Prologue of Ohrid

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September 27

1. The Holy Martyr Callistratus


Callistratus was born in Carthage. He was a Christian from birth, for his father and grandfather were Christians. One of Callistratus's ancestors, Neochorus by name, was a soldier in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, at the time of the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Witnessing the many miracles at the time of Christ's death, Neochorus believed in Him, and was instructed in the Faith and baptized by an apostle. Returning home to Carthage, Neochorus brought his Christian Faith with him as a precious pearl. So it was that in time Callistratus was born, baptized and raised a Christian. While he was in the army there were no other Christians in his regiment besides him. One of his companions, seeing how St. Callistratus arose at night and prayed to God, reported him as a Christian to the commander, Persentinian. Persentinian was a cruel torturer of Christians. In order to confirm that Callistratus was indeed a Christian, the commander ordered him to offer sacrifice to the idols, which Callistratus straightway refused to do. He was then severely beaten and thrown into the sea. However, the power of God saved him, and he emerged from the sea in sound health. Seeing Callistratus's endurance and miracles, forty-nine other soldiers came to believe in Christ. They were beaten and thrown into prison with Callistratus. In prison Callistratus taught his companions the Faith, and strengthened them. They displayed great bravery in suffering, and the Lord manifested great power through them. Then the evil torturer sent soldiers to the prison by night, and they slew St. Callistratus and his forty-nine companions. They suffered for the truth in the year 304. A church was later built over their relics.


2. The Holy Apostles Mark, Aristarchus and Zenas


Mark, Aristarchus and Zenas were apostles of the Seventy. St. Mark was also known as John. The holy apostles gathered for prayer at the house of his mother Mary in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He preached the Gospel with the Apostles Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25). After that, Mark was bishop in the town of Byblos. St. Aristarchus, a fellow traveler of the Apostle Paul, was bishop in Syrian Apamea (Acts 19:29). St. Zenas (or Zena) was described as a lawyer by the Apostle Paul (Titus 3:13). He was bishop in Palestinian Lydda. They shone as stars in the darkness of paganism, and brought many to the Christian Faith. Now they shine as stars in the Kingdom of Christ, their Beloved.


3. The Holy New Martyr Aquilina


Aquilina was from the village of Zaklivera, in the Diocese of Jedrene. She was a girl of eighteen. Her father embraced Islam, and even pressured her to become a Moslem, but her mother supported her in the Christian Faith. After many torments, totally wounded and bloodied, she breathed her last on her mother's lap, and received the victor's wreath of martyrdom on September 27, 1764.


4. The Venerable Sabbatius of Solovki


Sabbatius is commemorated together with St. Zosimas on April 17. Today is commemorated the fact that he reposed in the Lord on September 27, 1435.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr Callistratus


St. Callistratus prayed to God,
He prayed to God and gave thanks to Him.
During torture for the Christian Faith,
The torturer mocked Callistratus:
``You believe in Christ the Crucified One!
When I send you from this world,
There will not remain one Christian
In all of this great city.''
St. Callistratus prayed to God,
He prayed to God, and said to the judge:
``You will crush my sinful body,
And stain the earth with my blood,
But a church will be built upon that blood.
By your sword I will attain my goal!'' 
As St. Callistratus spoke, so it happened:
His blood, like a clear trumpet-call
Quickly awakened the conscience of men.
The city was baptized, the church was built,
And the martyr achieved his goal.
Now in heaven, in the heavenly army,
The soldier of Christ, St. Callistratus
And his companions, among the angels,
Pray to God to deliver us as well,
That through us too the Lord would be glorified!


REFLECTION


All our riches, glory and honor are as a brief repast that ends at death. No one takes a single crumb of this meal into the other world. Blessed is the one who understands that the soul is his only possession that is not diminished by anything, not even by death. Such a one thinks only of three realities: death, the soul, and God the Judge. Abba Evagrius teaches: ``Hold your approaching death and the Judgment constantly in your mind, and you will preserve your soul from sin.'' All our bodily cares in this life are like cares about a meal which must soon be cut short. St. Isaiah the Solitary says: ``Have death before your eyes every day: think constantly about how you will separate from the body, how you will pass through the region of the powers of darkness who will meet you in the air, and how you will present yourself before God. Prepare yourself for the Dread Day of answering to the Judgment of God, as though you already behold it now.'' One day, John, a rich merchant, came to St. Sabbatius of Solovki and brought him many alms. Sabbatius did not accept any of it, but rather told the donor to distribute all of it to the needy. John became very sad at this, and the saint, in order to comfort him and make everything clear to him said: ``John, my son, stay here and rest until tomorrow, and then you will see the grace of God.'' John obeyed. The next day, John entered the cell of Sabbatius and saw the elder in final repose, and sensed a wonderful fragrance in the cell. He who foresees the end of his life does not think of worldly goods.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the righteousness of King Uzziah, and God's reward (II Chronicles 26):
1. How the king did that which is right in the sight of the Lord;
2. How, as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.


HOMILY
on Christ's last prayer for the faithful


That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee (John 17:21).
Brethren, God's mercy is great. When a righteous man feels it, he weeps; but when a sinner feels it, he is ashamed. By the mercy of God, we are cleansed, illumined, saved, adopted and united with God Himself. However, no one should construe that, by this unity with God, we become of the same Essence with God and equal to God. We will never be of one Essence with God, nor equal to God, in the way in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of one Essence and equal in being. That they all may be one the Savior says to His Father on behalf of His disciples, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, and here He is thinking of the unity of love and not of the unity of nature. From love flows mutual obedience, mutual help, mutual mercy, meekness, humility, goodness, good will and sacrifice. And when the Lord says, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48), He does not mean that men can be equal to God, but means to show them the supreme example of perfection in every good thing. For many teachers of men have pointed to examples of perfection in some thing or some person, but not in God. Often enough, they have taught men evil, and pointed to it as an example of perfection. That is why the Lord teaches men to take the Heavenly Father as an example of every perfection, and to labor and strive for that true perfection, and not some other. By the grace of God, we are all adopted of God and become one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).However, we do not become gods; we do not become equal with the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Do not forget that it is said in the Scriptures: The heavens are not clean in His sight (Job 15:15). The majestic powers of the heavens are not even equal to Him, so what then of man? However, by the grace of God, and because of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, the faithful are raised up into unity with God, in love and spirit. Therefore, let us make an effort to do the will of God, that we in truth may be raised up to such majestic heights.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who art the God of every mercy and goodness; uphold us in Thy mercy to the end, and be not angry with us, but rather forgive us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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