Prologue of Ohrid

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October 4

1. THE HIEROMARTYR HIEROTHEUS

Hierotheus was a companion of St. Dionysius the Areopagite and received the Christian Faith from the Apostle Paul a short time after Dionysius did. Later, the Apostle appointed him bishop of Athens. At the time of the Dormition of the Most-holy Theotokos, Hierotheus arrived in Jerusalem and took part in her burial. With his divine chanting he inspired heartfelt worship in many, revealing himself as a man inspired from on high. He labored much in the work of evangelism, converted many pagans to the truth and governed well his rational flock. He finally died a martyr for Christ, Who granted him a twofold crown in His Heavenly Kingdom: the crown of a hierarch and the crown of a martyr. 

2. SAINT STEFAN ŠTILJANOVIĆ

Stefan was a Serbian despot, born of the Pastrović clan.  He governed the Serbian people during a most difficult period, struggling courageously against the Turks and the Latins.  A righteous man and a patriot, this wonderful prince could be compared with St. Alexander Nevsky, or with the holy King Jovan Vladimir. He entered into rest in the sixteenth century (according to some, in 1515).  Over his grave a light appeared at night, by which means his holy relics were discovered.  They were brought to the Monastery of Šišatovac in Fruška Gora, where they reposed for a long time. During the Second World War, St. Stefan's relics were transported to Belgrade and placed in the Cathedral Church beside the body of Prince Lazar. The prince's wife, Helena, seeing Stefan's incorrupt relics and witnessing miracles arising from the relics, was tonsured a nun, and gave herself over to asceticism until death.

3. THE VENERABLE AMMON

Ammon was an Egyptian wine grower. His kinsmen forced him to marry against his will, but he did not wish to live with the woman as husband and wife. From the first day he called her his sister, and counseled her to join him in preserving their mutual chastity for the sake of the greater good in heaven. He lived with his wife this way for a full eighteen years. Later, by mutual agreement, his wife established a convent in her home, and Ammon went to the Nitrian desert, where he gave himself up to the ascesis of hermitic life. Because of his purity of heart, God granted him the great gifts of clairvoyance and miracle-working. A husband and wife brought their insane son to Ammon for healing by his prayer, but Ammon in no way desired to do this. After prolonged insistence by the parents, Ammon said: "The illness and health of your child is in your hands. Return the stolen ox to that widow (and he spoke her name) and your son will be healed.'' The parents, amazed at the saint's clairvoyance, admitted their sin and promised to return the stolen ox as soon as they arrived home. Then St. Ammon prayed to God and the child was healed. Ammon was a close friend of St. Anthony the Great. When Ammon died in Nitria, in approximately 350, St. Anthony saw Ammon's soul in the heights from his cell and said to the brethren: "Today Abba Ammon died; behold, I see his holy soul as the angels bear it to heaven.''

4. THE VENERABLE PAUL THE SIMPLE

Until the age of sixty, Paul lived in the world as a married man. Catching his wife in sin, he left everything and went to St. Anthony in the wilderness, receiving the monastic tonsure from him. Even though he was simple and illiterate, he achieved such spiritual perfection that he perceived every man's soul just as ordinary men see each other's bodies. He was a great miracle-worker, and in some instances, surpassed even St. Anthony. Paul died in deep old age in the year 340, and took up his joyful habitation with the angels.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE VENERABLE AMMON

Someone once begged Ammon:

"Show me, the wretched one, the path to salvation.''

To him, the saint said: "Through your entire life

You must be as a prisoner who awaits judgment,

As the prisoner who fears the judge, 

And counts the hours to his trial,

Listening carefully for the voice that will say:

'The judge is calling for you!'

He does not value food and shelter,

Cares not whether he stands or sits: 

He simply listens and listens

For the call of the judge.

My dear brother, we are like that-

It is true for me, and it is true for you.''

And another asked him: "The narrow path, what is it?

