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The Prologue From Ohrid



Athanasius was bom in Trebizond of God-fearing parents. He became orphaned at an early age but, by the Providence of God, a commander took him under his care and brought him to Constantinople to be educated. Because of his meekness and humbleness, he was the favorite of his peers. During the children’s games, the children chose one to be an emperor, one a commander and Athanasius as abbot as though it was some kind of foretelling! Having completed his education, Athanasius (who before tonsuring was called Abraham) withdrew into the desert of Maleinos near Athos, the Holy Mountain, where he lived the life of an ascetic as a disciple of the then renowned Michael Maleinos. Desiring a more difficult life of mortification, Athanasius settled on Holy Mt. Athos to live in silence (the life of a silentary). But many who were desirous of a life of asceticism began to gather around him and, therefore, he was compelled to build his famous Lavra [monastery]. In that, he was assisted by the Byzantine emperors: at first, Nicephorus Phocas, who himself thought to withdraw and to become a monk and, after him, John Tzimiskes. Countless temptations befell Athanasius both from demons and from men but he, as a brave soldier of Christ, resisted and conquered all by his immeasurable meekness and continual prayer to the Living God. Filled with the Grace of God, Athanasius was made worthy to see the All-holy Birth-giver of God who miraculously brought forth water from a rock and promised that she would also be the abbess [Ikonomisa, the one in charge of the provisions of the monastery]. In work and in prayer, Athanasius surpassed his brethren and loved all with the love a spiritual father and shepherd. Death came to Athanasius unexpectedly. At one time, he with six other monks, climbed upon a newly built vestibule of the church to inspect the wall which was being constructed and the wall caved in on them and buried them. Thus, this great beacon of monasticism died in the year 980 A.D. Many times following his death Athanasius appeared to his brethren either to comfort them or to reprimand them.


Cyprian was born in the village of Klitzos in Epirus. Following the death of his good parents, Cyprian went to the Holy Mt. Athos, was tonsured a monk and devoted himself completely to a life of asceticism in a cell near the monastery of Kutloumousiou. He imposed upon himself labor upon labor and mortification upon mortification until he became renown and respected throughout the entire Holy Mountain. Cyprian was still not satisfied with himself. He was tormented by the thought that he could not be saved except through martyrdom for Christ. Therefore, he left the Holy Mountain and arrived in Thessalonica and came before the Pasha of Thessalonica and called upon him to reject the false faith of Muhammad and to accept the true faith of Christ. The Pasha ordered him scourged and driven out. Unsatisfied with such a small suffering for Christ, Cyprian traveled to Constantinople and wrote a letter to the Grand Vezir in which he outlined the falseness of Muhammad and the truthfulness of the Lord Christ. Enraged, the Vezir sent him to Skeik U1 Islamu and he, after having heard all that Cyprian had to say, ordered him beheaded. Cyprian was joyful beyond measure and went to the scaffold as to a wedding feast. Thus, this godly man suffered for Christ on July 5, 1679, and realized his burning desire.


Loving Christ with a fervent love from his early youth, Lampadus withdrew into the wilderness of Irenopolis where he gave himself up to a life of asceticism. Since he overcame all passions and desires of the flesh, his soul was radiant with a heavenly light and an unspeakable peace not of this world. Lampadus was a miracle-worker, both during life and after death. He lived a life of mortification probably in the tenth century.



On Mt. Athos, a Lavra glows,
Wondrous monastery of Athanasius
One thousand years have slid by it
But the spirit and bread did not run out
It was neither lacking in spirit or bread
Nor the glowing vision of God’s heaven.
Thus it was written in books of old:
About the Lavra, the Abbess – Ikonomisa worries,
Mount Athos is her state,
The most fortified wall of Orthodoxy;
That mystical Abbess – Ikonomisa
Is it not the All-pure Birth-giver of God?
The Lavra, She upholds and Iveron feeds,
And Hilendar protects and Rusikon defends,
Karakallou and Zograph, Simonpeter,
And Pandocrator, all She protects
Those fortifications, to Her citizens they belong
But peace and defense to all She is.


