The Prologue from Ochrid

Timket

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The Prologue from Ochrid is a collection of biographies of Christian matryrs and sermons from the Early Church to the present day. The Prologue has been age-old reading for Eastern Christians, and a version from Ochrid, Serbia was recently translated into English. The book has readings for every calendar day, so I will periodically post excerpts from it in this thread.
 

Timket

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MARCH 4TH

The martyrs Paul and Juliana
:
Brother and sister from Ptolemais in Phoenicia, they were cruelly tortured for Christ under the Emperor Aurelian and were finally beheaded. Many marvels attended their martyrdom and many of the pagans, seeing them, were brought to the Faith. Several of them were beheaded in 273 and received martyrs' wreaths.

For Consideration:
If human philosophy can content a man, why did the philosophers Justin Martyr and Origen become Christians? Why did Basil (of Caesarea) and John Chrysostom and Gregory, who had in Athens studied Hellenic philosophy in its fullness, receive baptism? And Augustine (of "The Confessions"), who was familiar with Hellenic and Roman wisdom - why did he set aside everything and seek salvation in the Christian faith? And Clement of Rome, who was very rich and very learned? And Catherine of Alexandria, who was of the royal house and learned in all the secular knowledge of Egypt? And Joasaph, the heir of India, who was versed in the whole of Indian philosophy? And so many, many others who first sought an explanation for the enigmas of the world and light for their souls in philosophy, and then drew near to the Church and came to worship Christ the Lord.
 

Timket

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MARCH 5TH

The martyr Conon the Gardener:
From Nazareth, he was mild and virtuous and pleasing to God in all things. During the persecution under the Roman Emperor Decius, he was tortured for Christ, but he remained firm in the Faith, and sharply denounced the judges for their folly. With nails driven through his legs, this good and virtuous Christian was bound behind the prince's chariot and was dragged on and on, until he was utterly spent. Then he made his last prayer to God and gave his soul into His keeping, in 251 AD.

For consideration:
Why do some people, well-educated, baptized as Christians, fall away from Christianity into philosophy and learned theories, alleging them to be something truer than Christianity? For two main reasons: either from an utterly superficial knowledge of Christianity, or from sin. A superficial knowledge of Christ rejects Him, and sin flees from Christ like a felon from judgment. Superficial and guilty Christians have often become as bitter enemies of Christianity as are pagans. To the superficial and guilty it is more comfortable to bathe in the shallow pool of human thought than in the dangerous depths of Christ. Those who sincerely set themselves to follow Christ are constantly invited by Christ to a greater and greater depth, as He once said to the Apostle Peter: "Launch out into the deep." Mark the Ascetic writes that one understands the Law of God insofar as one fulfils His Commandments: "Ignorance urges a man to speak against that which is helpful, and insolence breeds vice."
 

Timket

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MARCH 6TH

The 42 Martyrs of Ammoria:
They were all commanders of the Byzantine army under Emperor Theophilus. When the Emperor Theophilus lost the battle against the Saracens at the city of Ammoria, the Saracens captured the city and enslaved many Christians. Among them were these commanders. The remaining Christians were either killed or sold into slavery. The commanders were thrown into prison, where they remained for seven years. Many times the Muslem leaders came to them. They counseled and advised the commanders to embrace the Islamic Faith, but the commanders refused to listen. When the Saracens spoke to the commanders, saying, "Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ," the commanders asked them: "If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, 'This field is mine,' and the other, 'No, it is mine,' and one of them had many witnesses nearby saying it is his field, and the other had no witnesses, but only himself--whose field would you say was?" The Saracens answered: "Indeed it is his who had many witnesses!" "You have judged correctly," the commanders answered. "That is the way it is with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, from Moses to John the Baptist, whom you also recognize and who witness to and about Him, whereas Mohammed witnesses to himself that he is a prophet and hasn't a single witness." The Saracens were ashamed and again they tried to defend their faith in this manner: "Our faith is better than the Christian Faith, as is proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity." To this the commanders replied: "If that were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith, for at one time all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins." After seven years they were beheaded in the year 845 A.D. Their bodies were then thrown into the Euphrates River, but they floated to the other shore, where they were gathered and honorably buried by Christians.

The Martyrs Conon the Father and Conon the Son
When the father was already an old man, the son was a youth of seventeen. During the reign of Domitian, they were sawed in half for their faith in Christ and were glorified and honored in the Church on earth and in heaven. They honorably suffered in the year 275 A.D.

