Prologue of Ohrid

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August 19

1. THE HOLY MARTYR ANDREW, STRATELATES [THE TRIBUNE THE COMMANDER]

Andrew was an officer, a tribune, in the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Maximian. He was a Syrian by birth and served in Syria. When the Persians menaced the Roman Empire with their military, Andrew was entrusted with the army to battle against the enemy. During this occasion, Andrew was promoted as a commander - Stratelates. Secretly a Christian, even though he was not baptized, Andrew trusted in the living God and, of the many soldiers, he chose only the best and entered into battle. He said to his soldiers before the battle that if they would call upon the help of the one, true God, Christ the Lord, their enemies will scatter as dust before them. Truly, all the soldiers filled with enthusiasm at Andrew and his faith invoked Christ for assistance and made an assault. The Persian army was utterly destroyed. When the victorious Andrew returned to Antioch some, who were envious, accused Andrew of being a Christian and the imperial deputy summoned him to court. Andrew openly confessed his unwavering faith in Christ. After bitter tortures, the deputy threw Andrew into prison and wrote to the emperor in Rome. Knowing Andrew's respect among the people and in the army, the emperor ordered the deputy to free Andrew to freedom and to seek another opportunity and another reason (not his faith) and then to kill him. Through God's revelation, Andrew learned of the emperor's command and, taking with him his faithful soldiers, 2593 in number, departed with them to Tarsus in Cilicia and there, all were baptized by Bishop Peter. Persecuted even there by the imperial authorities, Andrew with his detachment withdrew farther into the Armenian mountain Tavros. Here, in a ravine while they were at prayer, the Roman army caught up with them and all to the last one were beheaded. Not one of them even wanted to defend themselves but all were desirous of a martyr's death for Christ. On this spot, where a stream of the martyr's blood flowed, a spring of healing water erupted which cured many from every disease. Bishop Peter came secretly with his people and, on the same spot, honorably buried the bodies of the martyrs. Dying honorably, they were all crowned with the wreath of glory and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ our Lord.

2. THE VENERABLE THEOPHANES

Theophanes was born in Ioannia and, as a young man, left all and went to Mt. Athos where he was tonsured a monk in the community of Dochiariu. He was an example to all the monks in fasting, prayer, all-night vigils and depriving himself of all that was unnecessary. In time, and because of this, he was elected as abbot. Later, because of some misunderstanding with the monks, he left Mt. Athos and, with his nephew, went to Berea [Beroea] in Macedonia where he established a monastery in honor of the All-holy Theotokos. When this monastery blossomed with the spiritual life, Theophanes entrusted his nephew to govern it and he went to Naousa where he established another monastery in honor of the Holy Archangels. Theophanes died peacefully in the fifteenth century. His miracle-working relics, even now, repose in Naousa and manifest the great power of God.

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS TIMOTHY, AGAPIUS AND THECLA

All three were martyred for Christ during the reign of the wicked Emperor Diocletian. Timothy was burned alive and Agapius and Thecla were thrown before wild beasts.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY MARTYR ANDREW, STRATELATES [THE TRIBUNE]
 
The nature's song in the midst of Mt. Tavros
 
Echoed without a loud human response.
 
Until one day, the mountain shook,
 
Some new echo, through her was carried;
 
And the mountain, its eternal echo halted
 
In order to hear the new, which it had not in ages, heard.
 
There, the end of the brave detachment of Andrew was,
 
There, the wolves, the innocent lambs slaughtered;
 
Andrew, from the Persians, the Empire of Rome saved,
 
And now, against Andrew, the Roman army roar,
 
With two-thousand companions, Andrew to the earth knelt,
 
To his companions, good advice he spoke:
 
Now is the pleasant hour, now is the day of salvation,
 
From the earthly life, our separation.
 
On our knees humbly before God, let us kneel,
 
And for much good, let us warmly give thanks,
 
And mostly brethren, for a martyr's death
 
Without anger and shouting against the murderous hand.
 
