Prologue of Ohrid

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May 25

1. THE THIRD FINDING OF THE HEAD OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

In the eighth century, during the bitter violence of iconoclasm, the head of St. John was brought to Comana, the place of exile of St. John Chrysostom. When iconoclasm ended in the year 850 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Michael and the Patriarch Ignatius, the honorable head of St. John was translated to Constantinople and there was placed in the chapel of the imperial court.

2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR THERAPONTUS, BISHOP OF CYPRUS

Therapontus was a monk and an ascetic on the island of Cyprus. He was found worthy of the episcopal rank, but during the time of the persecution of Christians, he was found worthy of an even greater wreath, the crown of martyrdom. His body reposed in a church on Cyprus. During the reign of Emperor Nicephorus in the year 806 A.D., when the island of Cyprus was attacked by the Hagarenes, the saint appeared to the sexton of that church, told him that the infidels would attack Cyprus, and ordered him to remove his relics to Constantinople. The sexton did this immediately. While the boat was sailing on the sea with the reliquary, a great storm arose, but the sea was calm around the boat and a sweet-smelling fragrance was emitted around the entire boat in all directions. The sexton opened the reliquary and everyone witnessed that it was filled with myrrh [oil], which flowed from the saint's relics. By rubbing themselves with this oil, many of the sick were healed. A church was built in Constantinople over the relics of this miracle-worker, who continued to grant healing to all those who with faith touched them. By the Grace of God, the gravest illnesses of possession, of cancer, of hemorrhaging, of insanity, of blindness, of barrenness as well as various other maladies were cured by the relics of St. Therapontus.

3. THE HOLY MARTYRS PASICRATES, VALENTIAN, JULIUS AND OTHERS

They were all Roman soldiers. They all suffered for Christ in Macedonian Dorostol in about the year 302 A.D. When Pansicrates' brother Papian, who apostatized from Christ because of fear, began to urge him to deny Christ and remain alive, St. Pansicrates answered him: "Depart from me; you are not my brother!" Pansicrates and Valentian were beheaded together. At the trial, St. Julius said: "I am a veteran; for twenty-six years I have faithfully served the emperor and, since I was faithful to a lesser one, how can I not be faithful to a greater One?"--that is, to the Heavenly King. After that, Nicander was brought before Maximus the Perfect. Nicander's wife encouraged her husband to die for Christ. "Foolish old woman," Maximus said to her angrily: "You just want a better husband." The woman answered him: "If you think that about me, give the order and let them kill me now, before my husband!" Marcian was also slain with Nicander. Marcian's wife approached the scaffold carrying her son in her arms. Marcian kissed his son and prayed to God: "O All-powerful Lord, take care of him!" Following this, they were beheaded and were translated into the kingdom of Christ.(*) 

(*) Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov believes that all these martyrs were Slavs. See: The Saints of the Southern Slavs.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT THERAPONTUS

Blessed Therapontus, for Christ suffered.

Two heavenly wreaths he received:

As a hierarch of the Church, and as a courageous martyr;

Like a flower unfaded, his body remained,

The sick to heal, and the world to make fragrant,

The unfortunate to comfort, and the faithful to bring joy to.

Thus the Lord glorified His glorifier,

Of his rational flock, a wonderful shepherd.

And thus the Lord made known and voiced abroad,

That a violent death does not a saint kill,

But with a wreath crowns him and his name proclaimed,

Eternally glorifying him in both churches.

O God's glorifier, Therapontus holy,

Wonderful martyr for the Holy Faith--

Help us also, for the love of God,

By your prayers before the throne most high!

REFLECTION

Some misguided men think more about the end of the world than about the end of their lives, even though it is obvious that, when the end of a man's life has come, the end of the world has come for him, too. A brother standing in the presence of St. Seraphim of Sarov was turning over in his mind how he was going to ask the saint about the end of the world. St. Seraphim discerned his thought and said to him: "My joy! You think highly of the wretched Seraphim. How could I know when the end of the world will be, and that great day when the Lord will judge the living and the dead and render to each one according to his deeds? No, no, this is impossible for me to know!" And if the saints could not know, how could sinners know? Why should we know that which the Savior Himself did not find beneficial to reveal to us? It is much better to think that our death will come sooner than the end of the world, rather than that the end of the world will come before our death.

CONTEMPLATION
 

To contemplate the Ggace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Repentance and Confession:

1. How, when grace touches the heart of the penitent, the penitent sees all the ugliness of his sins and washes them away through tears;

2. How grace enters the penitent who has confessed, as joy enters into a sorrowful one, as hope enters into a hopeless one.

HOMILY
 

About the nearness of the Judge

"Behold, the Judge stands before the door" (St. James 5:9).

In one day, brethren, you can gain all eternity. And in one day, brethren, you can lose all eternity. You are given thousands of days on earth to determine your own personal, eternal salvation or your own personal, eternal damnation. But blessed a hundred-fold be the day in which you repent of all your unclean deeds, words and thoughts, and return to God crying out for mercy! That day will be worth more to you than a thousand other days.

What kind of day is that blessed day? That is a day of self-condemnation. When that day dawns, the man who until then judged the entire world will at once look and see himself as the greatest stain on God's world. He will become ashamed before God, ashamed before every man, and ashamed before every created thing of God in the world. Shame will begin to burn him like fire. Then he will recognize and confess: Truly, I am the greatest blot in God's world! Truly, all men are better than I! Truly, all things are more pure than I! I am blacker than burned wood, and until now I thought I was white! I am uglier than the frogs, and until now I thought I was as beautiful as an angel! Lord, Lord, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner and wash from me the mud of sin, so that I can, as much as possible, begin to resemble Your creation!

Brother, do not wait, do not wait for that blessed day of repentance to come by itself. Seize firmly, brother, the first day that comes to meet you and say: "You are the blessed day on which I will purchase life eternal!" Do not wait, my brother, do not wait, for Behold, the Judge stands before the door! That Judge is the Living Lord Who created you and has seen and numbered all of your transgressions up to now. In a day or two, He may call you to the judgment, where you will not have even a word of justification. Seize the day! Seize the day of repentance! Seize the day before death has seized you! Behold, the Judge stands before the door!

O Lord, awesome and just, prolong the days of the sinner until he repents.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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