Prologue of Ohrid

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September 4

1. THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR BABYLAS

This "great and wonderful man, if he could be called a man''-as St. John Chrysostom spoke of him-was Bishop of Antioch during the reign of the wicked Emperor Numerian. This Numerian concluded a peace treaty with a barbarian king, who was more noble and peace-loving than he. As a sign of his sincere desire for a lasting peace, the barbarian king gave his young son to be brought up and educated in Numerian's court. One day Numerian stabbed this innocent boy to death with his own hands, and offered him as a sacrifice to the idols. Still hot from the crime and the innocent blood, this criminal with an emperor's crown went to a Christian church to see what was going on there. St. Babylas was at prayer with the people, and heard that the emperor had come with his retinue and desired to enter the church. Babylas interrupted the service, went out in front of the church, and told the emperor that as he was an idolater he could not enter the holy temple where the one, true God was glorified. In a homily about Babylas, St. John Chrysostom said: "Who else in the world would he fear-he who, with such authority, repulsed the emperor?… By this, he taught emperors not to overreach their authority beyond the measure given to them by God, and he also showed the clergy how to use their own authority.'' The shamed emperor turned back, but planned revenge. The following day, he summoned Babylas and berated him, urging him to offer sacrifice to the idols, which, of course, the saint steadfastly refused to do. The emperor then bound Babylas and cast him into prison. The emperor also tortured three children: Urban, age twelve, Prilidian, age nine, and Hippolinus, age seven. Babylas was their spiritual father and teacher, and they, out of love for him, had not run away. They were the sons of Christodula, an honorable Christian woman who had herself suffered for Christ. The emperor first ordered that each child be beaten with a number of blows corresponding to his years, and then had them cast into prison. He finally had all three beheaded with the sword. The chained Babylas was present at the beheading of the children and encouraged them. After that, he laid his own honorable head under the sword. He was buried in his chains by the Christians, in the same grave as those three wondrous children, as he had willed before his martyrdom. Their holy souls flew off to their heavenly habitation, while their miracle-working relics remained for the benefit of the faithful, as a constant witness to their heroism in the Faith. They suffered in about the year 250.

2. THE HOLY PROPHET MOSES THE GOD-SEER

 Moses was a great leader and the lawgiver of Israel. He was born in Egypt in about 1550 B.C. For forty years, he lived at the court of the pharaoh; for forty years, he lived as a shepherd in contemplation of God and the world; and for his remaining forty years, he led the people through the wilderness to the Promised Land. He beheld the Promised Land, but was not allowed to enter it, for he had once sinned against God (Numbers 20:12). Moses reposed at the age of 120. As a miracle-worker, he was a prefiguring of Christ, according to St. Basil the Great. He appeared from the other world on Mount Tabor during the Lord's Transfiguration. According to the witness of St. John Climacus, he appeared also to the monks in the Monastery of Mount Sinai.

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS MARCELLUS AND CASSIAN

Emperor Maximian Hercules once issued a command that all of his soldiers had to offer sacrifices to the idols. Marcellus was a soldier at that time, and Cassian was a notary (secretary). Marcellus, a Christian, declared: "If the military calling is bound up with sacrifice to idols, then I cannot be a soldier!'' He removed his military belt and arms and cast them aside. He was immediately sentenced to death. Cassian's duty was to write Marcellus's death sentence, but he refused to write it. They were beheaded together, and their souls took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR BABYLAS
 
Before the doors of the holy temple
The wonderful shepherd bravely stood.
The bloody emperor wanted to enter,
But the shepherd would not let him.

"You know nothing of the true God;
You bow down before idols.
What do you seek, foul pagan, 
Among right-believing Christians?''

The stubborn emperor turned violent
And chained Babylas.
Yet, smiling at the emperor,
Babylas glorified His Lord.

And the emperor sneered at the saint:
"Behold, these chains fit you nicely-
Just your size, contemptible old man-
Just as if they were tailored for you!''

