Prologue of Ohrid


August 28


Moses was an Ethiopian by birth. In the world, he was a thief and the leader of a band of thieves, and yet he became a penitent and a great ascetic. Moses was once a slave, who escaped and joined the thieves. Because of his great physical strength and daring, the robbers chose him as their leader. Then one day he was suddenly overcome with pangs of conscience and repented for his misdeeds. He left the thieves, entered a monastery, and gave himself over completely to obeying his spiritual father and the monastic rule. He benefited much from the teachings of Saints Macarius, Arsenius and Isidore. Later he withdrew to solitude in a cell, where he dedicated himself completely to physical labor, prayer, vigils and contemplating God. Tormented by the demon of lust, Moses confessed to Isidore, his spiritual father, who gave him counsel to increase his fasting, and even when eating to avoid satisfying his appetite. When this regimen did not help, he was counseled to keep all-night vigil and to pray standing. Then he also began the practice of bringing water to the elderly monks from a distant well, all night long. After six years of terrible struggles, St. Isidore miraculously healed him of lustful thoughts, fantasies and dreams perpetrated on him by the demon. Moses was ordained a priest in old age. He founded his own monastery, had seventy-five disciples, and lived to the age of seventy-five. He foresaw his death: one day he told his disciples to flee, for the barbarians were about to attack the monastery. When the disciples urged him to escape with them, Moses said that he had formerly been violent, and had to suffer violence himself, according to the words: For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52). He remained at the monastery with six brethren, and the barbarians slew them. One of the brethren, hiding nearby, saw seven shining wreaths descend from heaven upon the seven martyrs.


Sava was a Serb by descent. He lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos in Pskov, and then became abbot of that monastery. But they praised him, and so, fleeing the glory of men, he withdrew to the shores of Lake Krypetsk, where he founded a new community dedicated to St. John the Theologian. Nevertheless, he was unable to conceal his fame and prominence even there. He was visited by Prince Yaroslav of Pskov and his wife. Sava would not allow the wife to enter the monastery, but he blessed her and prayed to God for her, and healed her of a disease outside the monastery. This saint of God found rest in the year 1495 A.D. and his relics have retained miracle-working power. Abbot Dositheus was one of his visitors at Krypetsk.


Blessed is he upon whom God shows mercy!
The mercy of God is joy,
In both worlds joy.
Moses the Black, like a prodigal son,
Repented and, to God, returned,
And with tears, redressed his many sins.
By much fasting, himself he withered--
Black of face, and radiant in soul.
Incessant night vigils tamed his passions,
And from the demon's power, freed him.
His soul, like a mountaintop lake, became
Which, into the heavens gazes,
In which heaven sees its face.
When others asked Moses:
"Do not the sins of others sadden you?
Do not sinful people concern you?"
Saint Moses tearfully replied:
"Whoever has a corpse in his house
Does not weep over someone else's corpse,
But rather weeps over his own corpse."
The lion, into a lamb, can often change,
But such miracles, only Christ performs.
Moses, a lion in the mountains, was,
Yet, a gentle lamb, became.
By his holy prayers,
May God grant salvation to us as well.

A true Christian avoids the praise of men--and not only avoids it, but has a true fear of it. St. Sava of Pskov left the office of abbot, and the monastery itself and the good brotherhood of the monastery, fleeing to a desolate place to escape the praise of men--for the love of praise robs our hearts. A devout prince, upon hearing of the ascesis of St. Moses Murin [the Black], took his retinue into the desert to see him. Moses learned that the prince was coming to his monastery, and quickly ran to hide somewhere, but he unexpectedly encountered the high-ranking visitors. "Where is the cell of Abba Moses?" the servants of the prince asked, not suspecting that this was Moses himself. Moses opened his mouth and said: "What do you want him for? He is an ignorant old man, very untruthful, and completely impure in life." Hearing this, the visitors were astonished, but continued on. When they arrived at his cell, they asked for the elder, but the monks said he was not there. The visitors told them what the monk on the road had said. The monks were dismayed, and asked them: "What did this old man look like?" The visitors answered that he was very dark-skinned, tall and dressed miserably; and the monks cried out loudly: "But that was Abba Moses himself!" This incident was of great spiritual benefit to the prince. He returned home rejoicing.


To contemplate the nobility of David (2 Samuel 1 - [also known as 2 Kings 1]):

1. How a messenger arrived and told David of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, thinking to receive a reward;

2. How David bitterly mourned and lamented for Saul, who had wished nothing but death for David.


About the form of the Messiah

"And we saw that He had neither form nor comeliness" (Isaiah 53:2). *)

The prophet speaks this about Christ the Lord as a man: He had neither form nor comeliness! How is it that He--Who gave form to every created thing, created the beautiful angels of heaven and all the beauty of the universe--had no form or comeliness [beauty]? Brethren, this need not confuse you. He was able to appear in any manner He chose. He did not want to appear in angelic beauty, or in royal power, or in luxurious wealth. He who enters a house of sorrow does not dress in the most beautiful clothes, nor does a doctor dress in his best clothes when he visits the gravely ill. In coming to earth, the Lord entered a house of sorrow; he entered a hospital. The body is the garment of the soul. He dressed in a simple garment to impress us by the power of His spirit, not by His dress. We do not know exactly what His appearance was. According to tradition, His face was swarthy and His hair was of a chestnut color. Yet when King Abgar sent Ananias his artist to paint the face of the Lord, he was not even able to begin, for it is said that Christ's face shone with an unearthly light.

After all, even if Christ had clothed Himself in the most beautiful body--such a body as only He could create, what would physical beauty be in comparison with the immortal beauty of His divinity? The greatest earthly beauty is merely a shadow of the heavenly beauty. The Prophet Daniel was a young and handsome man, but when an angel of God stood before him, he himself said: …there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness turned in me into corruption (Daniel 10:8). What is the face of an earthly man in comparison to the likeness of an immortal angel of God? As darkness is in comparison to light! Therefore, the prophet, beholding Christ the Immortal King in the flesh of man, and comparing His earthly appearance with His Immortal glory, had to cry out: He had neither form nor comeliness.

O most gentle Lord, Who for our sake was clothed in our miserable physical garment to serve us and keep us from fear, glory to You!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

*) According to the Greek text (Septuagint).
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