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November 26, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Nikon the Metanoeite (+ 998)

On the twenty-sixth of this month [November], we commemorate our Holy Father Nikon the Metanoite.


Where there is a Lacedaemon a demon does not shriek,
For the terrifying Nikon scares them away.

Saint Nikon was from the land of Armenia, the son of a certain nobleman.* When he heard the divine voice of the Lord say: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29), he, upon hearing this, forsook everything for Christ and went to a monastery. There the renowned one exhibited every ascetic virtue, and exceeded all the other monks in hard work.**

When his father learned that he was in a monastery, he immediately sent for an inquiry to all the sacred habitations of the monks. Wherefore when the Saint found out about this, he left the monastery and journeyed throughout the East, preaching to all saying: "Repent ye." This is how he received the nickname "Metanoeite."***

He also went to Crete, and from there to the Morea.**** Having traversed all the cities and lands of the Morea, he then went to Laconia. There he worked various miracles, and built a temple dedicated to Christ our Savior.***** Living as a solitary there until the end, he departed to his longed for Christ, in order to receive from Him the crown of asceticism.


* He was born circa 930, died 998. Some say he was born in either Pontus or in Argos.

** This Monastery was known as Khrysopetro ("Golden Stone"), located on the borders of Pontus and Paphlagonia. He spent twelve years there, living an ascetic life of prayer and penance, so extreme that his brothers tried to persuade him to lessen his regimen.

*** Nikon was a missionary monk, who was constantly preaching rather than constantly praying in solitude. His goal was to re-Christianize the reconquered sections of the Roman Empire. His nickname he received in Crete.

**** After his departure, he traveled to Asia Minor and preached repentance there for three years before moving on. Following the expulsion of the Arabs from Crete in 961 by Nikephoros Phokas, he became active as a missionary preacher on the island, struggling to return recent converts of Islam back to Christianity. The area had been a Muslim emirate since the 820s, and in that time Christianity in the area weakened, many former Christians having converted to Islam. Even those who remained faithful to Christianity had somewhat lost contact with the living tradition, churches and monasteries having fallen into decay. The people in the region were, quoted from Nikon's biography, not Islamic, but rather Christians who had been corrupted "by time and long fellowship with the Saracens." Nikon was forced to change his tactics on Crete, now having to use his wit to lead his listeners to repentance, rather than just preaching the message of repentance. After spending five years on Crete, Nikon went on to Epidauros, Athens, and Euboea. He then travelled to Thebes and Corinth, and finally down into the Peloponnese, particularly to Sparta, which he reputably saved from a plague.

***** While in Sparta, Nikon constructed three churches and a monastery and continued his preaching and teachings, which were reportedly confirmed by miracles. The Peloponnese is represented as a land full of demons, of which Nikon is constantly struggling against. He ended his life in mainland Greece, in the province of Laconia, where he exerted considerable influence on both clergy and laity, founding a large number of churches. As a result, after his sanctification by the Greek Orthodox Church, he eventually became patron saint of the town of Sparta and the region of the Mani Peninsula (southern part of Ancient Sparta) where he brought Christianity to Mani and preached it to the Maniots. The Maniots began to convert to Christianity in the 9th century AD, but it wasn't until 200 years later in the 11th century AD that the Maniots had fully accepted Christianity. According to his biography, written by a successor abbot of his monastery, Nikon continued to grant miracles posthumously, in fact, much of the account deals solely with these posthumous miracles.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Lacedaimon doth rejoice with gladness in the godly shrine of thy blest relics, which doth make streams of healings to overflow and doth preserve from affliction and sore distress all them that hasten, O Father, to thee with faith. Venerable Nikon, intercede with Christ God in our behalf that His great mercy may be granted unto us.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Emulating the life of the Angels, thou didst esteem the world's delights as dross, while showing us the paths of repentance, O righteous and God-bearing Nikon. Wherefore, as we now celebrate thy memorial, we honour thee; for thou in truth art a fountain of healings.