December 6, 2013

Saint Nicholas of Myra as a Model for our Lives

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (Feast Day - December 6)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an image of meekness and teacher of temperance; wherefore, thou hast attained the heights through humility and riches through poverty, O hierarch Nicholas our father, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.

The state of the imitator of Christ and popular wonderworker Saint Nicholas, the patron of those at sea as well as all those who seek his God-persuading intercessions, exudes the fragrance of faith. A lively and genuine faith, which is expressed as a way of life. Rightly has he been called a "rule of faith", since he held the faith of vision, that is, he had the personal experience of the existence of God. He saw the uncreated Light and acquired knowledge of living beings. "For You are the Source of Life, and by Your Light shall we see Light." At the First Ecumenical Synod (325 AD), in which he participated, he gave his own testimony and confession of faith and imprinted his own stamp on it. With the boldness that distinguished him he put to shame the insolent mouth of the heresiarch Arius. When he blasphemed Christ, the Saint, who is called an "image of meekness", stood up and slapped him. For meekness, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is not an impassioned state, but a dynamic state of life. A meek person is not one who is not angered, but one who angers without sinning, as the Scripture says: "Be angry, and sin not." When anger has its root and cause in the passions, then surely it will lead to sin and the loss of divine Grace. The saints, however, as dispassionate, do not become angry out of personal touchiness or to salvage their individual dignity. They are enraged without losing control of themselves when God is blasphemed and dishonored and the Faith is in danger of being altered, on which the salvation of humanity depends. This anger is not passionate and its motive is an unselfish love for God and man. Those who dishonor the name of God and mock divine things bear a heavy illness and urgently require a "scalpel", that is, strictness until the illness is healed. The case of the High Priest Eli is known from the Old Testament, who was punished by God for not being as strict with his children as he should have been, for they repeatedly disdained God and His Law and were scandalizing the faithful.

The Saint was also among other things a "teacher of temperance". Temperance as a way of life encompassed his entire behavior: he was temperate in joy and in sorrow, temperate in food, laughter, vision, hearing, everything. In all things, he was a balanced man.

For his great philanthropy he received the gift of wonderworking. With this gift he helped very many people. He runs to help all those who call upon him with faith and he carries out their request, of course if it is for the persons interest, which is salvation. In his synaxarion, as well as in a hymn on his feast, it is mentioned that he saved three people, who were victims of slander, from certain death. Indeed, this incident shows the great boldness he has before God. He appeared in a dream to Emperor Constantine, revealed the innocence of these people, and ordered him to release them. He also strictly stressed that, if he disobeyed, he would denounce him before God, the true and eternal King, and he would have to deal with Him. As the sacred hymnographer very beautifully says: "But if you will disobey me, I will petition the Lord and King against you when I pray!"

However, the gift of working miracles is not the only, nor the greatest, gift in the Church. We have written in other places about the other gifts, such as the gift of Theology, the gift of Love, etc. The gift of wonderworking is usually given to those saints who have great love for people. For the people of God a miracle is not surprising or an unlikely thing, but it is something very natural, since God is Almighty and for Him all things are possible. During the course of a miracle physical laws are not removed, since there are no physical laws, but God simply wants to do some act at that moment, and He does it in His own way. In creation there are uncreated spiritual logoi, in other words, there are things like love and the providence of God which govern the world. For God did not create the world just to abandon it, but He personally giverns it Himself with His uncreated grace of foreknowledge.

Finally I would be remiss not to mention, even in writing, two other gifts of his, that are referred to in his Apolytkion: humility and poverty.

All the effort and struggle of the faithful in the Church are to learn the meekness and humility of Christ. "Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls." The Saint acquired great and high things with lofty humility. He experienced, however, like all the Saints, deliberate material poverty. But he was truly rich because he had a rich heart and held a spiritual treasure. He was poor, like all the Apostles, but he made many rich, because he was, like them "having nothing, he had everything".

Father Hierarch Nicholas, you who are, and as your name reveals, the conqueror of the people, as well as their protector and consolation, "entreat Christ our God, that our souls may be saved".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΣ", December 1998. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.