The Prologue from Ohrid: April 12
1. VENERABLE ISAAC THE SYRIAN II
Isaac the Syrian I, is commemorated on January 28. St. Gregory the
Dialogues writes about this Isaac II. He came to Italy at the time of the Goths
and entered a church to pray in the city of Spoleto. He implored the verger to
allow him to remain locked in the church overnight. And so, he spent the entire
night in prayer, remaining in the same place. The same thing happened the next
day and even the second night. The verger called him a hypocrite and struck him
with his fist. Instantly, the verger went insane. Seeing that the verger was
bitterly tormented, Isaac leaned over him and the evil spirit departed from him
and the verger was restored to health. Upon hearing of this incident, the
entire populace of the city thronged around this amazing foreigner. They
offered him money and property, but he declined all and accepted nothing and
withdrew into the forest where he built a cell for himself, which was rapidly
transformed into a large monastery. Isaac was known for working miracles and
especially for his special "gift of discernment." On one occasion, he
ordered the brethren to carry all the hoes into the vineyard and to leave them
there. The next day Isaac, along with the brethren, went out into the vineyard
and brought along lunch. The brethren were puzzled. Who was this lunch for,
since there were no laborers? Upon arriving at the vineyard, there were as many
men digging as there were hoes. This is what happened: these men came as
thieves to steal the hoes, but by the power of God, they were detained to dig
all night. On another occasion, two partly-clad men came to Isaac and sought
clothes from him. Isaac sent a monk to a hollow tree along the road to retrieve
what he would find there. The monk departed, found some clothing and brought it
to the monastery. The abbot took these clothes and gave them to the beggars.
The beggars were extremely ashamed when they recognized their own clothes which
they had hidden in this tree. Once, a man sent two beehives to the monastery.
The monk hid one along the way and the other he brought to the monastery and
turned it over to the abbot. The saint said to him: "Be careful upon your
return. For in the beehive that you left along the way, a poisonous snake had
slithered into it. Be careful, therefore, that it does not bite you."
2. SAINT BASIL THE CONFESSOR
At the time of the Iconoclastic controversy, this devout man was bishop in
the town of Parius in Asia Minor. He refused to sign an imperial document
against the veneration of icons. For that, Basil was greatly persecuted and
severely tortured. He remained as firm as a diamond in His Orthodoxy. He died
at the beginning of the eighth century and was translated to the Lord.
3. THE VENERABLE ACACIUS
Acacius was from the village of Gollitsa in Epirus. He was a great Athonite
ascetic, spiritual father and possessed the "gift of discernment."
Acacius had many heavenly visions. He gave his blessings to several monks who
chose the mortification of martyrdom. Acacius died in his ninety-eighth year in
the year 1730 A.D.
4. THE VENERABLE ATHANASIA
Athanasia was born on the island of Aeginia of wealthy and benevolent
parents. She distributed her wealth to the poor and retreated to a convent.
There she took upon herself greater and more difficult mortifications. Athanasia
took food only once a day and that, only bread and water. During the Honorable
Fast [Lenten Season], she ate once every other day. She tasted oil and fish
only on the Feasts of the Nativity and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Even thought she was the abbess of this convent, Athanasia was a
servant to the other sisters and shied away from having anyone serve her.
Athanasia was made worthy of the great gift of working miracles, both, during
her life and after death. She died in the Lord in the year 860 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Athanasia, most beautiful soul,
On earth, shone like a bright star,
By the spirit, bodily weakness overcame,
While still young, fell in love with God;
Through fasting and vigils, her body she withered,
Only to attain salvation for her soul;
Property much, to the poor she distributed,
All of herself, to the will of God, she gave.
A vision she saw in the church, holy:
A heavenly light, the darkness penetrated,
And a voice to her came: Athanasia,
Meekness and humbleness; that is pleasing to God,
In this, practice above all else
While your heart beats and your spirit breathes.
Athanasia, that counsel she fulfilled -
And, all pride in herself she crushed,
Her will to God, she totally gave,
Obedient to God, as the blazing sun.
Love, with Love, the Lord returned
And with Grace, He rewarded her labors.
And when her time on earth was over
He granted her life, immortal and paradiscal.
The wicked Emperor Constantine Copronymos had a virtuous daughter, the
maiden, Anthusa: "A beautiful branch on a wicked tree." Despite all
the pressure placed on her by her father to marry, Anthusa remained adamant, for
she was firmly attached with a sincere love for Christ the Lord. When her
father died, Anthusa distributed her entire estate to the poor, entered a
convent and was tonsured a nun. How much for astonishment are the many noble
men who left the vanity of this world and followed the narrow path of Christ;
twice as much for astonishment are the many women who despised both, youth and
riches and the transitory attractions of this world for the love of Christ. Our
Lord Himself said: " It would be hard for one who is rich to enter the
Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 19:23). Difficult yes, but not
impossible. For him, who despises himself, it is easy to despise the riches of
the entire world.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
1. How He enters through closed doors among His disciples and gives them
2. How His glorified body does not have any material obstacles to appear
wherever He wants.
About the city which is being built
"For here, we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is
to come" (Hebrews 13:14).
Brethren, where are the great cities of Babylon and Nineveh? Today, only
lizards lay in the dust of their towers. Memphis and Thebes, were they not the
pride of the pharaohs and the princes of mankind? Today, it is difficult to
establish the exact place where these two cities were located.
However, let us leave these cities of stones and bricks. Let us look at the
cities of blood, flesh and bones. Men fashion the city of their bodies more
slowly and more painstakingly than they fashion fortresses and cathedrals. Men
spend about eighty to a hundred years to fashion the cities of their bodies and,
in the end, see that their effort is in vain. That which took them decades to
fashion with care and constant fear, collapses into the dust of the grave in the
twinkling of an eye. Whose bodily city is not toppled over and turned into
dust? Not anyones.
But, let us leave the cities of the body. Let us look at the cities of
fortune which men have built from generation to generation. The materials of
which these cities were built are: good times, pleasure, property, authority,
honor and glory. Where are these cities? As a cob-web they spin around man in
an instant and as a cob web they break and vanish, making the fortunate more
unfortunate than the unfortunate.
Truly, we have no city here that will remain.
This is why we seek the city which is to come. This is the city built of
Spirit, Life and Truth. This is the city whose one and only architect is the
Lord Jesus Christ. This city is called the Kingdom of Heaven, Eternal Life, the
dwelling place of the angels, the haven of saints and refuge of martyrs. In this
city, there is no dualism of either good or evil but, everything is a harmony of
good. Everything that is built in this city is built to last forever. Every
brick in this city remains without end and termination. The bricks are living
angels and men. In this city the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ sits on the
throne and reigns.
O resurrected Lord, redeem us from beneath the ruins of time and lead us
mercifully into Your eternal city of Heaven.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.