Prologue of Ohrid


January 9


The Armenian city of Melitene was drenched with the blood of Christians, as was the entire country of Armenia. The first blood shed for Christ in this city was that of Saint Polyeuctus in the year 259 A.D., during the reign of Valerian. In Melitene were two friends: Nearchus and Polyeuctus. Both were officers--Nearchus baptized and Polyeuctus was unbaptized. When the command of the emperor was sent out concerning the persecution of the Christians, Nearchus prepared for death; but he was in great sorrow because he had not succeeded in converting his friend Polyeuctus to the True Faith. When Polyeuctus learned of the reason for Nearchus's sorrow, he promised to embrace the Faith. The following day Polyeuctus related this dream to Nearchus: the Lord Himself had appeared to him in light, removed Polyeuctus's old clothes from him and dressed him in radiant new clothes and sat him in the saddle of a winged horse. After this, Polyeuctus went to town, shredded the emperor's decree concerning the torturing of Christians, and destroyed many statues of idols. He was tortured and condemned to death. When he was brought to the place of execution, he looked at Nearchus in the throng of people and joyfully cried out to him: "Save yourself, my dear friend! Remember the vow of love confirmed between the two of us!" Later, St. Nearchus died by fire as a martyr for Christ. St. Nearchus is commemorated April 22.


Eustratius was a native of Tarsus. He was a great ascetic and a man of prayer. During the seventy-five years he spent in the monastery, Eustratius never laid down to sleep on his left side but always on his right. Throughout the Divine Services, from the beginning to the end, he repeated to himself: "Lord have mercy!" He reposed in his ninety-fifth year.


Philip was born February 11, 1507 A.D. Once, while standing in church as a young boy, he heard the priest read from the Gospel: No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He became very frightened by these words, as though they had been spoken to him alone, and at that same moment he became enlightened by them. He then withdrew to the Solovki Monastery where, after a long and difficult novitiate (period of probation), he was tonsured a monk. In time, Philip became the abbot and shone as the sun, and the whole of Russia heard of him. Hence, Tsar Ivan the Terrible summoned Philip to fill the vacant see of the  Metropolitan of Moscow in the year 1566 A.D. However, this holy man could not endure with indifference the atrocities of the terrible tsar, and therefore he counseled and rebuked him without fear. The tsar found some false witnesses against Philip, ousted him from office, ordered that he be dressed in a simple and tattered monastic cassock and imprisoned him in Tver on December 23, 1569 A.D. Malyuta Skuratov, one of the tsar's confidants, came to Philip's cell and suffocated him with a pillow. Shortly afterward, all those who were opposed to Philip died evil deaths. After several years, the body of the saint, which was discovered whole, incorrupt and fragrant, was translated to the Monastery of Solovki.



Nearchus and Polyeuctus, soldiers of Caesar,

Became soldiers of the Heavenly King.

One was baptized with water, the other with his own blood;

The second surpassed the other and became the first.

Oh, blessed is this competition,

This heroic rushing to Christ's' Kingdom!

Polyeuctus rejected all the spoils of this world--

All things, which come and go like the wind--

And for brief sufferings he purchased the everlasting Kingdom.

This trade, for him, turned out to be a brilliant one.

For the sake of eternal life, let the grass be cut down!

In exchange for transitory suffering, glory which passes not away!

Pray for us, O soldier of Christ,

That not one of our souls perish!


The Orthodox Church, in teaching men about perfect love, at the same time also teaches them perfect obedience--from which emanates order and harmony among the faithful. Bishops owe their obedience to the Lord. Priests owe their obedience to the bishops. The faithful owe their obedience to both the one and the other. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes about this: "You are required to obey without hypocrisy; he who would deceive his visible bishop would also scorn the Invisible One... I pray you, endeavor to fulfill everything in godly unanimity--under the presidency of the bishops, who occupy the place of Christ, and of the presbyters, who constitute the assembly of the apostles--not thinking that whatever you do alone and apart would be correct."


Contemplate all the virtues in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ:

1. How every virtue is complete and perfect in Him as in no other in the history of the world;

2. How all the virtues wonderfully compliment each other, how the one penetrates the other, and the one working in the other is made radiant.


on concern for the salvation of our neighbors

"Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth" (1 Corinthians 10:24).

This is the principle of the saints of God, both now and in the past, always and forever. This is the principle on which society is built. Upon this principle can be established the most perfect, most God-pleasing and most prosperous human society. This is the saving principle for every type of difficulty, against which contemporary men struggle without victory and without hope. The holy soul is concerned with where the homeless will spend the night, how the hungry will be fed, how the naked will be clothed. The holy soul is concerned, and prays to God that his neighbors be saved; that their hearts be filled with love toward God; that their minds be directed toward God; that the wicked turn from the path of wickedness; that those wavering in the Faith be strengthened; that those who are strengthened be sustained; that those who have died see the face of God; that the living be written in the Book of Life in the Kingdom of Light.

But beware, brethren, and see how the destructive and antisocial principle of the devil can be phrased in like manner, word for word. This principle of the devil says: No one should look to his own body to preserve it in purity from sin, but rather everyone should look to the bodies of others in order to ruin and to destroy them. No one should look to his own soul to see how to save it; rather everyone should look to the soul of someone else in order to blacken it, to curse it, to impoverish it and to destroy it. Let no one look at his house in order to build it and renew it; rather, let everyone look at the home of another in order to burn it and demolish it. No one should look at his granaries in order to fill them; rather, one should look at the granaries of others in order to steal from them and empty them.

Behold, brethren, how this principle can be a principle either of good or of evil; it is a sharp two-edged sword, an angel or Satan. See how this principle in the satanic spirit and form has gained momentum on all sides today!

O Lord, Holy Spirit, Who, through the tongue of the apostle of God, has released these holy words in the world, as bright rays of the sun to illuminate and not to burn us, help us now to fulfill them in the proper heavenly sense--to the glory of the Triune God and for the salvation of our souls.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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