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January 4, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Nikephoros the Leper

On this day [January 4th], we commemorate our Venerable and God-bearing Father Nikephoros the Leper, who in Chios these latter days persevered in contest and was prominent in asceticism.


Wearing the schema of a monk Nikephoros,
You became a model of unceasing prayer.
On the fourth of January the leprous flesh 
Of Nikephoros was buried in the earth,
While his all-shining spirit flew off to the heavens.

Our Father Nikephoros, who is all-sacred and wondrous among the saints, had as his homeland the village Serikarion on the great island of Crete, and was born towards the end of the nineteenth century (in the year 1890), from pious parents who were virtuous in the simplicity of their souls and cultivated in faith. When still young he became an orphan, and placed under the care of his paternal grandfather John Tzanakakis.

To the distress of being an orphan was added the irrelievable pain of leprosy and all the grief this brings. The appearance of the signs of this fearsome and incurable disease compelled the sixteen year old Nicholas to go to Chania in Crete, where he learned the trade of being a barber, and then go to the great Alexandria. There he worked to make a living and gained the friendship of many, making known his love through the goodness and purity of his heart. He attached uncommon honor towards the Bishops, Priests and other ecclesiastical personalities, receiving their assistance in return.

Through the advice and encouragement of a Bishop of the Throne of Alexandria, he arrived at the sacred island of Chios, giving himself over to perfect obedience under the blessed and much talked about Elder Anthimos Vagianos. He it was who had put down the thirty gold coins to establish the Holy Monastery "Panagia the Voitheia", becoming its founder and soon became known for his wonders. The leper Nicholas was numbered among those in the leper hospital of Chios, in the year 1914. Two years later, he was tonsured a Great Schema Monk, and changed his name to Nikephoros.

His calling was confirmed by his works, in that he contested and became prominent in asceticism, and his labors according to God were sealed with sacred victories, becoming a competent athlete of Christ. His perseverance before the terrible leprosy was unflinching, in patience he was uncontaminated, in asceticism he was wondrous. Never did he cease fasting, despite the sickness of the clay vessel of his flesh, abstaining even from oil on the appointed days of the Holy Church of Christ. He especially loved vigils, praying through the night in his cell, doing innumerable prostrations to the ground as much as he was able. He was never absent from the church gatherings, actively participating as a chanter in the Holy Church of Saint Lazarus, in the leper hospital of Chios, where was kept the wonderworking icon of "Panagia the Ypakoe", which was covered in gold by Saint Anthimos, as told to him in a vision from the Lady Theotokos.

The sacred psalter and numerous hymns he delivered with admirable zeal, and very often said them by heart when his vision began to disappear and vanished over time. He did not neglect his work, taking care of the small rose garden with his disciple and helper Theodore. He was a model of self-control, dispersing to those completely in need and distributing to the rest. He was a perfect image of being poor and impoverished, the crown of prayer and a precious treasure, fulfilling precisely what Paul said: "Pray without ceasing." He was a friend of peace and never contentious, a lover of reverence, sealed with faith, a sweet mouth of consolation. He possessed many honorable gifts, estimated discernment, measured clairvoyance, foresight with pure vision, he knew things that took place far away as if they were nearby, and even after death he did extraordinary things, in cooperation with God.

The divinely sweet Nikephoros acquired the heights of humility, and reached the standards of the Angels. For this reason before the end of his life he was seen to be raised off the ground one night as he prayed, as was seen by Evmenios, his disciple, the resident priest of the Anti-Leper Station of Saint Barbara in Athens, to which the most-venerable Nikephoros went in the year 1957, when the leper hospital in Chios ceased operating. To this virtuous man, the divine Evmenios, was addressed the letter of Saint Anthimos, the Elder of the leper Nikephoros, saying among other things: "Take care of this treasure, this precious pearl." Nikephoros, Christ's pearl of great price, a treasure of prayer of great honor, a leper in body, with a soul whiter than snow; a teacher of watchfulness, an empirical professor of noetic prayer, who cultivated the pure heart of perfection, who rivaled the Angels of God in speech, esteemed for his mastery of mind, whose freedom of spirit was like a soaring eagle; a lover of God, a soldier of God, a healer of God, who breathed God, the only blessed fragrance of God.

He imitated Job until the end, when laying in his bed his members became paralyzed due to his leprosy. Like stricken Lazarus, he was gentle in steadfastness, glorifying God, into whose hands he delivered his soul in the year 1964, on the fourth of the month of January, and was buried in the Cemetery of the Anti-Leper Station in Athens. In obscurity he was translated to the heavens, known to God and being of His household and His son of obedience, Nikephoros the Leper.

His honorable and fragrant and grace-flowing relics are kept in a small box container, by his spiritual child, Hieromonk Evmenios, who served this Saint until the end of his life on earth as a good soldier, thus dispensing towards this revered and venerable Father, who in these latter days excellently conducted himself to the letter in asceticism and was most experienced in inspired struggle, Nikephoros the Leper, the boast of the Church of Christ, and a fervent intercessor for all to God.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Angels were awestruck by your struggles and your brave asceticism Venerable Nikephoros the Leper. As another Job in his pain you endured glorifying God and He arranged for you a glorious crown of miracles. Rejoice you who lead monastics by the hand, Rejoice projector of light, Rejoice joyful fragrance issuing forth from your relics.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Shunning pain and bodily corruption, as a horse you lead towards the heavens, Venerable Nikephoros, the steadfast support of lepers. As a brilliantly lit temple of God, in sickness your body shined.

You are a living icon of virtue, and similar, Father, to Job in patience. You endured sorrows and were well-pleasing to God, therefore posthumously you were fragrant.