Prologue of Ohrid

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September 11

1. THE VENERABLE THEODORA

Theodora was from Alexandria and the wife of a young man. Persuaded by a fortune-teller, she committed adultery with another man and immediately felt the bitter pangs of conscience. She cut her hair, dressed in men's clothing and entered the Monastery of Octodecatos, under the male name of Theodore. Her labor, fasting, vigilance, humbleness and tearful repentance amazed the entire brotherhood. When a promiscuous young woman slandered her, saying that Theodore had made her pregnant, Theodora did not want to justify herself, but considered this slander as a punishment from God for her earlier sin. Banished from the monastery, she spent seven years living in the forest and wilderness and, in addition, caring for the child of that promiscuous girl. She overcame all diabolical temptations: she refused to worship Satan, refused to accept food from the hands of a soldier, and refused to heed the pleas of her husband to return to him-for all of this was only a diabolical illusion, and as soon as Theodora made the sign of the Cross everything vanished as smoke. After seven years, the abbot received her back into the monastery, where she lived for two more years, and reposed in the Lord. Only then did the monks learn that she was a woman; an angel appeared to the abbot and explained everything to him. Her husband came to the burial, and then remained in the cell of his former wife until his repose. St. Theodora possessed much grace from God: she tamed wild beasts, healed infirmities, and brought forth water from a dry well. Thus, God glorified a true penitent, who with heroic patience repented nine years for just one sin. She reposed in the year 490.

2. SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE CONFESSOR

Paphnutius was the Bishop of Taiski in the Egyptian Thebaid. He suffered greatly for the Orthodox Faith. The heretics gouged out one of his eyes and broke his left leg. He participated in the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325], refuting the heresy of Arius with great vigor. Emperor Constantine greatly respected him, and often kissed him on his missing eye, gouged out for the truth of Orthodoxy. He stood decisively against the western representatives at the Council who proposed that secular priests be completely forbidden marriage. Paphnutius was chaste his entire life.

3. THE VENERABLE EUPHROSYNUS THE COOK

Euphrosynus was a simple man, but a man of God. He served as the cook in an Amorean monastery in the ninth century. One night, the spiritual father of this monastery saw himself in Paradise, and saw Euphrosynus there as well. Euphrosynus picked and gave him three apples from Paradise. When the spiritual father awoke, he saw three unusually beautiful and fragrant apples by his pillow. He quickly found Euphrosynus and asked him: "Where were you last night, brother?'' "I was where you were, father,'' the blessed God-pleaser replied. The spiritual father then revealed the entire incident to the monks, and all recognized the sanctity and godliness of Euphrosynus. But Euphrosynus, fearing the praise of men, immediately fled the monastery and hid in the wilderness, where he spent the remainder of his life.

4. THE HOLY MARTYR IA

Ia was denounced by idolatrous priests and suffered for the Lord in Persia during the reign of Sapor II, in 363. According to tradition, the sun became dark at the time of her death, and all the air was filled with a wondrous fragrance. She is glorified by the Lord forever.

5. HOLY MARTYRS DIODORUS, DIDYMUS AND DIOMEDES

They were flogged for the sake of Christ in Laodicea, and gave their souls into the hands of their Lord.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE VENERABLE THEODORA
 
Wretched Theodora was tangled in sin;
 
Glorious Theodora was forgiven her sin.
 
One sin she ransomed with a hundred virtues
 
And the eternal mercy of the Son of God.
 
She thrust from herself diabolical suggestions,
 
And meekly endured the slanders of men.
 
Her mind immersed in her Lord,
 
Her thoughts were freed from earthly dust.
 
To the end, she submitted to God's will,
 
And thus was worthy of God's Paradise.
 
St. Theodora, citizen of Paradise,
 
Now help us, O God-pleaser!
 
That we sinners also be delivered from sin
 
And live with you as inhabitants of Paradise.
 
You were given power, before and after death,
 
To destroy all the snares of the enemy.
 
Because of your love, God gave you power,
 
And even the demons fear your power.
 
Now you worship Christ with all the saints,
 
And protect us from bitter attacks.

REFLECTION

One must not hinder anyone on the path of perfect devotion and service to God. Many saintly women who wanted to flee from marriage and devote themselves to God were pursued and hindered in this by their husbands. These women were usually victorious in the end, remaining steadfast in their intention, and often awakened the consciences of their husbands by their example, and directed them on the path of salvation. St. Theodora, dressed in men's clothing, had to carefully hide from her husband, and she retreated to a men's monastery. However, there were prudent husbands who approved their wives' intentions, permitting their withdrawal from the world to devote their lives completely to God. King Frederick was betrothed to a Czech maiden, Agnes. But she never agreed to enter into marriage, and broke her betrothal, fleeing to a monastery. Then the prudent king said: "Had she left me for a mortal man, I would have sought revenge; but I must not find myself insulted that she chose the Heavenly King in place of me.''

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate Solomon's terrible turning away from God, and God's punishment (I Kings 11):
 
1. How, in his old age, Solomon was captivated by many women, turned away from God, and began to serve idols;
 
2. How God became enraged and gave the kingdom over to Solomon's servant; 
 
3. How Solomon turned away from God, even though God had appeared to him twice, and even though he had endowed him with wisdom and great glory;
 
4. How even the greatest man can fall, if he does not watch over himself with the fear of God.
 
HOMILY
 
on Christ as the Bread of life

I am the Bread of life (John 6:35).

Who can give life, my brethren, other than the One who created it? Who, in truth, can the Bread of life be, other than our Creator? He created, He sustains, He nourishes and He gives life. If wheat nourishes the body, Christ nourishes the soul. If our body is sustained by earthly bread, our soul is nourished and lives by Christ. If our souls are nourished by some other food, and not by Christ, our souls decay and die, and do not live. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life (John 6:27). So says the Lord in a previous statement. First, He examines the hunger of men and then offers bread to satisfy it. Indeed, He offers the hunger, and then bread, for men are confused with regard to hunger. They are hungry for something but do not know what. Even when satisfied with earthly food and even when overfilled, they feel a certain insatiable hunger. Although they see that the whole earth, and all the bread on earth, cannot satisfy this mysterious hunger, they rush after earthly food; they vie for the earth and only for the earth. The true hunger of men is the hunger for heaven, for eternal life, for God. The Lord Jesus first emphasizes that hunger, and then prepares the meal for its satisfaction. He Himself is that meal: I am the Bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger (John 6:35). They shall be satisfied, they shall rejoice, they shall be enlivened, they shall know God, and they shall know themselves. O my brethren, He will raise them from the dead! For constant feeding on the food which perishes, without immortal, spiritual food, gradually dulls the soul and finally renders it completely dead. Dead of what? Of hunger. The body is of the earth and is satisfied with earthly food, but the soul is of the breath of the Source of life Himself, and seeks food and drink from its one and only Source.

O Lord Jesus, Bread of eternal life, of true and imperishable life, sweetest Bread-nourish us with Thyself.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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