Commemorated 6 December
Various traditions recount signs of Nicholas’ future glory as ‘wonderworker’ (Gr. thaumatourgos), apparent already in his earliest childhood. His later life revealed that Nicholas had from a young age been absorbed in the study of the Church’s sacred scriptures.
Such activity soon came to the attention of the local bishop, Nicholas’ uncle (his father’s brother), also called Nicholas. Seeing his nephew’s fervour for the Christian life, this elder Bishop Nicholas of Patara tonsured him reader, and later ordained him priest. At Fr Nicholas’ ordination, the elder Bishop Nicholas remarked:
‘I see, brethren, a new sun rising above the earth and manifesting in himself a gracious consolation for the afflicted. Blessed is the flock that will be worthy to have him as its pastor, because this one will shepherd well the souls of those who have gone astray, will nourish them on the pasturage of piety, and will be a merciful helper in misfortune and tribulation.’
Consecration to the episcopate
The elder Archbishop of Myra, a certain John, died. There was some discussion as to who should succeed him as the chief bishop of the region, the local synod of bishops desirous that the new archbishop should not be an individual chosen by men for the office, but one revealed by God. One of their eldest number beheld a vision of the illumined Christ, who indicated that the old bishop should go into the church, for the one who was first to enter it that night ”who would be called Nicholas” was he who should become the new archbishop.
The elder bishop went to the church to await Nicholas’ arrival, in obedience to the vision. When Fr Nicholas arrived, the bishop stopped him.
‘What is your name, child?’ he asked.God’s chosen one replied, ‘My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant.’The bishop took St Nicholas immediately to the other bishops and exclaimed, ‘Brethren, receive your shepherd whom the Holy Spirit himself anointed and to whom he entrusted the care of your souls. He was not appointed by an assembly of men but by God himself. Now we have the one that we desired, and have found and accepted the one we sought. Under his rule and instruction we will not lack the hope that we will stand before God in the day of his appearing and revelation.’
The First Ecumenical Council, Nicaea 325
In the year 325, a great council of bishops, the largest in the history of the Church, was held in the city of Nicaea under the patronage of Emperor Constantine.St Nicholas was a participant at this council, and is particularly remembered for his zeal against Arius. Having openly combatted him with words, Bishop Nicholas, in a fit of fervour (some accounts indicate he was displeased with Arius’ monopolisation of the meeting with his ‘constant arguing’), went so far as to strike Arius on the face. Shocked by this behaviour, especially given that the canons forbid clergy from striking any one at all, yet uncertain of how to react to such actions by a hierarch they knew and respected, the fathers of the council determined to deprive Nicholas of his episcopal emblems (traditionally his omophorion and the Gospel book), and placed him under guard. However, a short time later, several of the assembled fathers reported having a common vision: the Lord and His Mother returning to Nicholas his episcopal items, instructing that he was not to be punished, for he had acted ‘not out of passion, but extreme love and piety’.
In the year 330, however, he arrived at the end of his terrestrial life. Before his dormition, however, his biographer indicated that he raised his eyes to the sky and saw the holy angels who came to receive his soul, with a firm faith said:
«Lord, in You have I hoped».
A few moments before he passed, he was heared to whisper:«Into Your hands Lord, do I commend my spirit.» and left on the earth the memory of a man of firm faith and infinite love.”
Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; for this cause, thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.