Prologue of Ohrid

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September 20

1. THE HOLY GREAT-MARTYR EUSTATHIUS (PLACIDAS)

Eustathius was a great Roman general during the reigns of Emperors Titus and Trajan. Though he was a pagan, Placidas (for that was his pagan name) was a just and merciful man, similar to Cornelius the Centurion, who was baptized by the Apostle Peter (Acts 10). Out hunting one day, he pursued a stag. By God's providence, a cross appeared between the antlers of the stag and the voice of the Lord came to Placidas, directing him to go to a Christian priest and become baptized. Placidas was baptized, along with his wife and two sons. At baptism, he received the name Eustathius; his wife, Theopiste ("faithful to God''); and his sons, Agapitus and Theopistus. After his baptism, he returned to the place where he had experienced the revelation of the stag and, kneeling, gave thanks to God that He had brought him to the truth. Just then, the voice of the Lord again manifested itself to him, foretold that he would suffer for His name, and strengthened him. Then Eustathius secretly left Rome with his family, intending to hide among the simple people and serve God in humble and unknown surroundings. Arriving in Egypt, he was immediately beset by trials. An evil barbarian abducted his wife, and both of his sons were seized by wild beasts and carried away. However, the barbarian soon lost his life, and the children were saved from the wild beasts by shepherds. Eustathius settled in the Egyptian village of Vadisis and lived there for fifteen years as a hired laborer. Then barbarians attacked the Roman Empire, and Emperor Trajan grieved that he did not have the brave General Placidas, who had carried the victory whenever he fought. The emperor sent two of his officers to seek the great commander throughout the empire. By God's providence, these officers (who were once companions of Eustathius), came to the village of Vadisis, found Eustathius and brought him back to the emperor. Eustathius amassed an army and defeated the barbarians. On the way back to Rome, Eustathius found his wife and both sons. Meanwhile, Emperor Trajan had died and Emperor Hadrian was on the throne. When Hadrian summoned General Eustathius to offer sacrifices to the gods, Eustathius declined, declaring himself a Christian. The emperor subjected him and his wife and sons to torture. They were thrown to the wild beasts, but this did them no harm. Then they were cast into a red-hot metal ox. On the third day their dead bodies were removed, but they were unharmed by the fire. Thus, this glorious commander rendered unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's (Luke 20:25), and took up his habitation in the Eternal Kingdom of Christ our God.

2. SAINT MICHAEL THE PRINCE AND SAINT THEODORE THE BOYAR

Prince Michael of Chernigov visited the Tartar horde with Theodore, his Boyar, at the invitation of Khan Batu. Since they refused to follow the Tartar custom of passing through fire and worshiping idols before gaining audience with the king, they were beheaded. This occurred in the year 1244. Their relics, witnesses of their martyric death for Christ the Lord, repose in the Church of the Archangel in Moscow.

3. THE VENERABLE MARTYR HILARION

Hilarion was an Athonite monk. He willingly suffered for the Christian Faith at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople on September 20, 1804. His miracle-working relics repose in the Church of the Transfiguration on the island of Proti.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY GREAT-MARTYR EUSTATHIUS

Eustathius, a wonder among generals,

Gave his life for the Living Lord.

Authority and glory and royal honor

He discarded as refuse and chaff,

For the sake of Christ, the Immortal King,

For the sake of true eternal life.

When the voice of Jesus greeted him,

He was infused with ardent love

For Christ the All-glorious God-

The All-glorious Lover of Mankind.

That voice remained deep in his soul,

And the world could not drown it out;

And the radiant cross which the general saw,

Never left his soul.

The Cross gave him wondrous fearlessness.

The Cross saved him from the enemy's power,

And saved his spouse, faithful as a rock,

And his children, heroic and virtuous.

Eustathius gave his body over to the fire,

And his blessed spirit to the Lord.

O Eustathius, glorious martyr,

Invincible soldier of Christ,

Help and strengthen the Church of God

That the malicious demon not slander it.

Let the Church shine as a star,

And glorify her Sun, Christ.

REFLECTION

Suicide is a mortal sin and an act of defiance against the Holy Spirit, Who gives life. Suicide is a much greater sin than murder, since for the sin of murder a man can still repent; but for the sin of suicide there is no repentance. Here are two examples of overwhelming misfortune, in the face of which a fainthearted man would commit suicide, yet in which holy men of God showed themselves to be heroes.

St. Eustathius found himself in the following predicament: he left one of his sons on the bank of a river, while he carried the other son to the opposite bank and returned for the first son. Halfway back across the river, he saw that a lion had seized his son and carried him away. He looked at the other bank and saw a wolf seize the second son and carry him away. A fainthearted man in such a situation would have drowned himself in the water, and made an end to his life. Even though drowning in sorrow, Eustathius did not commit suicide, but with hope in God lived as a hireling for fifteen years. This patient man lived to see his two sons again. Thus, God rewarded his faith and patience.

As a young man, St. Hilarion was forced to become a Moslem, but his conscience began to torment him cruelly, and he had no peace at all. He returned to the Christian Faith, was tonsured a monk, and gave his body over to intense fasting and every difficult ascetic labor. Even so, his peace of soul did not return to him. A fainthearted man of little faith would have committed suicide. But Hilarion chose an incomparably better path. He went to Constantinople with his spiritual father Bessarion, and not only openly confessed the Christian Faith at the sultan's court, but even counseled him to go to Russia and be baptized. After being subjected to mockery and torture, this courageous young man was beheaded, and God glorified him both in heaven and on earth. Even today, his holy relics are miracle-working. But where is the glory of those who commit suicide? Where are their relics?

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the righteousness of King Jehoshaphat, and God's reward (II Chronicles 17):

 1. How Jehoshaphat was zealous for God's truth, and how he destroyed the idols in his land;

2. How God granted him riches, glory, peace and victory over his enemies.

HOMILY

on the only Way, Truth and Life
 
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me (John 14:6)

Brethren, these words were not merely spoken, but were soaked with blood, confirmed by the Resurrection, instilled by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, and proven again and again by the Church through ages and ages. Of all the treasures on earth, men love life the most-and they love life more than they do truth, even though there is no life without truth. Thus, the highest good is life, but truth is the foundation of life. He who loves life, must also love truth. But where is the way to truth? Our Lord says: I am the Way. He did not say: "I am a way,'' so that none would think there is another way to truth besides the Lord Jesus. And He is not only the Way, but also the Truth and the Life, so that none would think that there is some other truth and some other life besides the Lord Jesus. For this He was born as a man, to show men the way; for this He was crucified, to mark the way by His blood. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. This addresses those who deceive themselves by thinking that they can know God and acquire the Kingdom of God without the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord entirely cut off this false hope and desperate self-deception by these words. The apostle who heard and wrote these words in the Gospel, expressed them in his Epistle in this way: Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father (I John 2:23).

O Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Source of all blessings-truly Thou art for us the only Way, the only Light, the only Truth, the only Life and Life-giver. We acknowledge Thee before men and angels as our only God and Savior. Have mercy on us and save us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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