The Life of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
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   Our Holy Father-Among-the-Saints, Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycea is famed for being a great saint pleasing to God. He was born in the city of Patara on the southern coast of the Asia Minor peninsula and was the only son of pious parents named Theophanes and Nonna. They had given a vow to dedicate him to God. Nicholas was the answer to his childless parents’ prayers and from the very day of his birth revealed that he would be revered in the future as a Wonderworker: His mother, Nonna, was immediately healed from an illness with which she had been afflicted after giving birth to him. While still in the baptismal font the newborn infant stood on his feet three times without support from anyone indicating his honor for the All Holy Trinity. From infancy he lived a life of fasting. It is reputed that on Wednesdays and Fridays he accepted milk from his mother once daily only after his parents had prayed their evening prayers.
<>    From the time of his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture. By day he would not leave the church, and by night he prayed and studied. His uncle, Bishop Nicholas of Patara, rejoiced at the spiritual achievements and intense piety of his nephew. He tonsured him a reader, and then ordained him a presbyter, making him his assistant and entrusting him to preach to the flock. When serving the Lord, Fr. Nicholas was fervent in spirit and proficient beyond his years when answering questions about the faith.  This inspired wonder and profound respect among the faithful.

    Fr. Nicholas labored constantly, was full of vitality, unceasing in prayer, and displayed true tenderheartedness towards his flock and to the afflicted who came to him for help.  He distributed all his worldly inheritance to the poor.  Having learned about the bitter need and poverty of a certain formerly rich inhabitant of his city, Fr. Nicholas saved him from sinning greatly.  The despairing father considered giving his three grown daughters over to a life of prostitution so as to save them from hunger.  The saint, grieving that the man would perish a sinner, secretly tossed three sacks of gold through the window to him during the night.  In this way he saved the family from falling into spiritual destruction.  When practicing charity, St. Nicholas always strove to do it secretly concealing his good deeds. 
<>    When the bishop of Patara set off on pilgrimage to the holy places in Jerusalem, he entrusted the guidance of the flock to Fr. Nicholas.  He fulfilled his duties carefully and lovingly.  When the bishop returned, Nicholas asked his blessing to also make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Along the way the saint predicted the onset of a storm threatening the ship with a deluge because he discerned a demonic presence on board.  When the despairing pilgrims entreated him to intercede, he calmed the waves of the sea by praying.  A sailor who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured was also restored to health through Nicholas’ prayers.

    Having reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and arriving at Golgotha, St. Nicholas offered thanksgiving to the Savior of all and visited all the holy places, praying and prostrating at each.  Having visited the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St. Nicholas decided to withdraw into the wilderness.  He was stopped by a voice of divine origin urging him to return to his native country.  Upon returning to Lycea and yearning for a life of seclusion, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Zion.  But the Lord again announced another course awaiting him: “Nicholas, this is not the field, on which you ought to await My harvest. Rather turn around and go into the world.  There My Name shall be glorified in you.” In the vision the Lord gave him a Gospel Book of exquisite workmanship and the Most Holy Birthgiver-of-God, her veil in the shape of an omophorion.
    Upon the death of the archbishop, Nicholas was chosen his successor as archbishop of Myra in Lycea.  This was done after one of the bishops of the synod said that choosing Nicholas was inspired by a divine vision. 
   
    Summoned to the flock of Christ as an archbishop, St. Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love.  This was invaluable for the Church of Lycea during the time of persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305).  Archbishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians, sustained them and exhorted them to bravely endure the imprisonment, punishment and torture.  The Lord preserved him unharmed.  When the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine succeeded Diocletian, Archbishop Nicholas was restored to his flock which joyfully received back their guide and intercessor. 
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    Notwithstanding his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, St. Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior for the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint went around to pagan temples and shrines in and around the city of Myra, shattering the idols and reducing the temples to dust.
   
