Prologue of Ohrid

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December 22

1. The Holy Great-martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Bonds, and others with her
This glorious heroine of the Christian Faith was born in Rome into a wealthy senatorial family of a pagan father and a Christian mother. From her early youth, she clung in love to the Lord Jesus, guided in the teaching of Christ by a devout teacher, Chrysogonus. Anastasia was forced by her father to enter into marriage with a pagan landowner, Publius. Excusing herself on the basis of a female illness, she in no way wished to enter into physical relations with him. For this, her husband tortured her harshly by confinement and starvation. He inflicted even more tortures upon her when he learned of her secret visits to the prisons of the Christian martyrs: bringing them provisions, ministering to them, bathing their wounds and loosening their bonds. But by God's providence she was freed from her wicked husband. Publius was sent to Persia by the emperor, and while sailing on the sea he was drowned. St. Anastasia then began to minister freely to the tortured Christian martyrs and to comfort the poor, giving them alms from her great inheritance. At one time the Emperor Diocletian was in the town of Aquileia and ordered that Chrysogonus, the confessor of Christ, be brought to him. St. Anastasia accompanied him on the way. Holy Chrysogonus was beheaded by order of the emperor, and then three sisters-Agape, Chionia and Irene-also suffered (April 16): the first two were cast into fire and the third was shot through with arrows. St. Anastasia took their bodies, wrapped them in white linen, anointed them with many aromatic spices, and honorably buried them. Following this, Anastasia went to Macedonia, where she helped the sufferers for Christ. There she became well known as a Christian, for which she was seized and brought before various judges for interrogation and torture. Desiring to die for her beloved Christ, Anastasia constantly longed for Him in her heart. A certain chief of the pagan priests, Ulpianus, lustfully tried to touch St. Anastasia's body, but he was suddenly blinded and breathed his last. Condemned to death by starvation, St. Anastasia lingered in prison for thirty days without food, nourishing herself only on tears and prayer. Then she was placed in a boat with several other Christians to be drowned, but God delivered her even from this death. She was finally tied by the feet and hands to four wheels over a fire, and she gave up her holy soul to God. She suffered and took up her habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in the year 304.


2. The Holy Martyr Theodota with her three children


Being left a young widow with three children, Theodota gave herself completely to the service of God and the rearing of her children in devout faith. St. Anastasia lived with her when she was in Macedonia, and together they visited the Christian prisoners in the jails. Brought to trial, Theodota boldly confessed Christ the Lord. Then she was sent to Nicetas, the proconsul of Bithynia. When a shameless pagan tried to touch her body, he immediately saw an angel of God beside her and was struck by the angel. Condemned to death and cast into a fiery furnace together with her three children, St. Theodota honorably ended her earthly life and entered into the Kingdom of Eternal Glory.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Great-martyr Anastasia, the Deliverer from Bonds


The holy maiden Anastasia serves God;
She shines before God by faith, hope and deeds.
The maiden leaves husband, honor and riches,
And gladly serves the captives, glorifying God.
She looses the bonds, and washes the wounds of the martyrs;
She looses their bonds, giving gifts and not fetters.
She seeks payment neither from men nor from the earth.
Christ God eases her soul and heart.
Her pains have passed, and Anastasia remains in glory;
She now rejoices with the angels in heaven.


REFLECTION


The merciful God often sends comfort to those pleasing to Him on earth from the other world through his saints. St. Theodota suffered for Christ before St. Anastasia. Anastasia was then cast into a confined and dark prison to die of hunger, according to the judgment of the torturers. During the thirty days of her imprisonment, St. Theodota appeared to Anastasia every night from the other world and strengthened her in her suffering. Anastasia spoke of many things with St. Theodota and asked numerous questions. One night she asked her how she was able to come to her after her death. Theodota replied that the souls of the martyrs are given special grace from God, so that after departing this world they may return to speak to whomever they desire for the imparting of instruction and comfort. When thirty days had passed, the torturer brought St. Anastasia out of prison and was amazed to see her still alive. He then condemned her, along with several others, to be drowned in the sea. The Christians were put into a small boat by the soldiers, who set sail in another. When the Christians were brought out into the deep, the soldiers upset the boat, so that the water would enter and drown the condemned. Then a miraculous vision took place: St. Theodota appeared on the water and guided the boat to shore. Thus, all who were condemned to death were saved with Anastasia. Seeing this miracle of God, one hundred and twenty pagans immediately believed in Christ and were baptized.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate David's sufferings because of sin:
1. How misfortune arose in David's house: one of his sons rose up against the other, and a brother against his sister;
2. How Absalom initiated a war against his father David;
3. How misfortune befell the entire people because of the king's sin.


HOMILY
on long-suffering Job


The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away (Job 1:21).
Brethren, let the righteous one fear nothing; all shall be well with him. The whole of Sacred Scripture shows us that God will never forsake the righteous. The example of Job shows us this as clearly as the sun. Job had seven sons and three daughters; he had riches, respect among the people, and friends. And he lost all of this in one day. He did not grumble against God but fell down upon the ground and worshiped and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither (Job 1:20-21). Then Job lost his health, the last of what he had, and his entire body, from the top of his head to the heels of his feet, was covered with sores and pus. And Job sat in ashes and lifted up praise to God. His wife tried to persuade him to renounce his God, but righteous Job said to her: Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? (Job 2:10). His friends reproached him, saying that he was sinful and proud in his understanding and righteousness before them, but Job humbly prayed to God and patiently endured all his wounds and misfortunes.
It happens today, as it did then, that when some misfortune befalls us, our neighbors consider themselves to be more intelligent and more righteous than we are. But the most wise God permitted all these misfortunes to fall on Job in order to test not only Job His servant but also his kinsmen and his friends. When each of them had shown what kind of person he was, when each of them had been tested before God, then God, with His almighty right hand, restored Job to health, returned twice as much wealth as He had taken away, and gave him again seven sons and three daughters.
He who has strong faith, brethren, has clear spiritual sight, so that he can see the finger of God in his prosperity as well as in his suffering. He who has strong faith also has great patience in suffering. When God gives to him, he gives thanks, and when God takes away, he blesses:Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
O Lord, the God of the long-suffering and patient Job, teach us to bless Thy name in our sufferings.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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