Prologue of Ohrid


August 13


Hippolytus was a military leader and the overseer of the prisons in Rome. He was born and raised a pagan. When St. Lawrence the archdeacon was thrown into prison, Hippolytus was ordered by the emperor to be especially watchful of this prisoner. Hippolytus saw with his own eyes how Lawrence restored the sight of the blind man Lucillus, and how Lawrence cured many others who were sick--and he [Hippolytus] came to believe in Christ. When Lawrence baptized him, Hippolytus had a heavenly vision, and spoke of it: "I saw innocent souls in great happiness, in the heavens." He then took Lawrence into his own hoousehold, and Lawrence baptized all the members (nineteen in all, including the old governess Concordia). When Lawrence was slain for Christ, Hippolytus transported the body of the martyr by night, wrapped it in a winding sheet, and honorably buried it. However, this came to the attention of Emperor Decius. On the third day following the martyrdom of Lawrence, Hippolytus was arrested and brought before the emperor. As he refused to deny the true Faith, he was struck on the mouth with stones. After that, the emperor ordered that Hippolytus be stripped naked and flogged. Naked before the emperor, he said: "You have not stripped me--you have begun to clothe me!" Then they stretched him out on the ground and beat him mercilessly. Hippolytus's only response was: "I am a Christian." The emperor, upon hearing that all of Hippolytus's household were Christians, ordered that they all be arrested. The aged Concordia said: "We prefer to die honorably with our master in the Christian Faith than to live dishonorably with you, who are unclean." Concordia was the first to be slain, and after her the remaining eighteen were slain, all before the eyes of Hippolytus. Finally they tied Hippolytus to a wild horse and dragged him relentlessly, until the martyr gave up his soul to God.


Tikhon was born in a simple peasant family in the village of Korotsk, in the providence of Novgorod, in the year 1724 A.D. He received the monastic tonsure at age thirty-four, and, because of his ascetic practice and great spiritual wisdom, he was soon elevated to higher positions of service, until he was consecrated Bishop of Voronezh. His episcopacy lasted for almost five years, but, because of frail health, he withdrew and took up residence in the Monastery of Zadonsk. He died peacefully in the year 1783 A.D. in Zadonsk, where his miracle-working relics now repose. He was a great ascetic of the Russian Church, a rare shepherd, a strong intercessor, and the author of the most beautiful spiritual works. By his wisdom, holiness and asceticism, Tikhon can be equated with the great fathers of the Orthodox Church of ancient times. Because of the many witnessed miracles that were performed over his relics, he was proclaimed a saint, first by the people, then officially by the Church in the year 1861 A.D.


Empress Irene was the wife of Emperor John Comnenus II (1118-1143 A.D.) who was also known as Kalo-John--John the Good. In addition to her monastic ascesis and many good works, Irene is also famous for building the Monastery of the Pantocrator [Almighty], one of the most glorious and most beautiful monasteries in Constantinople. St. Stefan of Dečani later lived a life of asceticism in this monastery.


Seridus was renowned as the founder of the famous community near Gaza in Palestine, in which such glorious fathers as Sts. Barsanuphius, John, Abba Dorotheus, Dositheus and others would come to live ascetic lives. St. Seridus died in the sixth century, to live in the eternal joy of his Lord.



The hut of a peasant, a saint nurtured,

With the spirit of the Orthodox Church imbued:

Tikhon, the hierarch, like a star shone,

And in spiritual mysteries, instructed the world:

"Read Holy Scripture--within it God is concealed;

It conceals God, and reveals Him.

All the books in the world can tell you no more

About God or yourself than Scripture.

Behold, without God, one cannot know God.

It is vain to seek God outside of God.

God gives Himself to us, as much as our minds can bear:

Into an egg, you cannot pour the sea!

How to save your soul, Holy Scripture teaches you,

From sin, death and damnation eternal.

A drowning man, about the water, does not ask:

'What is it?' 'How?' 'Where did it come from?'

About saving himself, he is only concerned,

And for a safe rock, in panic, he seeks.

