Prologue of Ohrid

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APRIL
 
 
 
 
 
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DECEMBER
 
 
 
 

December 6

1. Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia

This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3). When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: ``Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.'' Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Christ Himself and the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas. A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God. Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, 343.


2. Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Patara


Nicholas was the uncle of the great St. Nicholas, and it was he who guided him to the spiritual life and ordained him a priest.


3. The Holy Martyr Nicholas Karamos


Nicholas was cruelly tortured for the Christian Faith by the Turks and was hanged in Smyrna in the year 1657.


4. Saint Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch


A man well educated in Hellenic philosophy, Theophilus, after reading the Holy Scriptures, was baptized and became a great defender of the Christian Faith. His work ``On the Faith'' is preserved even today. He governed the Church of Antioch for thirteen years and entered into rest in the year 181.


HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia


Holy Father Nicholas,
The four corners of the world glorify you
As a knight of the powerful Faith,
The Faith of God, the true Faith.

From the cradle he was devoted to God, 
From the cradle until the end;
And God glorified him-
His faithful Nicholas.

Famous was he throughout his life,
And even more renowned after death;
Mighty on earth was he,
And even more mighty is he in heaven.

Glowing spirit, pure heart, 
He was a temple of the Living God;
For this the people glorify him
As a wondrous saint.

Nicholas, rich in glory,
Loves those who honor him as their ``Krsna Slava'';
Before the throne of the eternal God,
He prays for their good.

O Nicholas, bless us,
Bless your people
Who, before God and before you,
Humbly stand in prayer.




REFLECTION
In icons of St. Nicholas, the Lord Savior is usually depicted on one side with a Gospel in His hands, and the Most-holy Virgin Theotokos is depicted on the other side with an episcopal omophorion in her hands. This has a twofold historical significance: first, it signifies the calling of Nicholas to the hierarchical office, and second, it signifies his exoneration from the condemnation that followed his confrontation with Arius. St. Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, writes: ``One night St. Nicholas saw our Savior in glory, standing by him and extending to him the Gospel, adorned with gold and pearls. On his other side, he saw the Theotokos, who was placing the episcopal pallium on his shoulders.'' Shortly after this vision, John the Archbishop of Myra died and St. Nicholas was appointed archbishop of that city. That was the first incident. The second incident occurred at the time of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea. Unable to stop Arius through reason from espousing the irrational blasphemy against the Son of God and His Most-holy Mother, St. Nicholas struck Arius on the face with his hand. The Holy Fathers at the Council, protesting such an action, banned Nicholas from the Council and deprived him of all emblems of the episcopal rank. That same night, several of the Holy Fathers saw an identical vision: how the Lord Savior and the Most-holy Theotokos were standing around St. Nicholas-on one side the Lord Savior with the Gospel, and on the other side the Most-holy Theotokos with a pallium, presenting the saint with the episcopal emblems that had been removed from him. Seeing this, the fathers were awestruck and quickly returned to Nicholas that which had been removed. They began to respect him as a great chosen one of God, and they interpreted his actions against Arius not as an act of unreasonable anger, but rather an expression of great zeal for God's truth.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the sinful fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):
1. How God cursed the serpent;
2. How He imposed upon Eve the pain of child-bearing and on Adam the burden of toil;
3. How He cursed the ground in the works of man;
4. How He did not curse ground as ground but rather in thy works, i.e., in the works of man.


HOMILY
on the absence of sin in the works of God


And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1).
Brethren, everything that was created, and the means by which the pure and sinless God created it, is pure and sinless. Every creature of God is pure and sinless as long as it is turned toward God, as long as it is neither separated from God nor hostile to God. Every creature of itself praises and glorifies God as long as it is pure and sinless. That is why the Psalmist sings: Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Alleluia! (Psalm 150:6). Every intelligent creature of God feels that its natural and primary purpose is to praise the Lord. Thus, brethren, people ask: ``If this is so, from whence comes evil into the world?'' It comes from sin, and only from sin. Sin changed a bright angel into a devil. The devil willingly made himself a vessel of sin and then hurried to make other creatures of God similar vessels. By their own free choice, other angels consented to sin with the devil, and afterward the first people, Eve and Adam, consented. From this proceeded the mixture of good and evil in the world. However, even today, that which is of God in creation is good, as it was in the first days of creation. Poison came from sin, for sin is indeed poison, the most bitter poison that exists. Sin was the cause of the curse. It brought about the darkening of minds and caused created things to become hostile toward their Creator. It distanced man from God, and man from man, and man from nature, and nature from man. O my brethren, all that comes from God is good, and all that comes from sin is evil. No evil exists that is bound to God, and there exists no kind of evil that is not bound to sin. Many philosophers have examined the essence of evil, and because of their crude minds they have asserted that evil is in matter and that matter is evil. However, only we Christians know that sin is the essence of evil and that evil has no essence other than sin. It is obvious from this that if we desire to protect ourselves from evil, we must protect ourselves from sin.
O sinless God, help us to protect ourselves from sin and the corruption of sin.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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