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Prologue from Ochrid - February 10 [February 23]

The Hieromartyr Charalampus.

This great saint was bishop in Magnesia, and suffered for Christ at the age of 11When a violent persecution broke out under the Emperor Septimus Severus, the aged Charalampus did not hide from his persecutors, but freely and openly preached the Christian faith. He endured all tortures as though not in the body, and when they flayed the living flesh from him, the godly saint said to the Emperor's soldiers: 'Thank you, my brethren, for scraping off the old body and renewing my soul for new and eternal life.' He performed many wonders and brought many to the Faith. Even the Emperor's daughter, Gallina, repudiated the paganism of her father and became a Christian. Condemned to death and led to the place of execution, St Charalampus raised his arms to heaven and prayed for all men, that God would give them bodily health and salvation of soul, and that He would grant them the fruits of the earth in abundance: 'Lord, Thou knowest that men are flesh and blood; forgive them their sins and pour out Thy blessing on all.' After praying thus, the saintly elder gave his soul to God before the executioner had laid his sword to his neck. He suffered in 20Gallina took his body and buried it.

Our Holy Father Prochorus the Orach-Eater.

A wonder-worker of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, he w named the Orach-eater because the whole time he lived in t monastery, he never tasted bread but fed himself on orach prepared according to his own particular method as a sort of bread When he gave someone some of this bread with his blessing, it w as sweet as honey, but if anyone stole some, it was as bitter wormwood.

At one time, when there was a dearth of salt in Russia, Prochorus distributed ashes to the people for salt. The ashes that distributed with his blessing became salt; ashes, however, anyone took for himself remained ordinary ashes. Prince Svyatopol ordered that all the ashes from Prochorus' cell be brought to t court without his permission, let alone his blessing. When the ash were brought there, it was obvious to everyone that they were ash and not salt. Then Prochorus told all the people who came to him salt to go to the prince's court, and, when the prince threw the ash away, to take them and use them as salt. This they did, and the ash again became salt. The prince himself, learning of this, was filled with a deep respect and love for him and, when Prochorus died in 1107, placed him with his own hands in a grave near the great Russian Saints, Antony and Theodorius.

Reflection

Many of the weighty difficulties which befall man have their cause, known or unknown, in his past. However, the causes of these weighty difficulties, let us say mental disorder, are nothing else than the transgression of the moral law of God. When St. Haralambos was being tortured, the persecuting emperor found out about his miracle-working power and ordered an insane man to be brought to Haralambos so that the emperor could be convinced that Haralambos could heal him. The devil tormented this man for thirty-five years driving him into the wilderness and hills and hurling him into mud or into gorges. When this deranged person approached Haralambos, the demon sensed a sweet-smelling fragrance emanating from this holy man and shouted: "I beg you, O servant of God, do not torment me before my time, rather command me and I will depart and, if you wish, I will tell you how it came about that I entered into this man." The saint commanded the demon to relate the story. The demon said: "This man wanted to steal from his neighbor and thought to himself: 'If I don't kill the man first, I will not be able to seize his goods.' He proceeded and killed his neighbor. Having caught him in the act, I entered him and behold for thirty-four years I dwelt in him." Upon hearing this, the saint of God commanded the demon to depart from the man immediately and to leave him in peace. The demon departed and the demented man was restored to health and became tranquil.

Contemplation

To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Beauty of the entire created world:

  1. As the Beauty of all created things; the beauty paled from fear and the melancholy of sins;
  2. As the Beauty of man, the most rational being in the material world; the beauty paled by fear and melancholy of sins;
  3. As the Beauty of a pure mind; of the bodiless world of the angels;
  4. As the Beauty of the Holy Trinity revealed by Him and through Him.

Homily

About the sin of those who assert that they can see

"If you were blind you would have no sin" (St. John 9:41).

These words were spoken to the Jews by Him Who gave them the Law through the prophets that the Law may serve them as the sight of the soul. The Jews received that sight but they closed their eyes intentionally and nefariously. That is why the Just Lord spoke these righteous words to them.

These words are true justice then, today and forever, for a blind man has no sin if he tramples someone else's crop or if he removes someone else's garment instead of his own. If he who has sight commits this, he will be committing a sin and will incur punishment. If he who has eyes, but intentionally closes his eyes and committed that, he also will be committing a sin and will incur punishment.

Nevertheless, what can be said about those who have received Baptism and Chrismation as the two eyes of the soul and, in spite of that, sin as those who are unbaptized? At the Last Judgment, they will not be treated as those who are born blind, rather they will be treated like transgressors who willfully disfigured and blinded themselves.

Still, what can be said about those who received the other Mysteries of Grace in the fullness of Orthodoxy and who have before them the examples of the saints and who constantly listen to the warnings and admonitions of God's Church but, nevertheless, depart and go astray? At the Last Judgment, such will not be able to justify themselves with any type of blindness, rather they will be judged as transgressors who have disfigured themselves and others around them with blindness.

O awesome Lord, save us from sin. O merciful Lord, open our eyes to the path of salvation.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK