Saint Nicholas the Wonder Worker
Saint Nicholas is the beloved and gentle face of Christmas for many people. This saint was born in the province of Lycia in the city of Patara which is in the southern part of Asia Minor. His parents had been childless until the infant Nicholas was born. Nonna, his mother, was immediately healed of an illness when he was birthed, thereby showing the future glory of Nicholas as a wonderworker.
When Nicholas was only three hours old, he stood on his feet in the baptismal font without support from anyone. This was an honoring to the Most Holy Trinity. Even from infancy Saint Nicholas began a life of fasting as he would not take milk from his mother on Wednesdays and Fridays until his parents finished their evening prayers.
His constant praying caught the attention of Bishop Nicholas of Patara who ordained Saint Nicholas first as a reader and then as a priest. He made him his assistant and instructed him to teach the flock. In his youth, Saint Nicholas was fervent of spirit and possessed the faith of an Elder. He was deeply respected and generous with those who came to him for help. Having inherited the wealth of his parents, he was known for bestowing gifts secretly and giving his money away to the poor.
The Bishop of Patara took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and gave St. Nicholas the task of tending his flock. St. Nicholas did this with love and obedience. Upon returning, Nicholas asked the bishop for his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land which the bishop granted him. While on the ship, the saint predicted a terrible storm that would endanger everyone aboard. He saw the devil get on the ship as well, threatening it further. St. Nicholas prayed and restored calm to the seas. A sailor who had fallen from the mast was mortally injured but was restored to health by the saint.
St. Nicholas went on to perform many more miracles and he served eventually as Archbishop. It is said that in the year 325 he served on the First Ecumenical Council. This council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith and the saint stood up to the heretic Arius with Sts. Sylvester the Bishop of Rome (January 2), Alexander of Alexandria (May 29), Spyridon of Trimythontos (December 12) and other Fathers of the Council.
I have several Nicholas’ in my family. My maternal grandfather was a Nicholas and my cousin is named for him. My grandmother frequently addressed my grandfather as “Niko”, his shortened name in Greek. I was very fond of my Papou (grandfather). My earliest memories of him were as a kind and gentle soul who loved gardening, his church, and good food. Years later, Papou outlived my grandmother and was cared for by my aunt and uncle until his passing. Though he suffered from many health problems in his later life, he lived into his early 90’s. He also lived to see my wedding and the birth of both of my children for which I am deeply grateful. I have the wonderful memory of him holding my children as infants.
May we keep the spirit of generosity through this Christmas season that Saint Nicholas’ so aptly demonstrated for us.
Saint Nicholas is remembered on December 6.
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