Prologue of Ohrid

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October 21

1. THE VENERABLE HILARION THE GREAT

Like a rose growing among thorns, this great saint was born of pagan parents in the village of Tabatha near Gaza in Palestine. His parents sent him to study in Alexandria, where the gifted youngster quickly assimilated both secular learning and spiritual wisdom. Coming to know the Lord Christ, he was baptized, and desired to dedicate himself completely to the service of the Lord. With this desire in his heart, Hilarion visited St. Anthony in the desert and became his disciple. Then he returned to his homeland and lived a life of asceticism near Maiuma, at Gaza. Demons tried to terrify him in various ways, but by prayer to God and the sign of the Cross he always overcame them and drove them away. Many lovers of the spiritual life gathered around him. Hilarion became for Palestine what St. Anthony was for Egypt. A divine teacher, a strict ascetic and a wonderful miracle-worker, Hilarion was revered not only by Christians but also by pagans. However, fearing the praise of men and tearfully lamenting, "Woe is me, I have received my reward on earth!'' he fled from place to place, to hide from men and remain alone with his soul and with God. Thus, he traveled and lived in Egypt, Sicily, Dalmatia and finally in Cyprus, where his life of great labor came to an end in about the year 372, at the age of eighty. The miracle-working relics of St. Hilarion were translated to Palestine by his disciple Hesychius, and were placed in the monastery founded by him.

2. SAINT HILARION, BISHOP OF MEGLIN

He was born of eminent and devout parents. His childless mother had long prayed to God that He grant her a child, and in accordance with her prayer, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to her and comforted her with the words: "Do not grieve, you will give birth to a son and he will turn many to the light of truth.'' When Hilarion was three years old, the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!'' was constantly on his lips. He was well-educated, was tonsured a monk at age eighteen, and founded a monastery based on the Rule of St. Pachomius. In 1134, he was consecrated Bishop of Meglin by Eustathius, Archbishop of Trnovo. St. Hilarion led a great, nearly lifelong struggle against the Bogomils and the Armenian heretics. However, by his spiritual learning and unequaled sanctity he put them all to shame, and drew many of them to Orthodoxy. He reposed peacefully, and took up his abode in the Kingdom of His Lord in the year 1164.

3. THE VENERABLE PHILOTHEUS

He was born in Crysopolis in Macedonia. The Turks took him from his mother, a widow, and threw him and one of his brothers into prison. The Most-holy Theotokos miraculously saved them from prison and brought them to a monastery at Neapolis in Asia Minor. Later, their mother found both of her sons as monks, and she herself was tonsured a nun. Philotheus went to Mount Athos, where he lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of Dionysiou, and later in the desert. He was a wondrous ascetic and a great conqueror of demonic powers. He reposed peacefully at the age of eighty-four. He willed that he not be buried, but that his body be thrown into the forest for the birds and wild beasts. Later, a fisherman saw a great light in the forest on a cold night and went to warm himself, thinking it was a fire. However, the light was not from a fire, but was emanating from the wonderworking relics of St. Philotheus.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE VENERABLE HILARION THE GREAT

Holy Hilarion, like a brilliant comet,

Fleeing from men, traveled half the world.

But such a star hides in vain:

Its own light reveals it to the world.

Hilarion wished to escape earthly glory,

But from glory the saint could not flee.

Where God did not proclaim him, the demons did,

Being terrified by the saint, who cast them out.

Wherever he settled, Hilarion the Wonderful

Worked miracles and healed the sick,

Conquered his weakness and passions.

A conqueror of the world, he subdued the demons.

He hid in caves, yet was proclaimed by all.

He shunned all, but was glorified by all.

The Lord glorifies His glorifiers,

And crowns victorious runners with wreaths.

When the race of earthly life passes,

The wreaths of everlasting life are given.

The aged Hilarion, ever young in spirit,

Now takes delight in the Lord face to face.

Even now his prayers wage war for us,

That in His compassion the Lord would have mercy on us. 

REFLECTION

The All-seeing eye of God watches over all men and, in a wondrous manner, guides the faithful to salvation. That which seems to the faithful a great loss can show itself over time to be a great gain. The case of St. Philotheus and his brother, who were lost to their mother, is similar to the case of St. Xenophont (January 26), and the case of St. Eustathius and his wife and sons (September 20). When St. Philotheus and his brother were sitting in a Turkish prison in Macedonia, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to them in the form of their mother and said, "Arise, my dear children, and follow me!'' and suddenly the young men found themselves in a monastery in the town of Neapolis in Asia Minor. When the young men related to the abbot what had happened to them, he understood that this was from God, and he received the young men and tonsured them. A long time passed after this. Their mother grieved for them but overcame her loss. Finally, she decided to enter a convent and dedicate herself to God. God's providence brought her near the monastery where her sons were. Once, during the patronal celebration of this monastery she came with the other nuns for the celebration. She saw her sons in church but did not recognize them. Just then, one of the brothers called the other by his secular name. The mother's heart was touched by that name, which was dear to her, and she looked carefully into their faces. Then she recognized them and they recognized her. Their joy was exceedingly great, and they gave heartfelt thanks to God. Believing Christians should not despair over even the greatest loss. 

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the wondrous healing of the blind Saul by Ananias (Acts 9):

1. How Ananias placed his hands on Saul, mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus;

2. How the blindness departed from Saul like scales falling from his eyes, and he saw and was baptized, and became Paul.

HOMILY

on the God-inspired heart and tongue

My heart will pour forth good words; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1).

Behold the inspiration of the Spirit of God! The prophet wants to speak of Christ the Lord and his heart swells with power and wisdom. That is why the prophet does not say: "My heart will speak or will pronounce good words, but rather will pour forth as though a part of his own heart rushes out like a torrent of water from an overflowing well. A torrent of water is narrow underground, but when it reaches the opening of the spring, it bursts out in a large stream. Such is the heart of the prophet when he wants to speak of Christ. Such is the power of grace confined in the heart of man. If it does not manifest itself in powerful words or if it does not manifest itself in miraculous works, it will shine within man and work wonders. But when it comes out in words, the tongue of the prophet will become as a reed, as a pen of a ready writer. For such a man does not struggle to formulate his thoughts, nor does he struggle to clothe his thoughts in the garment of words, but grace itself pours out thoughts and words, already prepared, through his tongue. Where does such a power in man come from? From God the Holy Spirit. Why does such a power exist? The prophet wants to speak to the King about Himself: I speak of things which I have made touching the King (Psalm 45:1). Actions and words here are identical, as it often happens in Holy Scripture. Where the Spirit speaks, He also acts; and where He acts, He also speaks. One speaks most powerfully through action. The prophet takes from Christ the King, and gives to Christ the King. He speaks enthusiastically of love for the Savior of the world; he speaks from a heart burning with the zeal of divine love. From the distance of time, he sees the Incarnate Son of God, and his heart dances with joy like a weary night-traveler when he sees the beautiful dawn in the east!

O Lord God, the Holy Spirit, do not deny us Thy holy and powerful grace, that we may be cleansed from sins and made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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