Prologue of Ohrid

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August 21

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE THADDAEUS

Thaddaeus was one of the Seventy Apostles but not the Thaddaeus who was one of the Twelve Apostles. St. Thaddaeus first saw and heard John the Baptist and received baptism from him and after that he saw the Lord Jesus and followed Him. The Lord numbered him among the seventy lesser apostles whom He sent two by two before His face, "After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy also and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place where He Himself would come" (St. Luke 10:1). After His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord sent Thaddaeus to Edessa, Thaddaeus' birthplace, according to the promise He gave to Prince Abgar at the time when He sent the towel with His face on it. By kissing the towel, Abgar was healed of leprosy but not completely. A little leprosy still remained on his face. When St. Thaddaeus appeared to Abgar, he received him with great joy. The apostle of Christ instructed him in the true faith and after that baptized him. When the baptized Abgar came out of the water, the remaining leprosy fell from him and he was completely healed. Glorifying God, Prince Abgar also wanted that his people should know the true God and to glorify Him. The prince assembled all the citizens of Edessa before the holy Apostle Thaddaeus to hear teaching about Christ. Hearing the words of the apostle and seeing their prince miraculously healed, the people rejected the idols, unclean living, embraced the Faith of Christ and were baptized. Thus, the city of Edessa was illumined by the Faith of Christ. Prince Abgar brought much gold and offered it to the apostle but Thaddaeus said to him: " Since we left our own gold, how can we receive the gold of others?" St. Thaddaeus preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Phoenicia. He reposed in the Lord in the Phoenician city of Beirut.

2. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR BASSA AND HER CHILDREN: THEOGNIUS, AGAPIUS AND PISTUS

Bassa was the wife of an idolatrous pagan priest but also was secretly a Christian. She educated her sons in the spirit of Christianity. Her husband hated her because of her faith and handed her, along with her, sons, over to the judge for torturing. After harsh tortures, her sons were beheaded (thought to be Edessa in Macedonia). Bassa was completely overjoyed when she saw how her sons honorably ended their martyr's heroic deed for Christ and she herself, with even greater eagerness, went from torture to torture. When they tossed Bassa into the sea, angels appeared to her and brought her to an island in the Sea of Marmara where she was beheaded at the time of Maximian. Thus, was St. Bassa, in a two-fold manner, was made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ, as a martyr and as a mother of martyrs.

3. VENERABLE ABRAHAM OF SMOLENSK

Abraham was born in the town of Smolensk in answer to his parent's prayers. He entered the monastic life at an early age and gave himself to austere asceticism, emulating the ancient fathers of the desert. Later, he established the monastery of the Holy Cross near Smolensk. He endured many temptations both from demons and men with great patience and thanksgiving to God. During the time of a great drought, Abraham brought forth rain by his prayers. Living fifty years in the monastic order, Abraham peacefully died in the Lord about 1220 A.D.

4. THE HOLY FOREFATHERS ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers before Christmas as the righteous and chosen ones of God.

HYMN OF PRAISE

VENERABLE ABRAHAM OF SMOLENSK

The candle burns and incense smells,

Day and night, Abraham prays

His neighbors, he loves as himself.

Withered body of St. Abraham

From fasting and prostrations,

Heart trembling, from the Name of God -

On the pages of time, eternity he writes

Of the sinner, sinners are not afraid

But, the righteous ones, they bitterly fear,

Sinful men, Abraham mock

Envious ones, Abraham accuse.

Mocked and accused, Abraham endures,

For his foes, the mercy of God he implores.

Abraham his heart conceals

Secretly kneeling, secretly shedding tears;

God does not judge as men judge,

The judgment of man desires to harm

But God desires salvation for all,

The aristocrat and the helpless slave.

In God, the saint places all his hope

Abraham, God eternally glorified.

REFLECTION

Magnanimous forgiveness of slanderers and prayer for them is a characteristic of Christian saints who do not ascribe all the slanders against themselves to men but rather to demons, the main instigators of every slander as well as every sin in general. St. Abraham of Smolensk was slandered by envious priests to the prince and the bishop as a deceiver, magician and hypocrite. The slanders sought nothing less than to have him burned. The prince and the bishop believed the slanderers and Abraham was banished from Smolensk and was forbidden to exercise his priestly functions. During the entire time of his investigation and trial, Abraham repeated the prayer of St. Stephen, the first martyr: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts of the Apostles 7:60). Later it was established that all of the accusers against Abraham lied and slandered. The infuriated prince wanted to severely punish the slanderers and the bishop wanted to excommunicate them from the Church but the holy Abraham fell on his knees before the bishop and, with tears, begged him to forgive them. Abraham did not want to return to his monastery nor to begin again to exercise his priestly functions until his slanderers were shown mercy and released.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate David and Saul, a man with the spirit of God and a man without the spirit of God (1 Samuel 18 1 Kings 18):

1. How Saul feared David because of his virtues and how David was obedient to Saul in everything;

2. How Saul hypocritically rewarded David but sent him among the Philistines so that he would be killed;

3. How an apostate from God always fears the most godly man.

HOMILY

About the wondrous stone in Zion

"Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believes in it shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 28:16).

Brethren, this wondrous stone is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For if the prophet thought of it as an ordinary stone, he would not have mentioned faith in it [the stone], otherwise he would have prophesied idolatry. The Prophet Daniel also speaks about a stone which rolled down the hill and smashed the great idol and grew as a great mountain and filled the whole earth: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were made of iron and clay and broke them into pieces…and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34-35). The prophecy about the stone in Daniel is for pagans and the prophecy about the stone in Isaiah is for Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ is that stone which is laid first, in the foundation of God's entire creation, for He is the Word of God and the Wisdom of God; second, as the foundation of the Old Testament as the preparation and third, as the foundation of the New Testament as the fulfillment. The "corner-stone", that is the firmest and the strongest stone which connects and joins other stones and holds the walls of various directions [angels] in oneness and in wholeness. If we observe the Lord Christ within us, He is the "corner-stone" which binds and ties our various spiritual capabilities in unity and wholeness so that all work toward one goal, in the direction of God and the Kingdom of God. If we observe Christ the Lord in the history of mankind, He is the "corner-stone" which ties and binds Judaism and paganism in one House of God, in the Church of God. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 3:11) says the apostle of the New Testament in agreement with the prophet of the Old Testament. Whoever has, until now, believed in that Stone of Salvation was not ashamed. Neither will anyone ever be ashamed who would believe in it. For this stone is a "sure foundation" and truly a "chosen stone", a "precious and honorable stone".

O Lord Jesus, our Stone of Salvation, strengthen the faith in us, that holy and salvatory faith in You, our only Savior.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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