flesh for our salvation. Along with this, Anicetas also denounced the idols as deaf and dumb stones and the worship of which is unworthy of a rational man. The emperor ordered his tongue to be severed but Anicetas, by the power of God, continued to speak. They then released a lion against him but the lion cuddled around him. At that moment the temple of Hercules collapsed. Photius, a kinsman of Anicetas, seeing the miracles and endurance of Anicetas, kissed him, declared himself a Christian and cried out to the emperor: "O idolator, be ashamed, your gods are nothingness!" The emperor then ordered that Anicetas immediately be beheaded. However, the executioner, raising his hand against holy Photius, struck himself with the sword and died. After prolonged tortures, both Anicetas and Photius were cast into prison where they languished for three years. Then they were brought out, a fire was lighted in an enormous furnace and they cast them into the fire. Many other Christians, men, women and children, willingly followed them into the fire. From the fire was heard the prayer of the Christians who were praising God for the death of martydom. They all suffered about the year 305 A.D. "Saint Anicetas and Saint Photius are invoked in the prayers in the Sacrament of Anointing with Oil [Holy Unction] and in the Blessing of Water."

[THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY UNCTION, ANOINTING WITH HOLY OIL].

O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, who did send Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who heals every infirmity and delivers from death. Heal Thou, also Your servant [Name] from the ills of body and soul which do hinder [Him, Her] and quicken [Him, Her] by the grace of Your Christ: through the prayers of our Most Holy Lady, the Birth-giver of God and Ever-virgin Mary; through the intercession of the honorable Bodiless Powers of Heaven; through the might of the precious and Life-giving Cross, through the protection of the honorable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; of the glorious and all-laudable Apostles; of the holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs; of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers; of the holy and healing, unmercenaries, Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Pantaleon and Hermolaus, Samson and Diomedes, Photius and Anicetas; of the holy righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and all the Saints.

For You are the Fountain of healing, O our God, and unto You do we ascribe glory, together with Your Only-begotten Son and Your Spirit, one in essence, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR ALEXANDER, BISHOP OF COMANA

As a simple charcoal-burner, Alexander lived in the town of Comana near Neo-Caesarea. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the miracle-worker and Bishop of Neo-Caesarea (November 17) was then called to preside at a council to elect a new bishop. Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. At the time of evaluating a candidate, they all primarily paid attention to the points of his externals: external dignity and behavior. St. Gregory then said that they need not look so much at the external characteristics as much as at the spirit and spiritual capabilities. Then some jesters mocking cried out: then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop! General laughter then ensued. St. Gregory asked: "Who is this Alexander?" And, thinking that his name was not mentioned at this council without God's Providence, Gregory ordered that Alexander be brought before the council. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Gregory then took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself. Alexander said that he was a Greek philosopher and that he enjoyed great honor and position but that he rejected all, humbled himself and made himself to be a "fool for the sake of Christ" from the time when he had read and understood Holy Scripture. Gregory ordered Alexander bathed and clothed in new attire and, with him, entered the council and before all began to examine Alexander in Holy Scripture. All were amazed at Alexander's wisdom and words of grace and could hardly recognize in this wise man, the former quiet charcoal-burner. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. Alexander died a martyr's death for Christ during the reign of Diocletian.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT ALEXANDER, BISHOP OF COMANA
 
Men look upon clothes and the face,
 
But God looks at the soul and the heart.
 
Glorious Alexander, a charcoal-burner, was,
 
With the charcoal-burner, the body is blackened
 
And from soot, which water cleanses,
 
In the sinner, the heart is darkened
 
Which only the fire of faith can cleanse
 
The fire of faith and the cry of repentance.
 
It is easier to cleanse the skin of a charcoal-burner
 
Than the blackened heart of a sinner.
 
Alexander, with humility, covered
 
In a cave concealed, as a hidden flame
 
For laughter, to the gullible world, he was.
 
The world did not see; Gregory saw,
 
With an acute spirit, the charcoal-burner discerned
 
And in him, found a saint,
 
In the dark cave, a beautiful flame,
 
Beneath the mask of insanity, great wisdom,
 
Beneath the dirty soot, a pure heart,
 
A royal soul in decayed rags.
 
That the light be hidden, the Lord does not permit,
 
At the appropriate time, the light proclaims,
 
For the benefit and salvation of men.
 
All is wonderful, what God judges.
 
REFLECTION

Learn to respect and to love the lowly and simple people. Such as these are the most on earth: such as these are the most in the Kingdom of Heaven. In them, there is no pride, i.e., the basic madness from which the souls of the rich and the powerful of this world suffer. They carry out their duty in this world perfectly and yet it appears to them amusing when someone praises them for it, while the self-seeking men of this world seek praise for all their work and often, it is imperfectly completed. St. Alexander was an eminent philosopher and he left everything, hid himself from exalted society, the praise of the world and mingled with the lowliest and the simplest of men, as a charcoal-burner among charcoal-burners. Instead of former praises and honors, he endured with rejoicing that children ran after him and laughed at him because of his sootiness and raggedness. However, Alexander was not the only one who liked to live with the lowly and simple. Many kings and princes, learning of the sweetness of Christ's Faith, removed the crowns from their heads and fled from aristocratic vanity to be among the simple people. Did not He alone, the King of Kings, the Lord our Christ appear among shepherds and fishermen? St. Zeno counsels: "Do not choose a glorious place for living and do not associate with a man of a prominent name."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the wondrous Providence of God at the election of Saul as king (1 Samuel 9 [1 Kings 9]):

1. How Saul went out to seek the lost asses;

2. How Samuel, to whom God revealed that Saul should be accepted as the king of Israel, met him;

3. How the Providence of God directs men and sometimes gives them that which they do not envision.

HOMILY

About the awesome vision of the Prophet Isaiah

"I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1).

Here is the vision of visions! Here is the glory of glories and the majesty above majesties! God showed great mercy to all of mankind in that He gave them to see this great starry world to see, the work of His hands. Yet, He showed a yet greater mercy to those to whom He gave the eternal and wondrous angelic world to see. However, He showed the greatest mercy to a small number of His chosen ones, to whom He gave Himself to see, the Lord Sabaoth, the Only Uncreated One and Creator of both worlds. But, how can mortal man see the Immortal God? Did not God Himself say to Moses: "For there shall no man see me and live" (Exodus 33:20)? And, does not the Gospel say: "No man has seen God at any time" (St. John 1:18). Truly, no mortal one can see the face of God, i.e., the essence of God. But, by His condescension and infinite goodness and might, God can reveal to men, to some extent, and in some form, how accessible He is to men. In a particular form and appearance, He appeared to Moses, Elijah, Daniel and to John the Theologian not in His essence but in a particular form and appearance. Isaiah saw Him on a throne "high and lifted up," i.e., as the Judge raised above all the judges and all the earthly courts. The six-winged Seraphim stood around Him and cried one to another: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 6:3). The Lord, therefore, is not alone but rather He is the King in His Invisible Kingdom surrounded by the most exalted of beings, who were created by His power. Around Him are the foremost orders of the heavenly hierarchy, the chief-commanders of His innumerable immortal hosts, the foremost lampstands of His light and His unendurable radiance.

This is the wondrous vision of Isaiah, the Son of Amos, the prophet of God.

O, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, Thrice Holy, have mercy on us and save us, impure and sinful.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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