My beloved spiritual children 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.
ON THE 6TH OF DECEMBER, OUR HOLY CHURCH COMMEMORATES OUR HOLY FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, THE WONDER-WORKER, NICHOLAS, ARCHBISHOP OF MYRA IN LYCIA.
Nicholas, the namesake of victory ("the name Nikolas come from nike, or the later form nikos, meaning "victory", and laos, which means "people." The etymology of the name may be interpreted as "victorious people, or "victorious with the people." Thus, the Saint's name signifies either victory over a people, that is, either victory over vices, or a victory in the full sense; because by his way of life and doctrine, he taught the peoples to conquer sins and vice.") and our Wonderworking (Miracle-working) Father among the Saints, was born in Patara, a city of Lycia (Southwestern region of Asia Minor or Turkey). The exact date of his birth is unknown. He flourished during the 300s A.D., the epoch of the impious autocrats Diocletian (384-305 A.D.) and Maximian (286-305 A.D.). Maximian was adopted by Diocletian as his colleague in 286 A.D. Both abdicated power in 305 A.D., in favor, respectively, of the august Galerius (305-311 A.D.) of the East and Constantius 1st (305-306 A.D.) of the West, but Maximian again assumed imperial power in 306 A.D. Saint Nicholas was Archbishop of Myra (a metropolis of Lycia) at that time and continued his episcopacy through the reign of Emperor Constantine I the Great (306-337 A.D.) Constantine was the sole Augustus 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 East, who had been sharing power with Galerius until the latter's death. Miximinus (308-314 A.D.), who commanded Asia Minor, was overthrown by Licinius in 324 A.D. Emperor Constantine the Great, upon issuing the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.), ensured full religious freedom for Christians, thus allowing the Christian 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 Metarphrastes. The reader shall receive joy, gladness, and sweet delight.
What wisdom and skill, my Christian brethren, must be in the hands of painters who can imitate the Truth and present things as they appear! More satisfactory, however, and fit for the purpose is the written word, which can clearly describe what is depicted in an image, because the word articulates for the mind and incites the soul toward good works and emulation of people of excellence more than the inanimate image. Indeed, all the narratives and accounts concerning the Saints of God are able to attract the listener to virtue and the practice of doing good. The life of our Holy Father Nicholas and his accomplishments are also able to inspire one to implementation of such deeds as his. This reading offers great delight and joy both to reader and listener who shall eagerly await to hear the next episode of his life. "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 help the poor with their alms. 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" (Saint Matthew 12:33). "The parents begat n other son, either before or after their Nicholas, thus making it evident another son would not be able to attain the virtue of Nicholas. Even as infant, Nicholas displayed what he would later become. 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 sanctify in adulthood. When he was about five 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 his back to an 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 Holy 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 Him as a gift. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued. Next: Ordination to the Priesthood)
PLEASE NOTE: The person and image of this great Saint of the Church has been violated, disfigured and distorted by the secular world. It is most important that we rely on our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition on who he was as a historical figure and a great Saint of our Church. Hopefully you will take time to read his life and works and pass them on to your children. Saint Nicholas, as well as all the Christian Saints, Martyrs, Fathers, Mothers, and Confessors, were, and are, real, and true followers of Christ God. The Saint of the Church are known as 'the friends of Christ.'
As Orthodox Christians we are inspired, taught, and guided by them to come to the knowledge of the Truth, Christ. We learn through their good and virtuous example of what it means to be a genuine Christian and how to live and grow in Christ. The Saints are also our friends who constantly intercede and pray for our salvation.
Every Orthodox Christian who is serious about learning his/her Christian faith must read the lives of the Saints and emulate them in every possible way.
DIVINE SERVICES FOR THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS:
Vespers will be conducted tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. followed by the holy service of Artoklasia (Blessing and 'Breaking' of the Five-Loaves of bread).
Orthros (Matins) on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God