Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
by Saint John Climacus
"We, above all, should in the first verse, at the beginning of our prayer, express to God our gratitude with our whole soul for the great benefactions and the daily we receive from our Lord and King.
In the second verse of our prayer, let us express, with compunction and pain of heart, the confession of our sins which we, as fools, commit against God on a daily basis.
In the third verse of our prayer, let us place before our Heavenly King our own particular issues, and entreat Him with much humility to be compassionate and merciful to us and to console us with His Loving-Kindness, and to make us worthy ultimately of His Great Mercy, His Kingdom in Heaven.
Let us, therefore, first of all thank God for His infinite mercy, then let us confess to Him our sins, and, finally, let us entreat Him to forgive us."
On December 6th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Our Father Among the Saint Nicholas, The Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra of Lycia; Saint Theophilos, bishop of Antioch; Saint Maximos, Metropolitan of Kiev; Saint Nicholas, missionary of Moscow; St. Nicholas of Tobolsk; Saint Nicholas of Novo-Nikolskaya; Saint Neilos of Strolben; New Holy Martyr Nicholas Karamanos in Asia Minor (+1657); Commemoration of the divine warning of an impending earthquake.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Missionaries, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY SCRIPTURAL READINGS OF THE DAY ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 13:17-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 6:17-23
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"We must show perseverance for whatever temptation comes along whether they wish to pluck our eyes out or to cut our right hand. However, if someone wishes to distance us from our faith then let's become indignant" (St. Poemen the Great).
OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS NICHOLAS, THE WONDERWORKER AND ARCHBISHOP OF MYRA OF LYCIA (+ December 6th)
Our Holy Father Nicholas, emulator of the Apostles and ardent imitator of the Lord Jesus Christ, appears as a living pillar of the Church, zealous in defense of the faith and a model of pastoral solicitude for holy bishops. Through his countless miracles on behalf of the poor, the abandoned, of those suffering injustice and of all who call upon his fatherly protection, he has to this day shown himself "a good steward of the manifold grace of God" (I Peter 4:10).
Saint Nicholas was born in Patara in Lycia towards the end of the 3rd century, to Christian parents who had long been childless. From infancy, he showed his love of virtue and his zeal for observing the ordinances of the Church by abstaining from his mother's breast on Wednesdays and Fridays until the evening. Pious and inclined to silence, he was educated in theology and, while still young, was ordained priest by his uncle, Archbishop Nicholas. For many years, vigil, fasting and prayer were the virtues he excelled in, but from the time of his parents' death and his giving away his inheritance to the needy, the virtue of almsgiving became his greatest glory to God. He regarded himself merely as the steward of goods which belonged to the poor and took particular care to keep good deeds secret, so as not to lose the heavenly reward (cf. St. Matthew 6:7). On three occasions he secretly left gold enough for the marriage portions of three maidens whom their debt-ridden father intended to give up to prostitution. When the man eventually discovered his good deed, St. Nicholas made him promise, as he valued his salvation, to tell no one of it.
God recompensed him through the charismata (gifts) and miracles for which he became renowned in the sight of men. On pilgrimage to the Holy Places he twice by his prayer calmed the winds that imperiled the ship he was sailing in.
Soon after his return, an Angel made known to the Synod of Bishops, meeting to elect a shepherd for the nearby city of Myra, that they should choose Nicholas--which they did, to the joy of the people. During the last great persecution under the pagan Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian (c. 305), Saint Nicholas was thrown into prison where he continued to confirm his spiritual flock in the faith. With the accession of Constantine, he was very zealous for the destruction of idolatrous temples and for driving out the demons that inhabited them. Among the Holy Fathers gathered at Nicaea in 325 A.D. for the First Ecumenical Council, Saint Nicholas was one of the leading champions of Orthodoxy against the impious heresy of Arius, which had so swiftly sprung up to trouble and divide the Holy Body of Christ.
He saved the city of Myra from famine by appearing to the master of a vessel laden with corn, and telling him to discharge his cargo at the harbor there. Later the man of God saved the lives of three Roman officers unjustly accused of conspiracy, by appearing in a dream to the Emperor Constantine and to the perfidious Prefect Avlavius. Full of gratitude to the Saint for their deliverance, the three soldiers became monks.
