Prologue of Ohrid

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March 27

1. THE HOLY MARTYR MATRONA

An orphan, Matrona was a servant in the home of a Jew in Thessalonica. The wife of the Jew continually mocked Matrona for her faith in Christ.  She tried to persuade her to deny Christ and attend the synagogue. But the meek Matrona went about her work conscientiously and said nothing to her mistress. In secret she prayed to Christ the Lord. On one occasion the Jewess discovered that Matrona was attending church unbeknownst to her. In anger, she asked her why she did not attend the synagogue rather than the church. To this Matrona replied: "Because God lives in the Christian churches, and He withdraws from the Jewish synagogues." Furious at this bold reply, the Jewess beat Matrona, locked her up in a dark room, and bound her hands. The next day as Matrona was kneeling in prayer and glorifying God, her ropes fell off by the power of God. On two more occasions she was locked up again. In the end she died of starvation. This evil Jewish woman then took the body of the holy maiden and hurled it to the ground from the roof of her home. Christians took the martyr's body and buried it with honor. Bishop Alexander, learning of the many miraculous works of this holy martyr, erected a church over her grave. The evil Jewess received her just punishment: when standing at the same spot from which she had hurled Matrona's body down, she slipped, fell to the pavement, and was smashed to death.

2. THE VENERABLE JOHN THE CLAIRVOYANT

John was a carpenter until his twenty-fifth year and then, driven by an insatiable desire for constant prayer, he withdrew into the wilderness. There he lived until his death at age ninety. He was a corporeal man but lived as an incorporeal being. He discerned the heart of every person who came to him and knew his name, his desires, and his thoughts. He prophesied the outcome of his battles to Emperor Theodosius. He prophesied for generals, monastics, and for all who found it necessary to know what was hidden for them in the darkness of future days. A prince once begged John to receive his wife, who especially wanted to meet him. The saint refused to satisfy idle curiousity but appeared to the wife of the prince in a dream, showing her his appearance. When the woman described her vision to her husband, he confirmed that, indeed, this was the likeness of the saint. To every visitor, he taught humility as the basis of the virtues, always citing examples from life of how pride has brought many exalted men down to the dust and led them into serious sins. He endured many assaults of evil spirits. On one occasion, Satan appeared to him with a myriad of demons under the guise of shining angels. They pressured him to worship Satan, whom they represented as Christ. But John answered wisely, "I bow down and worship my King, Jesus Christ, everyday. If that were He, He would not demand me to do so now, especially since I already worship Him." Following these words, the evil powers vanished like smoke. He reposed peacefully, kneeling in prayer, in his ninetieth year.

3. THE VENERABLE PAPHNUTIUS

Paphnutius was a disciple of St. Anthony the Great. By his sanctity of life, Paphnutius converted many sinners to the path of repentance, such as St. Thais, who is commemorated on October 8. Paphnutius resembled an incorporeal angel more than a man. He died near the end of the fourth century.

HYMN OF PRAISE

VENERABLE JOHN THE CLAIRVOYANT ON HUMILITY

John the Clairvoyant, teacher of humility,

Spoke of humility with tears of joy:

"O beloved children, right-believing children,

The humbler you are, the more dear to God.

Asceticism without humility helps not at all;

The arrogant one offers his soul to the devil.

If you empty your soul of self,

The Living God will fill you.

Who is more humble than God Himself?

Nowhere does He emphasize His precedence.

In secret, without clamor, He directs the world,

Therefore the feeble-minded think He does not even exist.

If the wind would not blow, or shriek, or howl,

The feeble-minded would also deny it exists!

He who has humility reproves himself;

He easily succeeds in every virtue.

Humility is nothing more than poverty of spirit;

That is the Savior's blessed teaching:

Have no hope in yourself,

And place all your hope in God.

That is holy humility. Whoever violates it

Prepares the darkest destruction for his soul.

The thoughts of all the saints are strict in this:

Without great humility, no one is saved!

Joyous is the humble one, for God rules with him.

O beloved children, being humble is akin to being saved!"


REFLECTION

"There is no cleanness in him who thinks evil," says St. Simeon the New Theologian; and he further adds: "How can there be a pure heart in one who soils it with impure thoughts as a mirror is darkened by dust?" Do you see, then, the inaccessible height at which Christianity stands above all other faiths and worldly sophistries? He who but thinks about evil, even though he does not commit any evil, is at fault before God and his own soul. For he offends God and loses his soul. To be a Christian, in the proper sense, means to invest enormous effort on cleansing evil thoughts from one's heart and mind. What kind of effort? There exists a vast amount of teaching about this--which in our days has become almost completely locked away, even from Christians--and an enormous wealth of actual experience on the part of holy men and women who justified that teaching. To cleanse oneself from wicked and impure thoughts, the root of all evil, was the goal of all the great ascetics, hermits and hesychasts (silentaries).


CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:

1. How He Who raised the dead hung on the Cross, a lifeless body;

2. How He died for our sake, so that we would have more abundant life, and more abundant truth about immortal life.

HOMILY

on Christians as kings and priests

"And hast made us unto our God kings and priests" (Revelation 5:10).

The Lord Jesus wants to make all men like unto Himself. As the Son of God, He wants all men to become the adopted sons of God. As a King, He wants them to rule with Him. As a Priest, He desires that all should be fellow priests with Him; as Almighty, that all should share in His strength; as Eternal, that all should share in His immortality; as Holy, that all should share in His holiness; and as the Resurrected One, that all should be the children of the Resurrection. This the Lord desired, and that is why He descended to earth: to separate us from the animals, to elevate us above the life of the animals, and to give us dignity over His visible creation, a dignity which Adam had in Paradise before the Fall.

Because of this, His love for mankind and His plan for salvation for all people, the Lord was crucified on the Cross by the Jewish elders. And He reaps the thorns of ingratitude and misunderstanding countless times, even from us Christians today. We show ourselves to be ungrateful and unreasonable whenever we undermine and trample His commandments. By his sins, every sinner plaits a new wreath of thorns and places it on His sacred head. When did He ever offend us, that we should do this to Him? When did He ever think evil about any one of us, that we should return Him evil? He lowered Himself into our foetid pit, where we have become accustomed to live with snakes and scorpions, and pulled us up to the heights, to light and purity in the Kingdom. He wants to make us kings and priests, but we drive away His saving hand and return to the pit with snakes and scorpions.

O brethren, this humiliation of Him and destruction of ourselves is enough and more than enough! Let us firmly grasp the hand of our Savior and follow Him. He desires good for us. He does good for us. For our good, He suffered. He is our One and Only Friend, Who does not change.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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