Prologue of Ohrid

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September 15

1. The Holy Martyr Nicetas


Nicetas was a Goth by birth. He was a disciple of Theophilus, Bishop of the Goths, who participated in the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea 325]. When the Gothic prince Athenarik began to torture Christians, St. Nicetas stood before the prince and denounced him for his paganism and inhumanity. Subsequently harshly tortured, Nicetas confessed his faith in Christ even more strongly, and prayed to God with thanksgiving. His mind was unceasingly raised up to God, and on his breast under his robe he bore an icon of the Most-holy Theotokos with the Pre-eternal Christ Child standing and holding the Cross in His hands. St. Nicetas carried this icon because the Holy Theotokos had appeared to him and comforted him. Finally, the torturer threw the soldier of Christ into the fire, where the holy martyr breathed his last, but his body remained untouched by the fire. His companion Marianus took his body from the land of the Goths (Wallachia and Bessarabia) to the town of Mopsuestia, in Cilicia. There, he built a church dedicated to St. Nicetas, and placed the miracle-working relics of the martyr in it. Nicetas suffered and was glorified in the year 372.


2. The Venerable Philotheus


Philotheus was from the village of Myrmix or Mravin in Asia Minor. His mother had the same name, but reversed-Theophila. Philotheus was a presbyter and a great miracle-worker during his lifetime. On one occasion, he changed water into wine and, on another occasion, he miraculously increased a quantity of bread. He reposed in the Lord in the tenth century, and his relics gushed myrrh.


3. The Holy Martyr Porphyrius


Porphyrius was born in Mimosa. At first, he made jests about Christians for the Emperor Julian the Apostate. Thus, on one occasion, while parodying the Christian Mystery of Baptism, he immersed himself in water, pronouncing the words: ``In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!'' When he emerged from the water he cried out: ``Now I am a Christian!'' Everyone thought that this was just another jest, but he remained steadfast, ceased to mock Christianity, and finally suffered for Christ. Porphyrius was beheaded in the year 361, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ. 


4. The Holy Martyrs Theodotus, Asclepidote and Maximus


They were all noblemen by birth, from Trachis. They suffered for Christ in the village of Saltis near Philipopolis, between the year 305 and 311, and entered into the Heavenly Kingdom.


5. Saint Bessarion the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Larissa


Bessarion founded the Monastery of the Savior, in the Diocese of Larissa. He was glorified by his miracles, both during his life and after his death.


6. The Holy New Martyr John of Crete


John suffered for the Christian Faith at the hands of the Turks in Ephesus, in the year 1811.


7. Saint Joseph, Bishop of Alaverdi


 Joseph was one of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers (May 7) who were sent to the Caucasus to preach the Gospel. St. Joseph peacefully reposed in the Lord in the year 570. His miracle-working relics repose in the cathedral church in Alaverdi.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr Nicetas


He is a true patriot who, among his own people,
Erects a true altar to the Living Lord.
Athenarik the Goth ruled by force,
And offered sacrifices to lifeless idols.
But holy Nicetas, the soldier of Christ God,
Was a preacher of eternal salvation.
He cast rays of the Eternal Light throughout the night,
Dispersing the idolatrous darkness that shrouded souls.
Holy Nicetas opposed the prince,
And his brave endurance amazed his people.
By the power of the Honorable Cross, he confounded the darkness
And filled all the people with the fear of God.
His blood was the rosy hue of the new dawn,
And his spirit was raised up to the heavenly courts.
In the terrible fire, Nicetas burned,
But, not even today, has he been consumed.
With the truth of Christ the Goths were baptized,
And they glorified Nicetas, their wonderful one.
O Saint Nicetas, voice of God's trumpet,
Courageous martyr, true patriot;
From the tents of the earth you have departed,
And you stand in the royal courts with the angels.
Pray for us, for the King listens to you,
That He grant our souls mercy.


REFLECTION


God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). God either punishes the mockers in order to correct them or He converts them into that which they had mocked. Initially, St. Porphyrius was famous among the pagans as a mocker of Christianity. On one occasion, he was mocking the Christian Mystery of Baptism before Emperor Julian the Apostate and his retinue. But something totally unexpected happened. When Porphyrius immersed himself in the water and pronounced the words of baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, his spirit was suddenly changed, and he became a true Christian. Instead of mocking the Christian Faith, he began to denounce the emperor for his impure idolatry, for which he was tortured and beheaded. A similar thing happened to the comedian Gennesus, probably in Diocletian's time. This Gennesus parodied the Christian Divine Liturgy before a crowd of pagans, amusing them with his mockeries and witticisms. Suddenly, he changed, and cried out before the people: ``I believe, and I desire to be baptized.'' At first, the spectators thought his words were a part of his farce, but he repeated his statement of faith in Christ. When Gennesus remained steadfast in his new faith, even when interrogated by the court and the emperor himself, he was tortured and slain. Thus, the mocker of Christ became a martyr for Christ.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate God's punishment on a disobedient prophet (I Kings 13):
1. How this prophet was commanded by God to abstain from eating or drinking anything in idolatrous Bethel;
2. How the prophet disobeyed God, and ate and drank;
3. How, upon returning, he was torn apart by a lion.


HOMILY
on the twofold witness of the Son of God


I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me (John 8:18).
It is written in the Law that two witnesses are needed in order to prove something. First of all, the Lord provided the unbelieving Jews with three great witnesses about Himself: the Father, His own works and Holy Scripture (John 5:36-39). Yet, even after His many miracles, and after His teachings were widely expounded, He told them that His own witness of Himself was true and sufficient (John 8:14). Finally, He again emphasized two witnesses to them-His and His Father's-in accordance with the letter of the Law, which required two witnesses. Thus the Lord seals the lips of the unbelievers in every way, and leaves them no outlet but the crime of murder, which is the last resort of those who refuse to be convinced of the truth, with no regard for reason or proof. In this last case especially, with the Lord's presentation of His and His Father's witness, He also wanted to show that He was a separate Person [hypostasis], and yet of one Essence with the Father. Therefore, He presents two witnesses: His own separate witness and the witness of God the Father. The following words confirm this: If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also (John 8:19). Expressed here is the complete essential unity of the Father and the Son, and there remains not even the slightest doubt that the Lord was thinking of His essential equality with His Father. The words here are about the Divine Nature, and not the human nature. Whoever conceives of the Holy Trinity as three bodily beings deceives himself. Only the Son of God appeared in the flesh, for the sake of the salvation of the world. The Father and the Holy Spirit did not take on flesh. According to His Divine Nature, the Son, although in the flesh, remained equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. He clothed Himself in human nature, and added His Divine Nature, out of love for mankind, so as to reveal Himself to men and save them.
O Holy Trinity, one in Essence and undivided, Who illumined and enlightened us through the Incarnate Word of God, sustain us to the end by Thy sanctity, Thy strength and Thine immortality, and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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