Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Beneficial Tale of Saint Nicholas the Soldier

St. Nicholas the Soldier (Feast Day - December 24)

Verses

Having set forth a temperate rule of life,
O Nicholas your life was most temperate.

Our Holy Father Nicholas became a soldier during the reigns of Emperors Nikephoros the Patrician (802-811) and Stavrakios (803-812). When the emperor had gathered soldiers to battle against the Bulgarians, he also went out with the army. As Nicholas was passing through a certain place, because it was night, he went to stay at an inn. After eating dinner with the innkeeper, he said his prayers and lay down to sleep.

At around the sixth or seventh hour of the night, the daughter of the innkeeper was afflicted with satanic erotic lust, and she went to where the Saint was sleeping, and she attempted to seduce him towards shameful mingling. The Saint said to her: "Cease, O woman, this satanic and unlawful passionate lust. For you do not want to defile your virginity, and send me the wretched one to the depths of Hades." She withdrew at that time, but shortly after that she returned and began to pester the righteous one again. The Saint rejected her a second time, rebuking and censuring her strongly. She withdrew once more, but again returned, drunk with passionate lust.

Then the Saint said to her: "Wretched woman, full of all shamelessness, don’t you see that the demons are stirring you so that they may cast your soul into damnation and destroy your virginity, and reduce you to ridicule and reproach in the eyes of people? Don’t you see that I, the least of all, am compelled to go to Barbarian nations to war and to shed blood, with God helping me? How then will I defile my flesh, as I am going away to war?" With these and other castigating words did the righteous one address the woman, and rejecting her, he rose up. After praying, he went about to the service set before him.

The next night, as he was sleeping, he saw that he was standing at a very high place. Next to him he saw a judge sitting, and with his right foot resting on his left, he said to him: "Do you see the armies of the Romans on one side and that of the Bulgarians on the other?" Nicholas responded: "Yes Lord, I see how the Romans are thrashing and defeating the Bulgarians." Then that appearance said to the righteous one: "Do you see me?" Turning his eyes towards him, he saw how his right foot was settled on the ground, while his left rested on his right. Then turning his eyes towards the armies, he saw how the enemy Bulgarians were thrashing the Romans.

When the thrashing and battle ended, the appearing judge said to the righteous one: "Look well upon the plain where the bodies of the dead lie, and tell me what you see." Nicholas looked well, and saw the entire ground there full of the dead bodies of Romans who were killed. In the midst of this, he saw a beautiful patch of green to contain a man's bed. Then the awesome appearance said to the soldier Nicholas: "Who do you think that bed belongs to?" Nicholas responded: "I am an ignorant and unlearned man, my master, and I do not know." That awesome one said once again to him: "The bed you see is yours. And on this you also were about to fall, together with your other dead fellow-soldiers. Because last night you vanquished the three-headed serpent, namely the woman, who fought against you three times, urging you towards a shameful mingling, for this reason you spared yourself from this thrashing and death, and you saved your soul as well as your body. Therefore neither will physical death overcome you, as long as you truly serve me."

When the righteous one beheld these things, he became terrified and awoke. Rising up from his bed, he prayed. Then he headed back in the opposite direction from where he was going, went up a mountain, and there he prayed in silence to God on behalf of the Roman army. Because the emperor went to the narrow pass of Bulgaria, the Bulgarians went up a mountain, leaving behind fifteen thousand soldiers to protect the land, more or less, and the Romans slaughtered all of them. Having become proud over this victory, they became careless. Therefore at a time when all the Romans rested and slept without caution, the Bulgarians came upon them at night, and about all of them, together with Emperor Nikephoros, were put to the sword.* Then the righteous Nicholas remembered the vision he saw, and he thanked God, and returned home weeping and grieving. Later he entered a monastery, and received the angelic schema of a monastic. And having truly served God for many years, he became a distinguished and great Father.

Notes:

* In 811 Nikephoros invaded Bulgaria, despite the Bulgarian khan's entreaties for peace. On the 20th of July, Nikephoros attacked Pliska and plundered Krum's palace. A few days later, on the 26th of July, Krum trapped and destroyed the Roman army in a mountain pass. It is reported that, with the death of Nikephoros, Krum had his slain enemy's skull fashioned into a drinking cup. Nikephoros' son, Styavrakios, was also mortally wounded. Krum went on to seize Macedonian and Thracian towns and forts. When he marched on Constantinople, he was wounded in an assassination attempt; consequently, he devastated the capital's environs. Death finally came to him in 814, when he suffered a hemorrhage while making plans to attack Constantinople.


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