Prologue of Ohrid

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September 14

1. THE EXALTATION OF THE HONORABLE CROSS

Two events in connection with the Honorable Cross of Christ are commemorated on this day: first, the finding of the Honorable Cross on Golgotha and second, the return of the Honorable Cross from Persia to Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy Land, the holy Empress Helena decided to find the Honorable Cross of Christ. An old Jewish man named Judah was the only one who knew where the Cross was located, and, constrained by the empress, he revealed that the Cross was buried under the temple of Venus that Emperor Hadrian had built on Golgotha. The empress ordered that this idolatrous temple be razed and, having dug deep below it, found three crosses. While the empress pondered on how to recognize which of these was the Cross of Christ, a funeral procession passed by. Patriarch Macarius told them to place the crosses, one by one, on the dead man. When they placed the first and second cross on the dead man, the dead man lay unchanged. When they placed the third cross on him, the dead man came back to life. By this they knew that this was the Precious and Life-giving Cross of Christ. They then placed the Cross on a sick woman, and she became well. The patriarch elevated the Cross for all the people to see, and the people sang with tears: "Lord, have mercy!'' Empress Helena had a silver case made and set the Honorable Cross in it. Later, the Persian Emperor Chozroes conquered Jerusalem, enslaved many people, and took the Lord's Cross to Persia. The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years. In the year 628 the Greek Emperor Heraclius defeated Chozroes and, with much ceremony, returned the Cross to Jerusalem. As he entered the city Emperor Heraclius carried the Cross on his back, but suddenly was unable to take another step. Patriarch Zacharias saw an angel preventing the emperor from bearing the Cross on the same path that the Lord had walked barefoot and humiliated. The patriarch communicated this vision to the emperor. The emperor removed his raiment and, in ragged attire and barefoot, took up the Cross, carried it to Golgotha, and placed it in the Church of the Resurrection, to the joy and consolation of the whole Christian world.

2. SAINT PLACILLA, THE EMPRESS

Placilla was the wife of Emperor Theodosius the Great. In mind and deed, she was a true Christian. She was especially distinguished for helping the needy and the sick. When some people told her that this was not consistent with imperial dignity, she replied: "It becomes the imperial calling to assist with money; however, in my personal efforts concerning the poor, I give to Him who deigned to give me this calling.'' She rested peacefully in about the year 400.

3. THE VENERABLE MARTYR MACARIUS OF THESSALONICA

Macarius was a disciple of Patriarch Niphon when the latter was laboring in stillness at Vatopedi [on Mount Athos]. Macarius longed to be martyred for Christ the Lord, and begged St. Niphon for his blessing. The clairvoyant patriarch, seeing that this was the will of God, blessed his path to martyrdom. Macarius went to Thessalonica and, in a crowd of Turks, began to speak about Christ as the One True God. The Turks beat him and threw him into prison. When they brought him to trial, Macarius cried out to them: "Oh if you only knew the truth, and were baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!'' The Turks beheaded him in 1527. At that very moment, St. Niphon saw this in the spirit and told a monk of Macarius's death by martyrdom, saying: "Know this, my child, that today your brother Macarius died a martyr's death and is borne to heaven, celebrating and rejoicing in the Lord. May we, by his prayers, be made worthy of blessedness."

4. THE VENERABLE MARIA OF TARSUS

She lived a life of total debauchery. Two monks traveling through Tarsus stayed at the inn where Maria plied her trade. When she approached the monks, they rebuked her and pushed her aside as unclean. She suddenly repented, and vowed never to sin again. The monks took her to a convent, where Maria lived a life of asceticism until old age. She was made worthy of working miracles even during her lifetime.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HONORABLE CROSS

Save, O God, Thy people!
Save, O Lord-
By Thine Honorable Cross, Thou dost shine upon us,
By the Cross, Thou dost lead us!
The Cross is power and a sign;
The Cross is salvation.
 
Save, O God, the Patriarch
And the Assembly of Serbian Bishops;
Grant them strength to serve
Thine Honorable Cross!
The Cross is power and a sign;
The Cross is salvation.
 
Save, O God, all those
Who are in authority;
May the Most-holy Cross protect them
From dark destruction!
The Cross is power and a sign;
The Cross is salvation.
 
Save, O God, all people
Who pray to Thee.
By Thy Cross, may they quickly overcome
Every difficulty.
The Cross is power and a sign;
The Cross is salvation!
 
REFLECTION

Just as a candle is lighted from another candle, so also a good work is born from a good work. A patrician wanted to donate a gold cross to a church. He summoned a young but experienced goldsmith, gave him a great deal of gold that he weighed out, and told him to fashion whatever sort of cross he desired. The poor goldsmith, seeing what a large donation this patrician was making for the sake of his soul, became inflamed with love for God in his own heart, and decided that he would add his own ten pieces of gold to the amount of the patrician's gold. When the cross was completed, the patrician weighed it, and discovered that it was heavier than the gold that he had given to the young man. He immediately began to scold the young man as a thief, suspecting that he had taken some of the gold and replaced it with some other heavy metal. When the young man saw the patrician so angry, he confessed his deed. He said: "I added from my gold, as the widow gave two mites, in order to receive Christ's reward with you.'' Hearing this, the patrician's heart was touched, and he said to the honorable young man: "From this day, I take you as my son, and the heir of all my goods.''

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the transgression of Jeroboam and the punishment of God (I Kings 12, 13):

1. How Jeroboam cast two golden calves and ordered the people to worship them as gods;

2. How the prophet declared God's displeasure to Jeroboam, and miraculously broke the altar before the idols;

3. How Jeroboam raised his hand against the prophet, but his hand withered, and only after the prayers of the prophet was it made whole again.

HOMILY

on the truthfulness of Christ's witness

Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true (John 8:14).

The light witnesses truthfully when it witnesses to the existence of the sun, and it does not lie. In the same way, the Lord Jesus witnesses truthfully to all that He testifies. He descended among men as a heavenly witness, to affirm the existence of the Triune God, the existence of the angelic world and of men's souls, the love of God for men, God's providence toward men, the power of justice over injustice, the might of truth over falsehood, the blessed immortality of the righteous and the eternal torment of the sinners, the resurrection from the dead, the Judgment of God and many other things that men-under the veil of sin-only felt as a faint premonition, but did not know of or strongly believe in. Most of all, He witnessed that He is the Son of the Living God, equal to His Father in Essence, power and love, and equal to the Holy Spirit of God. For the Witness had to witness first to Himself, so that by His witnessing to other mysteries, He could be believed. From the point of view of a pure and immutable truth, every witness of Christ is true; but from the point of view of the darkened Jews, it was not true. For God, and the angels of God, and the righteous ones, and for eternity, and for all time-His witnessing is true, and that is why He also said: My record is true. But for the darkened minds of the hardened sinners, this witness is not true. That is why He said to the Jews earlier: If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true (John 5:31). In other words; "It is not true for you Jews, but in essence it is true in and of itself.''

O Most-blessed Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God and our only Savior, deliver us from the weakness of a sinful mind, and the wickedness of a sinful heart. Illumine us with the light of Thy words, eternally true.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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