Prologue of Ohrid

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July 24

1. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR CHRISTINA

Christina was born in the city of Tyre. She was the daughter of Urban, the imperial deputy, an idol-worshipper. The reason her parents gave her the name of Christina is unknown, but it contained within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. Until the age of eleven she knew nothing of Christ. When she reached that age, her father made her live in the top of a high tower, in order to protect her from the world, because of her extraordinary beauty. He planned to have her live there until she reached full maturity.  All the comforts of life were afforded her--slaves to serve her, and gold and silver idols that she might offer sacrifices to them daily. However, the soul of young Christina was saddened in this isolated, idolatrous environment. Looking out the window each day at the sun and all the beauty of the world, and again at night at the wondrous constellations of shining stars, Christina came to a firm belief in the One Living God through her own natural understanding. The merciful God, seeing her longing for the truth, sent His angel to trace the sign of the Cross upon Christina. The angel called her the bride of Christ, and instructed her fully in the knowledge of divine things. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her quarters, thus provoking wild fury in her father. He brought her to trial, and had her tortured. Then he had her thrown into prison, intending to have her beheaded the next day. That night Urban, who had been in full health, spewed forth his soul and went to the grave before his daughter. After this, two imperial deputies, Dion and Julian, continued to torture this holy virgin. Christina's courageous endurance and the miracles she worked by the power of God converted many pagans of Tyre to Christianity. During the torturing of Christina, Dion suddenly fell dead in the midst of the people. Dion's successor, Julian, severed Christina's breasts and tongue. The martyr threw her severed tongue into Julian's face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her suffering for Christ ended beneath the sharp sword, but her life continues in the Immortal Kingdom of the angels. St. Christina suffered honorably in the third century.

2. THE VENERABLE POLYCARP, ABBOT OF THE MONASTERY OF THE CAVES IN KIEV

Polycarp possessed "love toward God and neighbor, joy from an untainted conscience, peace from victory over all the passions, patience in time of temptation and misfortune, goodness in submission to all, benevolence toward the poor, undoubting faith in fulfilling the commandments, truth in fulfilling his vows, meekness in freedom from anger, abstinence and so forth." So well did he govern the Kiev Caves Lavra that, after his death, a worthy successor among the monks could not be found (for those who were worthy did not want to accept the rank of abbot out of humility), so that the brethren were compelled to take Basil, a secular priest, as their abbot. St. Polycarp reposed in the Lord in the year 1182 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT CHRISTINA

The glorious martyr, the virgin Christina,

Of the Son of God, chosen bride,

Had, in her father, her worst enemy--

By him was she torn by sharp iron.

"Daughter, if you do not, the gods, acknowledge,

My daughter, will I not call you any longer."

Thus, the father spoke to his daughter, to which she replied:

"I have never been angry with you, even though

The servant of Christ I am and you the servant of Satan.

Neither father nor friend in you do I see.

Daughter you do not call me, and glad this makes me.

The Lord is my father, and my sweetness He is!"

Like a raging beast, his servants, her father commanded

Her flesh to scrape to the bone.

From her tender body, the flesh fell to the ground,

One wound joined another, no place was left whole.

The holy martyr, with her hand, some of her flesh took

And in the middle of his foul face, struck her father:

"O Urban, you meat-eater--my flesh, here it is,

Here, beast--eat the flesh of your child!"

That night, from his body, Urban parted,

And in hell, with the devil, united his soul.

Christina suffered and shed her blood,

Heroically overcoming a world of enemies.

The virgin Christina, a martyr wonderful,

With the glory of the Son of God, was glorified.

REFLECTION

The Christian Faith most especially enlightens and illumines the souls of men when the preachers of this Faith shine forth by their own lives. Blessed Polycarp, the abbot of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, was completely illumined by the Christian Faith--in words, deeds and his entire being. Because of this, he had an uncommon influence upon the lives, not only of the simple people, but of princes and noblemen as well. Seeing and listening to this godly man, the Prince of Kiev, Rostislav Mstislavich, became so illumined with the Christian Faith and thus became so subdued and ennobled that he became a model of Christian life, both in his immediate surroundings and to his entire people. During Great Lent [Fast Season], Prince Rostislav received Holy Communion every Sunday and sought out the poor and needy everywhere so as to help them. In the end, he resolved to receive the monastic habit and spoke to Saint Polycarp about this: "Holy Father, princely rule in this world cannot be without sin, and it has already embittered me and worn me out." Polycarp answered him: "If you desire this (the monastic habit) with all your heart, then let it be God's will." However, while in Smolensk the prince fell fatally ill and ordered that he be taken quickly to Kiev, that he might be tonsured before his death--but he died before his wish could be fulfilled.

CONTEMPLATION


To contemplate the miraculous victory of the Israelites over the men of Ai (Joshua 8):

1. How the men of Ai pursued the Israelites and almost defeated them;

2. How, according to the command of God, Joshua raised his banner in the air and held it upraised until the men of Ai were defeated;

3. How, in times of danger, I should lift up my heart to God as a banner, and with the Cross in my heart and with prayer, march to victory.

HOMILY


About the holy apostolic warning

"For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error" (2 Peter 2:18).

The holy apostle knows men better than the most highly educated scholars, for he is a saint and an apostle. And a saint and an apostle can penetrate deeply into the heart of man. About whom is the apostle speaking? He is speaking about the "impure, shameless and the self-willed", whom he earlier called "wells without water and clouds and mist" (2 Peter 2:17). The "impure, impudent and self-willed" are men of many and seemingly important words. They speak proud and false words to men. By these proud and false words, they both conceal and reveal their hearts: they conceal them from the unlearned and those lacking in understanding, and reveal them to those who are steadfast in the Faith and enlightened by grace.

When an impure man speaks of his purity, he reveals his impurity; when a shameless man defends his honor, he reveals his shamelessness; when a self-willed man interprets the will of God, he shows his self-will. Whoever attentively follows his words can smell the stench of his fleshly desires. The inattentive and uneducated cannot sense this, but believe and are deluded. Those "who have just begun to escape" from the deception of the stomach, the world and the devil are often ensnared by proud and false words, like a fish in an invisible net. The fish does not know that it is in a net until the net is emptied out onto the hot sand. Then it knows, but then it is too late. Oh, may it not be too late for those pitiful souls of mankind who are ensnared in the net of proud and false words! Brethren, know that every teacher who, by his teaching, condones bodily desires, and approves sinners in their bodily desires, is false.

O Lord Jesus, Holy and All Pure, send Your Holy Angels to defend all beginners and fledgings in Your Faith from proud and false lips.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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