From The Proglogue from Ochrid, by the Ever-memorable Bishop Niklai Velimirovic
Taken from the readings given for first, today 18/31 October
Can a sinner, in the space of ten days, make full repentance of his sin? By the immeasurable grace of God, he can. In the time of the Emperor Maurice, there was a well-known bandit in the region around Constantinople. Both in the countryside and in the capital itself, he inspired fear and trembling. Then the Emporer himself sent him a Cross, as a pledge that he would not punish him if he gave himself up. The bandit took the Cross, and did indeed give himslef up. Arriving in Constantinople, he fell at the Emporer's feet and begged his foregiveness. The Emporer kept his word, had mercy on him and let him go free. Immediately after that, the bandit feel gravely ill and sensed that death was near. He began to repent bitterly of all his sins, and implored God with tears to forgive him as the Emporer had. He shed many tears in his prayer, so that the handkerchief with which he wiped them became soaked, and he died after ten days of prayerful weeping. The night of his death, the doctor who had been attending him had a strange vision in a dream: when the bandit on the bed breathed his last, a number of little black demons gathered around him, flourishing bits of paper of which his sins were written, and two glorious angels also appeared. A pair of scales was placed in the middle, and the little black demons gleefully put all the bits of paper on it, and their side of the scales was loaded while the other was empty. 'What can we put in?', the angels asked each other. 'Let's look for something good in his life.' Then there appeared in the hand of one of the angels the handkerchief soaked with tears of repentance. The agels quickly placed it on their side of the scales, and it at once outweighed the other with all its papers. Then the little black demons fled, howling in anguish, but the angels took the man's soul and carried it to Paradise, glorifying God's love for mankind.
And, second, from the readings for the 15/28 December
For unintentional murder, earthly law frees the murderer. The Church lay penance on the unintentional muderer, a penance much lighter than that for a wilful murderer, but does not leave him without a penance. If a priest kills unintentionally, for instance, the Church forbids him to serve as a priest for the rest of his life. Christians with sensitive souls and sharpened consciences take on themselves a harsher penance than the Church lays down. St Pardus, as a waggoner, once arrived in Jericho. Leaving his ass in front of an inn, he went in. At that moment, a child feel in front of the ass, and the animal tampled on it and killed it. When Pardus saw the dead and trampled child, killed by his ass, his heart was so burdened that he felt as though he were himself guilty of the child's death. This conscience-stricken man laid on himself the harshest penance: he abandoned his trade, forsook the world although he was very young, and went off into the arid desert for strict bodily asceticism and spiritual toil and repentance. With many tears, he offered God his repentance for the murder of the child, and prayed to God that He would somehow bring this about. He searched out a lion, but the lion fled from him. He lay in the narrow track that the lion had taken, hoping the beast would kill him, but the lion leapt over him and would not touch him. Seeing, therefore, that it was God's will that he live and not perish, he calmed down, but remained to his death a lowly penitent. Is this not a sensitive, loving and God-fearing soul? Is not this the refined and sharpened conscience of a true Christian?
I would just like to add, truly the responsibility of the Civil power to restrain evil doers is one thing and the task of the Christian another