Prologue of Ohrid

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December 2

1. THE HOLY PROPHET HABAKKUK

Habakkuk was the son of Asaphat from the tribe of Simeon. He prophesied six hundred years before Christ, during the time of King Manasseh, and foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, Habakkuk sought refuge in the land of the Ishmaelites. From there he returned to Judea, where he lived as a farmer. One day he was carrying lunch to the workers in the fields, when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: Go carry the dinner that thou hast into Babylon unto Daniel, who is in the lion's den (Daniel 14:34*). But Habakkuk responded: Lord, I never saw Babylon; neither do I know where the den is (Daniel 14:34-35). Then the angel took him by the hair and instantly brought him to Babylon, over an immense distance, to the lion's den, where Daniel had been cast by King Cyrus as a punishment for not worshiping the idols. O Daniel, Daniel, cried Habakkuk, take the dinner which God hath sent thee (Daniel 14:37), and Daniel took it and ate. Then the angel of God again took Habakkuk and carried him back to his field in Judea. Habakkuk also prophesied the liberation of Jerusalem and the time of the coming of Christ. He entered into rest in ripe old age and was buried at Kela. His relics were discovered during the reign of Theodosius the Great.

     (*Editor's Note:  Daniel 14 is from the Greek text of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, and is also known as Bel and the Dragon.)

2. THE HOLY MARTYR MYROPE

Myrope was born in Ephesus of Christian parents. After the death of her father, she moved with her mother to the island of Chios, where she suffered for Christ. The suffering of this holy virgin took place soon after the suffering and death of the glorious Martyr Isidore the soldier (May 14). When the torturers had beheaded Isidore, the courageous Myrope secretly took his body, censed it, and honorably buried it in a special place. The villainous prince Numerian heard that the martyr's body had been stolen and wanted to kill the guards. Learning that innocent men would suffer for her good deed, blessed Myrope appeared before the authorities and acknowledged that she had taken the martyr's body and buried it. By order of the prince, the entire body of Christ's holy virgin was severely whipped, and finally she was cast into prison covered with wounds. But the Lord did not leave His martyr comfortless. At midnight a heavenly light illumined the prison, and many angels, with St. Isidore in their midst, appeared to her. "Peace be to you, Myrope,'' St. Isidore said to her. "Your prayer has reached God, and soon you will be with us and will receive the wreath prepared for you.'' The holy martyr rejoiced and at that moment surrendered her soul to her God. A sweet fragrance issued from her body, filling the entire prison. One of the guards, seeing all of this and sensing the fragrance, believed in Christ, was baptized, and soon received a martyr's death. St. Myrope took up her habitation in eternity in the year 251.

3. SAINT UROŠ, KING OF SERBIA

Uroš was the son of Tsar Dušan. He reigned during the difficult time of the collapse of the Serbian kingdom.  Meet, devout and gentle, he did not want to subjugate the unrestrained nobles by force, among whom the most violent was Vukašin, who ended the good king's life. The good Uroš suffered a martyr's death on December 2, 1367, at the age of thirty-one.  Slain by men, he was glorified by God.  His miracle-working relics rested in the Jazak Monastery in Fruška Gora, whence they were translated to Belgrade during the Second World War.  They were placed in the Cathedral Church alongside the relics of Prince Lazar and the Despot Stefan Štiljanović.  During the reign of this good king, the Monastery of St. Nahum beside Lake Ohrid was built by Grgur, one of Uroš's nobles.

4. THE VENERABLE ATHANASIUS, RECLUSE OF THE MONASTERY OF THE KIEV CAVES

This holy man died after a long life of asceticism and was bathed, clothed and prepared for burial by his brethren. Athanasius lay dead for two days and suddenly came to life. When they came to bury him, they found him sitting up and crying. After that, he closed himself in his cell and lived for twelve more years on bread and water, not speaking a word to anyone. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 1176.

5. SAINT ISE [JESSE], BISHOP OF TSILKANI

Ise is one of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers (May 7). He was a great miracle-worker. By his prayers, he re-routed a distant river to flow close to the city of Tsilkani. His relics rest in a church dedicated to him in Tsilkani in Georgia.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT UROŠ, KING OF SERBIA

Like the wind, Dušan's power passed away,

But Uroš's holiness forever remains.

