Prologue of Ohrid


February 22


During the reign of Emperor Maximian there was a great persecution of Christians. In the Syrian town of Apamea, Maurice was commander of the local army. The pagans reported him to the emperor as being a Christian and a sower of the Christian Faith among the soldiers. The emperor himself came and conducted an investigation. Along with Maurice, seventy Christian soldiers were also brought before the emperor, among whom was Photinus, the son of Maurice. Neither the emperor's flattery nor his threats could sway these heroes. To the threats of the emperor, they replied: "O Emperor, there is no fear in the powerful and sound souls of those who love the Lord!" When the emperor ordered that their military belts and garments be removed, they said to him: "Our God will clothe us with incorruptible garments and belts, and with eternal glory!" When the emperor rebuked them because they despised the military honor he had given them, they replied: "Your honor is without honor, for you have forgotten God, Who gave you imperial power!" Then the emperor commanded the executioner to behead Maurice's son, Photinus, before his father's eyes, in order to instill fear in the father and the others. But Maurice said: "You have fulfilled our wish, O torturer, and have sent Photinus, the soldier of Christ, before us." Then the emperor sentenced them to a most inhuman death: they were brought to a marshy place, stripped, bound to trees and rubbed with honey, in order to be bitten by mosquitoes, wasps and hornets. After ten days in the most painful sufferings, they gave up their souls to God and departed to rejoice eternally with the holy angels in heaven. Christians secretly removed their bodies and honorably buried them. These courageous soldiers of Christ suffered in about the year 305 A.D.


During the reign of Emperor Arcadius, the relics of many martyrs of Christ were unearthed, among whom was the Apostle Andronicus and his helper Junia: Great Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me (Romans 16:7). These relics were discovered through a revelation from God to a cleric, Nicholas Calligraphus. "Their names are known only to God, Who has written their names in the Book of Life in the heavens." In the twelfth century, Emperor Andronicus I built a beautiful church over the relics of the Apostle Andronicus.


Both Thalassius and Limnaeus were Syrian ascetics. One of their particular ascetic labors was silence. Following the death of St. Thalassius in 440 A.D., Limnaeus joined St. Maron (February 14) and with him labored in asceticism on top of a mountain under the open sky.


Papius was a disciple of the holy apostles and a patristic author. From Papius we have testimony concerning the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, the four Marys, and the brothers of the Lord, as well as an incomplete but preserved manuscript, An Interpretation of the Words of our Lord.



Of noble root--of noble vine,

The young Photinus: to God, a sacrifice, beautiful and well-pleasing.

The father was a witness as they beheaded his son.

As streams of red blood poured out,

The heart of Maurice the courageous father, was overcome;

Neither did he scream, nor sorrow, nor shed a tear.


"Dear God, Thou didst give him to me," he said.

"O Good One, for all of Thy love what better gift could I give?

Of death, make me worthy, as Thou didst Photinus,

Thou, Who for us didst sacrifice Thine only Son!"

Maurice, of the Heavenly Kingdom, a glorious soldier,

Did not receive a gift from earthly rulers,

But he encouraged his company, the proud legion,

Before the soulless idols not to bow.

His company he led to death and through death to life.

To express this rare beauty, the tongue is too weak.

"On our flesh, let the wasps and hornets feed;

Nevertheless, O soldiers, we are not conquered.

Our blood, let the mosquitoes suck; let them be fed.

On the other side, O my brothers, we shall soon be,

Where all of those who fought for the Cross reign.

To Christ God we shall say: 'We did not betray Thee!'"



Concerning uninterrupted abiding with God, St. Anthony teaches: "Let your soul abide with the Lord at all times, and let your body abide on earth like a statue. Always stand upright before the face of the Lord. Let the fear of God remain constantly before your eyes, as well as the remembrance of death and the repulsion of everything worldly. Die every day that you may live, for whoever fears God will live forever. Be constantly vigilant, so as not to fall into laziness and idleness. Abhor all that is worldly and distance yourself from it, or else it will distance you from God. Abhor all that will bring ruin to your soul. Do not stray from God for the sake of transient things. Do not take the example of one weaker than yourself, but emulate the one who is more perfect.  Attend to the example of those who have loved the Lord with all their hearts and have done good works. Before all else, continually pour out prayer, give thanks to God for all that befalls you. If you fulfill all that is commanded, you will receive the inheritance that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man (1 Corinthians 2:9)."


Contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with Martha and Mary:

1. How both sisters cordially received the Lord and desired to hear His word;

2. How Mary was more concerned about spiritual things, and Martha about the material reception of the Divine Guest;

3. How the Lord rejoiced more in feeding someone with spiritual nourishment than in being fed Himself with material nourishment.


on fools, wiser than the world

"We are fools for Christ's sake" (1 Corinthians 4:10).

Thus speaks the great Apostle Paul. He was at first guided by worldly wisdom, which is against Christ, until he recognized the falsehood and decay of this world's wisdom, and the light and stability of Christ's wisdom. Hence the holy apostle did not become angry with the world because they called him a fool for Christ's sake. In defiance of the world, he did not hesitate to be called by this name.

We find no value in how the world regards or designates us. However, it is important to us--extremely important--how the holy angels in heaven regard and designate us when we meet them after death. This is of crucial importance and all else is nothing.

Either we are fools to the world because of Christ or we are fools to Christ because of the world. Oh, how short-lived is the sound of a word from the world! Even if the world calls us fools, the world will die and its word will die! What then is the value of its word? But if the heavenly, immortal ones call us fools, this will not die, but will stay with us as eternal condemnation.

If one does not believe in the Living God, or in eternal life, or in the Incarnation of the Lord Christ, or in Christ's Resurrection, or in the truth of the Gospel, or in God's eternal mercy and justice--is it any wonder that he considers one who does believe in all of this to be a fool?

Oh, may every one of us who is baptized with the sign of the Cross not only find it easy to endure but receive with satisfaction the name "fool" for Christ's sake! Let us rejoice and be glad if the non-believers call us such, for that means that we are close to Christ and far from the non-believers. Let us rejoice and be glad, and repeat with a powerful echo in the ears of the world: Yes, yes, indeed we are fools for Christ's sake!

O Lord Most-wise, strengthen us by Thy power, that we not fear the unbelieving world when they lash us with whips or when they insult us with words for Thy sake.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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