Prologue of Ohrid

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October 17

1. The Holy Prophet Hosea
Hosea was the son of Beeri of the tribe of Issachar. Hosea lived and prophesied more than eight hundred years before the birth of Christ. His divinely inspired words are found in his book, which contains fourteen chapters. He strongly rebuked Israel and Judah for their idolatry and also foretold God's punishment for their sins, the destruction of Samaria and Israel for their apostasy, and God's mercy on the tribe of Judah. He foretold the abolition and the end of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. He foretold the coming of the Lord, and the richness of gifts that He would bring with Him to earth. He lived to a very old age and entered peacefully into rest.


2. The Holy Martyrs Cosmas and Damian, the Unmercenaries


There are three pairs of holy physicians by the name of Cosmas and Damian. The first entered into rest peacefully on November 1, the second pair was stoned in Rome on July 1, and the third was from Arabia; and it is these that we speak of under today's date. They were physicians by profession, and when they received the Christian Faith, they healed the sick in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They became widely known for their miraculous healings. The malicious pagans seized them, and took them before Governor Lysias in the town of Aegea. Since neither of these brothers would renounce Christ at any cost, they were cast into the sea, then into fire, but the omnipotent God saved them from both the water and the fire. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and saved them. The pagan governor ascribed this to their alleged sorcery but they answered: ``We know nothing of sorcery nor do we need sorcery, but we possess the power of Christ-which saves us and all who invoke His Most-holy Name.'' The pagans struck them with stones but the stones bounced off them; they shot them with arrows, but the arrows rebounded as well. Finally, they were beheaded with the sword. Saints Leontius, Anthimus and Eutropius also suffered with them, and received heavenly wreaths of glory. They suffered in the time of Diocletian and Maximian. Many miracles were manifested from their holy relics, even as miracles abounded from them during their life.


3. The Venerable Martyr Andrew


St. Andrew was a Cretan by birth and a Christian priest. In the time of the iconoclastic persecution, he showed himself to be a great defender of the veneration of icons. Andrew went to Constantinople to denounce the wicked Emperor Copronymus. As the emperor stood in the Church of the Holy Martyr Mamas, Andrew entered the church, stood before him, and openly rebuked him before all. ``It would be better for you, O Emperor, to attend to military matters and to govern the people, than to persecute Christ and His servants.'' For this, St. Andrew was beaten severely, tortured and dragged through the streets, where a heretic struck him with an axe and killed him. Thus, Andrew rendered his holy soul to God in the year 767. His relics gave healing to the sick. 


4. Saint Lazarus the Four-days-dead


Lazarus's principle feasts are on March 17 and Lazarus Saturday during Great Lent. Under today's date is commemorated the translation of his relics from the island of Cyprus to Constantinople. This occurred when Emperor Leo the Wise built the Church of St. Lazarus in Constantinople, and translated Lazarus's relics there in the year 890. When, after almost a thousand years, Lazarus's grave in the town of Kition on Cyprus was unearthed, a marble tablet was found with the inscription: ``Lazarus of the Four Days, the friend of Christ.''


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Prophet Hosea


The discerning Prophet Hosea cried out 
And prophesied tribulation to the sinful nation:
``The Lord, the Lord saith: Mercy is dear to Me,
But sacrifices, filthy and rotten, are not dear.
Ye transgress the Law, as did Adam of old,
Ye worship lies, and a falsehood is lord over you.
Your sacrifices are finished; I will not accept them.
Now I shall prepare the greatest sacrifice for Myself.
Ye have planted godlessness; iniquity have ye reaped.
Ye have sown wind, and harvested a storm.
But if ye now plant righteousness, ye will reap mercy-
And to Me, ye will be a holy people again.
But ye are ashamed of Me and love idols. 
Ye encourage adultery, ye encourage sin!
That is why ye shall wander throughout the world,
And every nation shall be more powerful than you.
And I will raise up a New Israel:
A new Kingdom-a Kingdom of saints.
It will be as the dew and as a blossoming lily,
And its most wondrous fragrance shall fill the world.
I am the Lord, the Lord; whatever I desire I can do!
Blessed are those who worship Me, the Living God.''


REFLECTION


The second appearance of the Holy Martyr Longinus: When Longinus appeared to the blind widow whose son had died, he promised to restore her sight and to reveal her son in great glory. Finding the relics of the holy martyr and touching them with her hands, the widow immediately regained her sight, and thus, one promise was fulfilled. The following night, St. Longinus appeared to the widow in radiant attire, holding her son by the hand, who was also clothed resplendently. Caressing the child like a father, Longinus said: ``Woman, behold your son for whom you weep so much! Look at the honor and glory given him; look and be comforted. God has numbered him among the heavenly ranks who live in His Kingdom. I have now brought him from the Savior, and he will never be parted from me. Take my head and your son's body, and bury them together in one coffin. Mourn your son no longer, and let not your heart be troubled, for great glory, joy, and endless rejoicing is given him from God.'' Seeing and hearing all this, the woman was filled with great joy, and she returned to her home, saying to herself: ``I asked for bodily eyes and I found spiritual eyes. I was saddened at the death of my son, and now I have him in heaven, where he remains in glory with the prophets and rejoices with them unceasingly.''


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the wondrous vision of St. Stephen the Archdeacon and Protomartyr (Acts 7):
1. How Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw the heavens opened;
2. How he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56);
3. How the Jews stoned him.


HOMILY
on the festering wounds of sin


My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness (Psalm 38:5).
The prophet speaks of the wounds of sins that he himself committed, and from which he sensed in himself the stench of sin. As much as this acknowledgment reveals the impurity of previous sins, so is the subsequent purity of the repentant one also shown. For as long as man follows the corrupt path of sin, he does not sense its suffocating stench; but when he withdraws from this path and sets off on the pure path of righteousness, he senses the inexpressible difference between purity and impurity, between the path of virtue and the path of vice. Imagine a man who has spent the night in a stinking tavern and finds himself in a garden of roses the next morning. In the former there was stench, poison, debasement of soul and body, anger, discord, and the tormenting of himself and others. In the latter is God's great sun overhead, beautiful flowers everywhere, fresh air, wondrous fragrance, serenity and health. Imagine this, and understand that there is an even greater difference between the path of sin and the path of God. My wounds are foul and festering. Thus the great king describes the fruits of his sinful past. Nothing is as foul as sin, nothing festers as much and nothing spreads as much as sin. The stench of bodily wounds suggests, in only a small way, the unbearable stench of a sinful soul. That is why every holy thing distances itself from such a soul. The pure heavenly spirits hide from such a one, and the impure spirits of hades seek its company. Every new sin is a fresh wound on the soul; every sin is corruption and stench. How does sin arise? From my foolishness explains the prophet. A mind derailed from its divine track leads man to sin. Until the mind is cleansed, man cannot be cleansed. But we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), says the Apostle. In other words, we have a mind put back on track, as was Adam's mind before the sinful stench. Hence brethren, all Orthodox teaching on asceticism concentrates on one main point: on the mind of man; on the cleansing and correcting of the mind.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Purity and eternal Source of purity, help us to reject our foolishness; help us to reason according to Thy mind.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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