Prologue of Ohrid

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August 26

1. THE HOLY MARTYR ADRIAN AND NATALIA

Adrian and Natalia were husband and wife, both of noble and wealthy families from Nicomedia. Adrian was the head of the Praetorium and a pagan and Natalia was secretly a Christian. Both were young and lived together in marriage for only thirteen months until martyrdom. When the nefarious Emperor Maximian visited Nicomedia, he ordered that Christians be seized and subjected to torture. In a cave near the city, twenty-three Christians were hidden. Someone reported them to the authorities and they were cruelly flogged with oxen whips and rods and then cast into prison. After that they were taken out of prison and brought before the Praetor to register their names. Adrian observed these people, tortured but patient, serene and meek and he made them swear to tell him what they expect from their God for so many tortures endured? They spoke to him concerning the blessedness of the righteous in the Kingdom of God. Hearing this and, again observing these people, Adrian, at once, turned to the scribe and said to him: "Write down my name with these saints, I also am a Christian." When the emperor learned of this, he asked Adrian: "Have you gone out of your mind?" To that Adrian replied: "I have not gone out of my mind but rather I came to my senses." Learning of this, Natalia greatly rejoiced and when Adrian, with the others, sat chained in prison, she came and administered to all of them. When they flogged and tortured her husband with various tortures, Natalia encouraged him to endure to the end. After lengthy tortures and imprisonment, the emperor ordered that an anvil be brought to prison and their legs and hands be broken with a hammer. This was carried out and Adrian, with twenty-three honorable men, gave up the spirit under the greatest of tortures. Natalia took their relics to Constantinople and honorably buried them there. After a few days, Adrian appeared to her all in light and beauty and called her, that, she also come to God and she peacefully gave up her spirit to God.

2. THE VENERABLE TITHOES

Tithoes was a disciple of St. Pachomius and great among the ascetics of Egypt. Tithoes was abbot of a monastery in Tabennsi. He lived his entire life in absolute purity. At one time a brother asked him: "What path leads to humility?" To this Tithoes replied: "The path to humility is abstinence, prayer and considering yourself lower than anything." Tithoes attained a very high degree of perfection and whenever he lifted up his hands in prayer, his spirit entered into ecstasy. He died in the Lord in the fourth or fifth century. The Venerable Ibistion is commemorated together with him.

3. SAINT ZER-JABOB

Jacob was a great Christian missionary in Abyssinia [Ethiopia].

4. THE MIRACLE OF THE MOST-HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD IN MOSCOW IN THE YEAR 1395 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY MARTYR ADRIAN AND HIS WIFE, SAINT NATALIA, AND THE TWENTY THREE MARTYRS

The path is thorny, in Paradise are roses,
 
Bitter sufferings, but Christ is sweet.
 
What is heard in the darkened dungeon?
 
Against the hard anvil, the hammer strikes,
 
But, not iron nor lead, does it forge,
 
But breaks the legs of the martyrs,
 
And breaks the arms of the martyrs,
 
Martyrs, the soldiers of Christ.
 
One hand white, noble
 
Stained with blood, to the dust falls
 
That is the hand of Saint Adrian,
 
Saint Natalia took the hand
 
And with the hand, from the dungeon runs
 
Washes the hand and, in silk, wraps it,
 
Kiss the hand and mists with tears.
 
Wherever she walks, with her, the hand she carries,
 
While she sleeps, beneath her head, she places it,
 
To the severed hand, quietly she speaks:
 
"Holy hand of my Adrian,
 
You have helped me much,
 
Once again, help me, O hand,
 
To heaven, raise me as soon as possible
 
Where Adrian lives with the saints,
 
It was but a short while and did not last long
 
Adrian, to Natalia appeared,
 
Than all the emperors, beautiful and more radiant was he,
 
And, with a heavenly voice, invited her:
 
Come to me, sister Natalia,
 
Come to me, be eternally alive,
 
Into the Kingdom, the eternal King invites you.
 
REFLECTION

Occasionally one hears an ungodly word even among Christians: here, even God cannot help! There is no danger in which God cannot help nor are there any enemies who could conquer by their own power without God's permission. Do not ask how God will destroy the powerful army of our enemies; that is easier for God than it is for you to inhale or exhale air. Read how God, by one apparition, terrified the Syrian army, so the army dispersed and Israel was saved: "For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel has hired against us the king of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to come upon us" (2 Kings 7:6).

Read how Jerusalem was saved from the powerful army of Babylon without any effort of King Hezekiah except his cry and prayer before God: "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred four-score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses" (2 Kings 19:35). But God did not perform such miracles only in ancient times but He performs them every time when the faithful pray to Him. Thus, in the year 1395 A.D., the Tartar King Tamburlaine [Tamerlane] surrounded Moscow with his countless soldiers. The Russians brought the miracle-working icon of the Most-holy Theotokos from the town of Vladimir to Moscow and all the people with tears began to pray to the Most-holy Pure One. Suddenly, for no visible reason, the army of Tartars began to withdraw hurriedly and to flee. What happened? Tamburlaine had a vision in a dream: clouds of saints moving beneath the heavens and in their midst, the Holy Birth-giver of God as Queen and, further still, countless hosts of angels. The Theotokos sharply threatened Tamburlaine and ordered him to leave immediately from the land of the Russians and the saints waved their staffs at the emperor. Terrified by this dream, Tamburlaine as soon as it dawned, ordered a retreat and flight.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the generosity of David (1 Samuel 26 - [1 Kings 26]):

1. How David entered the camp of Saul at night and, while Saul was sleeping, took his spear and cup [cruse of water];

2. How David's commander [Abishai] wanted to pierce Saul but David forbade it;

3. How David left vengeance to God.

HOMILY

About the sufferings [passions] of Christ, how Isaiah foresaw them.

"I gave my back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6).

Brethren, this is the prophecy and now hear the exact fulfillment of that prophecy: "And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified" (St. Matthew 27:26). Is not this what the prophet foretold: "I gave My back to the smiters"? Listen further: "One of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (St. John 18:22). And again: "They struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, 'Prophesy, who is it that smote You?' " (St. Luke 22:64). Is not this what the prophet foretold? "I gave My cheeks to them that smite"? Listen even further: "…And they mocked Him" (St. Matthew 27-29), "And they smote Him on the head with a reed and did spit upon Him" (St. Mark 15:19); is not this what the prophet foretold: "I hid not My face from shame and spitting." Observe, brethren, how clear is the prophecy, clear from word to word. Observe with horror, how the discerning man of God sees more clearly through the walls of several hundred years than the ordinary eye, which sees the bottom of clear and shallow water! That God, by His irresistible power, opens the spirit of mortal man to see, by the spirit, the events in the distance as clearly as the physical eyes see the events close by. How then does the All-seeing God Himself, see through the marrow of our bones, through the fog of our thoughts, and through all the secrets of our hearts? Because He is present at our thoughts even before they are born and present at our desires before they are conceived. He is the one undeceived and undeceivable witness of all events, external and internal, in the heights and in the depths, in the width and in the length. And He witnesses to our spirit truthfully, that which our soul desires to know for the sake of our good benefit and for the salvation of our soul.

O, All-seeing and All-wonderful Witness to all the secrets in heaven and on earth, the Creator and our Good Provider, You alone see the weakness of all of us. Help us, O help us, to learn that which is necessary for the sake of our eternal salvation.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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