St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Lycia, was born of a merchant family toward the end of the third century at Patara in Asia Minor. Although he is one of the most popular saints in the Eastern as well as in the Western Church, there is scarcely anything historically certain about his life. It is said of him that when he was an infant he would take nourishment only once on Wednesdays and Fridays, then not all until evening. Even as a youth Nicholas was noted for his zeal in helping the poor and oppressed. By divine inspiration he went to Myra, a city which had just lost its bishop and where the bishops of this province were gathering in elect a successor. While they were gathered together, they were told in a message from heaven to choose the man who would first enter the church in the morning, whose name would be Nicholas. Thus he was elected. He was imprisoned for he faith during the persecution of Diocletian. He was one of the 318 bishops present at the First Council of Nicaea, which condemned the Arian heresy and proclaimed that the Son of a God is consubstantial with the Father. He died on December 6, 345 or 352 A.D., in his Episcopal city, Myra. In 1087, Italian merchants stole his body and brought it to Bari in Italy.
The cult of St. Nicholas in the Eastern Church is quite ancient. He is venerated as a miracle worker and as a “preacher of the word of God, the spokesman of the Father.” Popular veneration places him almost on the same level as Mary. He is the patron of many countries, including Russia. He is patron of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers and children, to name but a few.
In the seventh century St. Andrew of Crete called him “wonder worker.” St. John Damascene composed many hymns in his honor. The liturgy of the Church calls him “the teacher of moderation, a model of faith and an example of virtue, who attained greatness through humility and wealth through poverty” (troparion). The first kathisma of matins calls him “wise Nicholas, who shines on earth with rays of miracles. You move every tongue to glorify and praise Him who honored you on earth wherefore, beseech Him to deliver from every adversity those who faithfully and earnestly celebrate your memory, O elect among the Fathers.” Another sticherra praised him thus: “Well done, O good and faithful servant! Well done, O laborer in the field of Christ! You have bourne the heat of the day and multiplied the talent entrusted to you without envying those who came after you. Therefore the gate of heaven is opened to you; enter into the joy of your Lord and intercede, O Saint Nicholas, for us.
In the sixth century the Emperor Justinian I built a church in his honor in Constantinople. His name occurs in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and in that of St. Basil the Great. He is also commemorated every Thursday.
Next Feast Days
|November 21||Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple|
|December 6||Feast of St. Nicholas|
|December 9||Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God|
|December 25||Nativity of our Lord (Christmas)|