By striking the rod, how did Moses bring forth water from the rock? How did God send down manna from heaven and feed the people of Israel in the wilderness? Thus, ask all those who have a very weak conception of the might of the Omnipotent God. And still they are perplexed why such miracles do not take place again in order that all peoples may believe in God. But the Israelites, with their own eyes, witnessed countless miracles of God and still they did not believe. Meanwhile, God repeats the old great miracles wherever and whenever it is needed. One time, when a famine ensued in the Lavra of Athanasius, all of the brethren dispersed whereever. Dejected, Athanasius began to move about and to seek out another place. A lady on the road asked him: “Where are you going?” “Who are you?” Athanasius asked bewildered because he sees a woman on the Holy Mountain, where access to women is not permitted. “I am she to whom you have dedicated your community. I am the Mother of your Lord.” Athanasius said: “I am afraid to trust you, for even demons can manifest themselves into angels of light. With what shall you prove to me the truthfulness of your words?” Then the Holy Birth-giver of God said to him: “Strike your rod upon this rock and you will know who I am that speaks to you. Know that I am always remaining the Abbess – Ikonomisa of your Lavra.” Athanasius then struck the rock with his rod. At that moment the rock shook and cracked as thunder and water gushed forth from the shattered rock. Frightened, Athanasius turned so as to prostrate before the Holy All-pure One but She had already vanished. He returned to his Lavra and even to his greater amazement, found all the barns (storehouses) overflowing with wheat. Here, then, is a repetition of the great miracles by which the miracles of old are confirmed and by which the faithful are strengthened in the Faith.


To contemplate the miraculous crossing of the Israelites across the Red Sea (Exodus 14):
1. How Moses waved the rod according to the command of God and the sea was divided and the people of God passed over on the dry bottom of the sea;
2. How the Egyptians pursued the Israelites along the same path but Moses waved the rod and the sea came together;
3. How this teaches me that whatever He wills, all is possible with God and that He saves His faithful servant from the greatest danger and punishes the unfaithful.


-About the sobriety of the mind-

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Brethren, the mind is the guide of the soul and the advisor to the soul. God gave only a soul to the animals [an irrational soul] that is why He did not give them freedom but guides them with His mind. God gave man a soul [a rational soul] and mind and with the mind, freedom. The mind and freedom are inseparable. From this, are all the empty tales of certain philosophers concerning how man truly has a mind but does not possess freedom. For it is clear from daily experience that freedom is an inseparable companion of the mind. But, as man does not possess a perfect mind, so he does not possess perfect freedom but, nevertheless, stands under the direction and guidance of God. God alone has a perfect mind and perfect freedom. We, therefore, are only the “image and likeness” of the mind and the freedom of God. We possess a sufficient enough mind that we may know the will of God and enough freedom that we can decide to fulfill the will of God. When the mind loses the absolute guiding power over the soul then, what follows in the soul is many guiding principles which result in the confusion, chaos and destruction.

What do the words of the apostle mean: “gird up the loins of your mind and be sober” They mean: do not allow your mind to fantasize but concentrate the mind on the contemplation on the law of God. They also mean: do not allow your mind to abuse the God-given freedom of plunging the soul into the slavery of the flesh, the world and the devil but nail the mind to Christ as to a cross so that your soul may resurrect in Christ. Further they mean: close your mind off from all self-willed imaginations from which it becomes intoxicated and falls into the booty of the devil and keep the mind girded in the narrowness of your heart where it will become sober through prayer and become pure through tears. Briefly, it means: exercise your mind not to abuse your freedom by ridiculing the Living and Merciful God and deadening the soul by passions.

O Lord Jesus, the Mind of God and the Wisdom of God, help us to gird our mind so that it would think only of what is from You and that what is Yours, so that the mind would lead our soul soberly to salvation.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.