Thus, Andrew spoke. To their knees they fell,
 
Two-thousand men, began to pray;
 
Of the bitter pursuers, swords flashing
 
Atop the mountain, choirs of angels shone,
 
The doors of Paradise, in heaven opened
 
For Andrew holy, the glorious Stratelates
 
And his army, who evil overcame
 
And for their Christ, shed honorable blood.
 
REFLECTION

When an unexpected misfortune happens to us who are innocent, we should not immediately grieve but rather we should try to see in this the Providence of God, Who, through that misfortune, is preparing something new and beneficial for us. One day, unexpected news came to Blessed Theophanes, the abbot of Dochiariu, that the Turks had seized his sister's son, forced him to embrace Islam and took him to Constantinople. Theophanes immediately traveled to Constantinople and, with the help of God, succeeded to find his nephew and to secretly bring him out of Constantinople and brought him to his monastery on Mt. Athos. There, he again received his nephew into the Christian Faith and, after that, also tonsured him a monk. However, the brethren began to complain against their abbot and his nephew for fear of the Turks, for they were afraid that the Turks would find out and come and destroy the monastery. Not knowing what to do, St. Theophanes took his nephew and, with him, secretly withdrew not only from Dochiariu but also from the Holy Mountain and came to Berea. The later activities of Theophanes in Berea and in Naousa proved how much that misfortune was beneficial to the Church. That which Theophanes could never succeed to achieve on the Holy Mountain, he achieved in these other places to which he had fled from that misfortune. Namely: he founded two new monasteries, where, in time, many monks were saved and where countless men found comfort for themselves. In addition to this, his holy relics among the Christian people became a source of healing for the strengthening of faith among many unbelievers and those of little faith. Thus, God wisely directs the destiny of men through unexpected misfortunes, which momentarily seem to men that they are going to their final destruction.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the wondrous Providence of God in the life of David (1 Samuel 16 [1 Kings 16]):

1. How the Spirit of God withdrew from Saul because of Saul's sin;

2. How an evil spirit assaulted Saul so that he sought a harpist in order to comfort him;

3. How the servants of the king precisely found David and brought him to the king so as to calm him with the harp.

HOMILY

About the power of the Lord and the weakness of idols

"Behold, the Lord rideth upon a light cloud and shall come into Egypt: And the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence" (Isaiah 19:1).

Fleeing from King Herod, the Pharaoh of Jerusalem, the Lord came to Egypt. The true Israel is not reckoned according to the place but rather according to the spirit and deeds. At the time of the birth of the Lord, greater evil [Herod] reigned in Jerusalem than ever reigned in the Egypt of the Pharaohs; as it often happens when believers fall away from the Faith, they become worse than the unbelievers who never knew the true Faith. Such is the case in our days with the rulers in Russia who apostatized from Christ. At that time, Egypt was a kinder and more hospitable place for the Savior of the world than was Jerusalem. Compare the words of the prophet with the words of the angel in a dream to the Righteous Joseph: "Arise, and take the young Child and His mother and flee into Egypt" (St Matthew 2:13) and immediately you will be convinced that the words of Isaiah do not refer to anyone other than Christ the Lord. You will be convinced of this even more when you hear the words of the other prophet who speaks: "Out of Egypt I called My son" (Hosea 11: 1).

What does "a light cloud" upon which He [the Lord] will come to Egypt signify? This signifies the body of the Lord in which He will clothe His divinity, for the body of man is as a dense cloud in which the soul resides. Therefore, that is the prophetic vision of the Incarnate Lord. Some interpreters also think that "a light cloud" signifies the Most-pure Mother of God who, by long fasting and prayer and other mortifications made her body as light as a cloud. Especially "light was that cloud" the body of the Birth-giver of God because of the absence of passions, which burden the human body.

O, All-merciful Lord, Who desires salvation for all mankind and does not look to see who is a Jew and who is an Egyptian, save and have mercy on us for we continuously hope in Your Name.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

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