Many words of praise are being heard in the Church today in memory of the wonder-worker Nikola. Realizing our sinfulness and unworthiness for praising our great benefactor Nikola, we nevertheless dare to lift up our praise to him, for it is said: «When a righteous is praised, people will rejoice» (Prov. 29:2 as translated from the Septuagint).
The name “Nikola” is translated as “winning”. The life of a Christian should be a struggle and victory, but not over people, but over oneself, over temptations and sins. The Apostle says that our struggle should be not «against flesh and blood, but … against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places» (Eph. 6:12), that is, against demonic attacks and temptations.
Of course, we are not able to wage this struggle and perform the feats of holiness by our own efforts, but the Lord gives us help and strength on this path, gives us victory over sin and evil, if we call on Him in humility: Come and dwell in us. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!
No one is born a saint, a difficult path of struggle to achieve holiness awaits each person in the matter of salvation… If we follow this path with the hope in the strengthening grace of the Holy Spirit, then the Lord gives us His gifts so that they serve our instruction, strengthening and salvation.
Holy Hierarch Nikola had a gift from God – a merciful heart, for he strove to help everyone who needed help. He prayed and fasted a lot, which was pleasing to God, but the main thing for which he became famous was mercy, love and magnanimity. His love for his neighbours was active: he could not indifferently pass by those who needed something, he tried to help everyone, to save, to caress, to feed. This is what the life of Holy Hierarch Nikola teaches us. And if we, following his example, show love and mercy to our neighbours, then the Lord, seeing our diligence, will also honour us with His grace, for our Lord is good and merciful (Luke 6:36). But if we do not yet have the fullness of love, if we sometimes feel irritation and spite, then we must, forcing our heart to love and humility, train our will in the good deeds of mercy and compassion.
From the life of Holy Hierarch Nikola we learn that he cared for the poor, saved people in need. Thus, he secretly put a sack of gold three times at night into the window of the house of one ruined man in order to save his three daughters from fornication and disgrace. We also learn from his life that the Holy Hierarch saved the afflicted in the stormy sea, delivered those who were unjustly sentenced to death, healed the sick, raised the dead. How many people receive unexpected and quick help and intercession through fervent prayer addressed to Holy Hierarch Nikola today as well!
Holy Hierarch Nikola fulfilled the Gospel commandment – to lay down our soul for our friends. He was a good shepherd, and for this the Lord gave him the gift of working miracles. His whole life for us is an example of a combination of a silent word and deeds filled with love, faith, purity, meekness and humility. From his life we learn that he spent his life in labours and prayers, wore simple clothes, ate once a day, was the first to come to the church and the very last to leave it, with a generous hand distributed alms to those in need, helped anyone who got into trouble. Thus, one day Holy Hierarch Nikola was walking down the street, talking with a rich man, and saw that the cart of a slave was stuck in the mud and he could not move it. The Holy Hierarch interrupted the conversation, went up to the slave and began to pull out the cart together with him. After they had coped with that, Holy Hierarch Nikola shook the dirt off from himself and continued the conversation.
The help of the Holy Hierarch does not become scarce to this day, he continues to provide it to all who are toiling and burdened. Saint wonder-worker Nikola did not leave the true Christians in Russia, the Orthodox Old Believers, without his intercession, when the keepers of ancient piety, during the post-schism persecutions, were looking for a bishop all around the world. Holy Hierarch Nikola appeared in a night vision to Metropolitan Ambrosios, when he was in a difficult reflection and prayer about possible joining the Old Believers. Holy Hierarch Nikola, appeared before the metropolitan in a wonderful light and said to him: “Why do you tire yourself a lot with these reflections? You are destined by God to accomplish this great deed and suffer from the Russian Tsar.” From that wonderful vision, Metropolitan Ambrosios’ heart was filled with trembling and joy. He prayed all night to the wonder-worker Nikola and the next morning told monks Pavel and Alimpiy that he agreed to join the Orthodox Old Believer Church.
Truly great and glorious is the saint of God and quick helper Nikola. Many churches in Russia are dedicated to the saint of God Holy Hierarch Nikola. How many icons with the image of his face there are in every church and in the homes of Orthodox Christians! How many of our relatives and friends bear the holy name of Nikola!