For Consideration:
As long as you are on earth, consider yourself a guest in the household of Christ. If you are at table, it is He who honors you. If you breathe air, it is His air you breathe. If you bathe, it is in His water you bathe. If you travel, it is over His land that you travel. If you amass goods, it is His goods you amass. If you squander them, it is His goods that you squander. If you are powerful, it is because He allows you to be strong. If you are in the company of men, you and the others are His guests. If you are out in nature, you are in His garden. If you are alone, He is present. If you set out somewhere, He sees you. If you do anything, He remembers it. He is the most considerate Householder Who ever hosted you. Be considerate then toward Him. In a good household, the guest is required to behave. These are all simple words, but they convey to you a great truth. All the saintly men and women knew this truth, and they governed their lives by it.
 

Timket

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MARCH 7TH

The Seven Hieromartyrs (Clergy-Martyrs) of Cherson:
Basil, Ephraim, Eugene, Elpidius, Agathodorus, Aetherius, and Capito. They were all bishops (Greek: episcopoi) of Cherson at different times, and all suffered from unbelievers (only Aetherius died peacefully), either Hebrews or Greeks from Scythia. They had all gone to that savage land as missionaries, sent by the Bishop of Jerusalem to bring the light of the Gospel there. They were all tortured and suffered for the sake of their Lord. Basil raised the son of a prince of Cherson to life, which embittered the Hebrews and they brought charges against him. He was bound by the feet and dragged through the streets of the town until he gave up the ghost. Ephraim was beheaded. Eugene, Elpidius and Agathodorus were beaten with rods and stones until they gave their souls into God's hands. Aetherius lived in the time of Constantine the Great, and so he governed the Church in freedom and peace, built a great church in Cherson and died peacefully. When the last of them, Capito, was sent as Bishop, the savage Scythians sought a sign of him, that they might believe. And they suggested to him that he go into a burning furnace, and, if he were not burned up, they would believe. With fervent prayer and hope in God, Capito put on his episcopal pallium and, crossing himself, entered the burning furnace, holding his heart and thoughts directed towards God. He stood in the flames for about an hour, and came out untouched, with no scorch-mark either on his body or his clothing. Then all cried out: "There is one God, the great and powerful God of the Christians, who keeps His servant safe in the burning furnace!" And the whole town and surroundings were baptized. Many spoke of this wonder at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and all glorified God and praised the firm faith of Capito. But Scythian unbelievers caught Capito by the river Dnieper and drowned him. They all suffered around the beginning of the fourth century.
 

Timket

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MARCH 8TH

The Hieromartyr (clergy-martyr) Theodoretus:
The Emperor Constantine built a cathedral church of exceptional beauty in Antioch. The people called this church "the Golden Church" because of the gold-plated exterior and interior and because of the many gold and silver adornments housed in it. The emperor donated a great deal of land to this church for the upkeep of the clergy, whose number was significant. The custodian of these accoutrements and all the other precious items in the church was Theodoretus, a presbyter of great faith and rare devotion. When Julian the Apostate began his reign, he (Julian) denied Christ and, even though he was baptized, stirred up a persecution against the Christians. The apostate's uncle, also named Julian, came to Antioch and began to plunder the Golden Church. He summoned Theodoretus, the custodian of the treasury, to the court and counseled him to deny Christ. Not only did Theodoretus refuse to deny Christ, but he also insulted the Emperor Julian because of his apostasy from the true Faith and his return to idolatry. He compared him to a dog returning to his own vomit. When the wicked uncle, out of unruliness, urinated in the Golden Church, St. Theodoretus prophesied a horrible death for him, which shortly came to pass. Theodoretus was beheaded with an axe for his faith in Christ in the year 362 A.D. and went to the all-glorious Kingdom of Christ the King.


MARCH 9TH

To ponder:
Let me ponder on the Lord Jesus in the hands of the enemies of God, gathered in the house of Caiaphas:
1) How they hastily sought false witnesses, for they wanted to kill Christ.
2) How they spat on Him, and struck Him on the face.
3) How the Lord endured all this with unspeakable dignity and without anger.
 

Timket

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MARCH 10TH

The Martyr Codratus of Nicomedia:
He was a rich nobleman and also a convinced and baptized Christian. In a time of persecution, when Valerian shut up many Christians in jail, Codratus bribed the warder and went into the prison to bring the captives food and uphold them in their faith. When they were brought before the judge and questioned about their names, place of origin, and status, they were silent. Then Codratus appeared behind them and shouted at the top of his voice: "By name, we are Christians, servants of Jesus Christ the Lord by office and birth, and our city and place of origin is heaven." After this declaration, he was brought to trial, and after long and harsh torture was beheaded along with others.
 

