Prologue of Ohrid

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September 16

1. THE HOLY GREAT-MARTYR EUPHEMIA

Euphemia was born in Chalcedon. Her father Philophronus, a senator, and her mother Theodorisia were devout Christians. Euphemia was a beautiful virgin in body and in soul. When the Proconsul Priscus held a feast and offered sacrifices to Ares in Chalcedon, forty-nine Christians avoided this foul sacrificial offering and hid themselves. However, they were discovered and brought before Priscus. Among them was St. Euphemia. When the arrogant Priscus asked them why they defied the imperial decree, they replied: "Both the emperor's and your command should be obeyed, if they are not contrary to the God of heaven; but if they are contrary to God, they should not only be disobeyed, but should also be opposed.'' For nineteen consecutive days, Priscus imposed various tortures on them. On the twentieth day he separated Euphemia from the others and began to flatter her for her beauty, attempting to win her over to idolatry. As his flattery was in vain, he ordered that the virgin be tortured again. First, they tortured her on the wheel, but an angel of God appeared to Euphemia and shattered the wheel. Then they threw her into a fiery furnace, but she was preserved by the power of God. Upon seeing this, two soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, came to believe in Christ, for which they were thrown to the wild beasts, and thus gloriously ended their earthly lives. Euphemia was then thrown into a pit filled with water and every kind of poisonous vermin; but she made the sign of the Cross over the water and remained unharmed. She was finally thrown to the wild beasts and, with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, gave up her spirit. Her parents buried her body honorably. Euphemia suffered in the year 304 and entered into eternal joy. She is also commemorated on July 11.

2. THE VENERABLE DOROTHEUS

Dorotheus was an Egyptian hermit of the fourth century. He labored in asceticism for sixty full years in one cell in the Thebaid. He distinguished himself by an unusual love of labor and by miracle-working. During the day he built cells for the new monks, and at night he wove mats, never interrupting his prayer and psalmody.

3. SAINT CYPRIAN, METROPOLITAN OF KIEV
Cyprian was born in Trnovo, but lived as a Serb on Mount Athos. He especially occupied himself with translating and re-copying books. His patron was Philotheus, the Patriarch of Constantinople. When the patriarch came to know Cyprian on Mount Athos, he took him into his service, and eventually sent him to Kiev as metropolitan. As Metropolitan of Kiev he endured much grief and misfortune, but endured it all with kindness and patience, and by his fruitful labor greatly benefitted the Russian Church. He spent almost thirty years in his calling as metropolitan. Prior to his death, he wrote a farewell speech that was read over his grave. He entered into rest on September 16, 1406. His miracle-working relics repose in the Church of the Dormition in Moscow.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR LUDMILLA

Ludmilla was the grandmother of the Czech King Vatslav [Wenceslaus]. She was married to the Czech Prince Borivoy. By her zeal for the Christian Faith, she brought many out of paganism into the Church. Her daughter-in-law hated her, and had men strangle Ludmilla in her old age. Vatslav buried Ludmilla's body in the Church of St. George in Prague. Many miracles occurred over her relics. She suffered in Techino in the year 927. St. Vatslav, himself a great zealot for the Orthodox Faith, was slain by his brother Boleslav.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY GREAT-MARTYR EUPHEMIA
 
All-blessed Euphemia, the holy virgin,
 
Offered herself to God as a sacrificial lamb.
 
She neither gasped, nor sighed, nor sorrowed,
 
But gave warm thanks to God for her tortures.
 
Angels appeared to her in the flame,
 
And extinguished the embers with cool heavenly dew.
 
Oh, such is our Faith-invincible!
 
Oh, such is the love for God-unquenchable!
 
Euphemia, wise virgin, virgin of Christ, 
 
Christ the Lord gave you the Kingdom for your suffering.
 
You have boldness before the Mother of God and Christ our God,
 
And help Their work by your holy prayers.
 
O Euphemia, pray for all sinners,
 
And convert them, O saintly one, to repentance.
 
REFLECTION

Often unexpected misfortune befalls us, and in vain we ask "why?'' The Church of Christ alone knows how to explain the cause of every misfortune. The Church basically classifies misfortunes into two groups. Some misfortunes befall the sinner because of old, unrepented sins. Other misfortunes assault the righteous and serve, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom, "as a means of receiving a wreath, as was the case with Lazarus and Job.'' The Empress Eudocia secretly agreed with the Eutychian heresy, having heeded the counsel of the perfidious eunuch Chrysaphius. But misfortune unexpectedly befell her. One day her husband, Emperor Theodosius, brought her an apple of unusual size. The empress sent the apple to the ailing senator Paulinus and he, out of love for the emperor, sent this same apple to Emperor Theodosius. This gave the emperor reason to suspect an illicit relationship between his wife and the senator. The emperor asked his wife to show him the apple he had given her. The empress lied and said: "I ate it!'' This made the emperor's suspicion even stronger, and he banished Eudocia to Palestine. In time Eudocia cured herself of heresy, and through the counsels of the great Palestinian spiritual fathers returned completely to Orthodoxy. The misfortune that befell the empress did not arise from an illicit relationship with Paulinus-in this, she was completely innocent-but because of her heretical disposition. A second but different case: When he was still a military commander, the future Emperor Marcian was traveling near Philipopolis and saw the corpse of a murdered man on the road. Out of pure compassion, he got off his horse and started to bury the corpse. Just then someone came by and saw him burying the corpse, and reported him to the court as a murderer. Marcian would have been punished by death, had God not shortly revealed the true murderer. This kind of misfortune falls into that second category-"for the receiving of a wreath.'' Shortly after this, General Marcian was chosen to be emperor.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate God's wondrous judgment with regard to men (I Kings 14):

1. How Jeroboam's son became ill and died, for the punishment of his apostate father and for his own salvation;

2. How the rest of Jeroboam's men perished, and were eaten by dogs in the city and by birds in the field.

HOMILY

on the Lord, the holder of power

I have power to lay it [My life] down and I have power to take it again (John 10:18).

The divine power of our Lord Jesus Christ manifested itself in His complete power over Himself. If divine power could be separated from divine love, then it could be said of Christ that He would have been able to incarnate, or not incarnate; or again, that He would have been able to die, or not die. But, He became incarnate according to His divine love for men and, according to this same inexpressible love, He gave Himself up to death as a Good Shepherd for His sheep (John 10:11). A man who kills himself does not truly have power over his life, for he does not kill himself by his own power, but rather by the power of sin, or by the power of the devil, or by the power of some other grave circumstance. So also, a man whom others kill has no power over his life, nor can he speak for his life before his murderers: he cannot say I have power to lay it down, for he must lay it down unwillingly. Only our Lord Jesus Christ could say in the presence of his murderers, the Jews: I have power to lay it down. Having that power, He could, by a miracle that would have been easy for Him, have made all the Jews perish before they crucified Him on the Cross. Yet He foresaw the saving fruits of His death, and that is why He willingly gave Himself up to be slain.

And I have power to take it again. With these words He foretold His Resurrection. Therefore, the Lord both died and resurrected by His divine power.

O Almighty and man-loving Lord, how beautifully Thou didst plan the salvation of men by Thy divine power and love. Help us, O help us, that we might embrace that salvation!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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