Prologue of Ohrid

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October 9

1. THE HOLY APOSTLE JAMES

James, the son of Alphaeus, was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was the blood-brother of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. He was a witness of the true words and miracles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and a witness of His suffering, Resurrection and Ascension. After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the lot fell to James to preach the Gospel of Christ in Eleutheropolis and the surrounding areas, and then in Egypt, where he suffered for his Savior. With great power in word and in deed, James disseminated the saving news of the incarnate Word of God, destroying idolatry, driving demons out of men, and healing every infirmity and disease in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. His labor and zeal were crowned with great success. Many pagans came to believe in Christ, churches were built and organized, and priests and bishops were ordained. James suffered in the Egyptian town of Ostracina, being crucified by the pagans. Thus, this great and wonderful apostle of Christ took up his abode in the Heavenly Kingdom, to reign eternally with the King of Glory. 

2. THE VENERABLE ANDRONICUS AND HIS WIFE ATHANASIA

Andronicus was a citizen of Antioch during the reign of Theodosius the Great. Andronicus was a goldsmith by trade. He and his wife were very devout, continually striving to follow the way of the Lord. He gave a third of his income to the poor, another third to the church, and supported his family with the last third. After two children were born to them, they agreed to live as brother and sister. However, according to God's unfathomable providence, both of their children died on the same day, and they were in great sorrow. Then the holy martyr Julian appeared to Athanasia at the children's grave, and comforted her with the tidings that her children were in the Kingdom of God, and were better off there than with their parents on earth. Andronicus and Athanasia left everything and went to Egypt and received the monastic tonsure-St. Andronicus with the elder Daniel at Scetis; and Athanasia in the convent in Tabennisi. Pleasing God by their long years of asceticism, they at last went to the Eternal Kingdom of Christ. St. Athanasia reposed first, and eight days later, St. Andronicus.

3. THE RIGHTEOUS ABRAHAM AND LOT

Their lives can be read in the Book of Genesis.

4. SAINT DEMETRIUS, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

Demetrius was the eleventh Bishop of Alexandria after St. Mark the Evangelist. He governed his flock long and wisely, from 189 to 231. During this time, he received a request from India and sent St. Pantaenus, the director of the famous catechetical school in Alexandria, to India to preach the Gospel. It was in India that Pantaenus found the Gospel written by St. Matthew in Aramaic.

5. SAINT STEFAN, DESPOT OF SERBIA

Stefan was the son of the Despot George and Queen Irene.  He and his sister Mara lived at the court of Sultan Murat II for a time.  He was blinded at Jedrene together with his brother Grgur.  He received authority as Despot over Serbia in 1458.  Soon after that, he had to flee his country to Albania where he married Angelina, the daughter of Skenderbeg.  Blind and unfortunate but always devoted to God, Stefan entered into rest in Italy in the year 1468.  His relics repose in the Monastery of Kruลกedol, founded by his son St. Maxim.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY APOSTLE JAMES

Sent by the Lord, and obedient to Him,

The all-glorious Apostle James labored,

Sowing the Gospel seed everywhere,

So that from it would arise men faithful to Christ.

Throughout Syria and Egypt

He diligently poured forth the heavenly honey,

The sweet, healing words of Christ, 

And fed hungry men with this wondrous golden food.

Wherever James traveled, he left a wonder:

Spiritual vessels full and overflowing with honey,

Inexhaustible, life-creating honey:

Holy churches, full of pure, sweet richness.

In them the eternal Creator is endlessly praised,

As are the wondrous works of the Son of God.

Christ is that honey given to the faithful,

A life-creating manna of bread and wine.

James completed his journey with a mark of red-

His martyric blood, which poured down from the cross-

And he gained a wreath from Christ, in heaven,

As have the other of God's apostles.

REFLECTION

How God both punishes and shows mercy is clearly shown to us from the lives of the last of the Serbian Despots during the Turkish conquest of the Serbian lands. The Turks did not come to the Balkans by their own power to enslave Christian peoples (Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs) but by God's permission, in the same way that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took the Hebrews into slavery, not by his own power but rather by God's permission. Because of the sins of their princes and nobles, the Serbian people suffered bitterly; and the princes and nobles themselves suffered even more bitterly. Despot George died as an exile; two of his sons, Grgur and Stefan, were blinded by the Turks; his daughter was forced to become the wife of a sultan; his middle son rose up against his own mother, Irene, and brother Grgur, and seized the shaky throne of Smederevo by force, only to die soon thereafter. As soon as he became despot, the blind Stefan had to flee to Albania, then to Italy where, as an exile and an unfortunate, he reposed. All of this is God's punishment. Yet where is His mercy? God glorified both Stefan and his wife Angelina and their children Maxim and John. After eight years of lying in the grave, Stefan's body was exhumed and found to be intact, and exuded a sweet, heavenly fragrance. Many miracles were manifested from his holy relics. God graced his wife and his children in the same manner, glorifying and sanctifying them.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the wondrous bringing down of fire from heaven by the Prophet Elias (I Kings 18):

1. How St. Elias prayed to God on Mount Carmel in the presence of King Ahab and the idolatrous priests;

2. How the fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice that Elias offered to God.

HOMILY

on how only the foolish deny God

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt. They have done abominable works (Psalm 14:1).

The mind is the rudder of man's entire being. It counsels, persuades and guides. Both the soul and the body act according to the mind. If the mind is upright before God, then the whole man is upright. If the mind is iniquitous before God, the whole man is iniquitous. Even if someone merely thinks, "There is no God,'' the thought immediately manifests itself in his deeds. Evil thoughts come first and evil deeds inevitably follow. Do you see how well the inspired prophet knows the nature of man? First, he underlines the cause, then he cites the consequences. Evil deeds necessarily proceed from evil thoughts. That is why, brethren, you should not believe those who say: "I do not believe in God, but I do good deeds.'' First of all, he who does not believe in God does not know what good is, nor can he differentiate good from evil. By his disbelief, a man cuts himself off from the greatest Good and the Source of every good! Furthermore, let us carefully study this: you will see that all the deeds of the ungodly are corrupt and hateful. They are corrupt because they are evil, worthless and transitory; they are hateful, because they are contrary to the will of the Living God. The godless cannot distinguish good from evil, for only in the light of God's law can one determine precisely what is good and what is evil. However, it can also be that those who merely say they believe in God do corrupt and hateful deeds, acknowledging God with their lips but denying Him in deeds. It is good to confess God with your lips, but that is a long way from being enough! One must also acknowledge Him with the heart, and confirm one's faith by good deeds. Even so, it does happen that a man believes in his heart, and confesses with his lips, and still sins. This happens either from the weakness of the will or from the devil's arrows. Let such a one repent, and he will be forgiven immediately. Repentance is salvific even for the godless; how much more so for a believer? As long as a man is on earth, he has a chance for repentance. But who can be certain that his time will extend beyond this night? Hence, delaying repentance is utter foolishness.

O most gracious Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; help us to repent as Thou dost help us to breathe.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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