Prologue of Ohrid

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September 24

1. THE HOLY PROTOMARTYR THECLA, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

Thecla was born in Iconium of eminent but pagan parents. As a girl of eighteen, she was betrothed to a young man at the same time that the Apostle Paul arrived in Iconium with Barnabas to preach the Gospel. Hearing Paul's testimony for three days and nights, Thecla converted to the Christian Faith, and vowed to live in virginity. Her mother, seeing that she was now ignoring her betrothed and no longer thought of marriage, tried to dissuade her, and then beat her and tortured her by starvation. Finally, this wicked mother turned Thecla over to the judge and demanded that Thecla be burned. The judge threw her into the fire, but God preserved her unharmed. Then, Thecla followed the Apostle Paul, and went to Antioch with him. Attracted by Thecla's external beauty, a certain elder of the city wanted to take her for himself by force, but Thecla escaped his grasp. The pagan elder accused her to the eparch as a Christian who disdained marriage. The eparch condemned her to death, and had her thrown to wild beasts, but the wild beasts did not touch the body of this holy virgin. Amazed by this, the eparch asked her: "Who are you and what kind of power is in you, that nothing can harm you?'' Thecla replied: "I am a servant of the Living God.'' The eparch then released her, and she departed to preach the Gospel. She succeeded in converting many to the true Faith, among whom was Tryphena, a prominent and honorable widow. Then, having received the blessing of the Apostle Paul to do so, Thecla withdrew to a secluded place near Seleucia. There she lived a life of asceticism for a long time and, by healing the sick with wonderworking power, she converted many to Christianity. The doctors and soothsayers in Seleucia were envious of her, and sent some young men to defile her, hoping that the loss of her virginity would also mean the loss of her miraculous power. Thecla fled from these arrogant young men, but as they were about to catch her, she prayed to God for help. A large rock opened up and hid this holy virgin and bride of Christ. This rock was her refuge and her tomb. St. John Chrysostom says of this wonderful Christian heroine and saint: "It seems to me that as I see this blessed virgin, in one hand she offers Christ virginity, and in the other hand, martyrdom.''

2. SAINT STEFAN, THE FIRST-CROWNED KING OF SERBIA

Stefan was crowned at his royal foundation Žiča by St. Sava, his brother and spiritual father. He was a devout Christian and a wise and peace-loving ruler. Stefan, with St. Sava, elevated Orthodoxy to great glory among his people. According to his wish, St. Sava tonsured him a monk before his death, and gave him the name Simon. He entered into rest in the Lord on September 24, 1224, and his miracle-working relics repose in Studenica Monastery.
  St. David, (formerly Prince Dimitrije) the son of Stefan's brother Vukan, built the Monastery of Lim where he himself was tonsured a monk.
  The holy King Vladislav, son of King Stefan, built the Monastery of Mile
ševo, to which he translated the relics of St. Sava from Trnovo. He distinguished himself by a special compassion for the poor. On the coinage of his time, he had inscribed: "Vladislav, the servant of Christ.''

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY PROTOMARTYR THECLA, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

St. Thecla, Equal to the Apostles, 

The first martyr of the virgins,

Submitted her body to her spirit,

And her spirit and body to Almighty Christ.

Therefore all things submitted to her.

Terrible fire and fierce beasts,

Demons and the infirmities of men-

All submitted to faith and purity,

All were obedient to holy innocence, 

The innocence of Christ's bride.

Is not a mother a most great treasure? 

Yet what is a mother compared to Christ?

And the betrothed, made of the earth,

Is as dust before the glory of Christ.

Riches and earthly beauty-

A passing dream and wind that blows away.

Only one Rock stands forever,

And fears neither tempest nor time,

And is the Bridegroom of Thecla the martyr:

He is Christ, the King of kings.

Holy Thecla, illumined in Paradise,

Pray to Christ the Savior,

And save us sinners from our sins.

REFLECTION

Every saint is close to the place where he is invoked for help, or where his sanctity is commemorated and glorified. Those who are clairvoyant see the saints. If those who are not clairvoyant truly believe, they will see them in due time. Even as a young monk, St. Cosmas of Zographou had this gift. Once, on the Feast of the Annunciation, he went with several other monks to the Monastery of Vatopedi for this, their main feast. During the church service, and during the meal in the refectory, Cosmas saw a woman of royal beauty and majesty, who authoritatively organized, directed, and even served. This was not a momentary vision, but continued for a long time, both in the church and in the refectory. Cosmas was perplexed and startled by this vision. It was not at all proper for a woman to be in a monastery of the Holy Mountain. When he related this vision to his brother monks at Zographou, all the while protesting the presence of women on the Holy Mountain, the astonished monks explained to him that she was the Queen of the Holy Mountain, the Most-holy Theotokos. Then the perplexed heart of Cosmas was filled with great joy. St. Cosmas was so gifted with spiritual sight that, later, as an old hermit in his cave, he saw the soul of the abbot of Hilandar ascending to heaven, struggling to pass through the tollhouses, tormented by demons. Cosmas immediately sent someone to ask the brethren at Hilandar to pray to God for the soul of their reposed abbot. Matins had just been dismissed, and the monks and the abbot had just left the church. Hearing Cosmas's message, the monks laughed, saying that their abbot had just gone to his cell to prepare for Divine Liturgy. But when they entered the cell they found their abbot dead.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the sin of King Ahaziah and God's punishment of him (II Chronicles 22):

1. How Ahaziah did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, and associated with the sinful house of Ahab;

2. How Ahaziah was slain with many of his kinsmen.

HOMILY

on God the Holy Spirit, the Glorifier

He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you (John 16:14).

The Holy Spirit is equal in might with the Father and the Son. All that the Father can do, the Son can do, and so can the Holy Spirit. All that the Father knows, the Son knows, and so does the Holy Spirit. But, according to Their infinite love for one another, and according to Their infinite wisdom with regard to the dispensation of man's salvation, They appear in turn to men from the point of view of time. As the Father glorifies the Son, so the Son glorifies the Father, and the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. He shall glorify Me. Did not the Son glorify Himself? Yes, He did, but not to the extent that He could have; rather only to the extent that men of that time could receive and endure it. In time, the Holy Spirit will reveal an even greater glory of the Son of God, when He, the All-gracious One, will fill the faithful with His gifts of grace. He shall glorify Me. Brethren, the Lord also speaks these words as a lesson to us, so that if we perform some good work, we shall leave it to others to glorify us, and not seek to glorify ourselves. For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

With these words, the Lord revealed the unity of the Spirit of God with Him, and not the subordination of the Spirit. Before this, He said: He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). So that the disciples would not think that the Spirit knows more of the truth than the Son, or that the Spirit is greater than the Son, He revealed that the Spirit shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. Christ was able to guide the disciples into all truth, but at the time, the disciples were not prepared to receive all truth. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth, at the proper time. Yet, in revealing all truth to them, the Spirit will reveal nothing that is not known to the Son, let alone anything that is contrary to the knowledge and will of the Son. That is why the Lord said: For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. 

O wondrous unity of the Holy Trinity, O power of the Triune Flame, light and love from one and the same fire! O Holy and Most-holy Trinity, kindle divine love in our hearts.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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