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Prologue from Ochrid - October 18 [October 31]

1. The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke.

Born in Antioch, he applied himself in his youth to the study of Greek philosophy, medicine and art. At the time that the Lord Jesus was at work upon earth, Luke came to Jerusalem, where he saw the Saviour face to face, heard His saving teaching and was a witness of His wonderful works. Coming to belief in the Lord, St Luke was included among the Seventy and sent forth to preach the Gospel. Together with Cleopas, he saw the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24). After the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, Luke returned to Antioch and there became a fellowworker with the Apostle Paul, with whom he travelled to Rome, bringing Jews and pagans to the Christian faith. 'Luke the beloved physician salutes you', writes the Apostle Paul to the Colossians (4:14). At the request of the Christians, he wrote his Gospel in about the year 60. After the death by martyrdom of the great Apostle, Luke preached the Gospel all over Italy, Dalmatia, Macedonia and elsewhere. He painted three icons of the most holy Mother of God and also icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and is regarded as the founder of Christian iconography. In old age, he visited Libya and Upper Egypt, and thence returned to Greece, where he set himself with great zeal to preach the Gospel and bring men to Christ, disregarding his great age. St Luke wrote both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and dedicated them both to Theophilus, governor of Achaia. He was eighty-four years old when wicked idol-worshippers put him to torture for the sake of Christ and hanged him from an olive tree in the town of Thebes in Beothia. The wonderworking relics of this wonderful saint were taken to Constantinople in the time of the Emperor Constantius, son of St Constantine.

2. St Peter of Cetinje, Metropolitan of Montenegro.

Born on April 1st, 1749, in the village of Njegusi, he became a monk at the age of twelve. After the death of Metropolitan Sava in 1782, Peter became Metropolitan and Governor of Montenegro. This holy man devoted his whole life to his people. Within Montenegro, he worked with his whole strength to pacify the warring tribes, and externally he defended the land and the people against plundering onslaughts, succeeding in both the one and the other. He is especially famed for his victory over Napoleon's army in Dalmatia. He was strict with himself, and just and humble towards others. He lived in one tiny cell as a simple monk, although he was governor of a people. He entered into rest on October 18th, 1830, and his wonderworking relics are preserved uncorrupt in the monastery of Cetinje. The Lord glorified him in heaven and on earth as His true and patient servant.

3. Ss Julian and Didymus the Blind.

St Julian, called 'the Hermit', was a Persian, an unlettered peasant, and was in the purity of his heart a vessel of the Holy Spirit. He lived in asceticism near the Euphrates in Mesopotamia, and had the gift of insight. At the moment at which Julian the Apostate perished, St Julian saw him in spirit and told his disciples. His contemporary, St Didymus the Blind, living in Alexandria, also saw in his spirit the death of the wicked Emperor. He was at prayer during the night when a voice came to him from heaven: 'Today the Emperor Julian is no more; give these tidings to Patriarch Theophilus.' St Antony the Great valued this wonderful man, the blind Didymus with his gift of insight, very highly, and stayed with him whenever he left the desert for Alexandria, taking the opportunity to pray together with him. Both St Julian and St Didymus, these wonderful servants of God, entered into rest some time after the year 362.

Reflection

Can a sinner repent of his sins in ten days? According to the immeasurable compassion of God he can. During the reign of Emperor Maurice, there was a well-known bandit in the vicinity of Constantinople. He inspired fear and trembling both within the capital and without. One day, the Emperor Maurice himself sent the robber a cross as a sign of faith that he would do him no harm if he surrendered. The robber took the cross and surrendered. Arriving in Constantinople, he fell before the feet of the emperor and begged for forgiveness. The emperor kept his word, had mercy on him and released him. Immediately after that, the robber became gravely ill and sensed that death was drawing near. He bitterly repented of all his sins and tearfully prayed to God that He forgive him, as the emperor had forgiven him. He shed so many tears at prayer that his handkerchief was completely soaked. After ten days of weeping and praying, the repentant man reposed. The same night he passed away, his physician saw a wondrous vision in a dream: when the robber had given up his soul, there gathered around him black, manlike demons with pieces of paper on which were written all his sins. Two radiant angels also appeared. The angels set a scale between them, and the joyful demons placed all those papers on it, weighing down their side of the scale; but the other side was empty. The angels held counsel: "What shall we place on it? Let us seek something good in his life!" And then that handkerchief soaked with tears of repentance appeared in the hands of one angel. The angels quickly placed it on their side of the scale and it outweighed all the demons' papers. Then the black demons fled, howling sorrowfully, and the angels took the soul of the repentant thief and carried it to Paradise, glorifying the man-loving God.

Contemplation

Contemplate the miracle of the Apostle Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8):

  1. How an angel guided Philip from Samaria to the road into Gaza;
  2. How Philip saw the eunuch of Queen Candace, explained to him the prophecy of Isaiah, and baptized him;
  3. How an angel made Philip invisible to the eunuch, and transported him instantly to the town of Azotus.

Homily

On the sins of the tongue

I said, I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue (Psalm 39:1).

The sin of the tongue is the most common and most frequent sin. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, says the Apostle James (James 3:2). When a penitent sets out on God's path-when he begins to live according to God's commandments-he should first strive to avoid sin with the tongue. That was the rule that the penitent David laid down for himself. He vowed especially to remain silent before his adversaries: I will restrain my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked are before me (Psalm 39:1). Behold a most wonderful rule for one who is being healed of sin. When he is accused, he does not reply; when he is slandered, he remains silent. In truth, what does it help to speak with an enraged, unrighteous man who does not love God more than himself? If you speak to him of evil, you will enrage him even more. If you speak to him of good, you will make him a mocker of holy things. Before Pilate Christ remained silent. Pilate said: Answerest Thou nothing? (Mark 15:4). What can He reply to you, when you do not have ears to hear or a mind to understand? Behold, the silence of the righteous one before the unrighteous one can still have the best influence on the unrighteous one. Left to interpret the silence of the righteous one by himself, the unrighteous one can interpret it for the benefit of his soul; while any other answer, good or bad, will be interpreted for evil, to the condemnation of others and to the justification of himself. Blessed is he who learns to govern his tongue.

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Thou Who hast shown us by example how and when to speak, Thou hast shown us by example how and when we should be silent. Help us, by Thy Holy Spirit, that we not sin with the tongue.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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