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Prologue from Ochrid - June 23 [July 6]

1. The Holy Martyr Agrippina.

St Agrippina was born and brought up in Rome. She trained herself from childhood to live by the Gospel, expelling the stench of the passions from her heart with the sweet-smelling perfume of purity and chastity. She was betrothed to Christ the Lord, and suffered as a bride of Christ in the reign of the Emperor Valerian. She endured beating with staves until her bones were crushed. An angel of the Lord appeared to her to strengthen her, until she surrendered her soul to God under fresh tortures. Her friends, Vassa, Paula and Agathonica, took her relics to the island of Sicily and buried them there. A church was later built there in her name, where countless miracles were wrought over her relics. She entered into eternal rest and was crowned with glory in the year 275.

2. The Holy Martyrs Eustochius and Gains, and those with them.

Eustochius was a pagan priest in the time of the Emperor Maximian, but, seeing the heroism of the Christian martyrs, he cast off his paganism and was baptised by Eudoxius, Bishop of Antioch. Gradually Eustochius brought his kinsfolk to the Christian faith, and his kinsman Gaius was baptised together with his three children: Probus, Loillas and Urban. All these, and some others with them, were brought before the judge, tortured and beheaded in Lystra for the sake of their faith in Christ the Lord, and thus their souls entered into His immortal Kingdom.

3. Commemoration of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God.

When the Tartar king, Ahmet, lay siege to Moscow, Prince Ivan Vasillievitch came with troops to defend the city. Although this prince's forces were smaller in number and weaker than the Tartar army, they yet emerged victorious, for an indescribable terror fell on the Tartars and they ran off in confusion in all directions. All attributed this unexpected success to the icon of the most holy Mother of God, for the whole people had begged her aid for deliverance from the Tartars. This day, June 23rd, is set aside in the land of Russia for the commemoration of this miracle.

4. The Tale of Theophilus's Repentance.

Consumed with envy towards his bishop, this man gave his soul to the devil and set down in writing his rejection of Christ and of His holy Mother. He then repented of his deed and wept bitterly, imploring the Mother of God for forgiveness. After forty days of fasting and tearful prayer, he received back the paper on which he had written his denial, and which he had given to the devil. He went to the church and openly confessed his sin to the bishop and the people. When the bishop had spoken the words of forgiveness and given him Communion, Theophilus's face shone like the sun. Here is an example of how the merciful Lord not only forgives the sins of all those who repent, but also makes them into saints.

Reflection

Christian patience is a meek patience, but patience with a weak malice does not differ much from vengeance. Our saints are great in every good evangelical work but how great and magnificent are they in meek patience! Perhaps they appear the greatest to us in this goodness because we are the smallest in it. When the desert fathers at one time had gathered around John Kolovos [The Short] to hear an instruction a certain envious one heckled: "Your vessel, O John, is full of poison!" To that the meek John immediately responded: "You said that only seeing the exterior but what would you have said if you could see the interior?" When they brought out Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage for beheading, he commanded that twenty-five gold pieces be given to his executioner following his death.

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous healing of Zacharias from dumbness: "And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed and he began to speak, blessing God" (St. Luke 1:64).

  1. How Zacharias became dumb because of his disbelief in the angel of God;
  2. How Zacharias spoke as soon as he fulfilled the command of the angel: "And asking for a writing tablet, he wrote the words: ' John is his name' " (St. Luke 1:63);
  3. How dumbness will fall from my soul as soon as I begin to fulfill the commandments of God and how my soul will be full of words and wisdom according to God.

Homily

About how we need not envy the sinners

"Be not emulous [envious] of evil men" (Proverbs 24:1).

Does anyone envy the leper? No one envies him. Why then do some envy the evil man when evil is a greater sickness than leprosy? Leprosy is a disease of the flesh but evil is a disease of the soul. A leper can be healthy within while he is unhealthy on the outside. However, the evil man can be healthy on the outside but his interior is ill, his heart is sick. Greater value has a tree that is sick on the outside but has a healthy core than a tree that is healthy on the outside but has a rotten core. Thus, leprosy is a lesser evil than evil i.e., than sin. Because under evil, the All-wise One thought of sin as evil.

Does the physician envy the sick person? He does not envy him. Neither does the righteous one envy the sinner. If you do not know whether you are righteous examine your heart: do you envy the sinner? If you envy the sinner then you are not righteous; if you do not envy the sinner, then rejoice, O righteous one of God. The sick person can envy the healthy one, but the healthy person does not envy the sick person. Neither does the righteous envy the sinner. A physician recognizes a fatal illness of his patient and, knowing that, he pities him but does not envy him. The righteous one recognizes the sickness of sin, horrifying and deadly, and does not envy the sinner but pities him.

O good and compassionate Lord, uproot envy from our hearts and implant love.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK