July 29, 2019

Nativity of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

On July 29, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the Nativity of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Bishop of Myra in Lycia, who is one of the most revered saints in Russia.

In addition to the two main holidays dedicated to Saint Nicholas, celebrated on December 6 (the Saint's blessed repose) and May 9 (the transfer of his holy relics to the city of Bari), there are other days when the Church remembers the God-pleaser Nicholas.

The Feast of his Nativity was not very widely known in Russia, but in 2004, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia, the celebration of the Nativity of Saint Nicholas was revived.

What is commemorated today is the following, as written in his Life by Saint Dimitri of Rostov:

'The great wonder-worker, swift helper of those in need, and fervent intercessor before God, Christ’s holy hierarch Nicholas, was born in Patara, a city in the province of Lycia. His parents were honorable, well-born, wealthy folk and were Orthodox. Nicholas’ father was named Theophanes and his mother Nonna. Dwelling together in lawful wedlock, they were adorned with every virtue. Because of their God-pleasing way of life, numerous good deeds, and especially their unstinting almsgiving, they, as holy roots, were deemed worthy to put forth a holy shoot, their blessed child. Like a tree which is planted by the streams of waters, this couple was vouchsafed to bring forth fruit in its season. When their son was born, they gave him the name Nicholas, which means "victor of the nations," and truly, with God’s help he proved victorious over evil and became a benefactor of the whole world. After bearing Nicholas, Nonna never again experienced the pangs of birth: this blessed child was her first and last, nature itself confirming that it was impossible she should bear another son like Nicholas. He was sanctified by divine grace while still in his mother’s womb, and his piety was made manifest as soon as he appeared in the world. Prodigies and his love of fasting were in evidence even while his mother was still suckling him. From the moment he was put to the breast, it was clear that he would become the mightiest of miracle-workers. He took milk only from his mother’s right side because he would one day stand on the Lord’s right hand with the blessed. Showing that he would become a great faster, on Wednesdays and Fridays he suckled just once, in the evening after his parents had completed their usual rule of prayer. Theophanes and Nonna understood that he would one day be a strict ascetic, and they marveled exceedingly. Having grown accustomed to abstinence while still in swaddling clothes, Nicholas fasted every Wednesday and Friday until his blessed repose. Similarly, when placed in the font of Holy Baptism shortly after his birth, he stood for three hours without assistance, thereby glorifying the Holy Trinity, Whose eminent servant he would become and before Whom he would be a mediator for all.'

A Divine Office for this feast can be found here in Russian.