Prologue of Ohrid

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May 23

1. ST. MICHAEL, BISHOP OF SYNNADA

Michael, a holy and learned hierarch, dedicated himself to the service of Christ from early childhood. Together with St. Theophylact of Nicomedia, he lived a life of asceticism. At one time during a period of drought, these two saints, by their prayers, brought forth abundant rain on the earth. Because of his ascetical and chaste life from his early youth, he was chosen and consecrated bishop of Synnada by Patriarch Tarasius. He participated in the Seventh Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 787 A.D.]. At the request of the emperor, he went to Caliph Harun-al-Rashid to conduct negotiations for peace. During the reign of the nefarious Leo the Armenian, Michael was removed from his episcopal throne because of his veneration of icons and was banished into exile. There, in misery and poverty but in faithfulness to Orthodoxy, he died in the year 818 A.D. and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ the King.

2. THE VENERABLE MARTYR MICHAEL

After the death of his parents, Michael distributed all of his goods to the poor and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Following that, he entered the monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified, where he was tonsured a monk. Michael was quite young and handsome, but from much fasting he appeared withered and pale. At that time, the Arabs ruled Jerusalem. One day Michael was sent by his spiritual father to the city to sell his handiworks. He was met on the streets by a eunuch of the Arabian queen, who brought him to the queen to display his handiwork. When the queen saw this handsome monk she became inflamed with unclean passion and proposed carnal sin to the monk, as once did the wife of Potiphar to the chaste Joseph. When Michael rejected the impure offer and began to flee, the angry queen ordered that he be beaten with canes and brought before the king with the charge that he had blasphemed the faith of Muhammad. The king proposed that Michael embrace the Islamic faith, but he refused. He was then given a potent poison to drink. Michael drank the poison but nothing happened to him. Then the king ordered that Michael be beheaded in the center of Jerusalem. Monks discovered his body and removed it to the Monastery of St. Sabas, where they honorably buried it. St. Michael suffered for Christ and was glorified in the ninth century.

3. THE VENERABLE FEMALE EUPHROSYNE, PRINCESS OF POLOTSK

Euphrosyne was the daughter of Prince Vseslav of Polotsk. When her parents wanted to betroth her, she fled to a convent and was tonsured a nun. An angel of the Lord appeared to her three times and revealed to her where she must establish a new convent for virgins. She even attracted her sister Eudocia to the monastic life, together with many other maidens from the ranks of the aristocracy. Her cousin, Zvenislava, by birth Princess of Borisov, brought all of her riches, clothes and precious stones and said: "All the beauty of this world I consider vanity, and these adornments prepared for my marriage I give to the Church of the Savior. And I, myself, wish to be betrothed to Him in a spiritual marriage and place my head beneath His good and easy yoke." Euphrosyne tonsured her a nun and gave her the name Eupraxia. In her old age, Euphrosyne desired to die in Jerusalem, and for this she prayed to God. God heard her prayers and, indeed, when she visited Jerusalem she died there. Euphrosyne was buried in the Monastery of St. Theodosius on May 23, 1173 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE VENERABLE MARTYR MICHAEL

The evil empress accused Michael

That he, the Islamic faith, berated.

To the monk, a strange proposal, the emperor extended:

That, as a son, he would adopt him,

If only, the True Faith he would abandon

And, as a Muslim, shave his head.

The monk, with prayer, warmed his heart

And in the Sultan's face, he laughed:

" Do you think, O Emperor, that you are stronger than I?

Death, for me, a new life means.

For the world, my soul cares not.

Behold, three things to you, I propose:

Either, with the Cross of true believers be baptized,

Or with the bloodthirsty sword, slay me,

Or to my spiritual father, release me,

That to my monastery, I may return."

With fury, the king was filled:

With the flash of a sword, the head of the saint fell.

His holy soul, the angels took

And into the kingdom of Christ, conveyed it.

REFLECTION

A spiritual man interprets all things and all natural phenomena in a spiritual and symbolic manner, and from everything he draws benefit for his soul. At one time, the brethren came to St. John the Dwarf  [Colovos] and began to tell him how a heavy rain had fallen and watered the palms, and how new branches had begun to sprout on the palms so that the monks would have enough material for their handiwork. St. John thought and said to the brethren: "In the same manner the Holy Spirit enters the hearts of the saints, so that they are renewed and put forth the branches of the fear of God."

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Baptism:

1. How that Grace gives power to the soul to follow Christ the Lord;

2. How it is a pledge of God's adoption of the baptized man.

HOMILY

About how we need not grieve the Spirit of God

"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).

Brethren, "The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" is recited over all of us who are baptized by water and the Spirit. The Spirit of God is given to us not because of our merits--no one should ever think that--but according to the mercy of the Living God. Even in normal relations between men, happy is the one who gives a gift and happy is also he who receives the gift. Giving is joy on both sides. The greater the gift, the greater the joy. God rejoices when He gives the grace of His Holy Spirit; why then should men who receive it not rejoice? The needy one who receives usually rejoices more than the rich man who gives; why then should not miserable men rejoice who receive this enormous gift from the rich God?

In what way do men grieve the Holy Spirit? The Apostle who commanded that we not grieve the Spirit of God immediately adds by what means the Spirit is grieved: All bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking (swearing) and all malice. All of that to be put away from you (Ephesians 4:31), says the Apostle. In other words, the Spirit of God is grieved by our every sin. Let every sin be put away from us, and the Spirit of God will be joyful and by Him we will rejoice. When we have an important guest in our home we endeavor to do everything that is well-pleasing for that guest. Can there be a greater guest than the Holy Spirit of God? Since He is our greatest and most desired Guest, we need to invest the utmost effort into pleasing Him. We know with what we please the Spirit of God--with the same thing with which we please Christ the Lord. The Lord said: If you love me, keep my commandments (St. John 14:15). Therefore, he who keeps the commandments of Christ has love toward the Son and toward the Holy Spirit. He who pleases the Son, keeping His commandments, also pleases the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Apostle especially recommends: Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32). If we are kind, if we are tenderhearted [merciful], if we forgive one another, by this we please the Spirit of God Who is a Guest in our hearts. The Spirit of God then rejoices in us, and our entire being trembles from a certain inexpressible joy.

O my brethren, let us take care that we not grieve our Most-high Guest, Who comes to us with the richest gifts.

O God the Holy Spirit, forgive our negligence toward Your Immortal Majesty and do not leave us empty and worthless without You.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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