Prologue of Ohrid

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August 16

1. THE ICON OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, "NOT MADE WITH HANDS"

At the time when our Lord preached the Good News and healed every illness and infirmity of men, there lived in the city of Edessa on the shore of the Euphrates Prince Abgar who was completely infected with leprosy. He heard of Christ, the Healer of every pain and disease and sent an artist, Ananias, to Palestine with a letter to Christ in which he begged the Lord to come to Edessa and to cure him of leprosy. In the event that the Lord was unable to come, the prince ordered Ananias to portray His likeness and to bring it to him, believing that this likeness would be able to restore his health. The Lord answered that He was unable to come, for the time of His passion was approaching took a towel, wiped His face and, on the towel, His All-pure face was perfectly pictured. The Lord gave this towel to Ananias with the message that the prince will be healed by it, but not entirely, and later on, He would send him a messenger who would erase the remainder of his disease. Receiving the towel, Prince Abgar kissed it and the leprosy completely fell from his body but a little of it remained on his face. Later, the Apostle Thaddaeus, preaching the Gospel, came to Abgar and secretly healed and baptized him. The prince then destroyed the idols which stood before the gates of the city and above the gates he placed the towel with the likeness of Christ attached to wood, framed in a gold frame and adorned with pearls. Also, the prince wrote beneath the icon on the gates: "O Christ God, no one will be ashamed who hopes in You." Later, one of Abgar's great grandsons restored idolatry and the bishop of Edessa came by night and walled up that icon over the gates. Centuries have passed since then. During the reign of Emperor Justinian, the Persian King Chozroes attacked Edessa and the city was in great hardship. It happened that Eulabius, the Bishop of Edessa, had a vision of the All-Holy Theotokos who revealed to him the mystery of the sealed wall and the forgotten icon. The icon was discovered and, by its power, the Persian army was defeated.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR DIOMEDES [DIOMIDIUS]

Diomedes was of prominent birth and a physician from Tarsus. Healing the people, Diomedes taught them about the Faith of Christ. Emperor Diocletian ordered him beheaded in Nicaea in the year 298 A.D. Those who beheaded him and brought his head to the emperor were blinded and when they returned the head to the body and prayed, they were made whole again.

3. THE VENERABLE JOACHIM OSOGOVSK

Joachim lived a life of asceticism in the second half of the eleventh century on the Osogovsk mountain in a cave at a place called Sarandopor. Later, in this place, another ascetic, Theodore from the Field of Sheep, to whom St. Joachim appeared in a dream, built a church. Throughout the centuries, many miracles occurred over the relics of the Venerable Joachim and still do today.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR STAMATIUS

Stamatius was a peasant born in Volos in Thessaly. When an inhuman Agha [Aga] collected the royal tribute from the people and greatly mistreated them, Stamatius departed for Constantinople with several of his companions to complain to the Vizir [Vizier]. By his sharp criticisms of the Agha, Stamatius offended the sultan's noblemen and they arrested him. At first, they wanted to convert him to Islam by flattery, promising him riches, glory and honor. But the martyr cried out: "My riches, glory and honor; that is my Christ." Then the Turks tortured him and finally, before the Church of the Divine Wisdom [Hagia Sophia], Stamatius was beheaded in the year 1680 A.D. That is how this soldier of Christ was crowned with the martyr's wreath.

HYMN OF PRAISE

PRINCE ABGAR

A gentle God, Who reveals mysteries,

Wonderful mysteries, never before dreamed of,

Once by the lake, You proclaimed

That many pagan peoples

From throughout the east, to the west

With Abraham to sit at the table,

And the unbelieving sons of the Jews

To utter darkness, will be expelled

Because of their hardened heart.

The mystery You spoke and the mystery came about:

The Jews in Your face gazed,

Behind Your back, death, were preparing.

And from distant regions, Prince Abgar,

A leprous body and a wretched soul

From a false faith of paganism,

Heard of You from mouth to mouth,

Heard of Your words and miracles,

Heard of You and, in You, believed

Of Your All-pure face, saw the likeness

With tears, kissed the likeness

In both body and soul, became whole

His soul in Paradise, took up abode

With Abraham to rejoice eternally.

REFLECTION

The Orthodox Church surpasses all other Christian groups in the richness of her Tradition. The Protestants want only to adhere to Holy Scripture. But, not even Holy Scripture can be interpreted without Tradition. The Apostle Paul himself commands: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The tradition of Prince Abgar, without doubt, is of Apostolic Tradition even though the apostles do not mention him in their writings. The Apostle Thaddaeus, did not write anything at all and, according to Protestant thinking, did not say anything and neither did he teach the faithful. According to what then was he an apostle of Christ? St. John Damascene [Damaskin] mentions the tradition of Prince Abgar in his defense of the veneration of icons. How wonderful and touching is the letter of Abgar to Christ. And since he previously wrote that he heard of His miraculous power, that He cures the sick and since he implored Him to come and to heal him, Abgar further writes: "I also hear that the Jews hate You and that they are preparing some evil against You. I have a city, not large, but beautiful and bountiful in every good: come to me and live with me in my city, which is sufficient for the both of us for every need." Thus wrote a heathen prince while the princes of Jerusalem were preparing death for the Lord, the Lover of Mankind.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate God's wondrous help to Jonathan, the son of Saul (1 Samuel 13-14 1 Kings 13-14):

1. How the Philistines rose up against the Jews and the army of the Philistines was: "as the sand which is on the sea shore" (1 Samuel 13:5 - 1 Kings 13:5);

2. How Jonathan with his young man that bore his armor [armorbearer], attacked the Philistines, trusting in God and how he confused and defeated them;

3. How even we should know the truthfulness of Jonathan's words: "It may be the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6 1 Kings 14:6).

HOMILY

About the divine branch from the root of Jesse

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots"(Isaiah 11:1).

With such clear prophesies about Christ the Lord, why did not the Jews believe in Him as the Messiah? Because of their insane pride and because of their insane crimes against holy and righteous men. Who is that rod from the stem of Jesse other than the Lord Christ? Jesse was the father of King David and the Messiah was expected from the lineage of David. He appeared from the lineage of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David. The "rod out of the stem of Jesse" signifies the physical descent of the Lord through the Virgin Mary, a descendant of Jesse and David, and the "branch out of his roots" Jesse's roots signifies the revealed righteousness in Him which was trampled down by the many kings from the house of David. Trampled down righteousness is like a dry tree stump. But from the root of such a tree stump, a green branch sometimes sprouts. The Lord Jesus will be such a self-sprouting branch. From His mother, He will be of the lineage of David, by righteousness from the lineage of David but by His Divine Conception, He will be of the Holy Spirit. In eternity from the Father without a mother, in time from a mother without a father. In eternity, the concept of becoming man [incarnation] remained hidden under the covering of Divinity; in time, His Divinity therefore remained hidden under the covering of humanity. Pilate gazed in vain at this "rod from the stem of Jesse" and cried out: "Behold the Man!" (St. John 19:5), the same as when one looks at a wire conveying electrical current among many ordinary wires and cries out: "Behold the wire!" Neither does he recognize electrical current in a wire nor did that one [Pilate] recognize God in man.

O Lord Jesus, Man-kind loving God-man, make us to love God and save us.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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