Prologue of Ohrid

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April 22

1. THE VENERABLE THEODORE THE SYKEOTE

Theodore was born in the village of Sykeon in Galatia, for which he was called the Sykeote. As a child of ten, he surrendered himself to strict fasting and all-night prayer after the model of Stephen, an elder who lived in his house. His mother, Maria, was a wealthy widow and intended to dedicate her son to the military profession. St. George appeared to her in a dream and informed her that Theodore was destined for the service of the King of Heaven and not a king of the earth. St. George appeared to Theodore many times, either to instruct him or to save him from certain dangers in which the evil demons had placed him. He also had several visions of the All-holy Theotokos [Mother of God]. Theodore's asceticism surpassed in its severity that of all the living ascetics of his time. He mortified his body through hunger, thirst, iron chains, and standing at prayer all night. He did all of this in order to bind his soul with love for God and to make his soul the complete master over his body. In response to Theodore's love, the merciful Lord responded with love. God bestowed upon him great power over evil spirits and over all of mankind's diseases and afflictions. He was famous everywhere as a wonder-working healer. Because of his purity and devotion, he was consecrated Bishop of Anastasiopolis against his will. He remained for eleven years at his episcopal duty, and then implored God to free him from this service in order to again dedicate himself to his beloved asceticism. After that, he returned to his monastery, where, in his old age, he rendered his soul to his Lord, for Whom he had willingly suffered much. He reposed at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Heraclius in about the year 613 A.D.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR LEONIDES

Leonides was the father of Origen. He suffered for Christ in Alexandria in the year 202 A.D. Fir, all of his property was confiscated by an edict of the emperor, and then he was condemned to death. Origen wrote to his father in prison: "Father, do not concern yourself over us and do not avoid martyrdom because of us" (i.e., because of his children).

3. THE VENERABLE MONK VITALIS

During the time of Patriarch John the Merciful, a young monk appeared, who, as soon as he arrived, compiled a list of all the prostitutes in Alexandria. The asceticism of this young monk was exceptional and unique. During the day he would offer himself for hire to do the most difficult jobs, and at night he would enter the houses of ill repute, give the money he had earned to some prostitute, and close himself in the room with her the entire night. As soon as they would be locked up, Vitalis would beg the woman to lie down and sleep and he would spend the entire night in a corner of the room in prayer to God for that sinner. Thus, he would save the woman from sinning at least one night. The second night he would go to a second, the third night to a third, and so on until he had visited them all, and then he would return to the one with whom he started. By his counseling, many of the sinners abandoned their sullied trade. Some of them married, others entered convents, and still others turned to a respectable work and income. Vitalis forbade all of these women to reveal the reason why he was visiting them. Because of this, Vitalis became a scandal for all of Alexandria. The men began to scold him, spit upon him, and openly beat him in the streets. He bore all patiently, making known his good works to God and concealing them from men. When he died, everything about him became known. Over his grave there occurred many miracles of healing, and people from different places began to bring their sick to his grave. Spat upon by men, he was and has remained glorified by the Omniscient God.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT VITALIS

Vitalis, a monk in a great city,

Hurried to his labor with prayer in his heart.

But the sinful populace pretended to be righteous;

They scorned the monk and spat upon his head.

The monk wiped his face, endured and remained silent;

He did not respond or become angry at anyone.

Then a certain young man (though old in depravity)

Approached Vitalis and struck him.

And the young man said to him: "Shameless monk,

How long will you try our patience?"

"Why did you strike me?" asked Vitalis.

"You yourself will be beaten--and the whole city will come running."

And not much time passed before the young man went insane,

For having, without God, judged the man of God.

The youth howled and the entire city became frightened;

But Vitalis peacefully departed unto God.

Then came the madman to the grave of the saint,

And at the grave he found healing for himself.

The young man himself related this tale,

And to the glorious Vitalis gave thanks.


REFLECTION

At the time of the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.], the quarreling clerics wrote accusations one against the other and presented them to the emperor. Emperor Constantine received all of these accusations and, not opening them, burned them over a lit candle. To the amazement of those around him, the emperor said: "If I saw with my own eyes a bishop, a priest or a monk in a sinful act, I would cover him with my cloak, so that no one would ever see his sin." Thus, this great Christian emperor embarrassed the scandalmongers and sealed their mouths. Our Faith prohibits us from being spies of the sins of others and stresses that we be merciless judges of our own sins. The sick person in the hospital is concerned with his own particular malady, so that he has neither the will nor the time to question others who are ill or to mock their illness. Are we not all in this world as patients in a hospital? Does not our own common sense emphasize that we look at our own illness and not at another's? Let no one think that he will be cured of his illness in the other world. It is this world that is the hospital and place for healing; in the next world there is no hospital; there is either a palace or a prison.


CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How by His Resurrection, He justified the faith and hope of mankind in immortality;

2. How by His Resurrection, He destroyed the fear of death in the faithful.

HOMILY

on the power of God in the weakness of men

"For when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

There are no contradictions in Holy Scripture, and even in these words there is no contradiction, even though it sounds like there is. The physical is governed by sound, while the spiritual is governed by meaning. For physical man, there are contradictions everywhere, for he is afraid of obstacles and flees from a shadow if it seems to be an obstacle for him. The spiritual man is like a knight who likes to overcome obstacles. For the spiritual man, the entire science of salvation is hidden in these words of Scripture.

For when I am weak, then am I strong. That is, when I am cognizant of my nothingness and the omnipotence of God, then I am strong. When I know that I, of myself alone, cannot do any good either for myself or for others, and when I totally entrust myself to the power and mercy of God, then I am strong. When I sense that I am as a drowning person in this world, and that I am not in a position to grasp the extended hand of God and to hold onto it by my own strength, but instead cry out to God that He take hold of my hand and pull me out of the depths of the sinful abyss, then I am strong. When I see that I am weak and that I am a hollow reed amidst the tempest of winds and floods--a reed which God is able to fill with His almighty grace--and when I pray with faith for God's grace, then I am strong.

O my weak brethren, let us entrust ourselves to the power of God, that we, in our nothingness, may be strong. Relying on man, you are weak, but relying on God, you are strong. Adhere to God, and all the power of God will be with you. Confess your weaknesses before God, and God will send you His all-powerful grace. This is confirmed for you by the Apostle through his example and through his experience: For when I am weak, then am I strong. In truth, there is no contradiction in Holy Scripture. The physical man speaks about contradiction in terms of the sound of the words, but the spiritual man enters into the meaning, and shatters the illusion of contradiction through experience.

O resurrected Lord, have mercy on our weakness and fill us with Thine omnipotent grace.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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