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Prologue from Ochrid - June 16 [June 29]

1. St Tikhon, Bishop of Amathus.

A wonderworker, Tikhon was chosen unanimously as bishop on the death of blessed Mnemonius, and consecrated by the renowned Epiphanius for the diocese of Amathus. The purity of his life and his zealous adherence to Orthodoxy recommended him for this rank. There were still pagans in Cyprus at that time, and Tikhon undertook with apostolic zeal to turn the unbelievers into believers, and he had great success in this. After lengthy toil in the Lord's vineyard, he entered into the eternity of the blessed in about 425. He is named a wonderworker because of the many miracles that he performed during his lifetime. His father was a baker, and whenever his father left him alone in the shop, he would distribute the bread to the poor without payment. His father reproached him once for doing this, so he prayed to God and their storehouse became so full of grain that they could open the door only with difficulty. Another time he planted a dry slip from a vine and the vine grew green and bore fruit in its season.

2. The Holy Martyrs Tigrius and Eutropius.

They were both priests with St John Chrysostom. When evil men drove St John from Constantinople, the cathedral was set on fire, the flames from it rising high and failing upon the houses of those who were persecuting this light of the Church. The people saw the finger of God at work in this event, but St John's enemies blamed his followers for the fire. Many of them suffered because of this, including the priest Tigrius and the reader Eutroplus. The civil governor, an unbaptised Greek called Optatius, started a particularly venomous hunt for the followers of St John. Tigrius had been the slave of a rich man in his youth, and had been castrated. Set free from slavery, he had devoted himself entirely to the service of the Church and shone in that service like a ray of light. Optatius gave this 'meek, humble, merciful and hospitable' man over to vicious torture and then sent him into exile, to Mesopotamia, where he died while still in captivity. Eutropius, chaste and pure from his earliest youth, without vice or guile, was flogged with bull-whips and staves and finally hanged. When Christians took his body for burial, a melodious angelic chanting was heard in the sky above them.

Reflection

In enumerating the miracles of the Christian Faith we need never forget the countless and great miracles of the changes of heart and dispositions of people truly converted to the Faith. How many are the enraged criminals that this Faith tamed! How many bloodthirsty robbers has the Faith transformed to innocent lambs! How many debauched ones has the Faith turned into chaste ones! How many persecuters has the Faith turned into defenders of the Faith! How many selfish avaricious men has the Faith taught compassion! How many fearful ones has the Faith directed on the road to extreme self-sacrifice! Metropolitan Philaret writes about Russian Prince Vladimir: "A lover of all pleasures; how this was not possible any longer for the pagan Vladimir in Christianity and he became a model of a chaste married life; he dismissed all women and lovers and lived with one, the devout Anna. An evil, vindictive and bloodthirsty fratricide in paganism, Vladimir, in Christianity, was the most compassionate friend of the poor. The poor always had access to him and he distributed both money and food with a generous hand." More than that: "the sick are unable to come to my palace," said he and ordered that meat, fish, bread, yeast and honey be carted about the streets. The Gospel words: "Blessed are the merciful" (St. Matthew 5:7), penetrated into the depth of his heart and became his rule of life.

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous healing of the daughter of the woman of Canaan: "And behold a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts and cried out unto Him saying: Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil" (St. Matthew 15:22):

  1. How the woman of Canaan perseveringly and repeatedly implored the Lord to save her daughter from the devil who tormented her;
  2. How the Lord praised the faith of the woman and healed her daughter;
  3. How the Lord can even free my soul from the devil who attacks my soul when it is in alienation from God only if we persistently pray to Him with faith.

Homily

About how death and life depend on the tongue

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).

Did not our Lord Himself confirm this when He said that for every empty word men will give an answer before the Dread Judgment? Didn't He explicitly say: "But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the Day of Judgment. For by your words, you shall be justified and by your words, you shall be condemned" (St. Matthew 12: 36-37). Whoever is justified will receive life. Whoever is condemned will receive death. Therefore, do you see how life and death are in the power of the tongue? The Apostle James says: "For in many things we all offend. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body" (St. James 3:2).

Truly, great is the unexplored mystery of the word and the influence of the word cannot be measured nor estimated. Today the word of men can be carried by artificial instruments from one end of our planet to the other. A word spoken by the tongue in America can be heard by the ear in Europe. Is not this a picture of the All-hearing God? O my brethren, we cannot whisper anything here to the earth that the heavens are not going to hear. Our every word comes before the assembly of the angels of God. Hades receives our every evil word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal death and Paradise receives every good word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal life. Truly, does the Old Testament sage wisely speaks and promptly reminds us with the words that: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."

O Lord our Savior, eternal Word of God, help us to bridle our tongue so that it does not speak to our destruction. Help us to speak with the tongue only that which is according to Your holy will and that which is for our eternal salvation in the life eternal.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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