Nicholas was born in Asia Minor of eminent and wealthy parents. Upon the death of his parents, he distributed all his inherited property to the poor and devoted himself to acts of mercy, providing dowry for young women, etc. His acts of charity are still celebrated in the person of "Santa Claus" which is Dutch for St. Nicholas. As bishop of Myra, Nicholas attended the First Ecumenical Council. He died on December 6, 343.
The Manna of St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas, the 4th century Archbishop of Myra, is widely revered by Christians throughout the world. In the hymnology of the Orthodoxy Church, he is acclaimed for being "a teacher of moderation, a model of faith and an example of virtue." His acts of kindness and generosity are remembered and talked about to this day.
Even in death, St. Nicholas continues to have a great impact on the lives of many Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. From the time of his burial in the basilica of his church in Myra, the body of St. Nicholas has exuded a mysterious miraculous liquid revered to as "manna". Those who are anointed with it often find themselves unexplainably healed of their illnesses. Countless others have their prayers answered through this special intercession of this beloved saint.
In 1087, the body of St. Nicholas was stolen from its resting place by sailors and taken to the seaport town of Bari, Italy, where a magnificent cathedral was built to house the relics of the famed Archbishop. In 1954, the crypt of St. Nicholas needed extensive repair and renovation, so it was necessary to exhume the saint's body from its tomb. When it was time for the body to be re-interred, the linen sheet upon which it had rested was found to be soaking wet – saturated from manna! Since 1980, it has been customary on the Feast Day of the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas to Bari from Myra, for the cathedral clergy to collect the manna in an urn for later distribution to the general public. It is interesting to note that since 1966, there has been an Orthodox presence near the crypt of St. Nicholas, with a chapel designated for Orthodox services.
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There are three sorts of praiseworthy zeal: zeal in cleansing oneself from sinful desires and thoughts, zeal for the truth of the Faith, and zeal for God's justice among men. All three were perfectly present in the soul of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. He showed zeal in self purification through his whole life, keeping a careful watch over his heart. His zeal for the truth of the Faith was especially evident at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, where he entered into a fearful conflict with Arius. His zeal for God's justice among men was seen especially in two notable events, when on each occasion he saved three innocent men from the death penalty. Once, in his absence from Myra, the avaricious military governor, Eustathius, sentence three men to be beheaded, he having accepted a bribe from their enemies. When he was informed of this, St. Nicolas returned to Myra in the greatest of haste. The condemned men had been led out to the place of execution, and the executioner had already raised his sword over them. At that instant, Nicholas seized the sword, pulled it out of the executioner's hand and set the condemned men free. He then rebuked Eustathius and brought him to shame and repentance. In a similar way, three generals, Nepotianus, Ursus, and Erpilionus, were slandered before Eulavius the governor of Constantinople and the Emperor himself. The Emperor signed the death‐warrant. On the eve of their execution, the three men prayed to God, saying: 'O God of Nicolas, deliver us innocent men from death!' That night, Nicolas appeared to both the Emperor and the governor in their sleep, denounced them for their injustice and ordered them to free the three men from prison at once. The next day, the Emperor and the governor each related to the other the selfsame nocturnal vision, and they set the generals free both from their death‐sentence and from prison.
"A PRAYER TO SAINT NICHOLAS"
O honored hierarch and great wonderworker, Holy Father Nicholas, man of love and brilliant star that illumines and enlightens the whole world: you are a righteous man who flourished in his service to the Lord. Dwelling in Myra, you diffused the fragrance of myrrh and you poured out the ever-flowing grace of God. By your presence, the sea was sanctified when your relics were carried to Bari - from the East to the West - to praise the Name of the Lord. We glorify you as the hope of all Christians, a fountain of miracles, a defender of the faithful, a protector of widows and orphans, a guide to those who fast and a rest for those who labor. Intercede for us with the Most High God, and obtain for us all that is beneficial for the salvation of our bodies and souls. As a watchful shepherd, keep us from all enemies and in all of our misfortunes and afflictions, give us a helping hand and open the doors of God's compassion for us, for we are bound by the bonds of sin and have not done His Will or kept His commandments." "Wherefore, O Holy Father Nicholas, we bow the knees of our broken and humble heart to our Creator, and we tearfully ask for your fatherly intercession in our behalf. Help us, O speedy helper of all, and direct our minds and strengthen our hearts in the Orthodox Faith, so that one day, we may become powerful pillars of the Church like you. Enable us to live a peaceful life in this world, so that we may also see the good things in the land of the living, as we join you in giving glory to the one God glorified and worshiped in the Holy Trinity, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."
Troparion of St. Nicholas (Tone 4)
Thy work of justice did show thee to thy congregation a canon of faith, the likeness of humility, a teacher of abstinence, O Father, Bishop Nicholas. Wherefore by humility thou did achieve exaltation, and by meekness, richness, intercede, therefore, with Christ to save our souls.