Thus spoke the emperor, and he fell silent.
And Babylas replied to the emperor:
"I swear to you, that this iron
Is more precious to me than gold.

"These chains have more worth
Than your royal diadem!
O Emperor, I value them more
Than your entire realm.

"Because I wear these chains for Christ.
They are the price of my freedom,
For I shall dwell in eternity,
And by these chains I will enter therein.''
 
REFLECTION

A saint's power after his death is often many times greater than in life. "That is why God left us the relics of the saints,'' says St. John Chrysostom in his unsurpassable homily on St. Babylas. St. Babylas was buried in the city of Antioch. At that time, Emperor Gallus-the brother of Julian the Apostate-was reigning together with Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great. Inspired by piety, Gallus translated the relics of St. Babylas to the outskirts of Daphne and built a small church, placing the relics of the martyr in it. There was a famous temple of Apollo in Daphne, built on the spot where, according to a pagan legend, a virgin had turned into a laurel tree in order to be saved from the "god'' Apollo, who was pursuing her out of unrestrained fleshly passion for her. There stood the idol of Apollo, which allegedly could foretell anyone's future. But, as the relics of Babylas now rested in the vicinity of the temple, the demon from the idol fell silent and ceased making prophesies. Later, when Emperor Julian the Apostate set out on his catastrophic war with the Persians, he visited the temple of Apollo and consulted the idol about the outcome of his impending war. The idol responded with trepidation that it could not render a clear response "because of the dead'' buried in its proximity. Of course, that pertained to Babylas, the presence of whose body had silenced the demon. Julian ordered that the relics of Babylas be transported back to Antioch. However, as soon as the relics of the martyr were removed, fire fell from heaven and consumed the temple of Apollo, destroying it forever. Julian set out against the Persians and his blasphemous life came to a horrible end. Such was the power of Christ's martyr after death: he silenced the demon, brought down fire from heaven, destroyed the idolatrous temple, and punished the apostate emperor with a dishonorable death.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate God's punishment of David for his sins (II Samuel 15):

1. How Absalom, David's son, raised a rebellion against his father;

2. How David fled from Jerusalem before his son, and went barefoot and wept.

HOMILY

on the changing of water into wine

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee (John 2:11).

Our God is Almighty; and His power has no limit and is beyond description. He created all that was created by His Word: By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made (Psalm 33:6). By His Word, He created the body of man. By the Word of God, lifeless earth is transformed into the bodies of men, animals and plants. By the Word of God, flowing water is changed into vapor, and vapor into ice and snow. By this same Word, the water in a vine is changed into wine, wine that maketh glad the heart of man (Psalm 104:15).  Therefore, how difficult a miracle was it for the Word of God Incarnate-Christ our Lord-to change water into wine in Cana? For us men, darkened by sin, this is a great miracle; for our nature, weakened by sin, it is an unattainable miracle. Yet, isn't the working of miracles the usual occupation of the Creator? When the servants filled the six large vessels with water, the Lord Christ said to them: Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast (John 2:8). He did not even say, "Let the water become wine,'' he merely thought it. For God's thoughts have the same power as His words.

Why is it said that this was the "beginning of miracles,'' when it appears that, long before this miracle, the Lord worked other miracles? Because, brethren, the changing of water into wine is the fundamental miracle of Christ, and is the essence of all His miracles. Human nature was diluted with its own tears, and it was necessary to change it into wine. The divine spark in man was extinguished, and it was necessary to rekindle it. Infirmity is like water, health is like wine; the impurities of the evil spirits are like water, purity is like wine; death is like water, life is like wine; ignorance is like water, truth is like wine. Hence, whenever the Lord made the sick whole, the impure pure, the dead alive, and prodigals enlightened, He essentially turned water into wine.

O Lord our God, Thou miraculous Transformer of water into wine: bring Thy divine flame to our extinguished hearth. Transform the water of our being into divine wine, that we may be like unto Thee-and that we may thus abide with Thee in Thine Immortal Kingdom, with Thy radiant angels.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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