Prologue of Ohrid

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September 26

1. Saint John the Theologian, Apostle and Evangelist


John was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome the daughter of Joseph, the betrothed of the Holy Theotokos. Called by the Lord Jesus, John immediately left his father and his fishermen's nets and, with his brother James, followed Christ. From then on, he was not separated from his Lord until the end. With Peter and James, he was present at the raising of Jairus's daughter and the Transfiguration of the Lord. At the Last Supper, he inclined his head on Jesus' breast. When all the other apostles had abandoned the crucified Lord, John and the Holy Mother of God remained beneath the Cross. In obedience to the Lord, he was as a son to the Holy Virgin Mary, and carefully served and watched over her until her Dormition. After her Dormition, John took his disciple Prochorus to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor. He lived and labored mostly in Ephesus. By his inspired preaching and miracles he converted many to Christianity and shook paganism to its foundation. The embittered pagans bound him and sent him to Rome, to face Emperor Dometian. Dometian had him tortured and flogged, but neither the bitterest poison he was given to drink, nor the boiling oil into which he was thrown, did him any harm. This terrified the emperor and, thinking him immortal, Dometian sent him into exile to the island of Patmos. There St. John converted many to Christianity by words and miracles, and confirmed well the Church of God. He also wrote his Gospel and Revelation on Patmos. In the time of Emperor Nero, who granted freedom to all prisoners, John returned to Ephesus, where he lived for some time, confirming the work he had begun earlier. He was over one hundred years old when he went to the Lord. When his disciples later opened his grave, they did not find his body. On May 8 of every year, a fine dust, fragrant and healing, rose from his grave. After a long, laborious and fruitful life on earth, this beloved disciple of Christ, a true pillar of the Church, took up his habitation in the joy of His Lord.


2. The Venerable Nilus of Calabria


Nilus was a great ascetic among the Greeks of Calabria. The founder of several monasteries, he was a miracle-worker and a defender of the purity of the Orthodox Faith. He undertook a long journey to save a man from grave punishment. He had an ardent love for his neighbor, and entered into rest in the year 1005. Nilus left many worthy disciples, among whom was the distinguished St. Bartholomew, the writer of several canons, who reposed in 1044.


HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint John the Theologian, Apostle and Evangelist


St. John the Evangelist,
Son of Zebedee the fisherman,
Was young when the love
Of Jesus greatly warmed him.

The most faithful friend of the Lord,
With a pure, virginal soul,
With a soul pure and loving,
Visionary and heroic.

He proclaimed wondrous mysteries
And removed the seal from eternity.
He saw the destiny of the world, 
from the beginning to the end.

He preached love,
And in love he walked;
To the throne of the Most-high God
He was raised up in love.

And with love he was exalted
Like a snow-capped mountain:
The Son of Thunder, an awesome prophet,
But meek and tender in heart.

O John, seer of wonders,
O thundering saint-
Bear our small petitions
To your Friend, the Savior!

Bring us close to Him,
The powerful God, the sweet God;
And though we are not worthy of His bosom,
At least bring us close-to His feet!


REFLECTION


Thus writes the Apostle James: Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (James 5:20). The apostles of Christ did not simply speak thus, but confirmed it by their work. St. Clement of Alexandria relates that, somewhere in Asia Minor, St. John the Apostle had baptized a pagan youth and entrusted him to the care of the local bishop, while he went on further to preach the Gospel. In John's absence, this young man became corrupt, and began to drink and steal, and finally joined a band of thieves in the forest, who attacked men and robbed them. After a while John returned, and heard from the bishop what had happened to this young man. Then Apostle John, not wasting a moment, found a horse and a guide and rushed to the forest where the robbers were to be found. Searching through the forest the saint found them, and confronted their leader. When the young man recognized John, he began to flee. Though aged, John chased him and, despite his old age, caught him. The young man fell at the feet of the apostle and, in shame, could not look him in the eye. John embraced and kissed him, as a shepherd does upon finding his lost sheep. The saint brought him back to town and confirmed him anew in the Faith and in virtuous life. Thereafter pleasing God, this young man entered into rest in due time.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the divided heart of King Amaziah toward God, and God's punishment (II Chronicles 25):
1. How Amaziah at first did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and God granted him victory over the Edomites;
2. How Amaziah brought the Edomite idols (which had not helped the Edomites) to Jerusalem, and worshiped them;
3. How God permitted the Israelites to defeat him, and a rebellion was raised against him and killed him.


HOMILY
on prayer inspired by love


Sanctify them by Thy truth. Thy word is truth (John 17:17).
When a mother is led to death, she worries more about the children whom she leaves behind than about herself. Such is the bond of great love. The Lord Jesus Christ had an even greater love for His disciples than that of a mother for her children. Going to His death, the Lord prayed to His heavenly Father for His disciples. He prayed, not because He lacked power to help them, but prayed to the Father to show the unity of His being with, and love for, His Father. But why did He then ascribe Truth to the Father, when before that He referred to the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), saying to the disciples: The Spirit of Truth … will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)? To demonstrate the equality of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Did He not first say of Himself: I am the Truth (John 14:6)? And, afterward, did He not call the Holy Spirit the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth? And He now ascribes truth to the Father as well: Sanctify them by Thy truth! He who would see any contradiction in this does not comprehend God as Unity and Trinity-Unity of Essence and Trinity of Persons. In that He ascribes truth as something essential to each Person of the Divine Trinity, the Lord demonstrates the equality of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For if one Person of the Divine Trinity would possess less truth, He would be lesser, in Essence, than the other two Persons. With a lessening of truth, there is also a lessening of power, love and wisdom. Therefore, the Lord referred to Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit as Truth, so that men would know and believe in Their complete, essential unity. Therefore let none of the faithful be deluded by any lie asserting an inequality of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Everyone should endeavor to wipe his heart clean of sin, as one cleans a mirror: only then can we truly perceive the great truth of the equality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
O Triune and Divine Truth, enlighten us with Thyself, and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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