Prologue of Ohrid

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September 12

1. THE HIEROMARTYR AUTONOMUS

During Diocletian's persecution, Autonomus left Italy for Asian Bithynia, for a place called Soreoi. There, he converted many to Christianity, and built a church for them dedicated to the holy Archangel Michael. Autonomus lived in the home of a devout Christian, Cornelius, whom he first ordained as a presbyter, and then consecrated to the episcopacy. Not far from Soreoi there was a place called Limnae, inhabited entirely by pagans. St. Autonomus went to this place and soon enlightened many with the Gospel of Christ. This embittered the pagans, and one day they rushed into the Church of the Holy Archangel Michael in Soreoi during the divine service and slew Autonomus in the sanctuary, and killed many other Christians in the church. During the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Severian, a royal nobleman, built a church over the tomb of St. Autonomus. Two hundred years after his death, St. Autonomus appeared to a soldier named John. John exhumed the relics of the saint and found them to be completely incorrupt, and many who were sick received healing from Autonomus's relics. Thus, God glorifies the one who glorified Him while living in the flesh.

2. THE HIEROMARTYR CORONATUS, BISHOP OF ICONIUM

Coronatus was born in Nicomedia, in the village of Salate. He was already quite old when the persecution under Decius and Valerian began. Perinius, a torturer of Christians, came to Nicomedia and began a search for Christians. Many Christians left the city and hid, but their aged bishop did not want to leave. Instead, he presented himself to Perinius and declared himself to be a Christian. The torturer bound him completely, and ordered that he be dragged through the town until much blood flowed. Then, under the sword, Coronatus gave his holy soul to God.

3. THE HOLY MARTYR JULIAN WITH FORTY COMPANIONS

They all suffered in about the year 300. First they were tortured, and then beheaded. Before his death, Julian prayed to God in this manner: "To those who take of my dust, grant to them, O Lord, forgiveness of sins and the subduing of their passions; let no ravaging birds, or grasshoppers, or caterpillars, or any other death-carrying destruction attack their fields. And receive my spirit in peace.''

4. THE VENERABLE DANIEL OF THASOS

Daniel was an ascetic, the founder of a great monastery and a contemporary of St. Ioannicius the Great. Daniel was present when Ioannicius visited the island of Thasos. The people there implored the celebrated Ioannicius to free them from snakes. The saint prayed to God and the snakes, in large number, rushed into the sea and drowned.

5. THE HOLY MARTYRS MACEDONIUS, TATIANUS AND THEODULUS

They all suffered for Christ the Lord at Myropolis in Phrygia, during the reign of Julian the Apostate. They were harshly tortured for destroying the statue of an idol, and were burned on an iron grid until they gave up their souls to God. While burning over the fire, these brave men cried out mockingly to their torturer, saying: "Wouldn't you like to try our meat to see if it is well cooked?'' And also, like the glorious Archdeacon Lawrence, they said: "Turn us over onto the other side, for this side is done!'' Witnessing the holy martyrs on the fire, the torturer was more perplexed and frightened than they were.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HIEROMARTYR AUTONOMUS
 
Autonomus, most glorious, feared no torture,
 
But, because of his mission, was not bound to stay.
 
Fleeing the wrath of cruel torturers
 
He sowed the seed of the Holy Gospel,
 
Baptizing in the name of Christ,
 
And working miracles in His name.
 
But when he completed his task, having pleased God,
 
When his hour tolled to enter eternity,
 
The persecutors raged into the temple
 
And slew the saint at the holy altar
 
While the saint was offering the Bloodless Sacrifice-
 
The Bloodless and the bloody, commingled!
 
O Saint Autonomus, servant of God-
 
To God's servant, even torture is befitting-
 
Save us from fear in the face of tortures,
 
And be the helper of our salvation,
 
That we not fear to endure all for the Cross,
 
To die gladly for Christ.
 
O wondrous healer of every disease,
 
Preserve us from demonic deceptions,
 
That we immerse our minds in the Most-high God,
 
That we become worthy of that eternal life
 
In which you now reign like a king,
 
And joyfully exult with the holy angels.

REFLECTION

What kind of bond should there be between man and God? An unbreakable and continual bond. "Adhere to God as a son adheres to his father,'' counseled St. Anthony. And St. Alonius said: "If a man is not set in his heart that there is no one else in the world but himself and God, he cannot find peace in his soul.'' The one God is enough, and more than enough, for all that the heart of man can desire. Without a single protest, Blessed Theodora received a stranger's child, given to her by slanderers, as if it were her own. Theodora raised this child with love, and reared it in the fear of God. Before her death, this is how she counseled the child: "What is more necessary for man than God and His divine love? He is our refuge, He is our treasure, He is our food and drink, He is our raiment and shelter, He is our health and strength, He is our happiness and joy, He is our hope and our trust. Strive then, my son, to gain Him. If you succeed in gaining the One God, it will be sufficient for you; you will rejoice more in Him than if you had gained the entire world.'' In saying this, St. Theodora did not speak from a book or from someone else's words, but on the basis of her own personal experience. She lived for seven years, driven out and scorned by all men, and during that time she learned by experience that God was everything to her, and that the One God was sufficient for all that the heart of man desires.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the division of Solomon's kingdom (I Kings 11):

1. How, because of Solomon's sins, the kingdom of Israel was divided;

2. How Jeroboam, the king's servant, became king over ten tribes; and Rehoboam, the king's son, became king over two tribes;

3. How, even today, it happens that the sins of the father bring down misfortune on the son; and the sins of the elders of the nation, on the people.

HOMILY

on how the soul must feed on Christ in order to live

He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me (John 6:57).

Thus speaks Christ the Lord, the Life and Source of life. A tree feeds on the earth, air and light. If a tree does not feed on the earth, the air and the light, will it be able to grow and live? What does an infant at its mother's breast feed on, except its mother? If it does not feed on its mother, will it grow and live? So it is that our soul will not grow or live, if it does not feed on Christ, the Living and Immortal One. The words here are not about life in general, by which nature lives, nor about the stunted life by which pagans live, but rather about the special, divine and eternal life-a life full and joyful. Only Christ gives this life to men, and it comes only to those who feed on Christ. Each man is as great as the food he feeds on, and each man is as alive as the food he feeds on. The words here are not about bodily food, for only man's body-not man's soul-is fed by bodily food. Men differ both in physical growth and physical life, but these differences are totally insignificant. However, the difference in spiritual growth and life among men is enormous. While some men, by the growth of their souls, barely raise themselves above the earth, others raise themselves to the heavens. The difference between Herod and John the Baptist is no less than the difference between a king and an angel. While the former drags his body and soul through the earth and wickedly defends his throne on earth, the latter stands his body on a rock in the wilderness, and is raised in soul to the heavens among the angels.

 O my brethren, let us lift up our souls to the heavens, where Christ the Lord sits on the throne of eternal glory, and let us feed and nourish our soul and heart with Him, the pure and almighty Life. Only then will we be made worthy to be His fellow heirs in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 O Lord Jesus, our true God, our sweet food and our man-loving Nourisher; cast us not away from Thy divine bosom, for we are weak and helpless. Nourish us with Thyself, O our merciful Nourisher.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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