My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 6th of December
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Myra
Dismissal Hymn. Fourth Tone
The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith,
an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; for this cause,
thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O
Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ God that our306
souls be saved.
Kontakion Hymn. Third Tone
Thou, O righteous Nicholas, in Myra truly was shown forth as a
sacred minister fulfilling Christ’s holy Gospel; for thou didst lay
down thy life for thy flock and people and, O Saint, didst save
the innocent from unjust death. Wherefore, thou was sanctified
as a great initiate of the Divine grace of God.
Nicholas, the namesake of victory and our wonderworking father among the Saints, was born in Patara, a city of Lycia. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He flourished during the 300’s, the epoch of the impious autocrats Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) and Maximian (286-305 A.D.). Maximian was adopted by Diocletian as his what was sufficient for their in 286 A.D. Both abdicated in 305 A.D., in favor, respectively, of the august Galerius (305-311 A.D.) of the east and Constantius (305-306 A.D.) of the west, but Maximian again assumed imperial power in 306 A.D. Saint Nicholas was Archbishop of Myra at that time and continued his episcopacy through the reign of Emperor Constantine I the Great (306-337 A.D.). Constantine was the sole august in the west after the defeat in 312 A.D. of Maxentius (308-312 A.D., a rival Augustus in the west. In 324 A.D., Constantine became sole emperor after the death of Augustus Licinius (308-324 A.D.) of the eat, who had been sharing power with Galerius until the latter’s death. Maximinus (308-314 A.D.), who commanded Asia Minor, was overthrown by Licinius in 324 A.D. Emperor Constantine, upon issuing the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.), ensured full religious freedom for Christians, thus allowing the Church to emerge from the catacombs. Saint Nicholas participated in the First Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea, which convened in 325 A.D,
After giving this brief background of Saint Nicholas, we ask that you give great heed to his life’s account, which was compiled by Saint Symeon the Metaphrastes. The reader shall receive joy, gladness, and sweet delight.
The life of our holy Father Nicholas and his accomplishments are also able to inspire one to implementation of such deeds as his. "I am come now," says the hagiographer, "that I might recount the deeds and practices of Saint Nicholas, O blessed Christians; so I beseech you to give ear with fitting diligence."
In the east, in the region of Lycia, there was a city known as Patara which, as was earlier mentioned, was the birthplace of our great Father Nicholas the Wonder-worker. He was the scion of Christian parents, Theophanes and Nonna. They were neither very poor that they might be despised by others nor very rich that they might become arrogant in their thoughts. They had what was sufficient for their needs; and yet, at the same time, they were able to succor the poor with their alms (charity). The virtue of the parents was reflected in their infant son. The Lord says in the Holy Scripture, "The tree is known from the root" (Matthew 12:33). The parents begat no other son, either before or after their Nicholas, thus making it evident another son would not be able to attain the virtue of Nicholas. Every day, except Wednesday and Friday, he took the breast as other infants. He took nourishment only from his mother’s right breast, as presaging that he would stand to the Lord’s right with the blessed. He partook once daily and only after the setting of the sun. Thus, he abstained and fasted till the ninth hour, before he was eating solid foods. Saint Nicholas practiced strict temperance during his entire life, especially on Wednesday and Friday. The infant was sanctified by the prayer and piety of both his parents so that from his youth Nicholas’ heart and soul were devoted to God. After the birth of Nicholas, his parents adopted the celibate life. At his baptism, the infant Nicholas afterward stood up straight in the font for three hours, thus glorifying the Holy Trinity.
This type of behavior was manifest from his youth, which presaged his asceticism and sanctity in adulthood. When he was about five years old and came of school age, he received sufficient lessons in letters. He avoided the dissolute pleasures and adventures of his peers. Those children who were disorderly or spoke unbecoming words, he turned back to and avoided. He loved to regularly attend church and keep company with prudent and elderly men, from whom he might receive beneficial spiritual advice, which was his chief work and pursuit. From his youth, whatever he could understand of the sacred writings and Scripture, he was in the habit of committing to memory. On account of his quick mind and the grace of the Holy Spirit, he attained wisdom and knowledge. The Bishop of Patara, who was his father’s brother, was also named Nicholas. He also took notice of the lad’s pursuits and manner of life. He recommended to the parents that they consecrate their son to the service of God. The parents readily heeded the bishop’s good recommendation and consecrated to the Lord the child whom they had received from His as a gift.
Ordination to the Priesthood
When Nicholas grew up, he showed himself to be an honorable man. He shunned vain conversations, avoided familiar speech with women and refrained from gazing upon them, and spent his time in mental prayer and reading spiritual books. At length, he was deemed worthy of the Priesthood and was ordained by Bishop Nicholas. Just as Saint Nicholas was bout to be ordained to the Priesthood, Bishop Nicholas was inspired by the Holy Spirit to utter, before the entire congregation, these prophetic words regarding his nephew: "Brethren, I see a new sun rising above the earth. Father Nicholas shall comfort and console many of the afflicted and shall dispatch many souls to the Kingdom of the heavens. Blessed is the flock that shall be vouchsafed such a shepherd, for he will nourish the souls entrusted to him on the pasturage of piety. We shall all find him a ready helper in misfortunes and tribulations." Indeed, all these divine predictions came to be, as the passage of time would clearly evince.
After the Saint was ordained to the Priesthood, one could not recount all his virtues and the good deeds he performed. He engaged in vigils, fasts, continence, and prayers on behalf of the people. Much of this was witnessed by his uncle, Bishop Nicholas, who marveled to find such dedication. The uncle desired to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He decided to entrust his nephew with the care and supervision of the Church of Patara and its monastery. The bishop had built the monastery, naming it New Sion. The holy Priest Nicholas governed the diocesan house and monastery, even as the bishop himself would have, had he been present. The dignity of this office in fact would follow later for our Father Nicholas.
Father Nicholas lost his parents at an early age. He was left not a little inheritance, which he distributed for the poor’s food and shelter. He clothed the naked and cared for the orphan and widow. The inheritance was not spent on desires devoid of reason, costly raiment, and all sorts of entertainment, as those pastimes engaged in by today’s young people. Hearken to the words of the Prophet King David: "If haply wealth flow, cease putting forth your heart upon it" (Psalm 61:10), thus did the Saint put those wise words to practice. He gave no heed to the increased flow of riches and corruptible and everlasting life. Since he bore profound love for his parents, he asked everyone to pray for them, promising his help in return. Out of all the almsgiving and charitable acts which he performed, hearken to one such marvelous and awesome incident. Although his modest fortune was being distributed toward numerous acts of charity, yet Father Nicholas carefully watched for situations when the need was the greatest. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George