    In 325 A.D.  St. Nicholas participated in the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicea.  This Council proclaimed the Symbol of Faith.  He was a champion of the faith along with SS.  Sylvester of Rome, Alexander and Athanasios of Alexandria, Spyridon of Trimiphuntum and the other the 318 fathers of the Nicean Council against the heretic Arius.
<>In the heat of the council deliberations and fired up with zeal for the Lord, St. Nicholas boxed the ears of the false-teacher Arius when he could no longer endure his heretical ravings.  Because of this he divested himself of his bishop’s omophorion and was put under guard.  But several of the holy fathers shared a vision revealing that the Lord Himself and the Mother of God had made the saint a bishop when they bestowed upon him the Gospel book and omophorion.  The Fathers of the Council concluded that the boldness of the saint was pleasing to God, gave glory to the Lord and restored him to his episcopal dignity. 
   
    Having returned to his own eparchy, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, opposing defective and spurious claims of wisdom, uprooting heresy and healing the fallen and those led astray through ignorance.  He was indeed a light in the world and the salt of the earth.  His life shined forth with Divine Light and his word was mixed with the salt of Divine Wisdom.
<>    Even during his life the saint worked many miracles.  The one accorded the greatest fame was when he delivered three men unjustly condemned by a greedy city-commander from death.  The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took hold of the sword which was already suspended over the heads of the condemned.  The city-commander, denounced by St. Nicholas in wrong-doing, repented and begged for forgiveness. 
   
    Three military officers dispatched by Emperor Constantine to Phrygia were present.  They did not suspect that they soon would also be compelled to seek the intercession of St. Nicholas.  It so happened that they had been vilely slandered before the emperor and had come under a sentence of death.  Appearing in sleep to the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine, St. Nicholas called on him to dismiss the wrongful death-sentence of the military officers who, now in prison, prayerfully called out for help to the saint.  He worked many other miracles and practiced asceticism for many long years. 

<>    Another time the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine through the prayers of the saint.  He appeared in a dream to an Italian merchant and requested him to sail to Myra and furnish grain there.  As a pledge of payment he left three gold money-pieces.  Upon awakening the merchant found the coins in his hand.  More than once the saint saved those drowning in the sea and released many from unjust captivity and imprisonment. 

    The Wonderworker Nicholas is venerated as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea.  Sailors sometimes were called “Nicholas soaked” by the people.  Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint.  Hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents in the loss of their only child, the great Wonderworker snatched up the infant from the waters at night, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of St. Sophia Church in front of his wonderworking image.  In the morning the infant was found by his thrilled parents who gave praise and thanksgiving with a multitude of the people to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. 
<>    Having reached old age, St. Nicholas expired peacefully to the Lord December 6, 345.  His venerable relics were preserved undecayed in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrrh from which many received healing.  In the year 1087 his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now still exuding the precious myrrh.

    The name of the great saint of God, the Hierarch and Wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed to all the ends of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples.  In Ukraine there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name.
<>    In the name of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the first Christian Prince of Rus’-Ukraine, Askol’d (+882), was baptized in 866 by Patriarch of Constantinople Photios.  Over the grave of Askol’d, the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol’ha erected the first temple of St. Nicholas in the Ukrainian Church at Kiev.

    Many wonderworking icons of St. Nicholas appeared in Ukraine and came also from other lands.  There is the ancient byzantine embordered image of the saint (XII), brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon written in the XIII Century by a Novgorod master.  Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially distributed in the Russian Church: St. Nicholas of Zaraisk ‑‑ in full‑length, with blessing right hand and with Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the byzantine princess Eupraxia, future spouse of Ryazan prince Theodore, and perishing in 1237 with her husband and infant‑son during the incursion of Batu); and St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk ‑‑ also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left ‑‑ in memory of the miraculous rescue, through the prayers of the saint, of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies.  It is impossible to list all the graced icons of St. Nicholas.  Every Russian city and every church was blessed by suchlike icons through the prayers of the saint. 


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