Prologue of Ohrid

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August 31

1. THE FEAST OF THE GIRDLE OF THE HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD

After her Dormition [Falling-asleep], the Holy Theotokos gave her girdle [sash] to the Apostle Thomas. That girdle was later brought to Constantinople and kept in a sealed reliquary in the church of the Mother of God at Blachernae, the royal foundation [Zaduzbina] of Empress Pulcheria. This reliquary was never opened until the time of Emperor Leo the Wise (886-912 A.D.). Leo's wife, the Empress Zoe, became mentally ill and, according to a mysterious vision, she desired that the girdle of the Holy Theotokos be placed on her. The emperor implored the patriarch and the reliquary was opened and the girdle was removed and placed on the ailing empress. The empress was immediately healed. This feast was instituted in commemoration of this miracle. One part of the girdle is to be found in Zugdid, Georgia. That is to say: the daughter of Emperor Romanus was healed with the aid of this girdle and later when her father married her to the Georgian Emperor Abuchaz, she took a part of that girdle with her. By order of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, a special church was built in Mingrelia in Zugdid where that part of the miracle-working garment of the Holy Theotokos is kept.

2. SAINT GENNADIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Gennadius succeeded St. Anatolius as patriarch. He was a contemporary of St. Marcian (January 10) and St. Daniel the Stylite (December 11). During his time, the glorious Studite monastery was founded and named after the Roman Senator Studius, who came to Constantinople and with the blessing of Gennadius built the church of St. John the Forerunner, and along side it the monastery. Gennadius was very gentle and restrained. He would not ordain anyone who did not know the entire Psalter by heart. He presided at a local council in Constantinople at which simony in the Church was anathematized. He worked miracles and, in a vision, learned of his death. Gennadius governed the Church for thirteen years and peacefully presented himself to the Lord in the year 471 A.D.

3. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR CYPRIAN

Cyprian was born of unbelieving parents and himself was educated in polytheism.  He became famous in Carthage as a teacher of philosophy and rhetoric. He was married but when he became a Christian, he ceased to live with his wife and dedicated himself to laborious study of Holy Scripture day and night and perfected his character. Because of his unusual virtues, he was chosen as a presbyter and soon after that as a bishop. As much as he was merciful toward Christians, so was he firm toward Christians. He wrote many works of instruction guided by the Holy Spirit. Especially, vehemently wrote against idolatry, Judaism and the Novatian heresy. Beautiful and sweet is his work concerning virginity, as well as of martyrdom and about charity, about patience, the Lord's Prayer and so forth. He suffered and died at the time of Valerian and Galian in the year 258 A.D. Before his death, he prayed to God, blessed the people and left twenty-five gold coins to be given to the executioner who would behead him. The unattainable greatness and generosity of a true Christian!

4. SAINT JOHN, METROPOLITAN OF KIEV

John was a Bulgarian by birth. He came to Kiev in the year 1080 A.D. and immediately attained such esteem that he was soon elevated to the throne of the Metropolitan See. John governed the Church for eight years. He wrote an epistle to Pope Clement in which he reprimanded him because of the innovations, which the Roman Church introduced. He died peacefully in the year 1089 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR CYPRIAN
 
Adornment of the Church, pride of Carthage,
 
Before and after the death of Cyprian the priest,
 
In word and deed, the faithful, he instructed
 
The pure and chaste ones, especially praising:
 
Chastity, says he, is the sanctity of the organs,
 
From the chains of passions, it is freedom
 
And the source of purity; the adornment of morality.
 
The dignity of the body and the cord of modesty,
 
The peace of a home, chastity is the crown of harmony,
 
Chastity is silence, the absence of anxiety.
 
When from the body, the spirit of man withdraws,
 
And into the realm of its own, it enters,
 
And of the inner world, perceives the luxury,
 
Then, the body to interfere, it does not allow
 
With insane passions, with various desires,
 
From worries deprived with empty luxury,
 
Luxury to us, an adorned woman does not proclaim
 
Rather an impure soul and its sinfulness.
 
