Prologue of Ohrid


July 22


One of the myrrh-bearing women and "equal to the apostles," Mary was born in the town of Magdala, along the shore of Lake Gennesaret, and was of the tribe of Issachar. She was tormented by seven evil spirits--from which she was freed by the Lord Jesus and made her whole. She was a faithful follower and servant of the Lord during His earthly life. She stood beneath the Cross on Golgotha, and grieved bitterly with the All-Holy Birth-giver of God. After the death of the Lord she visited His sepulchre three times. When the Lord rose again she saw Him on two occasions: once by herself, and once with the other myrrh-bearing women. She traveled to Rome and appeared before Tiberias Caesar, presenting him with a red-colored egg, and giving him the salutation: "Christ is Risen!" She also denounced Pontius Pilate to Caesar for his unjust condemnation of the Lord Jesus. Caesar accepted her accusation and transferred Pilate from Jerusalem to Gaul where, in disfavor with the emperor, this unjust judge died of a dread disease. After this, she returned from Rome to Ephesus, to assist St. John the Theologian in the work of preaching the Gospel. With great love toward the resurrected Lord, with great zeal for the Faith and as a true apostle of Christ, she proclaimed the Holy Gospel to the world. She died peacefully in Ephesus. According to tradition, the cave she was buried in was the same cave in which the Seven Youths (August 4) later slept a wondrous sleep for hundreds of years, then came to life and again died. The relics of St. Mary Magdalene were later transferred to Constantinople. There is a beautiful Russian Orthodox convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene near the Garden of Gethsemane.


On this day, we commemorate the translation of the relics of St. Phocas from Pontus to Constantinople, in about the year 404 A.D. The primary feast of this saint is September 22, on which his life and his sufferings are recorded. One miracle of this saint is commemorated on the present day as well. The Arabs captured a man named Pontinus. They shackled him, bound his hands behind his back and left him to die. Lying face down on the ground, and unable to move, Pontinus cried out: "O Holy Martyr Phocas, have mercy on me and save me!" Having said this he fell asleep and, in a dream, Saint Phocas approached him, touched him by the hand and said: "The Lord Jesus Christ forgives you!" When the man awoke, he found himself loosed from his bonds. He arose and departed for his home. St. Phocas became the patron saint of his household.


Cornelius was tonsured a monk at age fifteen by an elder named Paul. He eventually withdrew into the wilderness, to a life of silence. Cornelius lived in silence for thirty years, not speaking so much as a word to anyone, so that many believed that he was a mute. He became so withered through fasting that he resembled a skeleton. Before his death, he received the great schema [The Great Angelic Habit], and found repose in the Lord on July 22, 1693 A.D.


Saint Marcella is greatly venerated on the island of Chios. In the church dedicated to her there, miracles occur every year. However, her life is not known. According to tradition Marcella was an unusually pious girl who was left motherless at an early age. Her bestial, pagan father wanted to live with his daughter as with a wife. Marcella fled from her father, but he, enraged like a wild beast, caught up with her and cut her into pieces. In the proximity of her church, there are certain stones that, from time to time, become as if covered with blood. People take these stones, bring them to church, and pray to St. Marcella. They then touch the sick with them, who are thereby healed.



Magdalene, in dark sorrow, was shrouded

Because of the bloody death of the Son of God.

Sorrow from love is most bitter sorrow--

In the world she had neither consolation nor friend.

Her tears were her comfort, and pain was her only friend.

For Saint Magdalene, to darkness the world was turned.

As a weak human, she sought light,

And without hope, in the darkness Mary groped.

Even His tomb to her was light--but lo! the tomb is empty!

"He has been stolen," she thought, "naked and unanointed!"

Bitterly she wept, and to her weeping there was no end.

Then, the voice of a man beside her, she heard:

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?

"Whom do I seek, you ask? To calm me, do you wish?

If you have taken His body, tell me where you have put it."

As she wept and sorowed, Jesus looked upon her

And in a sweet voice called to her: "Mary!"

In Mary's heart, light shone forth:

O voice now recognized, incomparably sweet,

O voice overflowing with life and power!

With this voice the Lord healed the sick,

With this voice He raised the dead.

O Life-giving voice--O wondrous voice!

Mary sprang up and turned around:

"Rabboni!" she cried as the sun arose.

A New Day dawned for Mary and for the world.


Blessed are they that mourn (Matthew 5:4), said the Lord. Blessed are they who mourn, seeking the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they who mourn, suffering for the Faith in Christ. Blessed are they that mourn, repenting of their sins. There can be no true repentance without tears. With what shall we wash away our sins, if not with tears, or blood (the blood of martyrdom)? The monks of Nitria sent a request to St. Macarius the Great, asking if he would come to them--rather than having all of them come to him. Macarius obeyed and came to them. All the monks gathered around St. Macarius, and begged him for a word of instruction. Macarius began to weep, and through his tears said: "Brethren, let tears flow from your eyes, before you go to the place where our tears will scald our bodies." Then all the brethren began to weep.


To contemplate the miraculous appearance of the archangel to Joshua, the son of Nun, when he set out to conquer Jericho (Joshua 5):

1. How the captain [commander] of the heavenly hosts appeared to Joshua with a drawn sword in his hand;

2. How he told Joshua to remove his shoes (Joshua 5:15);

3. How even we, in the battle of life, should not rely on our own feet and our own equipment, but only on Him who fights for us.


About the inexorable justice of God

"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2: 4-6).

Oh, how then will the sinful man be spared? [He] spared not the old world but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow (2 Peter 2:5-6). Therefore, O sinful man, how then can you be spared? Are you dearer and more precious to Him than millions of angels, or so many people drowned by the Flood [Deluge] or living in those densely populated cities? When the angels were cast into the darkness of hades, people were drowned by the Flood, and cities were burned to ashes--in what do you hope, who are sinning continually and not turning away from sin? In the mercy of God, you say. But is God more merciful now that He was then? Does God change as man does? Do not hope without measure, but according to the measure of your efforts regarding the improvement of your life should you hope. Truly, God's mercy is great, His patience is long, and His love is infinite. Behold--God is kinder to you and loves you more than you love yourself, and He desires your salvation even more than you yourself do. But as for him who mocks God's mercy to the end, who laughs at God's patience to the end, and who opposes God's love to the end--will God force him to enter His kingdom and make him a fellow citizen with the angels and saints?

How terrible is the darkness of hades--the clanging of chains and the gnashing of teeth! Those who mocked the mercy of God and opposed the love of God dwell there. Do you want to go there, O prodigal soul? God does not desire that you go there; the angels mourn that you are headed there; the saints pray that you will return; the Holy Church offers sacrifices for you, that you would come to your senses! If you despise all this--Oh, why would you despise it all?--then what kind of mercy do you expect from God?

O righteous Lord, help us that we may quickly turn away from the path leading to the darkness of hades; bring us to our senses and strengthen us in goodness before You send Your angel to take away our souls.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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