Prologue of Ohrid


August 5


Eusignius served as a soldier under Emperor Maximian, Emperor Constantine the Great, and under Constantine's sons. He was present during the torture of the holy female Martyr Basiliscus [see May 22]. He saw myriads of angels, and the Lord Jesus Himself, as He received the soul of this holy martyr from the angels. Eusignius fought under Emperor Constantine and saw the heavenly Cross which appeared to the emperor. He served in the army for sixty full years, and during the reign of Constantine's sons he resigned from military service and settled in Antioch, the place of his birth. There he lived a God-pleasing life in fasting, prayer and good works. During the time of Julian the Apostate, two men who were arguing on the street asked him to be their judge. He dispensed justice to the correct one, and the man at fault became angry and went to the emperor, accusing Eusignius of being a Christian. The emperor summoned Eusignius to court, but Eusignius strongly denounced the emperor for his apostasy from the Faith and reproached him with the shining example of Constantine the Great. The enraged Julian ordered that he be beheaded. Eusignius was martyred at a ripe old age in the year 362 A.D. and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Fabian was a Roman by birth. He began as a village priest. Then, during a papal election, a white dove descended upon him, and he was chosen pope. Fabian was meek and kind. With great diligence, he gathered the bodies of the holy martyrs, buried them with honor, and built churches over their graves. In the same manner he built shrines and chapels in the caves where the martyrs hid during the time of bitter persecution. He baptized Emperor Philip and his son Philip, the heir to the throne; and, with the help of the baptized senator Pontius, he destroyed many idols and idolatrous temples. When the wicked Decius was crowned emperor, a terrible persecution of Christians began, during which St. Fabian suffered and was beheaded, in the year 250 A.D. Holy Fabian established the custom of consecrating Holy Myron [Chrism] on Holy and Great Thursday.


Pontius was the son of Senator Marcus and his wife Julia. The barren Julia finally conceived, after twenty-two years of marriage, and gave birth to Pontius. He was baptized by Pope Pontian, as was his friend Valerius (who would become his biographer), and succeeded in converting his father Marcus, the Emperor Philip and his son, and many other distinguished Romans to the Christian Faith. As a senator, he greatly protected and assisted the Church; he was a good friend of Pope Fabian. When the persecution began under Decius, Pontius fled from Rome and hid in the foothills of the Alpine mountains [Cimella Cimez, France]. During the reign of Valerian he was captured and subjected to harsh tortures, during which many miracles of God were manifested, and many souls converted to Christ. Many Jews there cried out to the judge: "Kill him, kill him immediately--this magician." To this, St. Pontius raised his hands to heaven and said: "I thank You, my God, that the Jews cry out against even me--as their fathers once cried out against Christ: 'Crucify Him, crucify Him.'" Pontius was beheaded in the year 257 A.D., and was buried by his friend Valerius.


Nonna was the mother of St. Gregory the Theologian. As a Christian, she possessed powerful and miracle-working prayer. By her prayer to God, she converted her husband from heathen foolishness to the Christian Faith. Her husband Gregory later became the bishop of the town of Nazianzus. By prayer, Nonna saved her son Gregory the Theologian from a storm. She died peacefully as a deaconess, in the year 374 A.D.



Pontius, with his companion Valerius, walked,

But, with sorrow, his heart was overcome.

His father and mother were both Roman senators,

But a bitter enigma tormented his soul;

All worldly wisdom, a fable, to him seemed.

"Oh, where is truth?" he asked. Truth, he sought.

Thus, both walked, absorbed in thought,

At eventide, beside a Christian church.

They went in and saw the splendor;

They saw the splendor and heard the chanting:

"Silver and gold, the gods of the nations are;

Eyes have they, but are blind as clay;

And ears have they, but are deaf as a stone;

And mouths have they, but cannot speak.

Weaker than themselves, the weak ones created gods,

And thus they become like their creations--

One after the other, in bowing down to them,

And haviong foolish hope in lifeless things!"

The two sorrowful young men, two slaves of the idols,

Heard these words and trembled;

Then, to the icon of Christ, they came closer,

And to the honorable priest, entrusted their hearts.

The truth Faith to them, the priest revealed,

And showed them that idolatry is meaningless and bloody.

Into the church walked, the two young noblemen,

Though renowned and respected throughout Rome.

Into the church they went, downcast and sorrowful,

But emerged radiant and joyful.


This is how Valerius begins the biography of his companion, St. Pontius: "Who can believe, if God does not grant it? Who can lead a life of asceticism, if the Lord does not help? Who can receive the wreath of martyrdom, if Christ does not give it?" God can do all, and God wills all that is for the salvation of men--if only men pray to Him. By prayer, St. Nonna converted her husband Gregory and her son Gregory (who would become known as the Theologian) to Christianity. By prayer, Monica brought Augustine out of a wayward life, to the path of good works and faith. By prayer, St. Basil converted his teacher Evulios. By prayer, King Hezekiah prolonged his life for fifteen years. By prayer, St. Simeon the Stylite turned back the Persians and Scythians from attacking the land of Greece with an army already prepared. All the stars in the heavens could be more easily counted than all the miracles worked on earth by prayer.


To contemplate the miraculous strength of Samson (Judges 14):

1. How the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he was able to tear lions apart with his hands, and was able to snap the rope by which he was bound, and was able to slay many Philistines;

2. How the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from him when he confided the secret of his strength to a heathen woman [Delilah] and was then slain [Judges 16].


About how God cleanses repentant sinners

"Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

Oh, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters (Isaiah 1:4), as princes of Sodom (Isaiah 1:10), and upon the people who have become as the people of Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10): in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance--just as, after terrible lightning, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord--long-suffering and full of mercy: neither will He keep His anger forever (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil, and learn to do good, and turn to God with humility and repentance, will they become white as snow. The Lord is mighty and willing. No one but Him is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin, and by cleansing to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap--no matter how often it is washed and rewashed--it cannot achieve whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor, even with the help of all the means of the Law--until we, at last, bring it to the feet of God, spread out and opened wide, so that the light of God may illumine and whiten it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort. He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, to wring it out by repentance, to press it by the pangs of the conscience, and to clothe it with good deeds. After all of this, He calls us to Him: Come now, says the Lord, and let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). That is, "I will look at you, and I will see if there is Me in you; and you will look upon Me, as in a mirror, and you will see what kind of person you are."

O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the final wrath of that Dreadful Day.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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