Prologue of Ohrid

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April 26

1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR BASIL, BISHOP OF AMASEA

Licinius, brother-in-law of Constantine, to whose sister he was married, pretended to be a Christian before the great emperor. When he received authority from the emperor to govern the entire East, he began, at first secretly and later openly, to persecute the Christians and to strengthen idolatry. His wife grieved much over this, but she was unable to dissuade her husband from this shamefulness. Giving himself over to idolatry, Licinius also gave himself up to all the passions without restraint but, most of all, to brutality toward women. Under the assault of these unclean passions, Licinius wanted to defile the virgin Glaphyra, who was in the service of the Empress. Glaphyra complained to the empress, and the empress secretly sent her away from the imperial court of Nicomedia to the Province of Pontus. The virgin Glaphyra arrived at the town of Amasea and there was cordially received by Bishop Basil and other Christians. Glaphyra was elated that God had saved her virginity, and, concerning this, she wrote to the empress. The empress also rejoiced and she forwarded money to the church in Amasea. However, a letter of Glaphyra's, which was directed to the empress, fell into the hands of the emperor's eunuch, who showed it to Emperor Licinius. The emperor, learning where Glaphyra was staying, immediately ordered that she and the bishop be brought back to Nicomedia. In the meantime Glaphyra died, and the soldiers brought Basil back to Nicomedia, alone and bound. Following tortures and imprisonment, this blessed man was beheaded and thrown into the sea, in the year 322 A.D. Through a vision of an angel of God, his clergy found his body near the town of Sinope. They removed his body from the water with the aid of a fisherman's net and translated it to Amasea, where they honorably buried it in the church which he, by his efforts, had built. The Emperor Constantine raised up an army against Licinius, defeated him, captured him, and banished him into exile to Gaul where he ended his God-hating life.

2. SAINT JANIĆIJE OF DEVIČ

Janićije was a Serb from Zeta. As a young man he was overwhelmed with love for Christ. He left his home and family and withdrew to the region of Ibar at the mouth of the Black River, into a narrow cave, in which, according to tradition, St. Peter of Koriš had lived a life of asceticism before him. When his fame began to spread among the people, he fled to Drenica and hid in the thick forest of Devič. Here St. Janićije spent years in solitude, in silence and in prayer. According to tradition, the Serbian Prince George Branković brought his mentally ill daughter to him, and the saint healed her. In gratitude, George built a monastery on this spot, known today by the name of Devič. The holy and wonder-working relics of Janićije repose there. In this monastery, more recently, there lived in asceticism a famous and God-pleasing hermitess, the nun Euphemia, better known in the area of Kosovo by the name "Blessed Stojna." She died in the Lord in the year 1895 A.D.

3. SAINT STEPHEN THE BISHOP OF PERM

Stephen was a Russian by birth. From an early age he was devoted to prayer and divine contemplation. As a young man, Stephen went to Rostov, where he was tonsured a monk in the monastery of St. Gregory the Theologian. Learning about the Land of Perm, which was completely overrun with the weeds of heathenism, Stephen desired to become a missionary in this land.

He immediately dedicated himself to the studying of the language of the Perms, and when he had mastered the language, he composed an alphabet and translated the ecclesiastical books into that language. With the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow, Stephen, as a presbyter, started out on his apostolic mission and with apostolic zeal began to preach the Gospel in this dense darkness of the heathenism of Perm. Having baptized a few souls, he endeavored to build a church in Perm dedicated to the Holy Annunciation. When the Church of God flourished in Perm, he was consecrated as its bishop. Undergoing every hardship, affliction, maliciousness and humiliation, he succeeded in dispelling the darkness among the heathens of Perm and in illuminating them with the Light of Christ. In his old age he returned to Moscow once more, and there he ended his earthly life and took up his habitation with the Lord in the year 1396 AD.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT BASIL OF AMASEA

In a dungeon Basil languishes

For the honorable Cross and the Faith of Christ.

Psalms he chants; God he gives thanks,

That for righteousness' sake He has granted him suffering.

The Emperor's Tribune to Basil speaks:

"Listen, old man, the Emperor Licinius, the protector of the gods,

Orders that you, sacrifice to the idols, offer,

And that Christ, the man, you dismiss.

If you do not, an evil death awaits you."

Basil shines with joy,

And to the Tribune he wonderfully responds:

"Go tell your nefarious emperor:

Even if your entire kingdom to me you gave,

But took away my resurrected Christ,

You would take more than you gave.

Traitor to Christ the Savior,

Me, a traitor also, do you want to make?

O giver-of-death, of death I am not afraid;

Of Christ the Life-Giver, I am a servant."

REFLECTION

The saints are alive and their God-given power does not diminish in time. St. Janićije of Devič works miracles today, even as he did during his life on earth, some five-hundred years ago. A certain Miloš from Hercegovina prepared to travel to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the holy shrines. As he was about to depart on his way, St. Janićije appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. "Rather than go to Jerusalem, it would be better for you to go to Devič," explained the saint, "and there, to restore my church and put it in order." Miloš obeyed the saint and went to the neglected Devič, cleaned it, put it in order, and made it possible to sing praises to God there again. At Devič, Miloš was tonsured a monk and remained there until the end of his life. During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer with a detachment of soldiers came to Devič. The officer ushered Damaskin, the abbot of the monastery, before the reliquary of St. Janićije and asked him what was under the slab? "Holy things," replied the abbot. "What kind of holy things?" the officer laughed. "You have something hidden under there." He then ordered the soldiers to strike the slab with pick axes and to overturn it. While this was being done, the officer was seized with pain in his abdomen. He lay down in bed and, before evening of the same day, he died. The frightened soldiers left their work undone and fled the monastery.

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:

1. How His Resurrection is a great light, which dispels the darkness of our doubt, ignorance and despair concerning life after death;

2. How His Resurrection is a great light which illuminates the path on which we must travel in this world in order to arrive at the other world.

HOMILY

About Christ as the affirmation of all good

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not "yes" and "no," but "yes" has been in him" (2 Corinthians 1:19).

Christ is not light and darkness, but only light. Christ is not truth and falsehood, but only truth. Nor is Christ life and death; He is only life. Nor is He strength and weakness; He is only strength. Nor is He love and hate; He is only love. He is the "yes" for every good, and in Him there is no vacillating between "yes" and "no." His teaching is all-pure, all-true, all-light and all-loving toward mankind. His path is accurately hewn and He does not permit swerving either to the left or to the right. Not even a shadow of sin can pass over His teaching or find a place on His path. His Person is the incarnation of goodness; all that is good is in Him, and all that is sinful, false, malicious and unjust is outside of Him.

Such is the teaching, such is the path, and such is the Person of Christ that the apostles of God preached: a teaching that is the affirmation of good and the revelation of the infinite treasury of good; a path which leads to the realization and the eternal enjoyment of that good; a Person Who in Himself contains all good and complete affirmation of good.

Brethren, let us also adhere to this unique Person, this unique path, and this unique teaching.

Almighty Lord, help us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that our insignificant life on earth will become an affirmation of good and not a denial of good.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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