March 23, 2017

Holy Hieromartyr Nikon and the 199 Monks With Him

St. Nikon the Martyr and the 199 With Him (Feast Day - March 23)


To Nikon.
Crowns of victory are made ready for you Nikon,
As the leader he crowns and dies by the sword.

To the One Hundred and Ninety-Nine.
The fifty times four minus one fellow martyrs,
Are put to death by the sword.

On the twenty-third Nikon gave his head to the sword.

The Venerable Martyr Nikon was born at Neapolis (Naples) in Italy. His father was a pagan, and his mother a Christian. He was not baptized, but his mother secretly instructed him in the tenets of Christianity. Nikon was still a pagan when he reached adulthood. He served as a soldier, and showed unusual courage and strength.

Once, Nikon and his military company were surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the Christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the sign of the Cross, he prayed to God saying, "Lord Jesus Christ help me," vowing to be baptized if he were saved. Filled with unusual strength, he killed many of the enemy with his sword and spear, and put the rest to flight.

He managed to return home, giving thanks to God for preserving his life. With the blessing of his mother, he set off in search of a priest. This was no easy thing to do in a time of persecution. Nikon took a ship to Byzantium, and on the way landed on the island of Chios. He went up on a high mountain and spent seven days in fasting, vigils and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him.

An angel of God appeared to Nikon there, who gave him a staff and instructed him to go to the sea where he would find a boat. Finding a boat there, he sailed for two days and arrived at Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosios the Bishop of Cyzicus. Nikon was taken to the cave of the Bishop, where he was catechized in the faith of Christ, and from him he received both the Mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist. After three years of living in asceticism in a cave, the Bishop received a revelation from an angel to ordain Nikon a Presbyter and afterwards a Bishop. As a Bishop he was to move Sicily with all 190 monks.

Bishop Theodosios obeyed the angel, and then died after he had entrusted the 190 monks to Saint Nikon. After he buried Bishop Theodosios, Saint Nikon sailed first to Mytilene, and from there to Sicily with the brethren, and by doing this they were saved from approaching barbarians.

By God's grace, Bishop Nikon came to his native city Neapolis. He found his mother still alive, and he remained with her for the final day of her life. His mother collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a prostration to the ground, she said, "I give thanks to You, O Lord, for You have permitted me to see my son as a monk, and as a bishop. Now, my Lord, hear Your servant, and receive my soul." When she had finished this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.

Rumors of Nikon's arrival spread through the city, and ten soldiers, his former companions, came to see him. After conversing with the Saint they believed and were baptized, and went with him to Sicily as members of the brotherhood. Having arrived on the island, Nikon settled with the monks in a desolate area of the mountain in Taormina.

Many years passed, and Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that Bishop Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left Saint Nikon alive in order to torture him.

They stretched out his body and tied him by his hands and feet, and burned him with torches, yet he remained unharmed. They tied him to the tails of wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the Saint's tongue, struck him in the face with a stone, threw him off a high cliff, and finally beheaded him. The body of the Hieromartyr Nikon was left in a field to be eaten by wild beasts and birds.

A certain shepherd, possessed by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the Saint, he immediately fell to the ground on his face. The unclean spirit, vanquished by the power of the Saint, had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: "Woe is me, woe is me, where can I flee from Nikon?"

The healed shepherd related this to the people. The Bishop of the city of Messina also learned of this, then he and his clergy buried the bodies of Saint Nikon and his disciples.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having conquered the crafty one by thine asceticism thou didst become a rule and model to thy disciples by thy holy life, O Father Nikon. With them thou didst contend for the Faith in the West. You have all attained to glory in heaven.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Of like discipline with ascetics, and rivaling holy Athletes in zeal, O steadfast and venerable Martyrs, you were offered to the Lord through martyrdom. For you had as your sure guide the glorious Nikon. Fighting together with him you sang: Alleluia.