Prologue of Ohrid

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November 7

1. THE HOLY MARTYR HIERON AND HIS COMPANIONS

 Hieron was born in Tyana in Cappadocia of a good and devout mother, Stratonika, who was blind. Hieron was a very zealous Christian and served his blind mother with great filial love. For two reasons he did not wish to join the army, and he resisted and drove off those who had been sent to take him. Hieron was loath to leave his helpless mother, and it was grievous for him even to consider that, as a soldier, he would be compelled to offer sacrifices to idols. Finally, Hieron was arrested along with other Christians, and they were all taken before the eparch of the town of Melitene. While they were still on the road, a man clad in a brilliant white garment appeared to Hieron one night and said: "Behold, Hieron, I proclaim salvation to you: you shall not wage war for an earthly king, but for the Heavenly King you will complete your struggle, and you shall soon come to Him to receive honor and glory.'' At this, Hieron's heart was filled with inexpressible joy. In Melitene they were all thrown into prison and Hieron, with great zeal, strengthened all the prisoners in the Faith, urging that not even one of them fall away, but that all willingly offer their bodies to torture and death for Christ. All but one confessed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The exception was Hieron's kinsman Victor, who fell away from the Faith. The tormentors cut one of Hieron's hands off, then flogged and tortured him in various ways until they beheaded him and the others. Going to the place of execution, these thirty-three martyrs chanted the Psalm: Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord (Psalms 118:1). Here we will name the honorable martyrs whose names are written with his in the Book of Life: Hesychius, Nicander, Athanasius, Mamas, Barachius, Callinicus, Theogenes, Nikon, Longinus, Theodore, Valerius, Xanthius, Theodulus, Callimachus, Eugenius, Theodochus, Ostrichius, Epiphanius, Maximian, Ducitius, Claudian, Theophilus, Gigantius, Dorotheus, Theodotus, Castrichius, Anicletus, Themilius, Eutychius, Hilarion, Diodotus and Amonitus. A man named Chrysanthus purchased Hieron's severed head and honorably buried it, later building a church over it in the saint's name. The martyr's severed hand was brought to his blind mother. St. Hieron, with his companions, suffered in the year 298 and entered the glory of Christ.

2. THE HOLY MARTYR THESSALONICA WITH AUCTUS AND TAURION

This maiden was the daughter of a pagan priest, Cleon, a rich and arrogant man. Because of her faith in Christ, her father drove her from the house and city. Two honorable citizens, Auctus and Taurion, reproached Cleon for his inhuman treatment of his daughter, and he in turn denounced them as Christians. They were bitterly tortured and beheaded for Christ. Thessalonica was then tortured and slain as well. They suffered in the Macedonian city of Amphipolis near present day Kavala. Thus, these martyrs were made worthy of the Immortal Kingdom by their honorable suffering.

3. THE VENERABLE LAZARUS OF GALESIUS

A pillar of light appeared above the house where he was born. Lazarus left his village of Magnesia and went to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the holy places. There, he was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. After ten years, he settled on Mount Galesius and lived a life of asceticism on a pillar as a stylite. Lazarus was a miracle-worker both during his life and after death. Emperor Constantine Monomachus had great respect for him. Attaining old age, St. Lazarus entered into eternity toward the end of the eleventh century. 

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY MARTYR HIERON AND HIS COMPANIONS

Prisons are peculiar palaces!

In prison, St. Hieron spoke:

"O my brethren, thirty companions,

Hold to God's word,

To God's word and His law.

Behold, from time immemorial, the serpent has risen up,

Seeking to ensnare you with a glance,

So that, one by one, you would follow it to hell.

Do not succumb, brethren, true believers,

Oh, hearken to humble Hieron!

Whatever the serpent promises you

Is as fleeting as the green grass.

Courageously endure your sufferings:

Do not trade the eternal for the temporal;

Today or tomorrow, death will arrive,

Then all must go to the judgment of God.

Blessed is he who is not ashamed 

When he sees his Judge before him.

Even more so is he who can show the Judge

The blood he has shed for Him,

And the wounds he bears for His name.

Such a one will reign eternally with Him.''

REFLECTION

There are decisive moments in life upon which a man's eternal life or eternal death depend. We do not know when this decisive moment will come for us-perhaps today-and because of this we must be unceasingly vigilant. Victor, a kinsman of St. Hieron, was arrested with him. On the day before their torture, Victor, in terror of the impending tortures, went to the prison warden and begged him to take his name off the list of the condemned and release him, promising to give him his land. The warden removed his name and released him. However, upon returning home, Victor died of natural causes in the same moment that St. Hieron and his companions died in torments for Christ. Thus Victor vainly missed the decisive moment: he lost his land, his friends and both his earthly and heavenly life. In that same decisive moment, Hieron gained all. No one vied for Victor's body, while many vied for Hieron's body. When Christians sought the head of Hieron from the eparch, he asked as much gold for it as it weighed. Chrysanthus, a wealthy and devout man, paid that much gold for the martyr's honorable head. Anthony and Matronian hid one of St. Hieron's severed hands and brought it to Hieron's mother, the blind Stratonika. She took her son's hand and wept bitterly: "O my beloved son, I gave birth to you whole, and now I have only one part of you!''

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the malignant power of an evil spirit over those who serve him (Acts 19):

1. How seven Jews tried to imitate Paul in driving out spirits from possessed people, attempting this for their own gain;

2. How the evil spirit answered them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

3. How the man with the evil spirit leaped on them and overwhelmed them.

HOMILY

on the dark paths of mankind before and apart from Christ

… in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).

This is all one and the same path-the path to destruction. According to the course of this world means inclination toward sinfulness; according to the prince of the power of the air means according to the will of those chiefs of the demons who inhabit the air; in the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience means that in the same way that the opponents and adversaries of God now live, all men lived before the advent of Christ, including those to whom the Apostle writes the epistle. What is this power of the air, brethren? This is the order of evil spirits who exist in constant movement in the air. They make the air lethal and they impede the souls of the departed as they make their way to heaven. They deceive the spirit of man to work every evil; they tempt it with every sin. Yet, they do not command the spirit to sin, for they lack the power to do that; they can only tempt and corrupt. They acted more strongly and directly on the pagans than on the Israelites. They fell upon the pagans as a swarm of flies on a carcass, but the Israelites they watched from a distance, corrupting and tempting them more subtlely. They stood at a distance from Israel because of the name of God, which was preserved and spoken among the Israelites. The Lord Jesus Christ scattered them all and plucked out their poisonous stings, so that they remained only as empty phantoms, as miserable, inconstant shadows that vanish instantly at the mention of the name of Christ or at the tracing of the sign of Christ's Cross.

O Lord Jesus, our Commander and Deliverer, help us to live in Thy freedom.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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