Prologue of Ohrid

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September 22

1. THE HIEROMARTYR PHOCAS, BISHOP OF SINOPE

Phocas exercised himself in all the Christian virtues from his youth. As bishop in his birthplace, the town of Sinope on the shores of the Black Sea, he strengthened the faith of the true believers by his example and divine words and converted many idol-worshipers to the true Faith. The hard-hearted pagans were filled with rage against holy Phocas. Through a vision granted him by the Lord, he foresaw his martyrdom: Phocas saw a white dove fly down from heaven carrying a beautiful wreath of flowers in its beak, and lowered the wreath onto his head. And Phocas heard a voice, saying: "Your cup is full and you should drink it!'' From this vision the God-pleaser realized that he was soon to suffer for Christ. He was not afraid, but with gratitude toward God prepared himself for suffering. Soon after, a certain prince, Africanus, took Phocas for interrogation, and subjected him to harsh tortures. The torturers beat and wounded his whole body, and after a time of imprisonment threw him into boiling water, where this brave soldier of Christ ended his earthly life and settled in the joy of his Lord. Phocas suffered during the reign of Emperor Trajan.

2. THE HOLY PROPHET JONAH

Jonah lived more than eight hundred years before Christ. It is said that he was that son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon whom the Prophet Elias had raised from the dead. By his three-day sojourn in the belly of the whale, he prefigured the three days that Christ lay in the tomb; and, by his deliverance from the belly of the whale, he prefigured the Lord's Resurrection from the dead. Everything else concerning this wonderful prophet can be read in the Book of Jonah.

3. THE HOLY MARTYR PHOCAS THE GARDENER

Phocas was a compatriot of the Hieromartyr Phocas. He had a garden in Sinope, near the Black Sea, that he himself cultivated. He treated all passers-by with the fruits of his garden, not missing an opportunity to feed their souls with the word of God. But a certain prince who persecuted Christians heard of him, and sent soldiers to kill him. Phocas treated the soldiers so cordially that they hesitated to kill him. However, by his own insistent request, they carried out the command and beheaded him. In that place, over his miracle-working relics, a church was soon built in his name. St. Phocas is especially venerated by sailors, and is invoked for help by all who travel by sea. Phocas suffered in the year 320.

4. THE VENERABLE COSMAS OF ZOGRAPHOU

Cosmas was of a noble family from Bulgaria. When his parents wanted him to marry, Cosmas fled to Mount Athos. He was a hermit and miracle-worker. He labored ascetically in a cave near the Monastery of Zographou. The Holy Theotokos appeared to him on more than one occasion. He is known as the greatest ascetic and miracle-worker of Zographou. The formidable cell in which Cosmas labored in silence and struggled with demons exists even today to the northwest of the Monastery of Zographou. With spiritual sight and clairvoyance, he described events in distant times and places. He died in old age, on September 22, 1323, and after a life of much labor took up his habitation in the joy of his Lord.

5. SAINT PETER THE MERCIFUL

Peter was a God-pleaser of the sixth century. (See ``Reflection'' below.) 

6. SAINT JONAH THE PRESBYTER

Jonah was the father of St. Theophanes, the writer of canons, and St. Theodore the Branded. Jonah was a miracle-worker and died in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified in the ninth century.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
THE HOLY PROPHET JONAH
 
Nineveh! Nineveh resounds with sin,
 
And God sends Jonah to heal Nineveh.
 
Jonah does not want to, and flees from God!
 
Oh, where will you go, Jonah, to hide from the Most High?
 
Jonah sleeps; he sleeps and the tempest rises.
 
God moves slowly, but He will find you in time.
 
Hurled into the waves, swallowed by the whale,
"From whom did I flee?'' Jonah asks himself.
 
"I fled from Him, from Whom one cannot hide!''
 
God chastises Jonah and yet delivers him,
 
And, by His providence, glorifies him forever.
 
Jonah, you do not want to speak to the Ninevites,
 
But through your punishment you will prophesy the immortal Christ.
 
You do not want to by words? Then you must, by deeds,
 
Prophesy Christ and the death and resurrection of the body!
 
