Prologue of Ohrid

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August 28

1. VENERABLE MOSES THE BLACK [THE ROBBER]

Moses was an Ethiopian by birth and by profession, at first, a robber and leader of a band of robbers and, after that, a penitent and great ascetic. As the slave of a master, Moses escaped and joined the robbers. Because of his great physical strength and arrogance, the robbers chose him as their leader. Suddenly, Moses was overcome with pangs of conscience and repentance, for the misdeeds which he had committed. He left the group, entered a monastery and gave himself completely in obedience to his spiritual father and to 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 godly-thoughts. Tormented by the demon of fornication, Moses confessed to Isidore, his spiritual father, and from him, received counsel to fast even more and never to eat to full satisfaction. When even this did not help he, at the counsel of the elder, began to keep vigil at night and to pray standing; after that, he 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 finally miraculously healed him of fornicating thoughts, fantasies and dreams brought about on him by demons. Moses was ordained a priest in old age. He founded his own monastery and had seventy-five disciples and lived in this life for seventy-five years. He foresaw his death and, one day, he told his disciples to flee, for the barbarians were going to attack the monastery. When the disciples also urged him to flee with them, Moses said that he must die by violence for, at one time, he himself committed violence and, according to the words: "For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (St. Matthew 26:52). He remained there with six brethren and the barbarians came and slew them. One of the brethren, hidden in the vicinity, beheld and saw seven shining wreaths as they descended upon the seven martyrs.

2. THE VENERABLE SAVA OF PSKOV AND KRYPETSK

Sava was a Serb by descent. He lived a life of asceticism, at first, in the monastery of the Holy Birth-giver of God in Pskov and then was abbot of that monastery. But they praised him and he fled from the glory of men and withdrew to the shores of Lake Krypetsk where he founded a new community dedicated to St. John the Theologian. Nevertheless, even here, he was unable to conceal his fame and prominence. He was visited by Prince Yaroslav of Pskov and his wife. Sava would not allow his wife to enter the monastery but rather blessed her and prayed to God for her outside the monastery and healed her of a certain disease. This saint of God found rest in the year 1495 A.D. and his relics were and remained miracle-working. Among his visitors to Krypetsk, the Abbot Dositheus is mentioned.

3. THE ASSEMBLY OF ALL THE CHOSEN MEN OF GOD OF THE MONASTERY OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
VENERABLE MOSES THE BLACK [THE ROBBER]
 
Blessed is he upon whom God shows mercy!
 
The mercy of God is joy,
 
In both worlds joy.
 
Moses Murin [the Black] as a prodigal son
 
Repented and to God returned,
 
By much weeping, many sins repaid
 
By much fasting, himself withered,
 
Black in the face, shining in the soul.
 
By many all-night vigils, passions he tamed,
 
Of demons authority, freed himself.
 
While his soul, as a lake became
 
Atop the mountains that, into the heavens gaze.
 
In which heaven mirrors its face.
 
When once, they asked Moses
 
"Do not the sins of others sadden you?"
 
"Sinful men, do they not concern you?"
 
Saint Moses tearfully replied:
 
"Whoever has a corpse in the house
 
That one does not weep over someone else's corpse
 
Rather weeps over his own corpse."
 
The lion, into a lamb, often changes,
 
Such a miracle, only Christ performs.
 
Moses, a lion in the mountain was
 
And, a gentle lamb became.
 
By his holy prayers, let
 
God grant salvation to us also.
 
REFLECTION

A true Christian avoids the praise of men; not only avoids, but has a true fear of it. St. Sava of Pskov left the office of abbot, the monastery and the good brotherhood of the monastery and fled to a desolate place to escape the praise of men, for praise of men robs our heart. A devout prince, upon hearing of the mortification of St. Moses Murin [the Black], went with his retinue into the desert to see him. Informing Moses that the prince was coming to his monastery, Moses quickly ran out and began to flee and 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 and continued on. When they arrived at the cell of Moses, they inquired about the elder and the monks said that he was not there. Then they began to relate what a monk on the road had said about Moses. The monks were saddened and asked them: "How did he look, this old man, who spoke to you mocking words about this holy man?" and when they said that he was very dark in the face, tall and in a miserable garment; the monks cried out loudly: "but that was indeed the Abba Moses!" By this incident, the prince benefited greatly spiritually and rejoicefully returned to his home.

CONTEMPLATION

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

1. How a messenger arrived and informed David about the death of Saul and Jonathan thinking to receive a reward for that;

2. How David bitterly mourned and lamented for Saul who wished him [Daivd] nothing but death.

HOMILY

About the forms of the Messiah

"And we saw that He had no form nor comeliness" (Isaiah 53:2).

This, the prophet speaks about Christ the Lord as a man: "He had no form nor comeliness!" How is it that He Who gave form to every created thing and who created the beautiful angels of heaven and all the beauty of the universe, that He did not have form and comeliness [beauty]? Brethren, this need not confuse you. He was able to appear in the manner in which He willed. But he did not want to appear in angelic beauty as He did not want to appear in royal power and in the luxury of the wealthy. He who enters a house of sorrow does not dress in the most beautiful clothes, neither does a doctor dress in his best clothes when he visits the gravely ill. But the Lord entered a house of sorrow and into a hospital. The body is the garment of the soul. He dressed in a simple garment to impress us, not by His dress but rather by the power of the spirit. We do not know exactly what His appearance was. According to tradition, His face was swarthy and His hair was of a chestnut color. When King Abgar sent Ananias his artist to paint the face of the Lord, he was not able to draw even a line on the cloth for, it is said that, Christ's face shown with an unusual light.

After all, even if Christ had clothed Himself in the most beautiful body, such a body as only He is able to fashion, what would that physical beauty of His be in comparison to the immortal beauty of His Divinity? The greatest earthly beauty is merely only 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 man from earth in comparison to the likeness of an immortal angel of God? As darkness in comparison to the light! Of course, even the prophet looking at Christ the Immortal King in the flesh of man and comparing His earthly likeness with His Immortal likeness, had to cry out: "He had no form nor comeliness."

O Gentle and All-gentle Lord, Who for our sake was clothed in our miserable physical garment to serve us and not to frighten us, to You be glory and thanks, to You be glory and thanks.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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