November 24, 2015

Saint Nikodemos the New of Beroia, the Fool for Christ (+ 1309)

St. Nikodemos the New (Feast Day - November 24)

Saint Nikodemos was born to a wealthy family in Beroia in the second half of the 13th century, during the reign of Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328). He was distinguished from his youth by his good and pious character, which led him to dedicate his life to God as a monastic in Beroia, and later became an anchorite. After wandering for many years he ended up in Thessaloniki and settled in Philokalles Monastery.

While in Thessaloniki, Nikodemos became very concerned with the situation of women who had gone astray and his daily task was to lead them towards recovery. To do this he defied aspersion and put his reputation and life at risk to be able to have discussions with them and return them to a moral life.

Saint Philotheos Kokkinos informs us in his biography that Nikodemos lived in perfect union with God which helped him overcome human desire. To help Nikodemos, who became a cause of scandal in the monastery, he was sent by his abbot to a dependency of the monastery to work the land there as a farmer. Nikodemos, being a simple and frugal man, would give to the poor what he was able to offer, and supplied the prostitutes with what they needed, as long as they would be open to discussions with him.

Meanwhile, Nikodemos was warned by the procurers of these women to not hold discussions with them, even though his only desire was to restore God's image within them by talking with them, feeding them and helping them leave their sinful profession. They were infuriated however because they were losing income. One day, therefore, as he was talking with some of these women, the procurers approached the Saint with swords and badly wounded him. He asked to be brought to his monastery, and when he arrived at the gate of his monastery, the abbot refused to let him in. After communing him he died outside the monastery, and was buried a little further off. This took place in 1308 or 1309, when the Saint was around forty years old. Soon after his death, those who killed the Saint were killed by certain Latins near Thessaloniki.

Some years later locals noticed a beautiful fragrance coming from a certain spot. They decided to dig there to find the source, and there found the body of Saint Nikodemos, which was incorrupt. News spread concerning this miracle throughout Thessaloniki, and even Emperor Andronikos, who was in Thessaloniki at the time, came and honored the Saint. He was then reburied by the Archbishop with honors and his place of rest became a place of veneration, working countless miracles.

With funding from the Emperor, the monks of the monastery soon after built a church dedicated to Saint Nikodemos near Philokalles Monastery. A few decades later the abbot of Philokalles Monastery was Saint Philotheos Kokkinos (Oct. 11), who later became the Metropolitan of Herakleia in Thrace and then Patriarch of Constantinople, and also went on to become the first biographer of Saint Nikodemos. Due to successive disasters, the location of these relics and the Monastery of Philokalles are unknown today. It is believed they were located near the present-day Church of Saint Nicholas of the Orphan.

His memory was restored from oblivion by His Eminence Metropolitan Paul Giannikopoulos of Beroia (+ 1993), and the date for his commemoration was set for November 24th, which was the anniversary of the Metropolitan's elevation to the hierarchy.