Prologue of Ohrid


January 28


Ephraim was born in Syria of poor parents during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. He spent his youth rather tempestuously, but suddenly a change took place in his soul, and he began to burn with love for the Lord Jesus. Ephraim was a disciple of St. James Nisibis (January 13). Due to the great grace of God, wisdom flowed from his tongue like a stream of honey, and ceaseless tears flowed from his eyes. Industrious as a bee, Ephraim continually wrote books, orally taught the monks in the monastery and the people in the town of Edessa, and dedicated himself to prayer and contemplation. Numerous are his books and beautiful are his prayers, the most famous of which is his prayer recited during the season of Great Lent: "O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition and idle talking give me not; but rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love bestow upon me, Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen."  When they wanted to appoint him a bishop by force, he pretended to be insane and began to race through the city of Edessa, dragging his garment behind him. Seeing this, the people left him in peace. Ephraim was a contemporary and friend of St. Basil the Great. St. Ephraim is especially considered to be the apostle of repentance. Even today, his works soften many hearts hardened by sin and return them to Christ. He reposed in extreme old age in the year 378 A.D.


Isaac was born in Nineveh, and in his youth he lived an ascetic life in the Monastery of Mar [Saint] Matthew, in the proximity of Nineveh. When Isaac became known because of the sanctity of his life and his many miracles, he was elected Bishop of Nineveh and was forced to accept that rank. After only five months, however, he left the bishopric and secretly withdrew into the wilderness, to the Monastery of Rabban-Shabur. He compiled many works, of which about a hundred homilies on the spiritual life and asceticism, written primarily from his personal experience, have come down to us today. He was unequaled as a psychologist and director in the spiritual life. Even such saints as St. Simeon [the New Stylite] of the Wonderful Mountain sought counsel from him. Isaac reposed in extreme old age toward the end of the seventh century.


Palladius was a great ascetic and miracle-worker. Once, the corpse of a certain wealthy man, whom brigands had killed and robbed, was found in front of his cell. Palladius was accused of the crime. When Palladius was brought to court, he prayed to God in order to be spared misfortune, and through prayer he resurrected the dead man. Palladius reposed in the fourth century.


Ephraim reposed in 1096 A.D. He instituted the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas to Bari [Italy], which is celebrated on May 9.



Ephraim's heart burns
With love for Christ,
And Ephraim's tongue speaks
Of the pure wisdom of the Gospel.
Ephraim, the honey-bearing bee;
Ephraim, the fruit-bearing rain!

With repentance, Ephraim breathes;
With tears, he proclaims repentance.
Ephraim writes: "Repent ye!
For God glorifies penitents!"

A wondrous leader and teacher,
Through his life and through his books.
Ephraim, comforter of the sorrowful,
And terrible scourge of the careless.
Toward others, the honey of mercy;
Toward himself, a sword of austerity.

Of Ephraim the Church is proud.
The angels call him brother;
And this becomes Ephraim,
This self-effacing theologian.
The Church glorifies its Syrian,
The glorifier of God's Son.

Ephraim, the honey-bearing bee;
Ephraim, the fruit-bearing rain,
Intercessor, day and night:
Ephraim. the mighty monk!
Toward himself, a sword of austerity,
Toward others, the honey of mercy!
The Church glorifies its Syrian,
The glorifier of God's Son.


The absence of envy among the saints is a startling and wonderful phenomenon. Not only did the saints not allow envy to seize their hearts, but they labored to uplift their companions and to diminish themselves with all their might. On one occasion, when St. Hilarion of Palestine visited St. Anthony in Egypt, St. Anthony exclaimed: "Welcome, O morning star!" To that St. Hilarion replied: "Greetings and health be to you, O shining pillar who sustains the universe!" When they praised St. Macarius as a monk, the saint replied: "Brethren, forgive me. I am not a monk--but I have seen monks!" When some people told St. Sisoes that he had attained the same level of perfection as St. Anthony, Sisoes replied: "If only I had but a single thought as does Anthony, I would be all aflame."


Contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Servant:

1. How He voluntarily descended among men to be a Servant to all;

2. How He never refused anyone a good service which was requested of Him;

3. How even today, as always, He invisibly and silently serves the whole world.


on the Man Whom no one knows

"Who are Thou?" Jesus said to them: "The beginning..." (John 8:25).

The Lord Jesus is the beginning of creation, the beginning of restoration, the beginning of salvation, the beginning of resurrection, and the beginning of immortal glory.

Wherever there is any evil in the world that needs to be uprooted, He is the beginning. Without Him it is impossible. Wherever there is any good that is desired to be done in the world, He is the beginning. Without Him it is impossible. If anyone desires to uproot dissent and malice in a family, in a village, in a town, in the entire world, without Him it is impossible. One must begin with Him. If anyone desires to instill good will, peace, love and unity in a family, in a village, in a town, among the peoples in the entire world, without Him it is impossible. He is the beginning.

Why is it that one cannot uproot evil or sow good without Christ? Because all evil is from sin, and only He can forgive sins. When He (and only He) forgives sin, then sin is plucked out by the root. No manner of good is possible to be sown without Him, because in Him is the treasury of all good--all the seeds of good. He is the only Sower of Good in the field of the world.

The Apostle Paul, who understood all of this better than we, said: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). Without Jesus Christ, who can begin to heal himself of evil, to heal others from evil, to sow good in himself and to sow good in others? No one, truly no one.

Therefore, brethren, if we are determined to uproot evil in ourselves and in others, and in place of evil to sow good in ourselves and in others, let us begin with the Beginning--that is, let us begin with the Conqueror over evil and the Sower of good, with the Lord Jesus Christ.

O Lord Jesus Christ, be Thou to us the Beginning in every struggle against sin and in every good work.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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