Prologue of Ohrid


August 11


Euplus was a deacon in Catania, Sicily. Emperor Diocletian dispatched the Roman commander, Pentagurus, to Sicily to exterminate any Christians he found there. Pentagurus did not find a single Christian, for the few that were there hid from the persecutor and did not reveal themselves. Even so, someone accused Euplus of taking a book to secret Christians and reading to them. This book was the Holy Gospel. They soon brought him to court, hung that book around his neck, and led him to prison. After seven days of imprisonment and hunger, Euplus was given over for torture. While they were beating him with iron rods, Euplus mockingly said to the torturing judge: "O ignorant one, do you not see that, by God's grace, these tortures are like a cobweb to me? If you can, find other, harsher tortures, for all of these are as toys." After more of the same, they led the martyr of Christ to the scaffold. There St. Euplus opened the Holy Gospel and read from it to the people for a long time. Many converted to the Christian Faith. St. Euplus was beheaded in the year 304 A.D., and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven. His miracle-working relics repose in a village near Naples, called Vico della Batonia.


Susanna was the daughter of a Roman presbyter Gabinus, and the niece of Pope Gaius. Gaius and Gabinus were of royal lineage, and kinsmen to the then-ruling Emperor Diocletian. Emperor Diocletian had an adopted son, Maximian Galerius, whom he [Diocletian] wanted to marry Susanna. Susanna, completely dedicated to Christ the Lord, did not even want to consider marriage, and particularly not marriage with an unbaptized man. The aristocrats Claudius and Maximus had been pressuring her to marry the emperor's son, but Susanna converted them and their entire household to the Christian Faith. Enraged by this, the emperor ordered that the executioners take Claudius, Maximus and their household to Ostia--where they burned them alive and threw their ashes into the sea. Susanna was beheaded in the home of her father Gabinus. The emperor's wife, Serena, secretly a Christian, removed Susanna's martyred body under cover of night, and honorably buried it. Pope Gaius converted Gabinus's house into a church and celebrated services there, since this was the place where the young martyr Susanna was slain. Shortly following the suffering of this bride of Christ, her father Presbyter Gabinus and her uncle Pope Gaius also suffered. Susanna, her father and her uncle suffered honorably for the Lord and received their wreaths of glory, in the years 295 and 296 A.D.


Niphon was born in Greece. He was tonsured a monk in his youth and lived a life of asceticism, eventually making his way to Mount Athos. He practiced asceticism in various monasteries, remaining the longest in Vatopedi and Dionysiou. He was loved by all the holy Athonite fathers, as much for his rare wisdom as for his unusual meekness. He was consecrated Bishop of Thessalonica against his will, and then, two years later, he journeyed to Constantinople on business, where he was elected to the vacant patriarchal throne.  Eventually the Sultan banished him to Jedrene, where he lived in exile. The Wallachian [Romanian] Prince Radul besought him from the Sultan, and named Niphon the archbishop of the Wallachian people. Then, because of Radul's transgressions, Niphon departed Wallachia and returned to Mount Athos, to the monastery of Dionysiou. There he lived a life of asceticism until his ninetieth year, when he took up his habitation in the Kingdom of God. He reposed in the year 1460 A.D. He composed the "Prayer of Absolution" read at the Burial Service:

[O Lord Jesus Christ, by His divine grace, as also by
the gift and power vouchsafed unto His holy
Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and
Loose the sins of men: (For He said to them: Receive ye
The Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are
remitted; and whosoever sins you retain they are retained.
And whatsoever you shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in heaven.)
By that same power, also transmitted to us from
this my spiritual child, [Name], is absolved through me, unworthy though I be,
from all things wherein as mortal [he/she] hath sinned against God,
whether in word, or deed, or thought, and with all [his/her] senses,
whether voluntary or involuntary; whether with knowledge or through ignorance.
If [he/she] be under the ban or excommunication of a bishop, or of a priest;
or hath sinned by any oath; or hath been bound, as man, by any sins whatsoever,
but hath repented [him/her] thereof, with contrition of heart:
[he/she] is now absolved from all those faults and bonds.
May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of [his/her] mortal nature
be consigned to oblivion, and be remitted to [him/her]:
Through His loving-kindness;
through the prayers of our Most-holy, and blessed, and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary;
of all the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles, and all of the Saints. Amen.]


