Prologue of Ohrid


May 8


The feast day of this great apostle and evangelist is celebrated on September 26. This day (May 8) commemorates the miracle which occurred at his grave. When John was over one hundred years old, he took seven of his disciples, went outside the town of Ephesus, and ordered them to dig a grave in the form of a cross. Then the elder went down alive into this grave and was buried. Later on, when the faithful opened John's grave, they did not find his body. On May 8 of every year, dust  rises up from his grave, by which the sick are healed of various diseases.


This glorious saint was born of a patrician family in Rome. He was well educated in the secular sciences and philosophy as well as in spiritual wisdom. Abandoning all the vanity of the world, he dedicated himself to the service of the Church and was a deacon in a large church in Rome. Unmarried, withdrawn, quiet and devout, Arsenius thought to live that way his entire life. But the Providence of God directed his path in life in another way. Emperor Theodosius took him as a tutor and teacher for his sons Arcadius and Honorius, and installed him as a senator, surrounding him with great wealth, honors and luxury. But all of this burdened Arsenius' heart, rather than pleasing him. It happened once that Arcadius committed a wrong, and for that Arsenius punished him. The offended Arcadius conceived a terrible plan for revenge against his teacher. When Arsenius found out, he changed into the clothes of a beggar, left for the seashore, boarded a boat and sailed to Egypt. When he arrived at the renowned Scete, he became a disciple of the glorious John Colobus [The Dwarf] and dedicated himself to a life of asceticism. He considered himself dead, and when someone informed him that a wealthy relative died and willed his entire estate to him, Arsenius replied: "But I died before him, how is it then that I could be his heir?" Enclosed in a hermit's cell as in a tomb, through the entire day, he wove baskets of palm leaves, and at night he prayed to God. He avoided men and all conversations with them. Only on feast days did he leave his cell and attend church to receive Holy Communion. In order not to become lazy, he often asked himself the question: "Arsenius, why did you come to the wilderness?" He remained in the wilderness for fifty-five years as a "desert dweller" and for that entire time was a model to the monks and a glory to monastics in general. In all, Arsenius lived one hundred years and died peacefully in the year 448 A.D. after prolonged labor and voluntarily imposing hardships upon himself.  He took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ the Lord, Whom he loved with all his heart, all his mind and all his soul.


Emilia was the mother of Saint Basil the Great. In her youth she desired to remain a virgin for life but was forced into marriage. Emilia gave birth to nine children and inspired them with the Spirit of Christ to such an extent that five of them became Christian saints: Basil the Great; Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa; Peter, Bishop of Sebaste; Macrina and Theosevia. In her old age Emilia established a convent where she lived with her daughter Macrina. There she died in the Lord on May 8, 375 A.D.


Arsenius was a monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He never afforded himself any rest but continually labored. He ate food only once a day, after the setting of the sun. He lived a life of asceticism and died in the fourteenth century.


Glorious Arsenius, whom the world glorified,

Fleeing from glory, to himself he said:

"To men and to the world, consider yourself dead.

Neither wise nor foolish words, do not speak.

For a word, at times, I have repented;

For silence I have never repented.

If my heart, to God I do not bind,

To shake off the passionate life, I am not able.

If my thoughts glorify God only,

External passions will leave me.

Your time, fill with prayer and labor;

Sleep even less and labor all the more.

Arsenius the sinful, why do you stop?

Why to the wilderness did you come, I ask?

Not for the sake of idleness, but for the salvation of the soul;

Not for the sake of sleep, but for the sake of repentance.

Heal yourself quickly, and enliven the soul:

Lord have mercy! Forgive and have mercy!


A monk complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he felt neither the power of the words he read nor gentleness in his heart. To that the great saint replied to him: "My child, just read! I heard that when snake-charmers cast a spell upon the serpents, these sorcerers utter words which they themselves do not understand, but the serpents, hearing the words spoken, sense their power and become tamed. An so it is with us, when the words of Holy Scripture are continually on our lips, although we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit." My child, just read! The Holy Spirit, Who, through inspired men, wrote these divine words, will hear, will understand and will hasten to your assistance. Likewise, the demons will hear and understand, and will flee from you. That is: He to Whom you are calling for help will understand, and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand. And both goals will be achieved.


To contemplate the descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:

1. How there appeared fiery tongues over the apostles, one on each of them;

2. How the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in various tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance.


About evil as the fruit of the thoughts of men

"Hear, O earth: behold I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened to my words, nor to my law, but rejected it" (Jeremiah 6:19).

Brethren, do you see where evil grows and where it ripens? Not in the bosom of God, but in the thoughts of men. Evil is sown in the thoughts of men by demonic powers or by the passions of the flesh. Evil grows in the thoughts of men, spreads and multiplies itself, blossoms and bears leaves, and finally shows fruit. God is prompt to warn men to break from their evil thoughts so that evil will not ripen in their souls and bring forth its bitter and deadly fruit. God  was prompt to warn Cain, but he did not want to heed the warning and permitted evil thoughts against his brother to bring forth evil fruit; fracticide.

What are the thoughts of evil? All those thoughts that are contrary to the Law of God and the word of God. Evil thoughts are the self-willed law of man, which man prescribes for himself in spite of and contrary to the Law of God. Therefore, if a man has resolutely decided to adhere to the Law of God, then evil thoughts are as weak as shadows, which quickly appear but quickly disappear in the same way. Then a man is lord over his thoughts, for he feels God as the Lord over himself. Then his law is the Law of God, and the evil thoughts of men are nothing.

Behold, I will bring evil upon this people, said the Lord. What kind of evil? The fruit of their thoughts. That is: I will permit them only to reap that which they sowed and nurtured, for evil is neither My seed nor My harvest. The evil that I will permit upon lawless men is the fruit of their own thoughts. According to their thoughts, they should have estimated what kind of evil would befall them, as a sower estimates, according to his seeds, what he will harvest.

O Lord, meek and guileless, save us from our own evil, which we alone have nurtured in ourselves. We pray to You: remove the evil fruit of evil crops, and help us to pluck out the evil seed from our souls.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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