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Prologue from Ochrid - June 8 [June 21]

1. St Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch.

During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius, Ephraim was governor of the eastern regions. He was famed for his great piety and compassion, and was much esteemed for these virtues. When the rebuilding of Antioch, which had been destroyed by earthquake and fire, was put in hand, the Emperor ordered Ephraim to oversee the work. Ephraim performed this work with diligence and love. There was among the ordinary workers a certain bishop who had left his see for unknown reasons and was working as a labourer. Not a soul knew that the man was a bishop. One day he lay down to take a rest from the exhausting work with the other labourers, and fell asleep. Ephraim glanced at him, and saw a flaming pillar rising above the man and reaching up to heaven. Amazed and frightened, Ephraim summoned him and bound him under oath to reveal who he was. The man hesitated a long time, but finally admitted that he was a bishop and foretold that Ephraim would shortly be consecrated Patriarch of Antioch (the patriarchal throne having been empty since the old Patriarch, Euphrasius, perished in the earthquake). Ephraim was indeed elected and consecrated as Patriarch. For his goodness, purity and zeal for Orthodoxy, a great gift of wonderworking was given him by God. Once, in order to convince some heretic that Orthodoxy is the true Faith, he placed his omophor in the flames and prayed to God. The omophor remained unharmed in the fire for three hours. When the heretic saw this, he was afraid and cast his heresy aside. Ephraim entered peacefully into rest in 546.

2. Our Holy Father Zossima of Phoenicia.

This saint was born in Synda, in the neighbourhood of Tyre, and laboured in asceticism in his monastery nearby. Having not the shadow of a cloud on his conscience, he could prophesy, see far into distant things and behold what was happening in the world. In this way he was able to witness the fall of Antioch during the earthquake, and, weeping bitterly, he prostrated himself on the ground and prayed to God that the city should not be completely destroyed. It once happened that a lion met him on a path and killed and ate his mule. The saint commanded the lion to serve him in the mule's place, and to carry the load. The lion became as meek as a lamb, took the load upon itself and carried it to the gates of Caesarea, where Zossima gave it back its liberty and let it go. St Zossima entered peacefully into rest in the sixth century.

3. The Holy and Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates.

This saint is commemorated on February 8th, and his life is recounted there. However, June 8th commemorates the translation of his relics from Heraklion to Euchaita. St Theodore's last request to his servant Varus before his martyrdom was: 'Bury my body on the estate of my ancestors at Euchaita.' St Anastasius of Mount Sinai has recorded the following miracle by an icon of St Theodore: At a place called Karsat, close to Damascus, there was a church dedicated to St Theodore. When the Saracens conquered Damascus, a party of them, with their wives and children, turned the church into their lodging. There was a fresco of St Theodore on the wall, and one of the Saracens let fly an arrow and struck the image of St Theodore in the face. At once blood flowed from it. Soon after that, the entire group of Saracens in that church died. St Anastasius says that he had been in that church himself, and had seen the traces of blood on the saint's face on the wall.

Reflection

Fear in suffering and fear of not suffering -this is one and the same fear and it signifies the fear of a spiritual man as to whether or not God has distanced Himself from him. When St. Catherine suffered many and difficult tortures, our Lord appeared to her and she asked Him: 'Where were You until now, 0 Lord, to comfort me in so many sufferings?" The Lord answered her: ' I was here in your heart.' But as great a fear can come upon a spiritual man when, sufferings do not come his way for a long time. A monk once entered a church in Alexandria and saw a woman kneeling before the icon of the Savior and weeping tears cried out to the Lord: 'You have abandoned me O Lord, O Merciful One, have mercy on me!" Following the prayer the monk asked her: Who has wronged you that you so bitterly complain to God?" The woman replied: "Up to now, no one has wronged me, that is why I am weeping because God has abandoned me and for three years did not visit me with any sufferings. During this time, I was neither sick, nor my son, nor has any of my household livestock perished."

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous healing of the two blind me: "As Jesus moved on from there, two blind men came after Him crying out, 'Son of David, have Pity on us' " (St. Matthew 9:27):

  1. How the blind men cried out to the Lord in order that He open their eyes
  2. How the Lord touched their eyes and did to them according to their faith and they saw;
  3. How even the Lord can touch my blind soul and restore my spiritual sight if I cry out to Him in faith.

Homily

About the King of kings

"By Me kings reign and princes decree Justice. By Me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. I love them that love Me" (Proverbs 8:15-17).

Let not a king think that he rules by his wisdom and power for he WM be mocked by the weak and the foolish. Let a ruler not think that he establishes justice among the people by his intelligence and will, that he not think foolishness, which is even absurd for children. Let princes, rulers and judges not think that they rule according to someone else's will and mercy contrary to God's will and mercy for all those who forget God will be fatally damaged upon the ice on which they are sliding. 'I love them that love Me,' says the Lord. This, the Lord speaks in the first place to the kings, princes and judges of mankind. For, if they love the Lord, they are very dear to the Lord. If they love the Lord, the people over whom they rule and judge win love Him also. And, if the people love the Lord, they will love their kings, princes and judges.

Inasmuch as a man is elevated by power and authority over people, so much closer should he be to God than the people over whom he is elevated.

O my brethren, the Lord was crucified on a Cross for us and, by this, He showed His love for us. He Who was crucified for us truly loves us more than he who merely rejoices with us at the table. And yet when we love so many of our friends with us at the table, how then should we not love Him Who, out of love for us, was crucified on the Cross?

O Blessed Lord, open for us our spiritual sight that we may see the entire immeasurable depth of Your love and that we may be inflamed with love toward You!.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen

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