Prologue of Ohrid

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April 9

1. THE HOLY MARTYR EUPSYCHIUS

Eupsychius was of noble birth and was well instructed in pious beliefs. During the reign of Julian the Apostate, and when St. Basil the Great governed the Church of God in Caesarea, Eupsychius entered into marriage with a prominent maiden. However, it was not given to him to live even one day in marriage. For at the time of his wedding, it so happened that there was a pagan feast with sacrificial offerings to the idol Fortune. Eupsychius, with his companions, entered the temple, smashed all the idols and even demolished the temple itself. Hearing of this, Julian became greatly enraged and ordered the culprits beheaded, that many Christians be inducted into the army; that an enormous tribute be imposed upon all Christians; that, at the expense of the Christians, the temple of Fortune be rebuilt again, and that the city be deprived of its honorary name "Caesarea," given it by Caesar Claudius, and be called by its former name, Maza.  Eupsychius was first tied to a tree and brutally tortured, and later was beheaded, in the year 362 A.D. Shortly after this, the wicked Emperor Julian visited this city (Maza) on his way to Persia, against which he was waging war. St. Basil the Great went out to meet him, carrying three loaves of barley bread as a sign of respect and hospitality. The emperor ordered that a handful of hay be given to the saint as a reciprocal gift. St. Basil said to the emperor: "You make jest of us, O Emperor. We offer you bread by which we feed ourselves, and you, in turn, give us food for livestock, which you, by your authority, cannot change into food for men." To that the emperor replied: "Know that I will feed you this hay when I return from Persia." However, the wicked apostate did not return from Persia, for he died a deserving and unnatural death.

2. THE VENERABLE MARTYR VADIM

During the reign of the Persian Emperor Sapor, Vadim, the abbot of a certain monastery and a man famous for his generosity, was cast into prison with seven of his disciples. With them in prison was a certain Prince Nirsan, who was also a Christian. Every day they were taken out and beaten. Prince Nirsan became terrified, and promised to deny the Faith and worship the sun. This was gratifying to Sapor, and he promised to give Nirsan, among other things, the entire estate of Vadim's monastery if he would behead Vadim by his own hand. Nirsan agreed to this. With a quivering hand, and frightened by the majestic countenance of St. Vadim, he struck this holy man with the sword many times on the neck until he finally beheaded him. Shortly after that, Nirsan succumbed to despair, stabbed himself with the sword and received, at his own hand, the due punishment for the murder of the righteous one. St. Vadim suffered in the year 376 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE VENERABLE MARTYR VADIM

The courageous Vadim looks death in the eyes

And feels sorry for Nirsan, because misery befell him.

Nirsan, with a bare sword, before Vadim stands;

Of God he is not afraid, but is afraid of the saint.

Brandishing the sword, and brandishing, lowers it!

Before the knight of God--in truth, a sheer coward!

"Nirsan, Nirsan!" Vadim, to him, speaks.

"On the road to eternity, Vadim to you speaks:

You denied Christ; falsehood you embraced.

By yourself alone, your soul you lost [destroyed].

Death, I eagerly await at each of God's hours,

That the gate of the Eternal Kingdom He may open to me.

But by your hand I am sorry to die,

And never more to see you, O Prince.

A traitor of Christ, eternal darkness will cover

And, twice as black, one who slays Christians."

This the saint uttered and  became silent,

And Nirsan slew him with a quivering hand.

Thus a lion died from a frightened rabbit!

But who did Nirsan slay--himself or the saint?

Eternal justice speaks: the thief judged himself,

And to the saint of God no harm came to him.

REFLECTION

It is said about Pericles that he was a man of almost perfect human beauty but that his head was oblong and resembled a squash, so that he incurred being ridiculed when he appeared bareheaded in public. In order to conceal the defect of this great man of his people, Greek sculptors always portrayed him with a helmet on his head. When some, among the pagans, knew how to conceal the defects of their friends, how much more, therefore, are we as Christians obligated to do the same? Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10), commands the Apostle to those who cling to Christ. How can we say that we adhere to the meek and All-pure Christ, if we daily poison the air with tales about the sins and shortcomings of others? To conceal your own virtue and the shortcomings of others--this is the preeminent spiritual wisdom.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the Garden and, at first glance, Mary did not recognize Him;

2. How He tenderheartedly addressed Mary, and how Mary then recognized Him and rejoiced in Him, and imparted her joy to the disciples.

HOMILY

About the need for death in order to bring forth much fruit

"Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (St. John 12:24).

Why does the sower throw wheat upon the ground? Does he do this so that the wheat will die and rot? No, he does this so that it will live and bear fruit. In sowing the seed, the sower does not think about the death and decay of the seed, but rather about its life and its yield. Indeed, with joy does the sower sow his seed, not thinking about the death of the seed, but rather about life and fruit-bearing yield.

The Sower is Christ the Lord and men are His wheat. He was pleased to call us wheat. There are many other types of seed on earth, but nothing is more precious than wheat. Why did the Lord sow us throughout the world? So that we should die and decay? No, rather that we should live and bring forth fruit. He alludes to our death along the way. He alludes to death only as a condition for life and multiple yield. The goal of sowing is not death but life. The seed must first die and decay, and He mentions this only in passing because He knows that we are fully aware of this. He only reminds us of this along the way, as His Gospel is primarily a narrative of life--about life and about bringing forth good fruit. He speaks to us a great deal about the latter because He knows that we are not aware of this and that we are suffocating from ignorance and doubt. Not only does He speak to us abundantly about life, but He also shows us life. By His Resurrection, He demonstrates to us, more clearly than the sun, life and the multitude of fruit. The entire history of His Church is a clear map of life.

O Lord of Life, Invincible, save us from a sinful death. Redeem us from a spiritual death.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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