Prologue of Ohrid

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February 26

1. SAINT PORPHYRIUS, BISHOP OF GAZA

This great archpastor was born of wealthy parents in Thessalonica. From his youth until age twenty-five, Porphyrius remained in his birthplace. Afterward he left his parents and worldly life and withdrew to the wilderness of Egypt. Under the guidance of an experienced spiritual father, the young Porphyrius was tonsured a monk and remained there for five years. He then visited the Holy Land in the company of the monk Mark, his faithful companion. In the proximity of Jerusalem he lived as an ascetic in a cave, again for five years. But then Porphyrius's legs became weak, and he was unable to walk. Nevertheless, crawling on his knees, he continually attended the divine services. One night the Lord appeared to him in a vision and cured the infirmity in his legs, and he became completely whole. When he was elected Bishop of Gaza, Porphyrius accepted this obligation with a heavy heart. In Gaza he found only 280 Christians. All the other inhabitants were fanatical idolaters. Only by his great faith and patience did Porphyrius succeed in converting the inhabitants of Gaza to the Christian Faith. He personally traveled to Constantinople to see Emperor Arcadius and Patriarch John Chrysostom, to seek their support in this unequal struggle with the idolaters. He received the desired support. The idolatrous temples were closed and the idols destroyed; then he built a beautiful church with thirty marble columns. Empress Eudocia especially assisted in the building of this church. Porphyrius lived long enough to see the entire town of Gaza converted to the Christian Faith, but only after many struggles, sufferings and prayerful tears to God. He died peacefully in the year 421 A.D. He was a miracle-worker both during his life and after his death. Even today, his relics repose in Gaza.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR JOHN KALPHA [THE BUILDER]

This saint was born in Galata in Constantinople. By occupation he was an architect, a builder (Kalpha means "architect"). By his ardent confession of the Christian Faith, John offended the Turks, who pressured him to become a Moslem. "I will not deny my Sweet Jesus Christ," John bravely replied. "In Him do I believe; Him do I serve; Him do I confess." Following severe tortures, the Turks beheaded him on February 26, 1575 A.D. in Constantinople. He suffered honorably for his beloved Christ and took up his habitation in the mansions of the Lord.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT PORPHYRIUS THE PARALYTIC

The monk Mark asks Porphyrius:

"You were a paralytic, holy father;

On your knees, to church, you crawled,

You held my hand in yours.

So it was yesterday, but today all is different!

Last night you were ill, and behold, you awoke healthy.

Who healed you so suddenly?

Tell me the name of your rare physician."

To Mark, Porphyrius replied:

"My Creator is my Healer.

Last night on Golgotha, I fell asleep,

Completely overpowered by severe pain.

As though in reality, I saw clearly in a dream

My Lord hanging on the Cross,

And on the other cross, the thief.

As I saw, so I cried out!

'O God and Lord, remember me,

In Thy Kingdom, remember me!'

The Good Lord said to the thief:

'Go down and heal his body,

As I healed your soul.'

Quickly, the thief descended the cross,

Embraced me, kissed me, and raised me up,

Saying: 'Draw near to our Savior!'

At that moment, the Lord also descended the Cross,

Lifted the Cross and placed it on me.

'Receive the Holy Wood,' He said,

'Carry it for the sake of eternal salvation.'

As soon as I grabbed the Cross with my hands,

Immediately I stood and was made whole.

Glory be to God my Creator,

Glory be to Christ my Savior!"

REFLECTION

St. John Chrysostom writes the following against those who create a disturbance in church and depart therefrom church before the completion of the divine services: "Some do not approach Holy Communion with trembling but with commotion, shoving one another, burning with anger, hollering, scolding, pushing their neighbor and being full of disturbance. I have often spoken about this, and will not cease to speak. Do you not see what good order prevails at the pagan Olympic games, when the Master of Ceremonies passes through the arena with a wreath on his head, dressed in a lengthy garment, holding a staff in his hand, and the Crier declares that there be silence and order? Is it not obscene that there, where the devil reigns, there is such silence, and here, where Christ invites us to Himself, there is such an uproar? Silence in the arena, and an uproar in the church! Calm on the sea, and a tempest in the harbor! When you are invited to a meal, you must not leave before the others, even if you have finished before them. Yet here, while the awesome Mysteries of Christ are being celebrated, while the priestly functions still continue, you leave in the middle and exit? How can this be forgiven? How can this be justified? Judas, after receiving Communion at the Last Supper that final night, departed quickly while the others remained at the table. Behold, whose example do they follow who hurry to depart before the final blessing? (Homily on the Feast of Theophany).

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the Lord Jesus in the boat with His disciples (Matthew 8:24).

1. How a tempest arose while the Lord slept;

2. How the frightened disciples woke Him and sought His help;

3. How the Lord rebuked the disciples because of their little faith, and calmed the sea and the winds;

4. How I need not be afraid of any tempest in life if I keep the Lord in my heart as at the rudder of a boat. (The body--the boat; the heart--the rudder).

HOMILY

on internal charity

"But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you" (Luke 11:41).

External cleanliness becomes a man. But that is a lesser cleanliness. Internal cleanliness is incomparably more important than external cleanliness. That is a greater cleanliness. A dish can be used only if it is washed and clean on the inside, even though the outside is dark and sooty. If a glass is dirty on the inside, its external cleanliness will never attract anyone to drink from it. If a bowl is dark and ashy on the inside, who will dare to eat from it? In the world there are many more teachers and many examples of external cleanliness than there are of internal cleanliness. For it is easier to teach and demonstrate external cleanliness than internal.

Behold, brethren, how the Teacher and Model of great cleanliness sets this great cleanliness in dependence on internal almsgiving. Almsgiving that is performed from the heart purifies a man's heart. Almsgiving that is performed from the soul cleanses a man's soul. Almsgiving that is performed from the entire mind cleanses a man's mind. In a word, internal almsgiving cleanses the entire man. If almsgiving is only from the hand, it does not cleanse the hand, much less the heart, soul and mind. Almsgiving from the hand is indispensable, but it cleanses the giver only when the heart moves the hand to almsgiving. Besides almsgiving from the hand, there exist other types of almsgiving. Prayer for people is internal almsgiving, as is sorrow for human pain and rejoicing for the joy of others. This is almsgiving which proceeds from the heart and creates cleanliness in the heart, soul and mind.

O All-pure Lord, help us, so that with true almsgiving we may acquire great cleanliness.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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