And the sorrowful path, how long does it last?''

Ammon said to him: "The narrow path is

Constraining your thoughts, so that they do not stray.

The sorrowful path is the binding of your desires,

So that your desire is naught but seeking salvation in Christ.''

O all-wise Ammon, knight of asceticism;

Patient bearer of the yoke of Christ

Who pleased God, and tamed men-

God has rewarded your labors with Paradise!

REFLECTION

A vision of St. Andrew: St. Paul was not the only one who was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words (II Corinthians 12:4). Over 850 years after St. Paul, this also occurred to St. Andrew. One wintry night, St. Andrew was lying among the dogs on a dung heap in order to warm his frozen body, when an angel of God appeared to him and raised him up to Paradise (whether in the body or outside the body, St. Andrew himself could not explain), and kept him in the heavenly world for two weeks, eventually leading him to the third heaven. "I saw myself clothed in the most dazzling garments-they were as if woven from lightning-with a wreath of flowers on my head, and girt with a royal girdle. I rejoiced greatly at this beauty, and was amazed in both mind and heart, at the inexpressible beauty of God's Paradise, as I walked around it and rejoiced.'' Andrew also wrote that he saw Christ the Lord: "And when a flaming hand drew the curtain, I saw my Lord-as once did the Prophet Isaiah-sitting upon a high and exalted throne, with Seraphim standing all around Him. He was clothed in a crimson garment. His face was most radiant, and His eyes gazed most kindly upon me. Seeing Him, I prostrated before Him, worshiping the brilliant and awesome throne of His glory. How much joy overcame me during the vision of His face cannot be expressed; and now, calling to mind this vision, I am filled with inexpressible joy…. I heard my Most-merciful Creator when, with His most sweet and pure lips, He spoke three words to me, which so sweetened my heart and inflamed it with love for Him, that I melted as warm wax from spiritual warmth….'' When St. Andrew also desired to see the Most-holy Theotokos, he was told that she was not in heaven just then, but had descended to earth to help the poor and to comfort those in need.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the injustice of King Manasseh and God's punishment (II Chronicles 33):

1. How Manasseh restored idol worship, enchantments and witchcraft, and did everything that is evil in the sight of the Lord;

2. How God permitted the Chaldeans to capture Manasseh.

HOMILY

on useful anger

Be angry and sin not (Psalm 4:4).

Be angry with yourself, brethren, and sin no more. Be angry at your sins of thoughts and deeds, and sin no more. Be angry with Satan the father of lies (John 8:44), and no longer do his will. Be angry at sin in the world and the trampling of God's holy Church by godless men, but beware that you do not cure sin by sin. Be angry with your friends when they sin; but be angry with the intention to correct them, and not to embitter them even more. The anger of a friend toward a friend, and the anger of parents toward their children-and of God toward men-is not a storm that uproots the tree but a wind that strengthens the tree, and rids it of rotten fruit so that the healthy fruit will increase in number and beauty. But let your anger have measure, so that it may be healing and not poisonous. In order to have this kind of control, keep God before you in your anger. There is no stronger containment for anger than God. All anger that is not in the name of God and God's righteousness is a sin. Do not become angry for the sake of idleness, but become angry for that at which God is angered. If your will is firmly set in God's law, you will always know when it is necessary to be angry, and how much is needed. This cannot be expressed entirely in words, nor can it even be explained to the uneducated. Anger, in its place, acts as mercy does in its place. O my brethren, do you see how various powers are placed in our souls, and man, by his free will, can utilize them for life or death? Anger toward oneself can never be recommended enough. Here is a wonderful example: the more a man learns to be angry with himself, the less he is angry with others. Carried away with anger at his own weaknesses, he either does not see the weaknesses of others, or when he does see them, he judges them kindly.

O Lord God, Thou only righteous One, implant in us the remembrance of the Day of Thy righteous anger, so that we may protect ourselves from spiritual sin. 

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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