(December 19, December 6 old calendar).
Saint Nicholas, famed throughout the entire world today, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of Patara in Lycia. They dedicated to God the only son He gave them. St. Nicholas was instructed in the spiritual life by his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara (see below), and became a monk at 'New Sion', a monastery founded by his uncle. On the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all the property he inherited to the poor and kept nothing back for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charitable works, fulfilling the Lord's words: 'Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth' (Matt. 6:3). When he embraced a life of solitude and silence, thinking to live in that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: 'Nicholas, set about your work among the people if you desire to receive a crown from Me.'
Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen as archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. He was cast into prison during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian, but even there continued to instruct the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325, and, in his zeal, struck Arius with his hand. For this act, he was removed from the Council and from his episcopal duties, until some of the chief hierarchs had a vision of our Lord Christ and His most holy Mother showing their sympathy with Nicholas.
This wonderful saint was a defender of the truth of God, and was ever a spirited champion of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from undeserved sentences of death. Merciful, trustworthy and loving right, he walked among the people like an angel of God. People considered him a saint even during his lifetime, and invoked his aid when in torment or distress. He would appear both in dreams and in reality to those who called upon him for help, responding speedily to them, whether close at hand or far away. His face would shine with light as Moses' did aforetime, and his mere presence among people would bring solace, peace and goodwill. In old age, he sickened of a slight illness, and went to his rest in the Lord after a life full of labor and fruitful toil. He now enjoys eternal happiness in the Kingdom of heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles, and to spread the glory of God. He entered into rest on December 6th, 343.
Troparion, Tone 4
The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith,/ a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance./ Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility,/ riches by poverty./ Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion, Tone 3
Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra,/ O Saint Nicholas./ For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ,/ thou didst die for the people and save the innocent./ Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.
It was nearly half a century ago that I first heard of this miracle wrought by St. Nicholas. Never had I chanced to read anything about it in the writings of the Church. I would not want this case of the saintly bishop's help to depart to my grave with me.
During the mid-1940s (I can't recall the exact date), I had to spend the night in the city of Munchen [Munich] in West Germany. The city was in ruins after the war, and I would be forced to spend the night outside. Fortunately, there chanced to be a “Good Samaritan” church-house in the city, and I was provided with its address.
There were two of us in the room. Myself, and a man unknown to me, some 40-45 years of age. We introduced ourselves, each to the other. I do not remember either his name or his surname--and they probably would not have been “real,” anyway. We had to sleep on wooden benches and chairs. So, in order to pass the night more quickly, we fell to talking. I can't remember why, but my co-locutor, for some reason or other, asked me whether I was acquainted with the miracle of St. Nicholas that took place in Kiev in the 1920s. I did not know of it, and he related the following tale to me.
In Kiev, at Podol (the northern section of the city), there dwelt an elderly widow with her son and daughter. The old woman dearly loved St. Nicholas and, in all cases of difficulty, would go to his church to pray before the image [obraz] of the saintly bishop [sviatitel'], always receiving consolation and the easing of her misfortune. Her son, seemingly a student, became an officer.
The governments of the city changed frequently: Whites, Reds, a Hetman, a Directory, Poles, Germans, etc. All former officers were arrested on the spot, the old woman's son among them. His sister rushed about from one “department” of the time to another. She ran her legs off, but achieved nothing. But the old woman ran off to St. Nicholas. Long did she pray before his ikon; then she returned home, consoled--the saintly bishop will help. She sat down to have a spot of tea, while her daughter's hands simply fell to her sides. O, woe! her brother had vanished!
The son returned home at dawn of the following day. Famished, beaten, dirty, weary. According to him, a large group of officers under a strong convoy of guards was being led off to Pechersk. This is the hilly section of town, opposite from Podol, by the Kiev-Caves Lavra. There was a large hippodrome there, where horse races were held. Beyond it, there was a grove, and rampart-trenches which had been dug in Peter I's day, as a defense against the Swedes. It was in that grove, by the rampart-trenches, that the shootings took place.
They had come up to the hippodrome when, suddenly, some little old man or other stepped out from around a corner. He approached the convoy-commandant and asked: “Where are you taking them?”
The commandant replied, rudely: “To Dukhonin's H.Q.!” (which meant, in the jargon of the time, “to be shot”). “Go away, old man!” The old man left, but, in doing so, he took the old woman's son by the hand and said: “Let him go. I know him.”
Neither the commandant nor the escort-guards replied with even so much as a single word, nor did they hinder him. The little old man led the young fellow out around the corner and, saying, “Go on home to your mother,” vanished away somewhere.
The old woman was overjoyed and immediately set off to thank St. Nicholas. The son wanted to do nothing more than to lie down and have a good, long sleep, but his mother took him along with her to the church. He had probably been there on previous occasions, but had been but little interested in anything.
The little old woman led him up to a huge image of the saintly bishop. The son turned ashen-pale and began to tremble. He could only whisper: “Mother, dear, but that's the very same elder who led me to freedom...”
Wondrous is God in His Saints.
Many of the details of this tale were precise and animated. Who had my co-locutor been? Perhaps he had been speaking of himself? I don't know...
N. P. F. California 1993
Translated from the Russian text appearing in “Pravoslavnaya Rus'” (“Orthodox Russia”), No. 13, 1997 by G. Spruksts.
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
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