Prologue of Ohrid

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October 13

1. The Holy Martyrs Carpus and Papylus
Carpus was Bishop of Thyateira and Papylus was a deacon. They were born in Pergamum where they finally suffered for the Christian Faith at the hands of the evil proconsul Valerius, during the reign of Decius. Valerius tied them to horses and dragged them to Sardis, where he subjected them to harsh tortures. Then an angel of God appeared to them, healed them of their wounds and encouraged them. Carpus's servant, Agathadorus, followed his master with great sorrow. Valerius then condemned him to torture as well. The saints were again tied to horses, and were dragged from Sardis to Pergamum. They tied holy Carpus to a tree and flogged him so that his body was covered with wounds, and his blood flowed like a stream, soaking the ground; but Carpus smiled in the midst of these horrible tortures. When they asked him why he was smiling, the holy martyr replied that he saw the heavens opened and the Lord seated on His throne, surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim. As Papylus was being tortured, by prayer he healed a man blind in one eye, and many who witnessed this came to believe in Christ the Lord. Thrown to wild beasts, the martyrs remained unharmed. Then they were thrown into a fiery furnace. Agathonica, Carpus's sister, also leaped into the fire, but the fire did not consume them. Finally, they were all beheaded with the sword, in the year 251. Thus, after their righteous endeavors, they received a wreath of glory in the Kingdom of Christ.


2. The Hieromartyr Benjamin the Deacon


This soldier of Christ was a Persian who zealously preached the Gospel and brought many pagans, both Persians and Greeks, to the Christian Faith. He suffered during the reign of the Persian King Yezdegeherd, circa 412. When he was cast into prison, one of the king's nobles defended him to the king. The king then released him, under the condition that he no longer preach Christ to the people. Benjamin boldly said: ``This I can never give up. For he who hides the talent given him will be given over to great suffering,'' and he continued to spread the Christian Faith. The emperor had him seized, and commanded that thorns be driven under his nails, and he was further tortured until he rendered his spirit to God.


3. The Holy Great-martyr Zlata of Meglin


Zlata was born of poor peasant parents (who also had three other daughters) in the village of Slatina, in the province of Meglin. She was a meek and devout girl, wise in the wisdom of Christ and golden, not only in name but also in her God-fearing heart. Once when Zlata went out to get water, some shameless Turks seized her and took her to their home. When one of them urged her to become a Moslem and be his wife, Zlata fearlessly replied: ``I believe in Christ and Him alone do I know as my Bridegroom. I will never deny Him, even though you subject me to a thousand tortures and cut me into pieces.'' When her parents and sisters found her, her parents said to her: ``O daughter, have mercy on yourself and on us, your parents and sisters; deny Christ in words only, so that we can all be happy, for Christ is merciful. He would forgive such a sin, committed due to the necessities of life.'' Her poor parents, sisters and relatives wept bitterly. However, the noble soul of St. Zlata resisted such diabolical snares. She answered them: ``When you counsel me to deny Christ the true God, you are no longer my parents or my sisters. I have the Lord Jesus Christ as my father, the Theotokos as my mother, and the saints as my brothers and sisters.'' The Turks then cast her into prison for three months, flogging her every day until her blood soaked the ground. Finally, they suspended her upside down and lit a fire, to suffocate her with the smoke; but God was with Zlata, and gave her strength in suffering. At last they hanged her from a tree and cut her into small pieces. Thus, this brave virgin gave her soul up to God, and went to dwell in Paradise in the year 1796. Pieces of her relics were taken by Christians to their homes for a blessing.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Great-martyr Zlata of Meglin


The Turks tortured St. Zlata of golden heart, 
Tormented her to death for Christ the Living God.
Golden Zlata wept not, nor did she waver,
But surrendered her whole heart to the Lord of Heaven.
The tears of parents and sisters were in vain:
Zlata sought delight through sufferings, true delight-
The delight that Christ prepares for wise virgins,
The joy that the Bridegroom bestows upon faithful brides.
The cage of the body of Zlata the Golden was destroyed,
And her soul was freed from its fragile prison.
Zlata rose up to Paradise, joyful in soul,
Taking her place among the royal, holy angels.
St. Zlata, once a poor peasant girl,
Is now glorified in Paradise as a queen. 


REFLECTION


There is nothing more wretched than a man who, in the hour of misfortune, abandons hope in God and resorts to a means of salvation contrary to the Law of God. Not only does such a man not succeed in righting his outward situation, but he also loses his soul. Such was the case with Emperor Michael Palaeologus. In order to save his kingdom-threatened by the Bulgars and Serbs-he sought help from the pope, and agreed to an uncanonical union. What did he gain by this? He did not save the kingdom, but did commit numerous evil crimes. Soon after, he died miserably in a military campaign against John Ducas, Prince of Epirus. The Orthodox people were so resentful toward him that his son, Andronicus, dared not bury him publicly, but buried him at night without a funeral or prayer. He was cut off from the Orthodox Church, and he was not received by the Roman Church. Michael Palaeologus died outside the Church of God. Following Michael's death, his widow, the empress, issued the following decree: ``My majesty abhors and regards as loathsome this action [the Union] that has recently occurred in the Church and created discord in it…. And, as the Holy Church of God has determined not to sanction any official commemoration of my deceased spouse, our lord and king, because of the aforementioned deed and discord, My Majesty also, submitting all things to the fear of God and obedience to the Holy Church, approve and accept this, the Church's decision, and never will I dare to perform a memorial service for my lord and spouse.''


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the wondrous punishment by which the Apostle Peter punished Ananias (Acts 5):
1. How Ananias, and then his wife Sapphira, lied and concealed part of the money;
2. How the Apostle Peter denounced them, and they fell down and died one after the other.


HOMILY
on the burden of sin and deliverance from sin


Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1).
Fear, confusion, weakness, infirmity and darkening of the mind are born of sin. By sin, a man provokes others against himself, confuses his own conscience, attracts demons to himself, and gives them weapons against himself. By sin, a man separates himself from God, estranges himself from his guardian angel, and walls himself off from the source of all good. The committing of sin signifies a declaration of war against God and all godly powers. This is more preposterous than if a withered autumn leaf were to declare war on the wind. And, indeed, the most preposterous thing of all occurs: a man declares war on God! This declaration alone guarantees ruin and destruction for a man if he does not quickly come to himself, repent and flee to God for mercy.
The great King David was well aware of the terrible predicament of the sinner, and he himself experienced it. He felt inexpressible fear, confusion, weakness and loneliness; he felt the arrows of men and the arrows of demons. But, realizing his horrible situation, David acknowledged his sin, prostrated himself in ashes before God, soaked the ground with tears of repentance and words of anguish that burned like fire, and prayed to the merciful God to forgive him. And, when all was forgiven him, he felt inexpressible blessedness. This blessedness of the forgiven soul he could not express in words. He could only declare, confirm and assure us of the condition of sinfulness and the condition of forgiveness from God, based on his direct experience of both conditions: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1). What is this blessing? Freedom, courage, indescribable joy, power, strength, clarity of thought, peace of conscience, hope in God, hymnody to God, love for one's neighbors, and meaning to one's life! In other words: light, joy and strength are the blessing. This is the blessing that one who is forgiven of sin feels here on earth. If this is so, then what is the blessing that awaits him in heaven, that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man (I Corinthians 2:9)?
O Lord our God, forgive us our transgressions by Thine infinite mercy, and cover our sins!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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