Prologue of Ohrid

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October 14

1. The Venerable Parasceva [Petka]
This glorious saint was of Serbian descent, and was born in the town of Epivat between Selymbria and Constantinople. St. Parasceva's parents were wealthy, devout Christians. They also had a son, Euthymius, who was tonsured a monk during his parents' lifetime, and later became the famous Bishop of Madytos. The virgin Parasceva always yearned for the ascetic life for the sake of Christ. After her parents' repose, she left her home and went first to Constantinople, then to the wilderness of Jordan, where she lived the ascetic life until old age. Who can express all the labors, sufferings and demonic temptations that St. Parasceva endured in the course of her many years? In her old age, an angel of God once appeared to her and said: ``Leave the wilderness and return to your homeland; it is necessary that you render your body to the earth there, and your soul to the habitation of the Lord.'' St. Parasceva obeyed, and returned to Epivat. There she lived for two years in ceaseless fasting and prayer, then gave up her soul to God and took up her abode in Paradise. St. Parasceva entered into rest in the eleventh century. Over the course of time her relics were translated to Constantinople, to Trnovo, again to Constantinople, and then to Belgrade. Her relics now repose in Romania, in the town of Iasi. In Belgrade, the well of St. Petka miraculously heals the sick who draw near with faith in God and love for this saint. 


2. The Holy Martyrs Nazarius, Gervasius and Protasius


Nazarius was born in Rome of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. His mother, Perpetua, was baptized by the Apostle Peter himself. Confessing his mother's Faith, Nazarius sincerely fulfilled all the precepts of the Church. Fearlessly preaching the Gospel, Nazarius went to Milan. There, he found the Christians Gervasius and Protasius in prison, and ministered to them with great love. Learning of this, the local eparch ordered Nazarius to be beaten and driven from the city. His mother came to him in a vision and told him to go to Gaul, and to preach the Gospel there; and this is what Nazarius did. After several years, Nazarius returned to Milan-this time with a disciple, the young man Celsus, whom he had baptized in Gaul. There he found the brothers Gervasius and Protasius still in prison, and he was soon thrown in with them by the governor Anulinus. Christ's martyrs rejoiced because of this reunion brought about by God's providence. Emperor Nero ordered Nazarius slain, and the governor brought Nazarius and Celsus out of prison and beheaded them. Soon after that, General Astazius, passing through Milan en route to battle against the Moravians, beheaded St. Gervasius along with St. Protasius. He had heard that these two brothers would not sacrifice to idols, and fearing that he might lose the battle by losing favor with his false gods, he commanded that they be executed immediately. Gervasius and Protasius were twins, born of the blessed parents Vitalius and Valeria, who were also martyred for the Faith. The relics of St. Nazarius were translated by St. Ambrose from a garden outside the city to the Church of the Holy Apostles. The relics of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius were revealed to him in a miraculous vision.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Venerable Parasceva-Saint Petka


``The Lord desires a pure heart'':
Thus says the Gospel.
A pure virgin you remained,
And you gave your pure heart to God-
O most wonderful saint,
Saint Parasceva, our ideal!

The Lord seeks a most pure mind,
Without fancy and without falsehood;
And you presented Him your most pure mind,
Like that of an angel, of the same kind. 
O most wonderful saint,
O Saint Parasceva, hearken to our petitions!

The Lord seeks a pure soul,
As a heavenly shrine;
You perfected such a soul,
And now shine in heaven.
O most wonderful saint,
Parasceva, help us!

By your prayers, help us
In the misfortunes of life.
Through the clouds of earthly sorrow
Bring us light, like a rainbow-
O chaste virgin, most wonderful,
Holy Mother Parasceva!


REFLECTION


Examples of how the saints themselves reveal their hidden relics to men justify the honor rendered to the relics of the saints-not to mention the miraculous action of these relics, which doubly justifies them. For a long, long time, no one could locate the grave of St. Parasceva. Then it happened that a sailor died, and his body was carelessly laid in the proximity of the saint's grave. When the body turned into carrion and began to emit an unbearable stench, a monk who lived nearby summoned the peasants to help him bury the corpse. It happened that they buried him in St. Parasceva's own grave. That night, St. Parasceva appeared in a dream to one of those peasants (George by name) who had buried the corpse. She appeared as a beautiful and exquisitely-adorned queen, surrounded by many glorious soldiers. She said: ``George, exhume my relics at once, and lay them in another place; for I can no longer endure the stench from that corpse.'' Then she told him who she was, and where she was from. The same night a local peasant woman named Euphemia had the same dream. The next day, the peasants began to dig and in fact found the relics of St. Parasceva. They were extraordinarily fragrant, and soon proved to be miracle-working. 
Concerning the relics of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius, St. Ambrose relates how their relics were discovered in a similar manner. One night, two handsome youths and an old man appeared to Ambrose, who was awake. He thought that the old man was the Apostle Paul. While the young men remained silent, the old man spoke to Ambrose concerning them, saying that they were Christ's martyrs, and that their relics lay in the very place where Ambrose was praying to God at that time. He went on to say that everything else concerning them would be revealed in a book that Ambrose would find in their grave. The following day, Ambrose recounted his vision and began to dig, and found the relics of both men. From the book that he found he learned that their names were Gervasius and Protasius. In the presence of St. Ambrose, a certain blind man named Severus touched these holy relics and immediately received his sight.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the wondrous healings worked by the holy apostles (Acts 5):
1. How many signs and miracles were performed through the hands of the apostles;
2. How many of the sick were healed just by the shadow of the Apostle Peter.


HOMILY
on how the angels do battle for the righteous


The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them (Psalm 34:7).
The angel of the Lord will do battle for those who fear God. This has been clearly shown many times, as has been recorded; and it has occurred numberless times that have not been recorded. The Archangel Michael took up arms for Joshua, the Son of Nun. An angel did battle for the righteous King Hezekiah and, in one night, destroyed the army of the Chaldeans. How many times have angels visited the Christian apostles and martyrs of in prison, strengthened them, and caused them to rejoice? The consolation of the righteous one comes from knowing that God is All-seeing, and sees his misfortune; that God is Omnipotent, and has power to save him from misfortune; that God is All-merciful, and will save him from misfortune. God will send His radiant angel to the aid of the righteous. The righteous one will not have to struggle against his tyrant, for the angel of God will do battle in his place. When God's angel takes up arms, what army dares confront him? What empire will wage war against him? In an earlier Psalm, the Prophet David says: No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety (Psalm 33:16-17). 
Hence, it does not help at all if the unjust, the worldly, are allies. When God's angel takes up arms-all will burst as a bubble of water. Even when he was king, David remembered how, as a mere shepherd boy, he killed Goliath, a giant who was armed to the teeth, with a slingshot. On many occasions, David sensed the assistance of God's angel. That is why he could with confidence console the oppressed but righteous ones with these words of comfort and strength: the angel of the Lord encamps around all who fear the Lord, and who serve Him, and an angel of God will deliver them.
O my brethren, let us not doubt these words, but carefully consider, on a daily basis, how the angel of God leaves us in sorrow when we sin, and how he hastens to our assistance with joy and unspeakable power when we repent and implore God's mercy.
O Lord God, our Creator, the King of myriads of angels: forgive us, and save us, and protect us by Thy holy angels.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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