Weak in tyranny, powerful in virtue;

Powerful in virtue, righteousness and truth;

Uroš, with all his heart, fell in love with Christ God,

Gaining heaven and losing the world.

No sin tainted his soul.

Defeated, he conquered; slain, he lives.

All the Serbian nobles, proud and hot-tempered,

While living could not do

That which now the relics of St. Uroš do--

Uroš the Powerful, the God-pleaser.

Rich men, turned to dust, no longer reign,

But the crowned Uroš, rich in justice and God's truth,

Even now reigns,

And eases the pains of his people,

Offering up prayers before Christ in Paradise,

Imploring mercy for his people from the Lord.

O King Uroš, holy and noble one,

Help us to fulfill God's law!

REFLECTION

"Who has ever returned from the other world to inform us of it?'' Thus the unbelievers ask. One should reply to them: "Repent of your sins if you wish to find out; make yourselves worthy and you will see.'' St. Habakkuk traveled with an angel. St. Myrope saw a host of angels and among them the martyr, St. Isidore. St. Athanasius of the Kiev Caves was dead to this world for two days and alive only in the other world. Upon the return of his soul to his body, they gathered around him and asked him: "How did you return to life? What did you see? What did you hear?'' He would say nothing about it, being totally in horror at that which he had seen in the other world, and would only say: "Save yourselves!'' When they pressured him to tell a little more of what he had seen in the other world after death, he replied: "Even if I should tell you, you would not believe me or listen to me.'' When they urged him yet further, however, he said among other things: "Repent every moment and pray to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Most-pure Mother.'' Even in our own time, there are cases of those who have temporarily died, and the visions and accounts of those who have returned to life in the body do not contradict but rather complement one another. For example, every person who dies sees one part of that other world that is vast and incomparably larger than this world. Many people, at death, see their long-dead relatives and speak with them. This is almost a common occurrence. In 1926, in the village of Vevčani, Meletije P. was on his deathbed. He spoke with his children, who had died twenty years earlier. When his living relatives said to him, "You're rambling!'' he replied, "I am not rambling, but rather I am speaking with them as I am speaking with you, and I see them as I see you.''

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the sinful fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):

1. How Adam and Eve, before their sin, were clothed in innocence and did not see themselves naked;

2. How, after sinning, Adam and Eve saw themselves naked and hid themselves from God;

3. How every virtue is clothing, and every sin is nakedness.

HOMILY

on the joyful revelations in the first sentence of the Bible

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

How compact and full is God's every word! It is like folded linen, which can be carried under the arm and spread upon the grass over a large area. How many, many priceless good things does this word of God reveal to us: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. First of all, it shows us that God is the only eternal and uncreated One. And this first revelation brings about in us the first inexpressible joy. In this whirlpool of change and transience, we are inexpressibly happy that our Creator is beyond change and transience. It further tells us that the one and only good God is the Creator of the world, and since He is the Creator, He is also both the Almighty and the Provider. And this second revelation brings about in us a second inexpressible joy. The world did not proceed out of chaos or chance, without thought and purpose, rather it proceeded from the All-wise God, omniscient and most-merciful, Who is in control of it and is guiding it toward its intended goal. It further reveals to us that this world had a beginning, and consequently it will have an end. And this third revelation brings about in us inexpressible joy. For it would be sad if this world were eternal, and if all its goals, immediate and distant, were to be found only within itself. This would indeed cause a whirlpool in the mind of the intelligent, and sadness in the heart of the righteous. It finally points out to us that God created two worlds, the heavenly and the earthly, or the incorporeal and the corporeal. And this fourth revelation brings us a fourth inexpressible joy. As we now raise our gaze to the heights and rejoice in the sun, moon and stars above our heads, so we can raise our spirit to the spiritual world, toward the angelic world, which is akin to us but purer and brighter than us. We rejoice, for we know that there is a world better than ours, which we will also enter and, like weary travelers, return home and find rest. Oh, how sadly would men's gaze wander around the world if this were the only world and there were no starry heavens! And how sorrowfully would the spirit of man wander in the material world if there were not a spiritual world, the heavenly!

O Most-gracious Lord, glory to Thee and praise.

To Thee alone be glory and praise forever. Amen.



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