December 6, 2012

The Veneration of St. Nicholas in 19th Century Russia

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

Russian people honor St. Nicholas with special fervor and all often turn to him with prayers. He is the defender from all trouble and sorrow and nearly every peasant has his image. Russian people declare their most naive desires and hopes before him. Commoners say: "For us there is no better advocate than Nikola". "Ask Nikola and he will say I shall save". And among us the name Nicholas is one of the most common. Such reverence of St. Nicholas could have influenced placing him weekly in the service for Thursday (in the Octoechos), and the brightness of the description in the Menaion (Chetji-Mineiakh) of the personal character and sincere quality of one pleasing to God. His protection of oppressed innocence, resolute protection for the unjustly condemned and persecuted, his speedy help in every possible trouble and his advocating all calling on him, his zealousness in faith and meekness - all this is especially close to the open, courageous, good and soft Russian nature. In particular St. Nicholas is esteemed by us as a protector on the waters and the Holy Church magnifies him in its chanting "the traveling companion and the real helmsman on the sea".

The depiction of St. Nicholas on some icons is with a miter and on others without the miter - some people explain that at first he was a presbyter, and then a bishop, and that is why on some icons he is represented as a presbyter, i.e. without a miter (Tserkovnyi Vestnik (The Church Messenger) 1892, 42).

In some dioceses a circular collection is made for the benefit of parochial and grammar schools on this day. In view of the development and consolidation of school business, priests should be concerned for the increase of this collection.