On many other occasions after his death as well as during his lifetime, Saint Nicholas has miraculously assisted ships in distress and people making voyages, and so is venerated as the protector of all who sail the seas. Thus, one day during a gale, he appeared at the helm of a ship in distress and brought it safely to port; and on another occasion, he rescued a passenger who fell overboard crying, "Saint Nicholas, help me!" and at once found himself at home surrounded by his astounded family.
For many years the Holy Bishop was, as the presence of Christ, a friend of man and good shepherd to his faithful; there was no misfortune that would not move him to compassion, no injustice that he would not redress, no discord that he would not allay. Wherever he happened to be, his illumined countenance and the atmosphere of radiant peace surrounding him were instantly recognizable. When he fell asleep in peace his people lamented the loss of their pastor and their providence, through whom they had received so many benefits, but the Angels and Saints rejoiced with great joy to receive the meek Nicholas among them. His holy relics, placed in a church built in his honor at Myra, were venerated by crowds of pilgrims every year. One day the Devil, unable to tolerate the glory that shone from Saint Nicholas' tomb, took the form of a poor old woman and accosted some pilgrims who were leaving for Myra, lamenting that she was not able herself to travel, and entrusting them with a flask of oil for the lamps that burned perpetually before the shrine. During the voyage, St. Nicholas appeared to the ship's captain and told him to throw the oil into the sea. No sooner had he done so than the surface of the water caught fire and swirled about in blazing eddies to the terror of the passengers, who gave thanks to God for having saved the sanctuary through his Saint. In 1087, after Myra had fallen to the Saracens, the holy relics of Saint Nicholas were transferred to Bari in the South of Italy, accompanied by many miracles, and there they are venerated to this day (cf. May 9th).
Saint Nicholas, with Saint George, is one of the Saints most beloved by Christian people in the East as well as in the West. The churches dedicated to him are as countless as the places and the faithful named after him. He is especially revered by the Russian people as the protector of crops, and in the West he is regarded as the patron of schoolchildren and of young people in general.
The feast and commemoration of Saint Nicholas is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast.
Holy Scripture readings for the feast are the following: At Great Vespers: The first reading is a compilation of passages from Proverbs 10:7, 3:13-15; Proverbs 10:31-11:12; Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-15. At the Matins: St. John 10:1-9. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 13:17-21; St. Luke 6:17-23.
Hymns of the Saint:
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn (Fourth Tone)
The truth of things hath revealed 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 our souls be saved.
Kontakion Hymn (Third Tone)
Saintly One, (St. Nicholas) in Myra you proved yourself a priest; for in fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, venerable One, you laid down your life for your people and saved the innocent from death. For this you were sanctified as One learned in divine grace.
(Adopted from the Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Vol. 2, compiled by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway)
OTHER MIRACLES OF SAINT NICHOLAS
The bishop of Patara decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, and entrusted the guidance of his flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, St. Nicholas asked his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the Saint predicted a storm would arise and threaten the ship. Saint Nicholas saw the devil get on the ship, intending to sink it and kill all the passengers. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed the waves of the sea by his prayers.
When he reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and came to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas gave thanks to the Savior, the closed doors of the church opened by themselves for the great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the Saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.
In the year 325 A.D. Saint Nicholas was a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith (The Creed), and he stood up against the heretic Arius with the likes of Sts Sylvester the bishop of Rome (+ January 2nd), Alexander of Alexandria (+ May 29th), St. Spyridon of Trimythous (+ December 12th) and other Fathers of the Council.
Saint Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the Holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and Omophorion. The Holy Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the Saint was pleasing to God, and restored the Saint to the office of bishop.
In time his fame in Northern Europe as a saintly bishop began changing to that of a giver of gifts to children, usually done on December 6th. As immigrants from the Germanic and Nordic lands settled in the United States the image of Saint Nicholas, or "Sinterklaas," as he is known among the Dutch, slowly changed to that of "Santa Claus" with little tie to the spirituality of Christianity.
It is truly disgusting to see the image and person of a holy bishop of the Christian Faith distorted and disfigured by the secular society, commercial institutions and enterprises. The business world has made the Saint a caricature and a commercial symbol. However, we and our Christian families must continue to emulate, pray and honor this Great Father of the Church. Every Orthodox child must learn from you the parents the true life of Saint Nicholas and encourage them to emulate his Christian and holy example.
Holy Father Nicholas intercede to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to save our souls!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God