Your deeds, Jonah, will not fade away,
 
And Christ the Lord will speak of you to men,
 
That, through you, the mercy of the Living God might be revealed,
 
By which you will be saved, as well as Nineveh.
 
Through you, the power of repentance shall be revealed-
 
The power of repentance and God's forgiveness.
 
You pitied the gourd, and God pitied men.
 
Help us to repent, O God, and save us from condemnation.
 
REFLECTION


When a man clearly senses God's mercy toward him, he is startled, as from a dull and senseless dream, and becomes ashamed of his long blindness to God's unceasing compassion. In the time of Emperor Justinian, the chief imperial tax collector in Africa was a certain Peter, a very wealthy but very hard and merciless man. The beggars grumbled among themselves, that not one of them had ever received alms from Peter. Then, one of them bet that he would succeed in getting alms from Peter. He persistently begged alms of the miser until Peter, in a rage, hit him with a loaf of bread, since he had nothing else close at hand. Joyfully the beggar took the bread and fled. Immediately after this Peter became seriously ill and had this vision: He was being interrogated by demons in the other world. There was a scale, and on one side of it, the demons heaped Peter's sins, making that side extremely heavy. On the other side-which was empty-angels stood, sorrowing that they had not even one good deed in Peter's life to help balance the scale. One of them said: "We have nothing to place on the scale except one loaf of bread, with which he struck a beggar the day before yesterday.'' The angels placed this one loaf of bread on the empty side of the scale, and that loaf of bread outweighed the other side of the scale, laden with all of Peter's sins. When the vision was over Peter said to himself: "Indeed, this was not an apparition but the living truth, for I saw all my sins from my youth. And when I can be helped so much by one loaf of bread that I threw at a beggar, how much help would I receive from many deeds of almsgiving, performed from the heart and with humility?'' And from that time, Peter became the most compassionate man in his town. He distributed all of his possessions to the poor, and when he had finished distributing his possessions, he sold himself into slavery for thirty gold pieces and distributed even his own price as a slave to the poor as alms in the name of Christ. He was, thereafter, called Peter the Merciful.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the wrath of God against King Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 18-20):

1. How Jehoshaphat allied himself with the apostate King Ahab, and almost perished;

2. How he allied himself with King Ahaziah, and again suffered a great loss;

3. How God does not wish the faithful to unite with unbelievers.

HOMILY
 
on God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter

And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever (John 14:16).

Brethren, where there is love, there are no commands; requests take the place of commands. Among those who love one another, a request has greater power than does a command among those who do not love. The Holy Trinity represents the supreme kingdom and majesty of love. Isaiah refers to the Holy Trinity as Mighty Counsel (Isaiah 9:6) and the Incarnate Son of God as Angel of Great Counsel-that is, messenger. How does this counsel relate to the unity of God? You yourself are one being, but you still take counsel with yourself. Your mind asks your will, "Can you?'' and asks your heart, "Do you want to?'' And the will and the heart ask your mind: "Do you know how?'' And, yet, even with this internal counseling with yourself, you are still one-one man, one person. Naturally, this is but a pale illustration and shadow of the Holy Trinity and Their perfect counsel, for there is complete equality and harmony of Persons in the Holy Trinity. That which the Father wills, the Son and the Holy Spirit immediately will. And He shall give you another Comforter. See how confident the Son of God is-that whatever He would request and counsel would immediately be confirmed in the great Divine Counsel? The Father will agree to send, and the Spirit will agree to be sent. The Son of God does not say: "I will pray to the Father to give you, and I believe that He will give you.'' Rather, He says: "I will pray and He will give you.'' He knows in advance that the Father will give what He asks. He knows this-if it can be thus said-from His own eternal experience. For through all eternity harmony reigns, has reigned and will reign between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He shall give you another Comforter. By these words, the complete equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit is revealed. In other words, "The Father will send you another Comforter-equal in power with Me, of one Essence with Me and equal in honor with Me. He will be able to fully act for Me in His way in accordance with His Divine Person, which is uniquely different from My Person as the Son.''

O my brethren, do you see how the undivided Holy Trinity participates in our salvation? Do you see Whose we are? Do you see what dignity is given to us mortal and sinful ones? O Most-holy and Most-glorious Trinity our God, have mercy on us and save us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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