Prologue of Ohrid

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September 3

1. The Hieromartyr Anthimus


He was born in Nicomedia, and was raised from childhood as a true Christian. ``His body was mortified, his spirit humbled, his envy uprooted, his anger subdued, his sloth banished…. He had love for all and peace with all; he was prudent with all, had zeal for the glory of God and was forthright with all.'' It is no wonder that a man with such virtues was appointed bishop. St. Anthimus governed as Bishop of Nicomedia during the cruel persecution of Christians under the villainous Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. Streams of Christian blood were shed, especially in Nicomedia. One year, on the Feast of Christ's Nativity, twenty thousand martyrs were burned to death in one church (see December 28). This took place during the time of Anthimus's episcopacy. Even so, the persecution did not end with this, but continued, and many Christians were cast into prison and kept there for torture and death. St. Anthimus withdrew to the village of Semana, not because he was fleeing from death, but in order to continue encouraging his flock in the feat of martyrdom, so that no one would fall away out of fear. One of his letters to the Christians in prison was intercepted and turned over to Emperor Maximian. The emperor dispatched twenty soldiers to find Anthimus and bring him to him. The gray-haired and clairvoyant elder came out to meet the soldiers, brought them to his house, and treated them as guests-and only then revealed that he was Anthimus, whom they were seeking. The soldiers, astonished by Anthimus's kindness, suggested that he hide, saying they would tell the emperor that they could not find him. But Anthimus replied that he could not let himself transgress God's commandment against falsehood to save his life, and he went with the soldiers. Along the way, all the soldiers came to believe in Christ and were baptized by Anthimus. The emperor had Anthimus harshly tortured for a long time, and then had him beheaded with an axe. He glorified the Lord and went to his rest at the beginning of the fourth century.


2. The Holy Martyr Basilissa


Basilissa was a nine-year-old girl. She was martyred in Nicomedia not long after the death of St. Anthimus. The torturers covered her whole body with wounds, but she remained faithful to Christ. God preserved her unharmed from fire and wild beasts, which caused her torturer, Alexander, to repent and embrace the Christian Faith. Basilissa then went out into a field, fell to her knees, and prayed thankfully to God that she had endured the tortures, and with that she gave up her spirit to God, in about the year 309.


3. Saint Joanikije, Archbishop and First Patriarch of Serbia
an. He became archbishop in 1339, and was elevated to the rank of patriarch in 1346. Joanikije was a zealous archpastor and organizer of the Serbian Church, ``a great upholder of the laws of the Church.'' He entered into rest on September 3, 1349. His relics repose in the Patriarchate of Peè.


4. The Venerable Theoctistus


He was a faster and fellow ascetic of St. Euthymius the Great. Theoctistus was abbot of Euthymius's Lavra, located some six miles from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. In all things he was a disciple of St. Euthymius under whose spiritual guidance he governed the monastery until the age of ninety. He pleased God by his life, and reposed in the middle of the fifth century during the reign of Anastasius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Hieromartyr Anthimus


Holy Anthimus encouraged his flock:
``My children, my beloved children,
Bearers of Christ's yoke,
Now is the time for great renunciation,
O soldiers of the Crucified Christ,
Who gloriously resurrected from the dead!
Now is the time of cruel persecution;
Now is the time of struggle and patience;
For the harvest of heroes is prepared.
The brilliant wreath is radiant above you:
Fear not the dark executioners
For the power of man does not last forever,
But the power of God lasts unto ages of ages.
Blessed is he who fears God!
Your tears will be wiped away
In heaven by the hands of angels;
Your wounds will be healed
In heaven with paradisal balm.
Death will be transformed into life!
The despised will be crowned with a wreath!
Brief torture, but eternal blessings.
My dear children, do not fear.''


REFLECTION


 He who desires to be saved must be absolutely obedient to spiritual authority. Without this obedience, a man can perish even with the greatest desire for salvation. The great saints, who prescribed obedience as the condition for salvation, also fulfilled the act of obedience to perfection. When St. Simeon chose the pillar for his ascesis, it struck the other ascetics as some kind of novelty. Because they did not know if this form of asceticism was of the Spirit of God or of the spirit of pride, the desert fathers sent spiritual men to determine the answer. The monks were to command Simeon in their name to come down from the pillar. If he did not want to come down, it would have meant that his elevation on the pillar was from the spirit of pride. But if he obeyed the command and began to descend, they were to leave him as he was, for his readiness to obey would show that his asceticism was from the Holy Spirit. When those sent arrived and told Simeon that the council of the holy fathers of the desert commanded him to descend from the pillar, Simeon immediately began to climb down the ladder. Seeing his obedience, they cried out to him rejoicing: ``Do not come down, holy Father, but remain where you are. We see now that your asceticism is of God.''


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate God's punishment of David for his sins (II Samuel 13):
1. How Amnon, David's son, defiled David's daughter, Tamara;
2. How Absalom, David's son, slew Amnon his brother because of this;
3. How David wept bitterly.


HOMILY
on the Word of God revealed in the flesh


And the Word was made flesh (John 1:14).
Here, brethren, is a new, blessed and salvific beginning for us-the beginning of our salvation. Adam was in the flesh when he fell under the authority of sin and death. Now the Creator of Adam has appeared in the flesh, to deliver Adam and Adam's posterity from the power of sin and death. The Son of God-the Word, Wisdom, Light and Life-descended among men in human flesh and with a human soul. He was incarnate but not divided from His Divinity. He descended without being separated from His Father. He retained all that He had been and would be for all eternity, and yet He received something new: human nature. His eternal attributes were not diminished by the Incarnation, neither was His relationship to the Father and the Spirit changed. Lo, the Father testified to this, both on the Jordan and on Mount Tabor: This is my beloved Son! He did not say: ``This was my Son,'' but ``This is my Son.'' The Holy Spirit was with Him at His bodily conception and throughout His mission on earth. The divine and human nature were united in Him, but not intermingled. How? Do not ask, you who do not even know how to explain yourself to yourself, and cannot say how your soul and body are united in you. Only know this: God came to visit the earth, bringing unspeakably rich treasures for mankind-royal gifts, incorruptible, eternal, priceless and irreplaceable gifts. Know this and let your heart dance for joy. Strive to cleanse your hands, purify your senses, wash your soul, whiten your heart, and set your mind straight, that you may receive the royal gifts. For they are not given to the unclean.
O Lord Jesus Christ, help us to cleanse and wash ourselves by Thy blood and Thy Spirit, that we may be made worthy of Thy royal gifts.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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