Prologue of Ohrid

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July 4

1. SAINT ANDREW, ARCHBISHOP OF CRETE

Andrew was born in Damascus of Christian parents, and he was mute from birth until the age of seven. When his parents brought him to church and he received Holy Communion, he began to speak. Such is the power of Divine and Holy Communion. At age fourteen, Andrew went to Jerusalem and was tonsured in the Lavra of St. Sabas the Sanctified. By virtue of his understanding and asceticism, he surpassed many of the older monks and was an example to them. After a while the patriarch took him as his personal secretary. When the Monothelite heresy--which held that the Lord Jesus did not possess a human will, but only a divine will--began to rage, the Sixth Ecumenical Council was convened in Constantinople, in the year 681 A.D. during the reign of Constantine IV [Bearded One]. Theodore, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was unable to attend the council but sent Andrew (at the time an archdeacon) as his representative. There, Andrew displayed his splendid gifts, his oratory, his zeal for the Faith, and his rare prudence. Having assisted in strengthening the Orthodox Faith, Andrew returned to his duties in Jerusalem. Later, he was elected and installed as the Archbishop of the Island of Crete. As archbishop, he was greatly loved by the people. Andrew was very zealous for Orthodoxy and vehemently resisted all heresies. Through his prayers he worked miracles, including driving the Saracens from the Island of Crete. Andrew wrote many books of instruction, hymns and canons, of which the most renowned is the Great Canon of repentance, read on the Thursday of the fifth week of the Great Lenten Season. His outward appearance was such that, "seeing his face and hearing his words flowing like honey, everyone found delight and mended their ways." Finally, while returning from a sea journey to Constantinople, Andrew foretold that his death would occur before he arrived in Crete. And so it happened. As the ship sailed near the island of Mitylene, this beacon of the Church finished his earthly life and his soul took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ, in the year 721 A.D.

2. SAINT MARTHA

Martha was the mother of St. Simeon of the Wonderful Mountain (May 24). Dedicated with all her soul to the Faith, she did not think of marriage. When her parents betrothed her to a young man, Martha thought of leaving the home of her parents and withdrawing from the world. Then St. John the Baptist appeared to Martha and counseled her to fulfill the will of her parents by entering into marriage, which she did. From this marital union, the wondrous St. Simeon, ascetic of the Wonderful Mountain, was born. St. Martha had the regular habit of rising at midnight for prayer. With great compassion she helped the poor, visited the orphaned, and served the sick. A year before her death she saw a multitude of angels with candles in their hands, and learned from them the time of her death. Upon learning this, Martha dedicated herself to prayer and good works with even great zeal. She died peacefully in the year 551 A.D., and was buried near the pillar of her son, Simeon the Stylite. After her death, she appeared many times to instruct people and to heal the sick. Her most significant appearance on record was to the abbot of Simeon's monastery. Following the burial of St. Martha, the abbot placed a votive candle on her grave, with the understanding that it should never be extinguished. But after a certain time, people became lazy, and the lamp went out. Then the abbot became ill, and the saint appeared to him and said: "Why do you not burn a votive candle on my grave? Know that I am not in need of the light from your candles, since I have been found worthy before God, the Eternal Heavenly Light--but you need it. When you burn a light on my grave, you entreat me to pray to the Lord for you." It is obvious from this that the goal of our veneration of the saints is to entreat them, as those worthier than we are, to pray to God for us and for our salvation.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE OF GOD

In His Divine Providence, miraculous is the Lord;

To Andrew, the mute, He gave a clear voice,

And the mute, His audible trumpet, made

As once He made Saul (Paul) the pillar of His Church.

In vain from marriage did the holy Martha shun;

To the will of God she had to bow down.

To marriage God's providence led Martha--

That for God and the world, a saint to bear!

Whoever gives himself to God, gives to the Best,

And his human will he overcomes by that of God.

My child, without the Lord, plan nothing,

That your plans be not fruitless.

All the threads of your life and all your desires

In the hands of the Creator Almighty are held.

His are the fields, His are the slopes,

His are the elements--the foundations and the threads.

His is the soul, His is the body,

And the spirit of everything, and its attire.

In His field, with His tools,

Whose will shall we fulfill, except His?

REFLECTION

If your entire life has passed smoothly and without cares, then weep for yourself. For the Gospel and human experience assert with one accord that, without great pain and suffering, no one has left behind any great or beneficial work on earth or been glorified in the heavens. If, however, your earthly sojourn has been completely bathed with sweat and tears--to attain justice and truth--rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward will be great in the heavens. Never succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much each one can endure and measures the sufferings and pains of each accordingly. St. Nilus of Sora says: "When even men know how much weight a horse can carry, how much a donkey, and how much a camel can carry, thus load them according to their strength; and when a potter knows how long to leave the clay in the kiln, so that it will neither be shattered nor over-baked--how could God not know how much temptation a soul can bear to make it ready and fit for the Kingdom of Heaven?"

CONTEMPLATION


To contemplate all the miracles that the Lord performed at the hands of Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: And Aaron and Moses went in unto Pharaoh and they did as the Lord had commanded (Exodus 7:10):

1. How great and awesome were those miracles;

2. How the heart of Pharaoh remained obstinate before all the miracles of God;

3. How my heart is also hard before the countless miracles of God--in my life and around me--and how I need to repent before the end befalls me and I face eternal punishment.

HOMILY


About the salvation of a soul as the end of faith

"Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9).

Brethren, what is the end of faith? The salvation of the soul. What is the goal of faith? The salvation of the soul. What is the fruit of faith? The salvation of the soul. Therefore, we do not adhere to faith for the sake of faith, but rather for the salvation of our souls. No one travels for the sake of the road, but because of someone or something that awaits him at the end of the road. No one throws a rope into the water in which someone is drowning for the sake of the rope, but for the sake of the one drowning. God gave faith to us as a road, at the end of which the travelers will receive the salvation of their souls. And like a rope, God extended faith to us who are drowning in the dark waters of sin, ignorance and vice, so that we, through the help of faith, might save our lives.

That is the purpose of faith. Whoever knows the price of a human soul must admit that there is nothing in this world more necessary or more beneficial than faith. A merchant who carries precious stones in an earthen vessel preserves the vessel carefully and cautiously; he hides it and keeps watch over it. Is it because of the vessel that the merchant exerts such effort and concern? No, but because of the precious stones which are in the vessel. Our entire earthly life is like an earthen vessel in which a priceless treasure is hidden. That priceless treasure is our soul. A vessel is cheap, but a treasure is precious. First, one must have faith in the value of a human soul; second, in the future radiance and life of the soul in the Kingdom of God; third, in the Living God, Who waits for the return of the soul, which He Himself gave us; and fourth, in the possibility that a soul can be lost in this world. Whosoever has faith in these four things will know how to protect his soul, and will further know that the salvation of his soul is the end of his road--the goal of his faith, the fruit of his life, the purpose of his existence on earth, and the justification of his sufferings.

We believe for the sake of the salvation of our souls. Whoever has a true faith must know that faith is for the sake of the salvation of the soul. He who thinks that his faith serves a purpose other than salvation does not have a true faith--nor does he know the value of his soul.

O All-gracious Lord Jesus, Who has given us a shining and victorious faith, strengthen and maintain that faith in us, that we may stand unashamed before Your judgment with our pure and shining souls.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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