Prologue of Ohrid

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October 25

1. THE HOLY MARTYRS MARCIAN AND MARTYRIUS

These saints of God were clergymen under Paul, the Patriarch of Constantinople, during the reign of Emperor Constantius. With the death of the great Emperor Constantine, the Arian heresy, which until then had been suppressed, revived and gained momentum. Even Emperor Constantius himself leaned toward this heresy. There were two influential noblemen at the emperor's court, Eusebius and Philip, both of whom were ardent Arians. Under their influence, Patriarch Paul was ousted from the patriarchal throne and banished to Armenia, where the Arians strangled him. Then the dishonorable Macedonius seized the patriarchal throne. At that time Orthodoxy had two bitter struggles: against the pagans and against the heretics. Marcian and Martyrius interceded with all their strength and determination on the side of Orthodoxy. Marcian was a reader and Martyrius was a subdeacon at the cathedral church of Hagia Sophia; under Patriarch Paul they had been patriarchal notaries (secretaries). The Arians at first tried to bribe them, but when these holy men rejected this with scorn, the heretics condemned them to death. When they were brought to the executioner, they raised their hands and prayed to God, giving Him thanks for a martyr's end to their lives: "Lord, we rejoice that we depart from this life by such a death. Make us worthy to be partakers of eternal life. Thou art our life!'' They placed their necks beneath the sword and were beheaded in the year 355. Later, St. John Chrysostom built a church in their name over their miracle-working relics.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR ANASTASIUS

He was a cloth-maker and a zealous Christian. During Diocletian's persecution of Christians, this man of God appeared before the judge in the Dalmatian town of Solin, and confessed his faith in Christ. He was inhumanly tortured and slain, and his body was thrown into the sea but was later found and honorably buried.

3. SAINT TABITHA

St. Tabitha (which means "gazelle'') was a disciple of the apostles and lived in Joppa. She was full of good works and almsdeeds (Acts 9:36), but suddenly became weak and died. The Apostle Peter was then in the town of Lydda, and the grieving disciples sent for him, imploring him to comfort her kinsmen. Upon his arrival, the great Apostle of Christ told everyone to leave the room where the corpse lay, then knelt in prayer. Then, turning to the body, he said: Tabitha, arise (Acts 9:40) and Tabitha opened her eyes and stood up. Many believed in the Lord Jesus Christ because of this wonderful miracle.

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
SAINT TABITHA
 
Tabitha died, not that she might no longer live,
 
But that the world might be astonished at the miracle which came to pass.
 
Beside her deathbed Peter humbly knelt,
 
And uttered fervent prayer unto the Lord. 
 
She was resurrected in body! And the unbelievers heard
 
How the Lord hearkened to the apostle's prayer
 
And returned the living soul to the dead body. 
 
And Peter turned the unbelievers to the Faith.
 
O wondrous miracle, of a kind unknown in the world!
 
By the name of Christ, death was conquered.
 
Death was conquered, and life rejoices.
 
The young Tabitha rejoices in life;
 
And, more than in her own life,
 
She rejoices that she served as a wonder to the unbelieving world.
 
She was resurrected in body! The unbelievers heard,
 
And their own souls were raised from the dead.
 
O great Peter, servant of Christ,
 
Pray to our Savior for us;
 
Resurrect our souls, buried in the mud-
 
You, who revived Tabitha by the power of God.

REFLECTION

Among other mysterious perceptions from the world of spirits, the saints also had perceptions of sweet fragrances from good spirits and foul stenches from impure spirits. During every appearance of luminous, pure spirits, a life-giving and sweet fragrance wafted about; and during every appearance of dark and impure spirits, a suffocating, unbearable stench filled the air. The saints were able to discern which passion possessed a man by the kind of stench he emanated. Thus it was that St. Euthymius the Great recognized the stench of the passion of adultery in the monk Emilian of the Lavra of St. Theoctistus. Going to Matins one morning, Euthymius passed by Emilian's cell and smelled the stench of the demon of adultery. Emilian had not committed any physical sin, but had adulterous thoughts that were being forced into his heart by the demon, and the saint already sensed it by its smell. The power of this perception once revealed itself even more wondrously in St. Hilarion the Great. A certain avaricious miser had sent some of his vegetables to Hilarion. When they were brought to Hilarion for a meal, the saint said: "Take these away from here. I cannot stand the stench that comes from these vegetables! Do you not smell how they reek of avarice?'' When the brethren were amazed by these words, Hilarion told them to take the vegetables to the oxen, and they would see that not even the oxen would eat them. Indeed, the oxen merely sniffed at them, and turned their heads away in disgust.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate God's miraculous revelation to the Apostle Peter (Acts 11):

1. How Peter saw the heavens open and a sheet full of all kinds of animals, beasts, creeping things and birds, being lowered to him;

2. How he heard a voice: Arise, Peter; slay and eat! (Acts 11:7);

3. How this admonished him to attend even to the pagans and preach the Gospel to them. 

HOMILY

on fleeing the world and dwelling in the wilderness
 
Lo, then would I flee afar off, and remain in the wilderness (Psalm 55:7).


Brethren, from whom did the prophet flee into the wilderness? From evil adversaries, from passions, and from vanity. Why did he flee into the wilderness? Because that is the way of victory over wicked adversaries, passions, and the vanity of the world. Very few choose the wilderness: that is why he fled into the wilderness. Men fight over cities and lands, over authority and wealth, but not over the wilderness. In the cities, the inner adversaries of man-the passions and diverse vanities-constantly are aroused with new fire, while in the wilderness they fade and vanish. Before he spoke of fleeing, the prophet said, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me (Psalm 55:4); this is the reason to flee into the wilderness. One should prepare his soul for the other world, for the encounter with God. Not even a king can save himself from death or avoid judgment. Living in constant luxury and merriment, man is indeed as if lulled to sleep by the strong drink of this world. But then, in the midst of luxury and merriment, the thought of death tugs at him and awakens him. Oh, I must die! I must leave this world! I must come before God and before the angels! Where is my soul? Where are my deeds? With what shall I leave this world, and with what shall I enter into the next world? Thousands upon thousands of those who have been awakened from sinful sleep by such questions have fled to the wilderness and, day and night, they amend their souls and purify their hearts by repentance, prayer, fasting, vigils, labor and other proven means by which man kills the fear of death, and becomes adopted by God.

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Most-wise and Most-gracious Teacher, Who Thyself at times withdrew from men into solitude, help us to be collected in soul and prepare ourselves for Thy Most-glorious Kingdom.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 
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