O golden freedom, from desires of vanity,
 
Precious treasure of only a saint!
 
Chastity is freedom, chastity is silence,
 
From the Son of God both are gifts.
 
O Son of God O Good Lord
 
Grant us the glory of chastity and freedom.
 
REFLECTION

Christians do not believe in kismet, fate or destiny. Even if God determines the chief lines of our life, He, according to our prayers and merits, can change them. Thus, He prolonged King Hezekiah's life for fifteen years: "Go and say to Hezekiah, thus said the Lord, the God of David Your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold I will add unto your days fifteen years" (Isaiah 38:5), and to the Venerable Dius (July 19) he likewise prolonged his life for fifteen years. God extended the life of St. Basil the Great, according to the prayer of the saint for one day until he baptized the Jew, Joseph, his physician. But, as God can, by prayer, prolong life, so He can shorten it because of sin. Emperor Anastasius adhered to the Severian heresy, so called the Acephalites (the headless ones), who spread the foolishness that the Church does not need bishops and priests but rather that everyone unto himself is a bishop and a priest, and that everyone has the right, in his own way, to interpret Holy Scripture and to teach others as he understands and believes. In vain did St. John the Patriarch counsel the emperor to return to the truth of Orthodoxy, and not only did the emperor not accept the counsel but rather ill-treated the patriarch in various ways and contemplated to have him banished. One night, the emperor saw in a dream an awesome man on an exalted throne, who held a book in his hand. This man opened the book, found the name of Emperor Anastasius and said: "I have wanted to permit you to live for a while longer but, because of your heresy, behold, I am erasing fourteen years from your life." And he erased something from the book. Terrified, the emperor jumped up from his dream and related his dream to his followers. After a few days, thunder struck the emperor's place and killed Emperor Anastasius.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the rejoicing of David in the Lord (2 Samuel 6 [2 Kings 6]):

1. How David transferred the Ark of the Covenant from Baal of Judah to Jerusalem and how, out of joy, he danced before the Ark;

2. How Michal, his wife, sneered at David because of his dancing before the Ark, not being ashamed the women;

3. How God punished Michal for that inappropriate sneer so that Michal had no offspring until her death.

HOMILY

About the power and the mission of Christ, as Isaiah prophesied

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance to our God" (Isaiah 61: 1-2).

This great and programmed prophecy, the Lord Jesus read at the beginning of His saving work before the Jews in Nazareth and having read this, He sat down and said: "Today is this scripture fulfilled" (St. Luke 4: 16-21). One of the darkest prophecies for the Jewish scribes and priests, He read, closed the book and said: "Today is this scripture fulfilled." None of the Jews dared to touch this prophecy for no one knew to whom this prophecy pertains. Seven centuries have passed since this prophecy was spoken and written and no one knew to whom it pertains. And when that one [Christ] came, upon whom this prophecy pertains, He read it and applied it to Himself. Thus our great Lord justified His prophet and presented Himself to the world.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." Why does He speak so when He is equal to the Spirit as He is to the Father? As St. Chyrsostom interprets, it is for the sake of witnessing to the people. He does not say the grace of the Spirit [is upon Me], for the grace of the Spirit is upon the faithful people, but the Spirit Himself is upon Him as was manifested on the Jordan river. The Spirit is the witness of the Son and the Son was never without the Spirit for one moment. The Lord Jesus often mentions the Father and the Holy Spirit first out of infinite love toward the Father and the Spirit, and love always ascribes its own to others and second for the sake of instruction to proud men that they do not emphasize themselves but rather to give honor to others, equal to themselves.

Everything else that is said in this wonderful prophecy, the Lord fulfilled by His miraculous works, word for word. He came primarily to proclaim the mercy of God to men but at the same time, to proclaim the Dread Judgment to those who would despise and reject that mercy.

This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God, the true prophet.

Brethren, let us venerate Isaiah whose God-inspired mouth foretold the Savior and our salvation, and let us worship without ceasing our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We worship You our Lord and Savior and we give You thanks for Your All-wise plan for our salvation.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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