Prologue of Ohrid

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APRIL
 
 
 
 
 
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September 23

1. THE CONCEPTION OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

On this day the mercy, miracles and wisdom of God are celebrated: His mercy toward the devout and righteous parents of St. John, the aged Zacharias and Elizabeth, who all their lives had wished for and begged a child from God; His miracle, that of John's conception in the aged womb of Elizabeth; His wisdom, in the dispensation of man's salvation. God had an especially great intention for John: namely, that he be the Prophet and Forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. Through His angels, God announced the births of Isaac to the childless Sarah, Samson to the childless wife of Manoah, and John the Forerunner to the childless Zacharias and Elizabeth. All of these were those for whom He had special intentions, and he foretold their birth through his angels. How could children be born of aged parents? If someone desires to understand this, he should not ask men about it, for men do not know; nor should he study natural law, for this is beyond natural law. Rather, he should turn his gaze upon the power of the Almighty God, Who created the whole world from nothing, and Who needed no parents-old or young-for the creation of the first man, Adam. Instead of being curious, let us give thanks to God, Who often reveals His power, mercy and wisdom to us in ways that are beyond natural law-in which we would be imprisoned without these special miracles of God, and would fall into despair and forgetfulness of God.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR IRAIDA

In some places Iraida is called Rhais or Raida. She was a maiden from the town of Batan in Egypt, and was therefore probably an Egyptian. Once, Iraida went out to draw water from a well near the sea, and saw a ship laden with bound Christians: priests, deacons, monks, women and maidens. Inquiring, she learned that all of these people were being transported by the pagan persecutors to torture and death for the name of Jesus Christ. Young Iraida's heart suddenly flared up with the desire to suffer for the Lord. Leaving her pots by the well, she boarded the ship and confessed that she too was a Christian. They immediately bound her with the others and took them all to the Egyptian city of Antinopolis. After various tortures, Iraida was the first to be beheaded, followed by the others. She suffered honorably and was glorified at the beginning of the fourth century.

3. THE HOLY NEW MARTYR NICHOLAS PANTOPOLIS

As a young man, Nicholas suffered for the Christian Faith at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople in 1672. His father had come to Constantinople from Thessaly and, as his father owned a variety shop, he was called Pantopolis. After much pressure to become a Moslem, and after much torturing because he refused, Nicholas was beheaded and took up his abode in the Kingdom of God. His relics repose in the Monastery of Xeropotamou, on the Holy Mountain.

4. THE HOLY NEW MARTYR JOHN

John was born in a place called Konitsa in Albania. He was a Moslem of Moslem parents. After witnessing the miraculous power of the Christian Faith in various places and situations, he accepted baptism. For this, he was denounced and brought before the Turkish court. Tortured by the Turks for the Christian Faith in Aitolia, he was beheaded in the year 1814. Before his death, John cried out: "Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!''

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY MARTYR IRAIDA
 
Virtuous virgin Iraida went to fetch water,
 
And returned not to her mother, but went to the Lord.
 
Iraida sought suffering willingly;
 
Christ the Lord was more precious to her than was her mother.
 
A boat full of martyrs was ready to depart.
 
"Receive me also!'' Iraida quickly cried.
 
"I too am a servant of Christ, for He is everything to me, 
 
And I wish to be an instrument of His hymn, 
 
A song of torture and suffering for the truth.-
 
Oh, receive me, let me perish!''
 
And Iraida perished for her God,
 
And was made an heir of life eternal.
 
By her prayers, O Lord, now save us also.
 
Thanks be to holy Iraida, and glory to God!
 
REFLECTION


He who gives to the poor, gives to Christ. This is the meaning of the Gospel teaching, and it has been confirmed in the experience of the saints. Upon his repentance, Peter the Merciful gave alms to the poor wherever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion Peter encountered a shipwrecked man who had barely managed to save his naked body from the wreck. The man begged him for some clothing. Peter removed his costly cloak and clothed the naked man with it. Shortly afterward, Peter saw his cloak in the shop of a merchant, who had it displayed for sale. Peter was very saddened that the shipwrecked man had sold his cloak instead of using it for himself. Peter thought: "I am not worthy; the Lord does not accept my alms.'' But later, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He appeared as a handsome man, brighter than the sun, with a cross on His head, wearing Peter's cloak. "Peter, why art thou sad?'' asked the Lord. "My Lord, why would I not be sad, when I see that which I gave to the poor being sold at the market?'' Then the Lord asked him: "Dost thou recognize this garment on Me?'' Peter replied: "I recognize it, Lord; that is my garment with which I clothed the naked man.'' Then the Lord spoke to him again: "Therefore do not be sad; thou gavest it to the poor man, and I received it, and I praise thy deed.''

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the sins of King Jehoram and God's punishment of him (II Chronicles 21):

1. How Jehoram slew all his brothers, and restored idolatry in the groves and the hills;

2. How his enemies plundered and enslaved the land;

3. How he was smitten with a grave illness of the bowels and died, and no one mourned for him.

HOMILY

on God the Holy Spirit, Who proceedeth from the Father

But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me (John 15:26).

Brethren, the depths of the Essence of God are unfathomable. But God has neither hidden all from us, nor did He reveal all to us. He has revealed to us as much as our weakness can bear, and as much as is necessary for our salvation. Concerning the Holy Spirit, it has been revealed to us that He proceedeth from the Father and is sent by the Son. Let no one seek further, lest they fall into error. Since He proceedeth from the Father, He is of one Essence with the Father; since He is sent by the Son to continue the Son's work, He is equal to the Son. The Lord said earlier: The Father … beareth witness of Me (John 8:18); and now He says of the Spirit of Truth that He shall testify of Me. Both these witnesses are the same; that is why the Lord cites one at one time and the other at another time. He Who has borne witness and He Who will bear witness are equal in Essence-for the Lord would not have the witness for the future be less than the witness for the past. Thus, we are speaking in human terms with regard to time; but in reality, the Three bear witness eternally in heaven, according to the words of the Evangelist: For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these Three are One (I John 5:7).

There are men who assert that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who revealed this to them, and when? We know that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, for that was revealed to us by the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we reject such an addition to our Orthodox Faith, as it does not agree with the words of the Lord Himself. Yet, if we are to truly understand the words of the Most-pure Lord, our hearts must be made very pure. Therefore, we must make more of an effort to cleanse our hearts from passions, rather than obeying vain curiosity by prying into the endless depths of God's being with unclean hearts-for those who do that fall into heresy and lose their souls. 

O Lord God, great and mighty, we thank Thee that Thou hast come to us through our Savior Jesus Christ; and thereby, we know that we are not the children of darkness, but rather the sons of light.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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