Prologue of Ohrid


August 12


Emperor Diocletian once visited the city of Nicomedia with the evil intention of completely exterminating the Christians. But when he began his merciless torture of Christians, Anicetas, one of the high ranking officials of the city, boldly confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before the emperor. Anicetas also denounced the idols as deaf and dumb stones, the worship of which is unworthy of a rational man. The emperor had Anicetas's tongue cut out; but Anicetas, by the power of God, continued to speak. They then released a lion against him, but the lion fawned about him. At that very moment, the temple of Hercules collapsed. Photius, a kinsman of Anicetas, seeing the miracles and endurance of Anicetas, kissed him, declared himself a Christian, and cried out to the emperor: "O idolator, be ashamed! Your gods are nothing!" The emperor then ordered that Anicetas be immediately beheaded. However, in raising his hand against holy Photius, the executioner struck himself with the sword and died. After prolonged tortures, both Anicetas and Photius were cast into prison, where they languished for three years. Then a fire was lighted in an enormous furnace, and they cast them in. Many other Christians--men, women and children--willingly followed them into the fire. The prayer of the Christians, praising God for their martydom in the flames, issued forth from the furnace. They all suffered in about the year 305 A.D. Saints Anicetas and Photius are invoked in the prayers of the Sacrament of Holy Unction [Anointing with Oil] and in the Blessing of Water.


O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, who did send Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who heals every infirmity and delivers from death. Heal Thou, also Your servant [Name] from the ills of body and soul which do hinder [him/her] and quicken [him/her] by the grace of Your Christ: through the prayers of our Most Holy Lady, the Birth-giver of God and Ever-virgin Mary; through the intercession of the honorable Bodiless Powers of Heaven; through the might of the precious and Life-giving Cross, through the protection of the honorable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; of the glorious and all-laudable Apostles; of the holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs; of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers; of the holy and healing, unmercenaries, Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Pantaleon and Hermolaus, Samson and Diomedes, Photius and Anicetas; of the holy righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and all the Saints.

For You are the Fountain of healing, O our God, and unto You do we ascribe glory, together with Your Only-begotten Son and Your Spirit, one in essence, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.


Alexander was a simple charcoal-burner in the town of Comana, near Neo-Caesarea. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea (November 17), was summoned to preside at a council to elect a new bishop. Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. In evaluating a candidate, they primarily paid attention to externals: apparent worth and behavior. St. Gregory said that they should have looked not so much at the external characteristics, but rather at the spirit and spiritual capabilities. Then several foolish men cried out: "Then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop!" General laughter ensued. St. Gregory asked: "Who is this Alexander?" Thinking that this name had not come up at the council without God's Providence, Gregory ordered that Alexander be brought before the council. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Even so, Gregory took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself. Alexander admitted that he had once been a Greek philosopher and had enjoyed great honor and position. Yet, from the time he had read and comprehended Holy Scripture, he had rejected all, humbled himself and made himself a fool-for-Christ. Having heard this, Gregory ordered that Alexander be bathed and clothed in new attire. Then he brought him into the council chamber and examined Alexander's understanding of Holy Scripture. All present were amazed at Alexander's wisdom and words of grace, and could hardly recognize this wise man as the quiet charcoal-burner. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. Alexander died a martyr's death for Christ during the reign of Diocletian.



Men look upon the clothes and the face,

But God looks at the soul and the heart.

The glorious Alexander, a charcoal-burner, was;

His body was blackened by soot,

Which water easily washes away.

A sinner's heart is blackened,

And only the fire of faith can cleanse it--

The fire of faith, and the lament of repentance!

It is easier to cleanse the skin of a charcoal-burner

Than the blackened heart of a sinner.

Alexander, with humility, was covered,

Like a flame hidden in a cave.

An object of derision for the credulous world, he was.

The world did not see, but Gregory saw,

And with spiritual acumen saw through the charcoal-burner,

And in him, found a saint!

In the dark cave, a beautiful flame:

Behind the mask of foolishness, great wisdom;

Beneath the grime and soot, a pure heart:

A royal soul in rotting rags.

Light to be hidden, the Lord does not allow--

At the appointed time, the light is proclaimed,

For the benefit and salvation of men.

All God's judgments are wondrous.


Learn to respect and love lowly and simple people. Such are the most blessed on earth, and such are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. In them there is no pride--indeed, pride is the prevalent madness afflecting the rich and the powerful of this world. The lowly carry out their duty in this world perfectly; and yet, when someone praises them for it, it seems unearned to them--while the self-seeking men of this world seek praise for all their work, and often it is imperfectly done. St. Alexander was an eminent philosopher, yet he left everything, hid himself from exalted society and the praise of the world, and mingled with the lowliest and the simplest of men--a charcoal-burner among charcoal-burners. Instead of yearning for his former praises and honors, he rejoiced that children ran after him, laughing at him because of his sooty skin and ragged clothes. Even so, Alexander was not the only one who desired to live with the lowly and simple. Many kings and princes, learning of the sweetness of the Christian Faith, have removed the crowns from their heads and fled from aristocratic vanity, to be among simple people. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the King of Kings, appear among shepherds and fishermen? St. Zeno counsels: "Do not choose a glorious place for living, and do not associate with men of prominence."


To contemplate the wondrous providence of God, in the choice of Saul as king (1 Samuel 9 [also known as 1 Kings 9]):

1. How Saul went out to seek the lost asses;

2. How Samuel, to whom God revealed that Saul should be accepted as the King of Israel, met him;

3. How the providence of God directs men, and sometimes gives them that which they do not envision.


About the awesome vision of the Prophet Isaiah

"I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1).

Here is the vision of visions! Here is the glory of glories and the majesty of majesties! God showed great mercy to all of mankind, in that He gave them to see the great starry firmament, the work of His hands. He showed an even greater mercy in allowing some to see the eternal and wondrous angelic world. He showed the greatest mercy to a small number of His chosen ones, whom He allowed to see Himself--the Lord Sabaoth, the Only Uncreated One, and Creator of both worlds. How can mortal man see the Immortal God? Did not God Himself say to Moses: For there shall no man see me and live (Exodus 33:20)? And does not the Gospel say: No man has seen God at any time (John 1:18)? Truly, no mortal can see the face of God--His essence. But, by His condescension and infinite goodness and power, God can reveal--to some extent and in some form--how accessible He is to men. In a particular form and appearance, He appeared to Moses, Elias, Daniel and John the Theologian. He did not reveal His Essence, but a particular form and appearance. Isaiah saw Him on a throne high and lifted up--as the Judge raised above all the judges and all the earthly courts. The six-winged Seraphim stood around Him and cried one to another: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6:3). The Lord did not allow Himself to be seen alone, but rather as the King in His Invisible Kingdom, surrounded by the most exalted of beings, who were created by His power. Around Him are the foremost orders of the heavenly hierarchy, the chief commanders of His innumerable immortal hosts, the foremost lampstands of His light and His unendurable radiance.

This is the wondrous vision of Isaiah, the Son of Amos, the prophet of God.

O Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord--Thrice Holy--have mercy on us and save us, impure and sinful as we are.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
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