The Prologue from Ohrid: May 14
1. THE HOLY MARTYR ISIDORE
During the reign of Decius, Isidore was drafted by force from the island of
Chios into military service. From childhood, Isidore adhered to the Faith of
Christ and spent his entire life in fasting, prayer and good works. But when in
the army Isidore declared himself a Christian, the commander seized him,
required of him an answer and counseled him to deny Christ and offer sacrifices
to the idols. The saint replied: "Even if you kill my body, you have no
authority over my soul. I possess the True, Living God, Jesus Christ Who now
lives in me and after my death, He will be with me and I am in Him and will
remain in Him and I will never cease to confess His Holy Name as long as my soul
is in my body." First, the commander ordered that Isidore be whipped with
oxen tails and after that they cut out his tongue. Even without his tongue,
Isidore, by the Spirit of God, spoke and confessed the Name of Christ.
Meanwhile, the punishment of God came upon the commander and he, suddenly,
became mute. Finally, the mute commander gave the sign to behead Isidore.
Isidore was elated at this sentence and after praising God went to the scaffold
where he was beheaded in the year 251 A.D. His companion, Ammon buried his body
and following that also suffered and received the martyr's wreath.
2. THE VENERABLE SERAPION, THE SINDONITE
Sindon means "linen cloth" in which the bodies of the dead
were wrapped. Serapion was called the Sindonite because he covered his naked
body with a single linen cloth. He carried a Book of the Gospels in his hand.
Serapion lived like a bird without a roof and without any worries moving from
place to place. He gave his sindon to a needy person who was shivering from the
frost and remained completely naked. When someone asked him: "Serapion,
who uncovered you?" He pointed to the Holy Gospels and said: "This!"
After that he even gave the Book of the Gospels away as a ransom for a man in
debt whose lender was threatening him with prison for this debt. Once in
Athens, he did not eat anything for four days because he had nothing available
and began to cry out from hunger. When the Athenian philosophers asked him why
he was crying out so, Serapion replied: "I was indebted to three; two of
which I have satisfied but the third one is still tormenting me. The first
lender is carnal lust which tormented me from my youth; the second
lender is avarice and the third lender is the stomach. Those two
have left me, but the third one still torments me." The philosophers gave
him a gold coin to purchase bread. He went to a baker, purchased only one loaf
of bread, left the gold coin and departed. In his old age, he presented himself
peacefully to the Lord in the fifth century.
3. BLESSED ISIDORE, "FOOL FOR CHRIST"
Isidore was a German by descent. Having come to Rostov, he fell in love
with the Orthodox Faith and, not only became a communicant of the Orthodox
Church, but assumed the difficult life of asceticism as a "Fool for Christ."
He walked around completely in rags. Pretending insanity through his madness,
he spent the entire day teaching men and at night, he spent in prayer. He spent
nights in a hut made of branches which he had built in a muddy terrain. Great
and awesome were the miracles which this saint performed both during life and
after death. To a merchant, who was thrown from a boat and was drowning in the
sea, Isidore appeared walking upon the water and led him to the shore. When the
servants of the Prince of Rostov refused Isidore a glass of water that he asked
for and drove him away from the door, then all the vessels with wine dried up.
When Isidore died in his hut on May 14, 1484 A.D., the whole of Rostov smelled
from a wonderful aroma. The merchant whom the Blessed Isidore saved from the
sea, erected a church in his honor over the spot where his hut was located.
HYMN OF PRAISE
BLESSED ISIDORE, FOOL FOR CHRIST
Blessed Isidore wrestled with himself
Until passionless, as a withered tree, he became,
But even a withered tree, the bees with honey fill,
And from the dry cliff, a spring sometimes erupts.
The body of the blessed, with the Spirit filled
With the honey of Grace, the heart sweetened.
In the foolish body, the fountain of God's power,
In wretched garments, hidden treasure,
Wonderful Isidore, on the garbage heap lay,
On the streets cried out, leaped and fled,
Without roof and bread and without friends,
But under the watchful eye of his Creator
To vain men, he was an "instruction"
And to those beastly bound to the earth, a reproach;
He, by his life, as though he wanted to say:
Men, to misfortune your cares lead.
He is not fortunate, who from God steals,
But who alone possesses God as a treasure.
Sin which serves as a scandal to others is a two-fold sin. A wise man
strives not to scandalize anyone and does not lead anyone into sin by his sinful
example. Saint Ambrose praises such sagacity of the Emperor Valentian who died
at an early age citing these examples from his life: "The emperor, hearing
that he was talked about throughout Rome as a passionate hunter and a lover of
wild beasts - which, in reality he was not - and how this passion was taking the
emperor away from his duties of State, immediately ordered that all the wild
beasts in his preserve be slain. Again, upon hearing how certain malicious
people spread the rumor that he ate lunch early (wanting by this to present him
as being gluttonous), the emperor imposed a strict fast on himself both
privately and publicly. Before the public lunches he was rarely seen to place a
morsel of food in his mouth. And again, when his sisters disputed with a
certain man over some property, the emperor, even though he had the right to
judge the dispute, directed the case to the open court so that he would not be
accused of partiality." Indeed, with great fear, this pious emperor upheld
the words of the Lord: "Woe to him who shall offend [scandalize] one of
these little ones" (St. Matthew 18:6).
To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
1. How the Holy Spirit leads the apostles through all sorrows and
tribulations, filling their hearts with consolation and joy;
2. How the Holy Spirit makes that seed of the Gospel grow and succeed which
the apostles sow throughout the world, even where it seems to have been
scattered in vain.
About Christ as the Branch of David
"In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of
righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and
righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 33:15).
With these words, the holy Prophet Jeremiah prophesies the coming of the
Holy Savior of the world from the lineage of David. The Branch of
Righteousness is Jesus Christ Himself. These words could not have referred
to anyone else, since, at the time of the coming of the Lord Jesus, a prince
from the lineage of David did not sit any longer on the throne at Jerusalem but
rather a foreigner, Herod the Idumean. Neither from then until today was there
any other prominent branch of David, neither as a worldly ruler nor a spiritual
ruler. At the time of the nativity of Christ, there were but a few people from
the Tribe of David and they were unknown and impoverished. Among these were
numbered the All-Holy Virgin and the righteous elder Joseph, the carpenter. It
is clear therefore, that for the past thousand years since this prophecy was
spoken, no other majestic branch from the lineage of David appeared, except the
Lord Jesus. This becomes more clear from the following words: "As the
host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will
I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister to Me"
(Jeremiah 33:22). These words could only apply to the spiritual
descendants of David through Christ the Lord, i.e., upon Christians, for only
the number of Christians (and not the physical descendants of David of whom
there are not any at all), for these twenty centuries can be measured with the
stars in the heavens and with the sand in the sea.
O my brethren, let us rejoice that even we Christians belong to this
countless number of people of God; to the greatest people in the history of the
world both as to numbers and as to character. Let us rejoice even more that we
belong to this heavenly Branch of David Who, by His Blood redeemed us from
foreigners and adopted us and made us heirs and co-heirs of the kingdom eternal.
O, All-good Lord, You have redeemed us prodigal sons from the contemptible
humiliation and hunger and made us sons of the kingdom.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.