Prologue of Ohrid

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December 31

1. The Venerable Melania the Roman
Melania was born in Rome of devout and very wealthy parents. She was forced by them to enter into marriage with a young nobleman, Apinianus. She became gravely ill in giving birth to her second child, and she told her husband that she would be healed only if he vowed before God to live with her in the future as a brother with a sister. Her husband vowed, and Melania, out of spiritual joy, was physically restored to health. When it was pleasing to God to take both of their children to Himself, they decided to sell all their possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor, the churches and the monasteries. They traveled through many lands and cities, doing good works everywhere with their wealth. They visited famous spiritual fathers in Upper and Lower Egypt, learned much and were inspired by them. During that entire time, Melania lived an ascetic life of strict fasting, fervent prayer, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Melania had the custom of reading the entire book of the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, three times every year. She lived with her husband as with a brother and fellow-ascetic. Coming to Alexandria, they received the blessing of the Patriarch, St. Cyril. After that, they traveled to Jerusalem and settled on the Mount of Olives. There Melania closed herself off and devoted herself to divine contemplation, fasting and prayer. Thus, she lived for fourteen years, after which she came out to help others to salvation. She founded a monastery for men and a convent for women. At the invitation of her kinsman, Senator Volusian, a pagan, she went to Constantinople and converted him to the Christian Faith (which even Blessed Augustine himself was unable to do). She then returned to the Mount of Olives, where she presented herself to God in the year 439 at the age of fifty-seven.


2. The Holy and Righteous Joseph, King David, and James the Brother of the Lord


They are all commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Christ. One can learn all about King David, the son of Jesse, in the Book of Kings, and for St. James see October 23. Joseph the Righteous is called in the Gospel a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), and because of this God designated him to protect the Most-holy Virgin and imparted to him great honor in the plan of the salvation of mankind. Although Joseph was of the royal lineage of David, he was a humble carpenter in Nazareth. At the age of eighty, he took to himself the Most-holy Virgin from the Temple in Jerusalem into his home. He entered into rest at the age of 110.


3. The Venerable Martyr Zoticus, the Feeder of Orphans (Benefactor of the Poor)


Zoticus was eminent both in birth and in rank. He moved to Constantinople, rejected all worldly things, and received ordination to the priesthood. He founded a home for the poor, in which he housed those who had contagious diseases and ministered to them. He was a personal acquaintance of Emperor Constantine the Great. Because of the gold Zoticus had received from the emperor and had spent on the victims of disease, Constantine's son Constantius had him tied to a wild ass, which was driven until St. Zoticus died of his wounds. He suffered in the fourth century.


3. The Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ohrid


Theophylact was born on the island of Euripos and educated in Constantinople by the most eminent teachers of that time. As a priest of the Great Church, he was chosen bishop and sent, against his will, to Ohrid, where he remained about twenty-five years (from about 1082 to 1108). Chromatianus of Ohrid calls him ``the wisest archbishop.'' A man of enormous learning, both secular and theological, of refined Byzantine tastes, melancholy and sensitive, Theophylact felt among the Slavs in Ohrid like an exile among barbarians. He wrote commentaries on the Four Gospels and other books of the New Testament. These are the best works of their kind after that of St. Chrysostom, and are read even today with great benefit. His other known works include his Letters and the Life of St. Clement of Ohrid. In old age, St. Theophylact withdrew from Ohrid to Thessalonica, where it is thought he finished his earthly life and took up his habitation in blessed eternity.


HYMN OF PRAISE
The Venerable Melania the Roman


The wealthy Melania possessed great gold.
She gave it to the poor, for the sake of Christ and her salvation.
He who trades wisely receives great value from his gold,
And with it quickly purchases the Heavenly Kingdom.
Melania, a devout woman, became poor;
She possessed nothing in the world except the Living God,
And without gold-but with the Living God-she became wealthy.
Melania said: ``God alone is enough!''
Melania the physician healed pains,
Praising God until her last breath.


REFLECTION


How wisely holy men and women knew how to handle their wealth! How skillfully they purchased the eternal goods of heaven with their earthly goods. Oh, how little they valued earthly goods in themselves-as dust and smoke! When St. Melania visited the holy desert fathers in Egypt with the intention of giving them some financial help, she was astonished at seeing their extreme abhorrence of goods and riches. Thus, she visited one hermit, Ephestion, and saw nothing in his cell but mats, a bowl for water, a little dry bread, and a salt pot. Knowing beforehand that the elder would not take any gold from her, she seized the opportunity and placed several gold pieces in the salt pot. However, when she was on her way back, she heard the elder running after her, and at the top of his voice he was calling to her to stop. She stopped. The elder held the gold pieces in the palm of his hand and, handing them to Melania, said: ``I do not need this, take what is yours!'' Melania said to him: ``If you do not need it, give it to someone else.'' He replied: ``No one in this place has any use for it.'' When Melania refused to accept the gold, the elder swung his arm and threw the gold pieces into the river and then returned to his cell.
During an outbreak of plague in Constantinople, Emperor Constantius ordered that everyone infected be immediately thrown into the sea. St. Zoticus ransomed those who were infected and brought them to his home, and there he cared for them. When his money ran out, he went to the emperor and asked for money to purchase precious pearls for him. The emperor gave him money, and with this money Zoticus continued his work of ransoming the contagious ones and caring for them. One day, the emperor asked Zoticus for the promised pearls, and Zoticus brought him and showed him the infected men in his home, saying: ``These, O Emperor, are the living pearls that I acquired with labor and money for your salvation.'' The enraged emperor condemned Zoticus to death, but Zoticus entered into eternal life, and the emperor remained to atone and repent for his sins.


CONTEMPLATION


Contemplate the assembly of penitents:
1. How they sinned, unknowingly or knowingly, against the Law of Christ;
2. How they repented, corrected their lives and fulfilled the Law of Christ;
3. How they now rejoice in Christ's Kingdom and help us by their prayers.


HOMILY
on the victory of the Lamb


These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them (Revelation 17:14).
Brethren, let us rejoice and be glad at the Lamb's victory over all the beasts. Lions and tigers, wolves and foxes, hyenas and snakes-the Lamb shall overcome them! Who has seen and heard this? Our ears have heard this and our eyes have seen this. The Lamb is Christ the Lord, and the beasts are all His adversaries, visible and invisible. In our day the Lamb carries the victories; in the future the Lamb shall conquer, even to the last day. The Lamb conquered and conquers and shall conquer all the kings and rulers of the world with their bestial natures, their armies and their mercenaries, their glorifiers and their followers. Such power is possessed by the meek Lamb of God. O my poor brethren, be not afraid; be not frightened; be not doubtful. The greatest Victor is your Leader, your Helper and your Friend. He is called ``the Lamb'' in order to teach us that we should be like lambs: quiet, meek, guileless, patient, ready for the victory-bearing sacrifice, and devoted to the will of our Shepherd. When God is with the lamb, then the lamb is stronger than the wolf, mightier than the lion, craftier than the snake and the fox. However, justice cannot be recognized or the final victory be seen until both worlds are taken into account. O my brethren, when we take into account both worlds, we recognize eternal justice and immortal victory. The Lamb conquers, and only the Lamb.
O Lord Jesus, King of kings, Victor in all conflicts and battles, the Lamb of God, meek and merciful, make us to be victory-bearing lambs.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.


The end and glory be to God!

Through the prayers of all Thy saints,
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us!
Amen.
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