Timket

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MARCH 11TH

The Martyr Pionius:
A presbyter in Smyrna, he suffered there in the time of Decius' persecution. They condemned him to be crucified, which was a great joy to him. And as soon as the soldiers assembled the cross and laid it on the ground, Pionius laid himself on it and stretched out his arms, calling to the soldiers to put the nails into his hands. The cross was inserted into the ground upside down, and a fire lit under the martyr's head. There were many bystanders. Pionius closed his eyes and prayed to God within himself. The flames could not succeed in igniting even his hair, and when the fire had at last gone out and everyone thought that he was dead, Pionius opened his eyes and cried out joyfully: "O Lord, receive my spirit!" and breathed his last. This righteous man wrote the life of Polycarp of Smyrna, together with whom he now makes merry in the Kingdom of Christ. He suffered and was glorified in 250.

To ponder:
Let me ponder on the Lord Jesus at judgment before Caiaphas:
1) How the High Priest keeps the Lord indoors in his house, surrounded by men almost as wicked as Caiaphas himself.
2) How Peter sits outside in the courtyard by the fire, and how, before the servants, he denies the Lord Jesus three times.
3) How it happens today that some Christians, from fear of the world, deny the Lord in this way: they pretend that they are not Christians, that they do not know the commandments of the Lord, and that the Lord is no concern of theirs.
 

Timket

Active member
MARCH 12TH

For Consideration:
No one, not even the Lord Himself, takes pleasure in instructing the proud. No one wants to give instruction to him who cries out that he knows everything. "Mysteries shall be revealed to the meek", says the wise Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 3:19). David also speaks of God, saying: "He guides the meek to justice, He teaches the humble His way" (Psalm 25:9). The proud person is he who wants to teach everyone yet does not want to be taught anything by anyone. The humble man is he who does not wish to teach anyone but continually desires to be taught by someone, no matter whom. An empty ear of corn raises its head above the field, and the full ear of corn hangs down with bowed head.

O proud man, if only your guardian angel would somehow remove the veil from your eyes and show you the endless open sea of all that you do not know. You would kneel before every man before whom you have exhibited pride and kneel before every man whom you have belittled. You would cry out lamenting: "Forgive me, forgive me! I do not know anything!" Often the humble and pious have the time of their death revealed to them, but the death of the proud comes unexpectedly and without warning. Gregory the Dialogist speaks of a bishop, Carpus, who daily celebrated the Divine Liturgy, and how suddenly One appeared from the other world and said: "Continue in the way you are serving Me and may your legs never grow tired or your hands grow weak. On the Feast of the Dormition you will come to Me and I will give you your reward in My Heavenly Kingdom, together with all of those for whom you have prayed at the divine services." After a year, on the Feast of the Dormition, Bishop Carpus celebrated the Divine Liturgy of God, sought forgiveness from his priests, and gave up his soul to God. His face shone like the sun.


To ponder:
Contemplate the Lord Jesus before Pilate:
1. How the Jews accused Him before Pilate and how He did not say anything;
2. How He did not reply, even to Pilate's questions;
3. How our Lord speaks when it is necessary to defend men from the devil, from sin, from disease and death, but is silent when He Who is the Defender of Men is asked to protect Himself from man.


Sermon - on the Second Coming of Christ:
"And before Him shall be gathered all nations" (Matthew 25:32).

All the nations will be assembled before the Lord Jesus when He appears in His glory, surrounded by the holy angels, sitting on a throne as the Judge of all the living and the dead. All the nations will be assembled--all, without exception. Not only the Jews who tormented Him, not only the Christians who glorified Him, but also the heathen who neither knew Him nor acknowledged Him.

Oh, what an awesome and majestic spectacle, when all the nations and all the tribes on earth are assembled before the Lord, Who is brighter than many suns. What joy for the saintly martyrs and confessors when they see how, in this countless mass of nations, there is not one tongue left to deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus! But it will be of no value to anyone in that hour and place to recognize and to confess the divinity of our great Lord, if they denied Him on earth. Accounts will settled there and then, with no gain and no loss. With whatever one appears before the Lord, with that he will be either condemned or justified.

Now is the time to acknowledge the divinity of the Lord Jesus--now, when many deny Him and when His divinity is doubted by many. They who love the Lord and who trust in all of His words will easily acknowledge this. For when He says this, what do those who love Him have to worry, to doubt, or to hesitate about?

O Lord, Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
 
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