The sea of life foams and rages;

In the midst of this sea, for yourself, seek salvation.

'What is this life?' 'From what was it made?'--

When death is stronger than we are, is this so important to know?

On the earth, knowledge and possessions remain;

To the grave, your body and fine clothing are given over.

The soul--only the soul can still be saved.

Labor and pray: 'Help me, O God!'"


"Give thanks to the Lord, but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy, for they can accomplish much with God the Lord." These are the words of the illustrious Russian ascetic of the nineteenth century, Father Nazarius, the abbot of Valaam [Valamo] Monastery. He spoke these words to the wife of a high-ranking official in St. Petersburg [Petrograd] who had fallen into disfavor with the Tsar because of certain serious accusations. The accused official became ill from worry and lay in bed. Hearing that Father Nazarius had arrived in St. Petersburg, the wife of this official hurriedly sought him out, and related the misfortune that had befallen them, and implored him to pray to the Lord for her husband. "Do you have any copper or silver coins, any small change?" Father Nazarius asked her. The woman brought the coins and gave them to him. Then Father Nazarius left. Later that evening, Nazarius returned, and gladdened the wife with this news: "Glory to God! All those close to the Tsar have promised to intercede for you." Naturally, the wife thought he meant the courtiers of Tsar Alexander Pavlovich; but the spiritual father meant the beggars on the streets, to whom he had distributed the coins, and whom he had asked to pray to God for the husband of this woman. And shortly the news arrived that the Tsar was reconsidering this matter concerning the woman's husband and wanted to review it. This was just what her husband wanted. When the woman began to thank Father Nazarius, he said: "Give thanks to the Lord; but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy--for they can accomplish much with God the Lord."


To contemplate the wondrous might of prophesying (1 Samuel 10 [also known as 1 Kings 10]):

1. How Samuel prophesied to Saul all that would happen to him one day;

2. How the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he also prophesied.


About the chief prophesy of the Prophet Isaiah

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

This glorious prophecy concerning the birth of the Lord by a virgin was spoken by Isaiah--the prophet who saw God--at a moment of deep despair for Jerusalem. The multitudinous army of Syrian and Ephraim had encircled the very walls of the city. King Ahaz and the inhabitants of Jerusalem--with neither an army nor weapons--were in mortal fear. The heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind (Isaiah 7:2). In that hour of despair, Isaiah came before the king, and by command of God said to him: Fear not, neither be fainthearted (Isaiah 7:4). Then Isaiah prophesied that the enemies would not take Jerusalem. Seeing that King Ahaz did not believe him, Isaiah told the king to ask for a sign, a miracle--be it from heaven or from earth. The unbelieving king did not want to ask, but remained obstinate in his doubt. The prophet then said that God would give them a sign, even though they did not seek it: A virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel, which is to say: "God is with us." This sign refers to distant, future times, and concerns the salvation of mankind. Why did the prophet not give a sign, so that the king would believe immediately? Isaiah's prophecy about the salvation of Jerusalem--given in the very hour in which the king thought that all was lost--was sufficient to show the power of God and the unbelief of the king. Why did the prophet, at that very moment and under such circumstances, prophesy the birth of the Savior? In the time of the coming of the Savior, mankind would be in the same kind of despair, attacked and encircled by demonic powers--just as was Jerusalem at the moment of the prophecy. Did the prophet explicitly prophesy a virgin, and not simply a woman? Undoubtedly, he prophesied a virgin. For if the prophecy were spoken of a mere woman, what kind of miracle would it be; what kind of sign? Are not all men born of women? All the weight of emphasis is on the word virgin.

Thus, the All-seeing God knows how to connect the near with the distant; and by fulfilling one prophecy in the present, He confirms a second prophecy in the future. Emmanuel--God is with us." He saved mankind from analogous dangers later, as the Incarnate God, the God-man, born of the Most-Pure Virgin and the Holy Spirit.

O Lord, Who gave power to the prophets to see the truth as it comes from afar, give us the power to embrace that truth which has already come.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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