Prologue of Ohrid

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October 29

1. The Venerable Martyr Anastasia the Roman
She was born in Rome of noble parents, and was left an orphan at the age of three. As an orphan, she was taken to a convent near Rome where the abbess was Sophia, a nun of the highest level of perfection. After seventeen years, Anastasia was well known-among the Christians as a great ascetic, and among the pagans as a rare beauty. Probus, the pagan governor, heard of Anastasia and sent his soldiers to bring her to him. For two hours, the good Abbess Sophia counseled Anastasia how to keep the Faith, how to resist flattering deceits, and how to endure torture. Anastasia said to her: ``My heart is ready to suffer for Christ; my soul is ready to die for my Sweet Jesus.'' Brought before the governor, Anastasia openly expressed her faith in Christ the Lord, and when the governor tried to turn her away from the Faith-first by promises and then by threats-the martyr said to him: ``I am ready to die for my Lord not only once, but-oh, if it were only possible-a hundred times!'' When they stripped her naked to humiliate her, she cried out to the servants: ``Whip me, cut me up and tear me apart, cover my naked body with wounds and cover my shame with blood!'' She was beaten, torn and cut up. On two occasions she felt a great thirst and asked for water, and a Christian, Cyril, gave her a drink, for which he was blessed by the martyr of Christ and beheaded by the pagans. Anastasia's breasts and tongue were severed, but an angel of God appeared and sustained her. Finally, she was beheaded outside the city. Blessed Sophia found her body and buried it honorably. Anastasia was crowned with the wreath of martyrdom during the reign of Decius.


2. The Venerable Abramius the Recluse and his niece Mary


Forced to do so by his parents, he married, but on the very day of his wedding he left his bride, his parents' home and all that he possessed, and withdrew into solitude to live a life of strict asceticism. He labored thus for fifty years, and left his cell only twice during that time. The first time, he left at the order of his bishop to convert a pagan village to the Christian Faith. The second time he came out to save his licentious niece Mary. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 360, at the age of seventy. (See ``Reflection'' below.)


3. The Venerable Martyr Timothy of Esphigmenou


He was from the village of Kessana in Thrace. He was married and had two daughters. His wife was seized by the Turks and became a Moslem. In order to save his wife from the harem, he pretended to become a Moslem. After rescuing his wife, he conducted her to a convent, while he went to the Great Lavra on Mount Athos and then to the Monastery of Esphigmenou. He desired martyrdom for Christ, like Agathangelus of Esphigmenou, and was beheaded in Jedrene on October 29, 1820. His body was thrown into a river, but his clothing was retrieved by Elder Germanus, the spiritual father of Esphigmenou.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Venerable Abramius the Recluse


St. Abramius left his bride
And dedicated his life to strict asceticism.
By asceticism he worked out his salvation,
And wisely directed others to salvation.
Demonic power attacked the saint,
But in the name of Christ he crushed it.
The demon took on various, horrible guises,
To scare and hinder the man of God.
This man of God did not allow himself to fear,
Or separate his mind from God,
But shone on the world like a candle,
Glorifying the One God, the Most-holy Trinity.
Imprisoned, alone and not wanted by the world,
Abramius became a prisoner for the sake of Christ
For fifty years-fifty years!
Of tears, fasting and struggle-all for the Son of God:
For fifty years-fifty years!
Established on Christ, the firm Foundation.
Glory to Abramius, Christ's soldier,
That, on the mortal earth, he has shown us immortality!


REFLECTION


But he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22), said the Lord. Faith is the only light of endurance, for endurance in and of itself implies unbearable darkness. Faith is the shining star in this darkness; faith eases the sharpness of suffering; it bears on its wings all the weight of endurance. St. Abramius gives us a beautiful example of perseverance in endurance. The vexation that the devil caused him by a multitude of temptations and terrors would have driven lesser men to leave one place for another. But Abramius did not want to move, so as not to give the evil demon a cause to rejoice; he remained in his place and defeated the devil. The bishop of that region sent Abramius to a pagan village to convert the villagers to the Christian Faith. After long hesitation, Abramius set out, saying: ``Let it be as God wills-I will go out of obedience.'' He first built a church in that village. Then he smashed all the idols in plain sight of the villagers. They beat him and whipped him half to death, and drove him from their village. But he prayed to God with tears for them, that the Lord would open the eyes of their hearts to know the truth of Christ. And so the pagans continually beat and abused him over the course of three years, but he constantly prayed to God for them, and was not angered with them, enduring in the Faith as a firm rock. And only after three years of labor, tears, forgiveness and faith, was he rewarded. Suddenly, the consciences of the villagers were awakened and they all came together to Abramius, bowing before him, and receiving the Christian Faith from him.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the terrible punishment by which Paul punished the magician (Acts 13):
1. How a certain Jewish magician held Sergius the deputy under his dark power;
2. How Paul, by a word, blinded that magician;
3. How the deputy saw that miracle, believed in Christ and was baptized.


HOMILY
on the glory of the name of God


And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen (Psalm 72:19).
From the grace-filled heart of the prophet flow words full of grace. The prophet speaks of the King and the King's Son, the most unusual King Who has ever appeared on earth. May His name be blessed forever (Psalm 72:17), the prophet said, and then, as if that were not enough, he said it again and added: His glorious name. The Church of Christ is the glory of Christ. Blessed is His Holy Church-the fruit of His labors, the wreath of His humiliation, the work of His hands, and the flower of His blood! Blessed is the very name of His Church-holy and salvific! And with His Church, that is, with His work and with His glory, the whole earth shall be filled. By the words,Forever and ever, the prophet foretold the immortal work of Christ, that is, His Church. She will be built in time and will be revealed in eternity. She will be built until the end of time, and will be revealed whole in eternity.
O my brethren, let us strive that our souls may be built into Christ's Church, into that living and immortal body whose life has no end, and whose beauty is indescribable. Let us strive that we are not rejected as unsuitable and useless stones, to be cast into the abyss of eternal darkness.
O Lord Jesus Christ, King and Son of the King, write us also in the book of immortality, and remember us in Thy Heavenly Kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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