Both Basil and Theodore died by violence at the hands of the avaricious [money-loving] Prince Istislav, in the year 1098 A.D. The hagiography of St. Theodore is especially instructive for the avaricious. Theodore was very wealthy, but distributed all of his wealth to the poor and was tonsured a monk. After that, he repented of his charity and grieved for his wealth,  being greatly tempted by the evil spirit of avarice--from which St. Basil freed him.



A branch of Paradise was planted,

And on earth raised.

The branch grew and matured;

With heaven, her heart was infused.

The black earth did not darken her;

The evil of the world did not bend her.

Susanna, who was this branch of Paradise,

By God's Spirit, was illumined.

A bride of Christ God,

The son of the emperor she disdained.

The emperor was angered, and made threats

That he would soon take bitter revenge.

Susanna did not even listen,

Contemplating instead the mind of God.

Her heart was illumined,

And to Christ betrothed.

Her kinsmen were amazed,

And in Christ, all were baptized,

And martyrs became.

The emperor, his bloody hand, raised,

And on Susanna, suffering iinflicted.

But all suffering is as nothing,

When the soul, in the faith, is strong.

Susanna's head fell from her,

And her soul, in Paradise stood

And in Paradise, her soul arose.

In Paradise, Susanna's pure soul stood before her Christ.

If a man sets off on the path of righteousness, he should walk only on the path of righteousness, keeping both feet on the path: he should not step one foot on the righteous path and the other on the unrighteous path. For, through the prophet, God spoke thus about the righteous who commit unrighteousness: All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed and in his sins that he has sinned, in them shall he die (Ezekiel 18:24). The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man, and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Niphon out of his bondage in Jedrene, and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. Unexpectedly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia--while Bogdan's wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Niphon. Niphon prophesied an evil end for Radul and publicly excommunicated him from the Church; then he departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia, and Radul fell into an incurable illness, whereby his entire body was covered with sores; and because of his putrefying stench, no one could bear to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom.


To contemplate the self-will of the Jewish people (1 Samuel 8 [also known as 1 Kings 8]):

1. How the Jews besought Samuel to appoint a king for them;

2. How Samuel protested this in the name of the Lord, Who proclaimed that He is the only King;

3. How the people remained stubborn, rejecting the will of God and the counsel of Samuel.


About how ugliness comes with sin

"Instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well-set hair baldness …and burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:24).

These are the words about extravagant and wayward women, about the daughters of Zion who have become haughty and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet (Isaiah 3:16). What was it that made the Hebrew women proud? Was it virtue? Virtue never made anyone proud, for virtue is in fact a cure against pride. Was it the strength of a people and the stability of the state? No--on the contrary, the prophet precisely fortells the imminent bondage of the people, and the destruction of the state. And the prophet cites vain extravagance, spiritual vanity, and wayward women as the main causes of slavery and destruction. What, therefore, made them so proud and haughty? Ornaments and embroideries, strung beads and necklaces; trinkets and hairpins; garters and cinctures [girdles]; perfumes and rings; seductive flutterings and mirrors. Behold, this is what made them proud and haughty!  It is all an expression of their ignorant pride, but the true cause of their pride is spiritual perversity. From spiritual vanity comes pride--and that external melange [mixture] of colors that women drape over their bodies is only an obvious manifestation of their ignorant pride. What will become of all this in the end? Stench, disintegration, baldness and burning. This will occur when the people fall into bondage. As it usually happens, the spirit is enslaved by the body, then the body is enslaved by an external enemy.

Thus will be the case when the inescapable conqueror of our bodies, death comes to us. Sweet smells will not help in the grave--the kingdom of stench. Neither will the naked spine of a skeleton have need of a girdle; nor will braided hair save the skull from baldness; nor will beauty save the black remains from burning. This is the inescapable fate of even the most beautiful, the most healthy, the most wealthy, and the most extravagant women. But this is not the greatest misfortune. The greatest misfortune is that the souls of these women--with their stench, disheveledness, baldness, and burning--will come before God and the heavenly hosts of the most beautiful of God's angels and righteous ones. Here, the stench of the body denotes the stench that depravity and vice leaves in the soul; a disheveled body denotes the insatiability of the soul for bodily pleasures; physical baldness denotes the nakedness of a soul devoid of good works and pure thoughts; and the burning of the body denotes the burning of a tortured conscience and an inflamed mind.

Oh, how dreadful is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos. It was dreadful then, and it is dreadful even today--dreadful, because it is true.

O, Holy and Most-pure Lord, help the women who make the sign of Your Cross, that they may remember their souls, and cleanse their souls before Your Righteous Judgment; so that their souls, together with their bodies, do not become eternal stench.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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