All over the earth his memory is honoured with reverence. He loves everyone, does good to everyone, this is why his glory is worldwide. Not only Orthodox peoples know about his mercy and intercession in troubles and misfortunes. Thus, Muslims sometimes call him “Russian god” and call upon him in difficult times. St. Nikola does not reject anyone, has mercy on everyone, is ready to help everyone. The hearts of those who received his help respond to the miracles of St. Nikola, and they also, following the example of the Holy Hierarch, do good deeds. Thus, in one village there lived a Chuvash, who, having learned from Christians about Saint Nikola, often asked him for help and received it. He kept all benefactions of St. Nikola in his soul and prayed to him with gratitude. Once in that village a poor widow’s cow died and her family was starving. But soon, to the great joy of the widow, she found a cow tied in the yard. When they began to find out who had brought it, they realized that the Chuvash had bought and brought it, having sold his only horse. When they asked him why he did it, he said: ” Saint Nikola ordered so.”
Who will tell all the wondrous benefactions of Holy Hierarch Nikola? Who will describe all his miracles? «Father Nikola, though the country of Myra is silent, but the whole world, enlightened by you by fragrances of myrrh and many miracles, calls out in the songs of praise” (sticheron on litia). But the Holy Hierarch expects not only words of praise from us, but also deeds in imitation of his virtues. Mercy and compassionate love for the poor and unfortunate – this is what can make the holy wonder-worker glad and make us spiritually close to the great saint of God, merciful Holy Hierarch Nikola! And the more we try to do good in the name of Christ, the more our heart will love this good, desire this sweet virtue. If we begin to do good, even by self-compulsion, then little by little it will become a need of our soul and perhaps will become a good habit. At the same time, the belief that the Lord will give us His the gifts of His grace, if we live according to His covenant, will be revived and strengthened in us, for He has said: «Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful… give, and it will be given to you… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back» (Luke 6:36, 38). If we have spare money, we should not put it aside for a rainy day, it is better to give it to the needy, following the example of St. Nikola, and the Lord will reward a hundredfold for this. If we are not rich, let us help those in need with our work or a deed of mercy – let us will visit the sick one, comfort the weeping one, pray with the grieving one … Deeds of mercy will teach us other virtues as well: prayer, for we will need to ask for God’s help in all deeds; meekness, patience and humility, for we are weak and we do any good with the help of God. Mercy will teach us temperance and purity, for our conscience will require this in order to be a worthy instrument of God’s Providence. The Lord will give us everything necessary for temporary life if we seek the Kingdom of God, doing deeds of love and mercy, living according to the commandment of Christ: «do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on … for … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all» (Matt. 6: 25-33).
The Holy Church celebrates the day of earthly death, the blissful dormition of St. Nikola on December 6 (19). For a sinner death is very hard, «death for sinners is painful” (Psalm 34:21 as translated from the Septuagint), but for the righteous death is a transition from temporary life to eternal life, to heavenly glory and bliss, as was the case in the blissful passing away of St. Nikola. A righteous man awaits death as an upcoming meeting with God; preparing to leave the earthly life, he hurries to do good deeds, cleanses his soul from sins and earthly attachments. «Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints» (Psalm 116:15), – in these words psalmist David praises the dormition of the righteous.
Transition to eternity can happen at any moment of our life. The Lord calls us to achieve holiness: «You shall … sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy, for I am holy» (Lev. 11:44). For this we must be pure in heart and thoughts, filled with the desire to overcome sin. To be a Christian means to be an ascetic throughout your whole life, prompting your soul to overcome laziness, evil habits, untruth, and impurity.
On May 9 (22), the Holy Church celebrates the transfer of the honourable, multi-healing relics of Holy Hierarch Nikola from Myra in Lycia to the town of Bar. The relics of the saint, oozing the healing myrrh, were transferred to the town of Bar in 1087 on the occasion of the Turks’ raid on Lycia.
Brothers and sisters! Let us turn with a hearty request to Holy Hierarch Nikola to help, instruct, teach, and bless us to do good deeds. He will surely hear and help, so that our good deeds and prayers, filled with faith and love, fill our souls with heavenly joy and become the pledge of our salvation.
Let us incessantly pray to the humble and wise saint of God: “Holy Hierarch of Christ Nikola, pray to Christ our God, that he gives us a peaceful life and forgiveness of sins, and salvation and great mercy to our souls!” Amen.