The Prologue from Ohrid: July 14
1. THE HOLY APOSTLE AQUILA
Aquila was one of the Seventy Apostles. As a Jew, he first lived in Italy
with his wife Priscilla. When Emperor Claudius decreed that all Jews be driven
from Rome and Italy, Aquila settled in Cornith, where the Apostle Paul met him
for the first time and remained in his home for a year and a half and baptized
him and his wife. Burning with zeal for the Faith of Christ, Aquila and
Priscilla escorted Paul to Ephesus and assisted him in his apostolic labors.
Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus in which, toward
the end, he says: "Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with
the Church that is their house" (1 Corinthians 16:19). After the
death of Emperor Claudius, the Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and so
Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome. After this the Apostle Paul writing the
Epistle to the Romans from Cornith, greets his old friends and his co-laborers:
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus; who have for my
life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all
the churches of the Gentiles" (Romans 16: 3-4). Later on, we see
Aquila in Ephesus where he labors together with St. Timothy the Apostle.
Chained in Rome, Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus: "Salute Priscilla and
Aquila" (2 Timothy 4:19). As a bishop, Aquila baptized many and
illumined them with the Faith, destroyed idols, built churches, ordained priests
and spread the glory of the Incarnate Son of God among men. In the end, he was
murdered by the wicked heathens and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ.
2. THE VENERABLE HELLIUS
Hellius was an Egyptian monk of the fourth century. From his early youth he
dedicated himself to monastic asceticism in the wilderness, that by his life and
powerful miracles, he stirred the astonishment of monks and laity alike and even
though he fled the glory of men, he was unable to conceal himself. He endured
great struggles with the temptations of the devil, especially during the time of
prolong fasting. One time, the devil offered him honey and another time
delicious apples but Hellius did not allow himself to be deceived. He was able
to discern the hearts of men, was able to discern everyone's passion and
thought, not in order to show his inner knowledge, but to correct men.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT AQUILA SAINT PRISCILLA
The torch of light from the heavens descended
Into the hearts of the apostles entered first,
With it, the apostles enlightened men,
By it, their successors are strengthened.
And with this torch, Saint Aquila
Spiritually enlightened by the great Paul
And Blessed Priscilla, his faithful wife,
Their entire house, the power of the Cross filled.
Evil and vain amusements, they abandoned
Into the world, on the work of the Lord they embarked.
Assisted Paul, solitary prisoner
Willingly assisted Saint Apollos
And to Timothy, Paul's child;
Brought many to the flock of Christ.
Blessed are the sacrifices of Blessed Priscilla,
Blessed are the wounds of Saint Aquila,
Good fruit, they bore all over
Laborers, inherited the Kingdom of God.
Christians must arm themselves against the abominations of this world. They
must be armed against every attack and against all temptations, so that every
evil rebounds from them. Armor is not made in a day, nor in two days but is
diligently and laboriously wielded by long-lasting exercise. Of what value is
all our virtue if we succumb to the first abomination? Speaking of this, Saint
Gregory of Nyssa cites an example with a monkey in Alexandria. He says: "An
animal trainer in Alexandria taught a monkey to skillfully impersonate a female
dancer on stage. The spectators at the theatre praised the monkey who was
dressed as a female dancer and danced to the beat of the music. But while the
viewers were occupied observing such a novel spectacle, a comedian wanted to
show everyone that a monkey is nothing more than a monkey. While they all
shouted and applauded at the skill of the monkey, the comedian tossed sweets on
the stage, sweets that monkeys particularly like. As soon as the monkey saw the
sweets, he forgot the dance, the applause, the expensive clothing and jumped
with his paws for the sweets but as his dress interfered, he began to tear it
apart with his nails attempting to remove it. Instead of praise and amazement,
laughter commenced among the viewers." For through the torn mask of the "dancer,"
a monkey was revealed.
To contemplate the just punishment, which God sent upon Korah, Dathan, and
Abiram (Numbers 16):
1. How these three incited the people against Moses and Aaron and all sought
to become leaders;
2. How the earth opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and others
3. How the earth of the body swallows the souls of all those who think
bodily and, thinking thusly, they rebel against the law of God.
About the steadfastness of faith
"Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same
afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1
Brethren, the most important fortress of the souls of men is the fortress of
faith. It is upon this fortress that the devil vehemently attacks with all his
arrows and all of his wiles. For the impure and evil spirit knows that when
this fortress is destroyed he enslaves the soul of man forever. That is why the
holy apostles prayed to the Lord: "Increase our faith" (St. Luke
17:5). Brethren, let us also pray daily that the Lord increases our faith,
that He empower and strengthen our faith. The serpent primarily protects its
head in danger, which is why the Lord Himself called it wise. Let us also
protect the head of our spiritual life which is faith. Nothing in this world
can replace faith in God: neither philosophy, nor science, nor treasure, nor
glory, neither the entire world from one end to the other with all its
transitory illusions. This the devil knows. That is why he especially attacks
our faith, instilling doubt in us, causing us to waver, confusing our thoughts
and disturbing our hearts. Since the devil knows that faith is the principle
thing, it is all the more necessary that we should know it also. Because of us
Christ descended to earth, because of us He suffered on the Cross and gave us
the covenant of an All-saving Faith.
We can neither strengthen faith nor increase faith except through suffering.
That is why the much-suffering Apostle Peter says: "That the same
afflictions (such as yours) are accomplished in your brethren that are in the
world." The apostle does not speak of his affliction out of humility but
rather speaks of the affliction of our brethren in Christ. One in faith and one
in affliction. Brethren, you do not suffer alone for the True Faith but your
other brethren also suffer for the same Faith.
Let this comfort your afflictions. But most of all let the afflictions of
the First-born in suffering, our crucified Lord Jesus Christ Himself, comfort
O Lord Jesus, Sufferer above the sufferers and Victor above the victors
increase our faith and strengthen us with the power of Your Grace as you did
strengthen Your holy apostles.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.