Prologue of Ohrid


March 5


He was brought up in the Christian Faith and baptized in the name of the All-holy and Life-giving Trinity by the Archangel Michael himself. Until his death, the archangel of God invisibly watched over him. Conon was illumined and empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that his heart was driven not by anything worldly but only by the spiritual and heavenly. When his parents forced him into marriage, the first evening he took a candle and placed it under a vessel and asked his bride: "Which is better, light or darkness?" She replied: "Light." He then began to talk to her about the Faith of Christ, and about the spiritual life as being far superior and more desirable than the physical. In this he succeeded. Afterward Conon converted his wife and her parents to the Christian Faith. Conon and his wife lived as brother and sister. Shortly thereafter, his wife and parents died, and he withdrew completely from this worldly life and devoted himself totally to prayer, fasting and divine contemplation. He performed great miracles, through which he converted many to Christianity. Among other examples, Conon compelled evil spirits to serve him. During a time of persecution he was captured, tortured and pierced throughout with knives. The sick anointed themselves with his blood, and they were healed. Afterward he lived for two additional years in his town of Isauria, and then presented himself to the Lord. This glorious saint lived and was martyred in the second century.


Conon was born in Nazareth. He was kind and innocent and in all things found favor with God. During the reign of Decius, Conon was persecuted, tortured and martyred for Christ. Through all this, he remained strong in the Faith. He sharply rebuked and criticized the pagan judges because of their foolishness. Nails were driven into his feet and he was tied to the prince's chariot. Then this virtuous and innocent saint was dragged until he was completely exhausted and fell. He prayed for the last time and gave up his soul to God, in the year 251 A.D.


Hesychius was born near Brusa in the eighth century. He then retreated to Mount Maion, which had an evil reputation because of demonic apparitions. There Hesychius built a hut for himself and a chapel dedicated to the Holy Apostle Andrew. He surrounded it with a garden, which he cultivated in order to live by his own labor. By his prayers he performed many miracles. Hesychius prophesied that after his death a convent would be built in that place. A month before his death, he foresaw its day and hour. At midnight on the foreseen day, some men saw his hut shining with an extraordinary light. When they arrived, they found him dead. Hesychius reposed peacefully and was received into the Kingdom of his Lord in the year 790 A.D. He was buried in the Church of St. Andrew. Later Theophylactus, Bishop of Amasea, translated his body to Amasea.


Mark was an ascetic and miracle-worker. In his fortieth year he was tonsured a monk by his teacher, St. John Chrysostom. Mark then spent sixty more years in the wilderness of Nitria in fasting and prayer, and in writing many spiritual works concerning the salvation of souls. He knew all the Holy Scriptures by heart. He was very merciful and kind, and wept much for the misfortunes that had befallen all of God's creation. On one occasion, when weeping over a hyena's blind whelp, he prayed to God and the whelp received its sight. In thanksgiving the mother hyena brought him a sheepskin. The saint forbade the hyena in the future to kill any more sheep belonging to poor people. He received Communion at the hands of angels. His homilies concerning the spiritual law, repentance, sobriety, etc., are ranked among the preeminent literature of the Church. These works were praised by the Patriarch Photius the Great himself.



The angels are our older and superior brothers.

The will of God Most-high is their will.

They are brighter and swifter than light,

Lighter and fresher than the air on the mountain.

In light they are clothed, the light of their Creator--

These tireless laborers of the work of Christ.

They care for men.  Their only concern

Is how to return the prodigal son to God,

How to return their younger brothers from a strange land

To the joyful courts of the Householder.

Michael, Arch-captain, the first among the first:

What Venus is among the stars, he is among the angels.

He hurries to every penitent, to lift him up to God.

No matter how many penitents there are, he reaches them all.

To serve, serve and serve--for him that is joy.

Even in heaven, service to one's neighbor is paramount.

Service which strengthens life and makes a mother jubilant,

Service which adorns with wreaths unfading:

That service for the angels is joy and celebration,

For it is directed to the glory of God and the salvation of men.


Why do some people, well educated and baptized as Christians, fall away from Christianity and give themselves over to philosophy and pedantic theories, pretending that these are truer than Christianity? They do so for two principal reasons: either because of a totally superficial understanding of Christianity or because of sin. A superficial understanding of Christianity rejects it, and sin flees from Christ as does a criminal from the judge. Superficial and sinful Christians were as often enraged and infuriated with Christianity as were the pagans. The superficial and culpable find it is more comfortable for them to bathe in the shallow puddle of human thoughts than in the perilous depths of Christ. For those who sincerely follow Christ, He constantly calls them to a greater and greater depth, as He once said to the Apostle Peter: Launch out into deep (Luke 5:4). St. Mark the Ascetic writes that the Law of God is understood in accordance with the fulfillment of the commandments of God: "Ignorance compels a person to speak in opposition to that which is beneficial, and insolence multiplies vice."


Contemplate the Mystery of Communion as the Mystery of the Perfection of Love:

1. Because, on the part of Christ, it means giving completely of Himself to His faithful;

2. Because of this, Christ is received with faith and trust on the part of the faithful;

3. Because of this, it leads to the joyful, fruitful and saving union of God with man.


on traveling with Christ into the deep

"Launch out into the deep" (Luke 5:4).

This is what our Lord commanded Peter and the rest of the apostles when He had finished speaking. This means that He first gave instructions and then, immediately after, He called them to action. This is also important for us. For as soon as we learn something from the Gospels, we immediately need to go out and implement it. The disciple's works are dear to the Lord--not just the disciple.

Launch out into the deep. From the shallow water along the shore, our Lord spoke to the people who were less enlightened in the mysteries of God's Kingdom, but He summoned the apostles out into the deep. There is less danger in the shallow waters, but the catch is also smaller. In the shallows there are snakes, frogs and other small repulsive water creatures; that is all the danger. In shallow waters there are only small fish; that is the entire catch. But in the greater depths, the danger is also greater. There you have large sea creatures and great storms; that is the danger. But there are also much larger and better fish in enormous quantity; that is the catch. O enlightened one, come therefore into the deep!

Launch out into the deep, mysterious sea of life, but do not proceed without Christ in your boat. By no means. You might spend the entire night of your life not catching anything, as Peter said: We have toiled all the night and have taken nothing (Luke 5:5). Not only that, but you could face far worse if Christ is not in your boat. Perhaps the winds will carry you away and cast you into an abyss. Perhaps the monstrous and enormous beasts of the sea will consume you. The winds, O enlightened one, are your own passions which accompany you unavoidably if you set out into the deep without Christ. The enormous and monstrous beasts of the sea are demons, who can destroy you in the blink of an eye as they destroyed the herd of two thousand (See Mark 5:13).

However, if you are going out with Christ into the deep, do not be afraid of anything, but go joyfully and courageously joined to Christ. You will lay hold of the best catch, and you will fill both boats with it--the physical and the spiritual. You will snare the best catch, O dedicated one, and you will arrive on shore without any dangers, on the shore of the Kingdom of Christ. Nowhere without Christ! Neither in shallow places nor in the deep. In the shallow places you will become vexed by hunger and by many minor annoyances, but in the deep a greater evil will befall you.

O my Almighty Savior, Thou art our Helmsman, our Defense, our Harbor.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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