Prologue of Ohrid


July 18


During the reign of Julian the Apostate, in the Thracian town of Dorostolon, there lived a young man, Emilian, a servant of the local eparch (mayor of the town). When the apostate emperor attempted to destroy Christianity throughout the Roman Empire by fire and sword, his representative came to Dorostolon to kill the Christians, but he did not find a single one. Rejoicing at this, he sponsored a great banquet for the citizens of Dorostolon, and ordered sacrifices to be offered to the idols. The pagan revelry ensued, day and night, throughout the town. That night, St. Emilian roamed the pagan temples, markets and streets of the town, and smashed all of the idols with a sledgehammer. The next day there was great fear in the city. Everyone sought the destroyer of their gods. A peasant passing by the temple that morning was seized. Emilian, seeing that an innocent man would suffer, said to himself: "If I conceal my works, what benefit would I receive from that which I did? Would I not be found before God to be the murderer of that innocent man?" Therefore, he appeared before the emperor's legate and admitted all. The enraged legate questioned Emilian, asking who had prompted him to do what he had done. The martyr of Christ replied: "God and my soul ordered me to destroy those lifeless pillars that you call gods." The judge then ordered that Emilian be flogged--and, after flogging and other tortures, ordered him to be buried with fire. Thus ended the earthly life of St. Emilian. He was received into the heavenly life on July 18, 362 A.D.


Pambo was an Egyptian and an ascetic on Mount Nitria. He was a contemporary of St. Anthony the Great, and was himself great in monastic asceticism. He was known particularly for two characteristics: through long training he sealed his lips so that he did not speak one unnecessary word; and he never ate any bread except that which he earned with his own hands by weaving reeds. He was like an angel of God and, in later years, his face shone like the face of Moses once did--so much so that the monks were unable to look him in the face. He never gave a quick reply, even to a simple question, without first praying about it and contemplating it in his heart. Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria once visited the monks in Nitria. The monks begged Pambo, saying: "Give the patriarch an edifying word, which would be of benefit to him." The quiet Pambo replied: "If he does not benefit by my silence, he will not benefit by my word." Once, St. Pambo traveled throughout Egypt with his monks. They came upon a group of men who remained seated as the monks passed by. St. Pambo addressed them and said: "Arise and greet the monks, that you may receive a blessing from them; for they continually converse with God and their lips are holy." This glorious saint was able to clearly discern the destiny of both the living and the dead. He rested in the Lord in the year 386 A.D.


Paisius and Isaiah were brothers of a wealthy family, and were both monks. One became a saint because of his asceticism in the wilderness, and the other because of his works of mercy toward men. Saint Pambo saw them both in Paradise. This settled a dispute among the monks concerning the question: Which is better--asceticism and a life of rigorous self-denial, or corporal works of mercy? Both of them lead to Paradise, when performed in the Name of Christ.


John was a recluse in the Monastery of the Caves of St. Anthony in Kiev. For thirty years he was tormented by lustful passions, which he ceaselessly struggled against--until finally he conquered them with God's help, through touching the relics of St. Moses the Ugrian (July 26). Having conquered impure passion, St. John was infused with an inward heavenly light by which he could see at night as though it were day.



The monks asked Pambo the Blessed:

"Is it good, Father, to praise your neighbor?"

Pambo was silent, then to the brethren replied:

"It is good to praise but it is better to remain silent."

And again they asked Pambo: "And who is perfect?"

"For the sake of the will of God, one who denies his own will."

The monks were silent, until one spoke:

"One more reply, do not deny us:

What kind of garment should a monk have?"

"The kind you throw away and no one takes."

Thus the saint spoke, then closed his mouth;

He guarded his tongue so as not to speak needlessly.

Pambo, all radiant at the hour of his death,

When asked about his life, uttered this:

"I never ate bread I did not earn,

Nor of a single word has my soul repented."


Which is more pleasing to God: a life of asceticism in the wilderness, or works of mercy? Men of prayer in the wilderness think that man, living among men, will find it difficult to safeguard the purity of the heart and to direct the mind toward God--no matter how many good works he performs.  Yet those who do good works among men say that the man in the wilderness is totally occupied with his own salvation, and does not help in the salvation of others. Two Egyptian brothers, Paisius and Isaiah, inherited a great estate from their parents. They sold the estate, and each took his share of the money. One of them immediately distributed his money to the poor, became a monk, and withdrew into the desert to lead a life of strict asceticism--that through patience, fasting, prayer and purifying the mind from all evil thoughts, hr might save his soul. The other brother also became a monk, but did go to the desert. Instead, he built a small monastery near the town, with a hospital for the sick, a public refectory [dining room] for the needy and a resting place for the sorrowful. He dedicated himself entirely to the service of his fellow men. When both brothers died, a dispute ensued among the monks of Egypt: which of the two fulfilled the law of Christ? Unable to agree among themselves, they came to St. Pambo and questioned him about this. St. Pambo replied: "Both are perfect before God; the hospitable one is like the hospitable Abraham, and the ascetic is like Elijah the Prophet--both of whom were equally pleasing to God." Yet not all the monks were satisfied with this response. Then St. Pambo prayed to God to reveal the truth to him. After praying for several days, St. Pambo said to the monks: "Before God I tell you that I saw both brothers, Paisius and Isaiah, together in Paradise." With this, the dispute was settled and all were satisfied.


To contemplate the miraculous experience of Balaam (Numbers 22):

1. How Balaam came to prophesy to Balak, the prince of the Moabites;

2. How an angel appeared on the road with a sword and prevented Balaam from advancing;

3. How the ass saw the angel before Balaam did, and spoke to his master.


About the remembrance of the imminent putting off of the body

"Yes, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle (body) to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ had showed me" (2 Peter 1: 13-14).

Here is a good reminder to lovers of the body who, because of their bodies, forgot their souls. The body must be cast off from us. No matter how dear we hold it to be, no matter how precious adornments we hang upon it, no matter how much we caress and pamper it, we must cast it off one day. Oh, how powerful and truthful are the words "cast it off!" When the soul is separated from the body, the soul casts the body off as something no longer necessary. When shipwrecked men reach the shore on a board (plank), they step onto the shore and cast away the board. When spring blossoms, the serpent sheds its skin and casts it off. When a butterfly wings its way out of the cocoon, the cocoon is cast off. In the same manner, the body is cast off when the soul departs from it. No longer of use and without benefit, and even harmful to other men, it is cast out of the house, cast out of the city, cast from the sight of the sun, and is buried deep into the ground. Think about this, you who live in luxury and adorn your bodies; you who are haughty and gluttonous!

As long as the soul is in the body, it should utilize the body for its salvation, submitting to the Law of God and performing the works of God. Do you see how the apostolic soul is a lover of labor? As long as I am in this tabernacle (body) to stir you up. That task was given to him by God. He wants to conscientiously complete it to the end before he must put off his body. Brethren, let us labor--first to embrace the apostolic warning; and second, to remind others, all others whom we wish well. We are rapidly approaching the shore of the other world; and the hour swiftly approaches when we must cast off our bodies and, with a naked soul, appear before the Judgment of God. What will we say at the Dread Judgment Seat of God? For what goals will we have used that thing of the earth, the body?

O Lord Jesus, Righteous Judge, direct our minds to think of death and judgment.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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