Prologue of Ohrid


April 18


At the time of the Iconoclastic heresy, Emperor Leo the Armenian subjected John to torture, along with his teacher, Gregory, and St. Joseph the Hymnographer. When Gregory departed this life, John became the abbot of the Decapolis Monastery in Constantinople. Having become abbot, he intensified his ascetical efforts for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He died peacefully about the year 820 A.D. Following his death, St. Joseph buried him with honor next to the grave of St. Gregory.


John was born in Ioannina, once the capitol city of the Emperor Pyrrhus. When his impoverished parents died, the young John moved to Constantinople and there continued his occupation, for he was a craftsman. Not long before that, the Turks had surrounded Constantinople, and many Christians, out of fear, had denied Christ and embraced the Islamic faith. St. John had his workshop in the midst of these converts to Islam. The more the young John burned with love for Christ the Lord, the more openly he exposed himself as a Christian before these traitors of Christ. He began to argue with them about the Faith and, finally, rebuked them for their betrayal of Christ. They dragged him before the judge and falsely accused John, alleging that he had earlier embraced Islam, and that he had again reverted to Christianity. After he was tortured and beaten with rods and iron ramrods, they cast him into prison. The next day was the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, and again they brought him out for further torture. John emerged, singing: "Christ is risen from the dead!" To his torturers, he bravely said: "Do what you want, in order to send me as soon as possible from this transient life to eternal life. I am Christ's slave; I follow Christ; for Christ I die that I may live with Him!" After that, John was bound in chains and brought to the place of burning. Upon seeing a large fire prepared for him, John ran and leaped into the flames. His torturers, seeing how he loved death in the fire, removed him from the fire and sentenced him to be beheaded. After they beheaded him, they threw his head and body into the fire. Later on, Christians sifted through the ashes and gathered some of the remains of his honorable and wonder-working relics, and interred them in the Great Church [Agia Sophia - Church of the Holy Wisdom] in Constantinople. Thus, St. John of Ioannina died a martyr's death and received a glorious martyr's wreath on April 18, 1526 A. D.


All five were martyred during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. They were pagans until they witnessed the sufferings of St. George the Great Martyr. While witnessing the sufferings and bravery of this glorious martyr, and the many miracles which were manifested, they embraced the Christian Faith. Soon, they too suffered and were crowned with glory.



John the Artisan, of honest craft:

His soul was as bright as a nugget of gold.

By the teaching of Christ, wonderfully illumined,

He prayed to God to crown him with suffering:

"O Victorious Christ, Who for me was crucified,

From sinful darkness, cleanse me by suffering!

The shameful glory of a traitor, Oh, do not give me,

But crown me with the sufferings of Your martyrs.

Prepare me for suffering by Your Holy Spirit,

And grant suffering, to me directing it.

And You, O Mother of God, of infinite mercy,

Who, under the Honorable Cross of Your Son stood,

Pray for me at the time of my sufferings,

That, as an impregnable wall, I may be firm.

And you, O holy apostles, have mercy,

That the enemy of the human race may not prevail against me.

Martyrs holy, my rejoicing,

Into your ranks receive me also!

And now torturers, traitors of God--

Yours is the sword and the fire--here is my body!"


In one of the writings of the martyrdoms of Christians during the reign of the Persian Emperor Sapor, it is said: "The swords became dull, the sword-bearers fell and the sword-makers fatigued, but the Cross was uplifted even higher and glistened from the blood of Christ's martyrs." How many times, how many times the persecutors of Christians complacently thought that they were through with Christianity forever! In essence, their lives have ended, while Christianity has always regenerated itself and blossomed anew. Nevertheless, even in spite of this, some of our contemporaries think that the Christian Faith can be uprooted by force. But they do not say by what means. They forget that all those means have been tried and all without success. With reason Tertullian cried out to the pagans: "In vain do you spill our blood. For the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity."


To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How His Resurrection brought unspeakable joy to those who loved Him;

2. How His Resurrection brought unspeakable bitterness to those who hated Him;

3. How His final coming [Second Advent] into the world, in glory and power, will evoke different feelings among different people--either joy or bitterness.


About the testimony of reliable witnesses

"But we have been eyewitnesses of His mighty glory" (2 Peter 1:16).

When the apostles speak of the glorious Resurrection of the Lord, they speak in the plural. For each one of them gives his testimony and the testimony of other companions. Thus, the Apostle Peter writes: We do not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16).

Nathaniel did not want to believe only by hearing. That is why the Apostle Philip invited Nathaniel to Come and see! (St. John 1:46). Nathaniel came, saw and believed. So it was with the other apostles: until they approached Christ, until they heard, and until they saw, they did not want to believe. Cleverly devised myths did not attract the apostles. Their healthy, natural minds sought visual facts and not myths.

O my brethren, our Faith is well established and proved. The trail of God is well blazoned in the world. No one has need to doubt. Christ's Resurrection is well witnessed. No one need to despair. Doubt and despair are two worms that are born of that which sin spews forth. He who does not sin, clearly sees the blazoned trail of God in the world and clearly recognizes the Resurrection of Christ.

O resurrected Lord, strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that we sin no more and do not become blind to Your trail in the world and to Your glorious Resurrection.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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