Prologue of Ohrid

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November 27

1. The Holy Martyr James the Persian

James was born of Christian parents in the Persian city of Elapa (or Vilat), brought up in the Christian Faith and married to a Christian woman. The Persian King Yezdegeherd took a liking to James for his talents and skillfulness, and made him a noble at his court. Flattered by the king, James was deluded and began offering sacrifices to the idols that the king worshiped. His mother and wife learned of this, and wrote him a letter of reproach in which they grieved over him as an apostate and one who was spiritually dead. Yet, at the end of the letter, they begged him to repent and return to Christ. Moved by this letter, James repented bitterly, and courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord to the king. Angered, the king condemned him to death by a special torture: his entire body was to be cut up, piece by piece, until he breathed his last. The executioners fulfilled this command of the wicked king to the letter, and cut off James's fingers, then his toes, his legs and arms, his shoulders, and finally his head. During every cutting, the repentant martyr gave thanks to God. A sweet-smelling fragrance, as of a cypress, emanated from the wounds. Thus, this wonderful man repented of his sin and presented his soul to Christ his God in the Kingdom of Heaven. James suffered in about the year 400. His head is to be found in Rome and a part of his relics in Portugal, where he is commemorated on May 22.


2. The Seventeen Venerable Martyrs of India


They were Christian monks who suffered at the hands of the Indian King Abenner. Enraged at Elder Barlaam because he baptized his son, Ioasaph, King Abenner sent men in pursuit of him. The pursuers did not capture Barlaam, but captured seventeen other monks and brought them to the king. The king condemned them to death and his men plucked out their eyes, severed their tongues, broke their arms and legs, and then beheaded them. Even so, the Christian Faith in the Kingdom of India was strengthened all the more by the blood of these knights of Christ.


3. The Venerable Romanus the Wonderworker


Romanus lived a life of asceticism in the vicinity of Antioch. He never kindled a fire or lit a candle in his cell. He reposed peacefully, and was a miracle-worker both during his life and after his death. He intercedes for barren women when they offer prayer to him.


4. The Venerable Pinuphrius


Pinuphrius was a contemporary of St. John Cassian (February 29) and a great Egyptian ascetic. He lived in the fourth century and carried out his life of asceticism in various places, always fleeing the praise of men. He had many disciples, who strove to imitate the lofty example of their teacher.


5. The Venerable Nathaniel


Nathaniel was a Nitrian monk. He prayed to God both day and night, and was enlightened by the contemplation of divine matters. He neither left his cell nor even crossed the threshold for a full thirty-eight years. He entered into rest in the Lord in the second half of the sixth century.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr James the Persian


The Creator does not lose repentant souls:
He loves a true penitent the most.
James denied Christ the Living God
For the sake of the godless emperor, his flatterer.
His mother reproached him as did his wife:
``All the riches of the earth are as transient as foam.''
James repented, and bitterly repented,
Then openly spoke about what he had kept secret:
``A Christian I was, and again I am a Christian:
Foolish and weak are your idols!''
This James said, as he stood before the emperor;
This he said openly and remained true to it.
The emperor took all his imperial gifts from him,
And clothed the wondrous James with torture.
James was reddened with wounds and blood,
And like eagles on a carcass, men attacked him!
They dismembered the body of Christ's hero, 
And cut St. James into bits.
Now James prays before God in Paradise
That all Christians overcome all attacks.


REFLECTION


When the executioners severed the thumb of St. James's right hand, he said: ``Even a vine is pruned in this manner, so that in time a young branch may grow.'' At the severing of his second finger, he said: ``Receive also, O Lord, the second branch of Thy sowing.'' At the severing of his third finger, he said: ``I bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.'' At the severing of his fourth finger, he said: ``O Thou who acceptest the praise of the four beasts [symbols of the four evangelists], accept the suffering of the fourth finger.'' At the severing of the fifth finger, he said: ``May my rejoicing be fulfilled as that of the five wise virgins at the wedding feast.'' During the severing of the sixth finger, he said: ``Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Who at the sixth hour stretched out Thy most pure arms on the Cross, that Thou hast made me worthy to offer Thee my sixth finger.'' At the severing of the seventh finger, he said: ``Like David who praised Thee seven times daily, I praise Thee through the seventh finger severed for Thy sake.'' At the severing of the eighth finger, he said: ``On the eighth day Thou Thyself, O Lord, wast circumcised.'' At the severing of the ninth finger, he said: ``At the ninth hour, Thou didst commend Thy spirit into the hands of Thy Father, O my Christ, and I offer Thee thanks during the suffering of my ninth finger.'' At the severing of the tenth finger, he said: ``On a ten-stringed harp I sing to Thee, O God, and thank Thee that Thou hast made me worthy to endure the severing of the ten fingers of my two hands, for the Ten Commandments written on two tablets.'' Oh, what wonderful faith and love! Oh, the noble soul of this knight of Christ!


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the wonderful Paradise of God (Genesis 2):
1. How most beautiful was Paradise, both within and without;
2. How all living things in Paradise were unconditionally submissive to man and man to God;
3. How most beautiful were the first man and woman in Paradise, conscious of God's presence and of God's authority.


HOMILY
on the perfect man


… Till we all come in the unity of the Faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
The unity of the Faith, brethren, and the knowledge of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ the Savior, unites two men into one man, a thousand people into one man, and many millions of people into one man. The unity of Faith in Christ the Lord, and the true Orthodox knowledge of Christ the Lord, unites men more strongly than blood, more strongly than language, more strongly than all external circumstances and material bonds. When many souls think as one and the same, will as one and the same, and desire as one and the same, then these many souls are as one soul, one great and mighty soul. Physical differences in this case mean little, and are hardly to be taken into consideration. Thus, the same souls are built up into a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The parts of the perfect whole are themselves perfect. Every Christian soul is a part of the perfect man. Christ is the Perfect Man of Whom the Church is the Mystical Body. He fills everyone who believes in Him with Himself, according to themeasure of the stature of each. He is the fullness beyond all fullness, the living fount that flows and fills every worthy space. Inasmuch as a man empties himself of everything that is not of Christ, Christ will enter into him and fill him accordingly.
O my brethren, deep humility is needed in addition to strong faith, so that the Living Water may be poured into us. Even in nature, we see that water easily irrigates the lowlands. So, the more lowly our humiliation is before the Lord Jesus, the more willingly He pours Himself into us, irrigates us with His life-giving Self, and fills us as His vessel with the fullness of His immortality.
O Lord Jesus, Thou fullness of life, wisdom, beauty and sweetness, help us to humble ourselves before Thy Divine Majesty, that we may be made worthy of Thy visitation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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