Prologue of Ohrid

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September 29

1. The Venerable Cyriacus the Recluse


Cyriacus was born in Corinth, to John and Eudoxia. His father John was a presbyter and Peter, Bishop of Corinth, was his kinsman. In his early youth, the bishop ordained Cyriacus a reader in the cathedral church. Reading the Holy Scripture, the young Cyriacus marveled at God's providence: how God glorified all His true servants and how He arranged the salvation of the human race. At age eighteen, Cyriacus's desire for the spiritual life led him to Jerusalem. There, he entered the monastery of a godly man Eustorgius, who gave him his first instruction in the monastic life. After that, he went to St. Euthymius, who foresaw that he would be a great spiritual father. He clothed him in the schema and sent him to St. Gerasimus at the Jordan, where Cyriacus spent nine years. Following the death of Gerasimus, he returned to the Monastery of St. Euthymius, where he remained in stillness for ten years. Then, fleeing the praise of men, he moved from place to place. He finally lived a life of asceticism in the community of St. Chariton, where he ended his earthly sojourn of 109 years. A celebrated ascetic and miracle-worker, St. Cyriacus was massive and strong in body, and remained such in deep old age, despite strict fasts and vigils. In the wilderness, he sometimes ate only raw greens for years. He was very zealous for the Orthodox Faith, denouncing all heresies, especially that of Origen. He said of himself that, since he became a monk, the sun had neither seen him eat nor become angry with anyone. According to the Rule of St. Chariton, the monks ate only once a day, after the setting of the sun. Cyriacus was a great light, a pillar of Orthodoxy, the adornment of monks, a mighty healer of the sick, and a gentle comforter of the sorrowful. Having lived long for the benefit of many, he took up his habitation in the eternal joy of his Lord in the year 557.


2. The Holy Martyrs Dada and Gabdelas


Dada was a great Persian nobleman and a kinsman of King Sapor, and Gabdelas was Sapor's son. When St. Dada openly confessed his faith in Christ, King Sapor ordered that he be cruelly tortured. During these tortures, Dada worked great miracles in the name of Christ, and these so strongly influenced Gabdelas that he also believed in Christ. The pagan King did not even spare his own son, but subjected him also to harsh tortures. Both Dada and Gabdelas glorified God with their patient endurance and many miracles, and gave up their souls to God under torture. They suffered in the fourth century. Gabdelas's sister Casdoa, and Gargal the chief pagan priest, suffered with them-for they, too, had come to believe in Christ.


3. Saint Theophanes the Merciful


Theophanes was a wealthy citizen from Gaza. He was so merciful that, in distributing his possessions to the poor, he impoverished himself. Toward the end of his life, he was afflicted with dropsy and died from that illness. Thereafter a healing myrrh flowed from his body, by which the sick were healed. 


4. Saint Mary of Palestine


At first, Mary was a reader of the Psalter in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. Because she was of beautiful countenance, many who gazaed upon her were tempted by lustful thoughts. So that she would no longer be a cause of temptation for men, Mary withdrew into the wilderness of Souka with a basket of beans and an earthenware jug of water. St. Mary lived in the wilderness for eighteen years. By God's power, neither the beans nor the water ran out. The disciples of St. Cyriacus found her during her lifetime, and later buried her.


HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint Mary of Palestine


The beautiful Mary was born beautiful,
And, faithful to Christ, she prayed to Him:
``Help me, my Lord, a helpless woman,
Show me, the lowly one, the path to salvation.
With Thy help, I struggle not to sin,
But my face is a temptation to the weakness of others.''
Mary bowed with tears to the Living God,
And hid in the wilderness from the eyes of men.
Mary conversed with God, and that was her reward.
Her soul shone brighter than pure gold.
Her body withered with the passing years,
And an angel raised the heavenly woman up to Paradise.
She now rejoices, radiant among the angels,
And Saint Mary prays to God for us.


REFLECTION


In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death. Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied: ``I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness.'' And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it. God had even done for him according to the man's will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world-so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance! Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied: ``In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God.'' Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied: ``I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that.'' But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the punishment with which God punished King Uzziah (II Chronicles 26):
1. How, in his conceit, Uzziah unlawfully approached the sanctuary of God;
2. How leprosy suddenly appeared on his forehead.


HOMILY
on knowing the Father through the Son


O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee (John 17:25).
An equal knows his equal best. The lower does not know the higher, or the mortal the immortal. The Old Testament prophets and some of the wise men of ancient times knew God as the Creator and the Provider, but no one knew Him as the Father of the Son. Those who knew Him in ancient times knew Him through creation, and not through birth. Through creation they knew something of the righteousness, wisdom and power of God; but they did not know His love, for love is known through birth. A father knows the mystery of the one born, and the one born knows the love of the parent. It could be put this way: ``The world hath not known Thee, for the world looked at Thee as Lord and itself as a slave; But I have known Thee, for I see Thee as Father and feel Thine inexpressible love. The world looks at Thee through the veil of Thy works; but I look at Thee face to face, in the eternal beauty of Thy love.'' The Lord brought this illuminating flame of eternal filial and paternal love among men, so that men could see God in this flame, in this new and hitherto unknown light. The Lord passed this new knowledge of God's love to His apostles, and through them to us. 
Oh, may this flame of divine eternal love burn in us! May we thus know God as our Father, and ourselves as His children, adopted through the sacrifice of the Only-begotten Son of God.
O God of Triune Flame, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: illumine us also, darkened as we are by sin, with the eternal glory of Thy love.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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