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Prologue from Ochrid - September 25 [October 8]

1. Our Holy Mother Euphrosyne.

The daughter of a rich and eminent man, Paphnutius, from Alexandria, she was besought of God by her childless parents, who brought their daughter up in the Christian faith. Not wishing to marry, the young Euphrosyne, in order to hide from her father, dressed herself in men's clothing and presented herself to the abbot of a monastery as a eunuch of the Emperor Theodosius with the name of Smaragdus. The abbot receivied her and placed her under the guidance of the monk Agapetus as spiritual father. By her fasting and prayers, Smaragdus quickly outstripped the other monks in the monastery. When she had spent thirty-eight years in strict asceticism, Paphnutius visited the monastery and the abbot placed him in Smaragdus's care for prayer and counsel. Smaragdus recognised Paphnutius, but Paphnutius did not recognise her. When her father confessed his grief for his lost daughter, Smaragdus told him not to lose hope, for he would see his daughter again once more in this life, and asked him to come again in three days' time. When Paphnutius returned, Smaragdus was on her deathbed. Then the dying monk said to Paphnutius: 'I am Euphrosyne your daughter; you are my father.' Her father could not for a long time collect himself, for sheer astonishment. Then Euphrosyne breathed her last and her father wept over her. After burying his daughter, Paphnutius remained in the monastery and settled in the cell of his departed, holy daughter. After ten years of asceticism, holy Paphnutius entered into rest in the Lord.

2. Our Holy Father Sergius of Radonezh.

A great ascetic and light of the Russian Church, he was born in 1313 in Rostov of devout parents, Kirif and Maria. After the death of his parents, Barthlomew - for that was his baptismal name - became a monk and founded the community of the Holy Trinity in the forest of Radonezh. A gentle and meek servant of God, occupied only with labour and prayer, he was made worthy of the gifts of wonderworking for the purity of his heart, raising tile dead in the name of Christ. The holy Mother of God appeared to him a number of times. Princes and bishops came to him for counsel, and he gave his blessing to Prince Dimitri of the Don and foretold his victory in Russia's war of liberation against the Tartars. He had insight into men's hearts and into distant events. His community became filled with monks during his lifetime, and has served through the ages as one of the chief centres of spiritual life and of God's miracles. St Sergius entered into rest in 1392. After his death, he appeared a number of times to various people.

3. Our Holy Mother Euphrosyne of Suzdal.

Her baptismal name was Theodula, and she was the daughter of Michael Vsevolodovitch and the betrothed of Menas, Prince of Suzdal. She had never desired marriage, and prayed to God to keep her in virginity till her death. When they took her as a bride to Suzdal, Prince Menas died suddenly. She did not return to her parents but retired to a monastery, where she lived in asceticism till her death. She was endowed by God with wonderworking gifts, and entered into rest in 1250.

Reflection

A saint does not shine outwardly. All of his riches are within, in his soul. A peasant came from afar to the monastery to see St. Sergius. When he asked the monks for the abbot, they told him he was working in the garden. The peasant went to the garden, and there saw a man in poor, ragged clothes, digging like any other peasant on a farm. The peasant returned to the monastery dissatisfied, thinking that the monks had made fun of him. So, to make things clear, he asked again for the glorious holy father, Sergius. Just then, Sergius returned to the monastery, and welcomed the peasant, serving him at the table. The saint saw into the heart of his guest, and knew the low opinion he had of his appearance. He consoled him by promising that he would see Sergius in a little while. A prince and his boyars then arrived at the monastery, and they all bowed low to St. Sergius, and asked his blessing. The monks then removed the peasant from the room in order to make room for the new guests. In amazement the peasant looked on from a distance, to see that the one he had sought had been nearby all the time. The peasant rebuked himself for his ignorance, and was greatly ashamed. When the prince departed, the peasant quickly approached the saint, fell at his feet and began to beg his forgiveness. The great saint embraced him and said to him: "Do not grieve, my son, for you are the only one who knew the truth about me, considering me to be nothing-while others were deluded, taking me for something great."

Contemplation

Contemplate the righteousness and sin of King Joash, and God's reward and punishment (II Chronicles 24):

  1. How, at first, Joash hearkened to the high priest Jehoiada, and did that which is right in the sight of the Lord;
  2. How God blessed Joash with a long and peaceful reign;
  3. How Joash changed, and slew the righteous son of Jehoiada, and committed other evils;
  4. How a small Syrian army defeated Joash, and plundered the land; and, how Joash, gravely ill, was slain in bed by his servants.

Homily

On the shared riches of the Father and the Son

All things that the Father hath are Mine(John 16:15).

These are some of the last words of Christ the Lord before His passion. They are the weightiest words-for they reveal the divinity of Christ the Savior to the world, and in connection with the words, He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you (John 16:14), also reveal the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. That which the Spirit will receive of Mine cannot be different or contrary to that which is the Father's, for All things that the Father hath are Mine. Why did our Lord not say, "He will take Mine," but rather, He shall receive of Mine? Because the Holy Spirit will not reveal everything to men, but only a part of everything-as much as men can bear, and as much as is necessary for them. One part of God's gifts are given to the faithful on earth, and another part will be given to them in the Heavenly Kingdom. This heavenly part is that which the visionary Apostle describes: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him (I Corinthians 2:9). All this, and incomparably more, is part of Christ's possession. His possession encompasses not only this world, but also the other world, and it is incomparably greater and more precious than both worlds. Eternity is His, immortality is His, perfect might is His, perfect wisdom is His, perfect love is His, and perfect goodness is His, as are mercy and justice and truth. What else can we think of or express that is good? All perfection is His, and it transcends everything that earthly man can ever conceive of. The Father has all this, the Son has all this, and the Holy Spirit has all this. All things that the Father hath are Mine. By these words, the indescribably wealthy One, the unequaled Son of the King, Jesus Christ, revealed His boundless and inconceivable riches to His disciples on the dark night when He was about to stand barefoot before the Jewish elders to be scourged and spat upon.

O our God, Most-holy and Most-abundant Trinity, have mercy on us sinners, and save us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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