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The Prologue From Ohrid



Eusignius served as a soldier under Emperor Maximian, Emperor Constantine the Great and under Constantine’s sons. He was present during the torturing of the holy female martyr Basiliscus [May 22]. He saw myriads of angels and the Lord Jesus Himself as He received the soul of this holy martyr from the angels. Eusignius fought under Emperor Constantine and saw the Cross which appeared to the emperor. He served in the army for sixty full years and during the reign of Constantine’s sons resigned from military service and settled in Antioch, the place of his birth. There, he lived a god-pleasing life in fasting, prayer and good works. During the time of Julian the Apostate, two men who were arguing on the street asked him to be their judge. He dispensed justice to the correct one and the man at fault became angry and went to the emperor and accused Eusignius of being a Christian. The emperor summoned Eusignius to court but he strongly denounced the emperor for his apostasy from the Faith and reproached him with the shining example of Constantine the Great. The enraged Julian ordered that he be beheaded. Eusignius was martyred at a ripe old age in the year 362 A.D. and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Fabian was a Roman by birth. At first, he was a village priest and, after that, during the election of a pope, when a white dove descended upon him, he was chosen pope. Fabian was meek and kind. With great diligence, he gathered the bodies of the holy martyrs and buried them with honor and built churches over their graves. In the same manner, he built shrines and chapels in the caves where the martyrs hid during the time of bitter persecution. He baptized Emperor Philip and his son Philip, the heir to the throne and, with the help of the baptized senator Pontius, destroyed many idols and idolatrous temples. When the wicked Decius was crowned emperor, a terrible persecution of Christians began during which St. Fabian suffered and was beheaded in the year 250 A.D. This holy Fabian established the custom of consecrating Holy Myron [Chrism] on Holy and Great Thursday.


Pontius was the son of Senator Marcus and his wife Julia. The barren Julia conceived after twenty-two years of marriage and gave birth to Pontius. He was baptized by Pope Pontian along with his friend Valerius, his biographer, and succeeded to convert his father Marcus, the Emperor Philip with his son and many other distinguished Romans to the Faith of Christ. As a senator, he greatly protected and assisted the Church and was a good friend of Pope Fabian. When the persecution began under Decius, Pontius escaped from Rome and hid in the foothills of the Alpine mountains [Cimella Cimez, France]. During the reigns of Valerian and Galiena he was captured and subjected to harsh tortures during which many miracles of God were manifested and many converted to Christ. There happened to be many Jews there who cried out to the judge: “Kill him, kill him immediately, this magician.” To this, St. Pontius raised his hands to heaven and said: “I thank You my God that the Jews even cry out against me as their fathers did once cried out against Christ: ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him.’ ” Pontius was beheaded in the year 257 A.D. and was buried by his friend Valerius.


Nonna was the mother of St. Gregory the Theologian. As a Christian, she possessed powerful and miracle-working prayer. By her prayer to God, she converted her husband from heathen stupidity to the Christian Faith. Her husband Gregory later became a bishop in the town of Nazianzus. By prayer Nonna saved her son Gregory the Theologian from a storm. She died peacefully as a deaconess in the year 374 A.D.



Pontius, with his companion Valerian, walked.
But, with sorrow, his heart was overcome.
His father, a senator, his mother also a senator,
But, a bitter enigma, torments his soul;
All worldly wisdom, a fable, to him seemed,
O, where is truth? Truth, he asked for.
Thus, both walked, absorbed in thought
At eventide, along side a Christian church;
Into the church entered and beheld glowing.
Beheld glowing and heard chanting:
Of silver and gold, the gods of the people are
And eyes, have they blind as mud, are they
And ears, have they deaf as a rock are they,
And mouths, have they but the mouths are mute.
Weaker than oneself, the weak ones created,
That is why their creator, as such will also be
And all of them in order, that to them bow down
And foolishly hope in lifeless things
Two sorrowful young men, two slaves of the idols,
Heard these words, both trembled,
Then, the image |icon] of Christ, approached,
To the honorable priest, entrusted their hearts,
What the truth faith is, the priest told them,
And idolatrous service, what it is: vacuous and bloody.
Into the church entered, two young noblemen,
Renown and respected throughout the city of Rome,
Into the church entered, sad and sorrowful,
From the church departed, radiant and joyful.


This is how Valerian begins the biography of his companion, St. Pontius: “Who can believe, if God does not grant it? Who can lead a life of asceticism, if the Lord does not help? Who can receive the wreath of martyrdom, if Christ does not give it?” God can do all and God wills all that is for the salvation of men, if only men pray to Him. By prayer, St. Nonna converted her husband Gregory and her son, Gregory the Theologian, to Christianity. By prayer, Monica brought Augustine back from a wayward life to the path of good works and faith. By prayer, St. Basil converted his teacher Evulios. By prayer, King Hezekiah prolonged his life for fifteen years. By prayer, St. Simeon the Stylite turned back the Persians and Scythians that they not attack the land of Greece with an army already prepared. Furthermore, all the stars in the heavens will be more readily counted then all the miracles worked on earth by prayer.


To contemplate the miraculous strength of Samson (Judges 14):
1. How the Spirit of the Lord came upon him so that he was able to tear lions apart with his hands and to snap the rope by which he was bound and slew many Philistines;
2. How the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from him [Samson] when he confided the secret of his strength to a heathen woman [Delilah] and was then slain [Judges 16].


-About how God whitens the repentant sinners-

“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

O, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people “laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters” (Isaiah 1:4), as “princes [rulers] of Sodom” (Isaiah 1:10) and upon the people who have become as the “people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10) – in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance. Just as after terrible lightnings, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord long-suffering [patient] and full of mercy and “neither will He keep His anger forever” (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become “white as snow.” The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap, no matter how often it is washed and rewashed, it cannot receive whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor even with the help of all legal means of the law until we, at last, bring it beneath the feet of God, spread out and opened wide so that the light of God illumines it and whitens it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort, i.e., He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, by repentance to constrain it by the pangs of the conscience to press it, to clothe it with good deeds and in the end of ends, He calls us to Him: “Come now,” says the Lord, “and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). That is, 1 will look at you and 1 will see if there is Me in you and you will look upon Me as in a mirror and you will see what kind of person you are.

O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the last wrath of that Dreadful Day.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.