Today is the feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, archbishop of Myra in Lycia.
The Byzantine Church honors Nicholas in several beautiful texts. This one taken from the sticheron from the Lamp-Lighting Psalms, teaches us:
“What crowns of praise shall we confer upon the saintly Nicholas? Once present in the flesh in Myra, he is present in spirit to all who love him purely. He is the leader and defender of everyone, a comforter in distress, and a haven of all in danger, a pillar of piety and conqueror for believers. For his sake, Christ overcame enemies and shows us great mercy!”
Nicholas has captured the imagination of many through the years because of charity which morphed into gift-giving. He’s not remembered in popular culture as a teacher of the Christian Gospel, or the holy bishop who faithfully served the Divine Mysteries, or for saving the innocent from death, or calming storms, nor challenging the false teachers. And yet, he’s more than all these things. He allowed the Lord to speak eloquently through his life and thus comes to us in 2021 as a friend and disciple of the Lord Jesus.
Would that we could live and act as Nicholas did in the face of false teaching by a life of virtue and charity, by listening to sacred Scripture, and by worthily receiving the Divine Mysteries (the sacraments)? We prayerfully ask St. Nicholas to beg Jesus Christ to save us.
As Melkites it seems that to be renewed for mission we have to consider what one of St. Nicholas’ biographers wrote of him:
“In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an Elder, who aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, in unceasing prayer, the priest Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards the afflicted who came to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor.”
What more can be said of our eucharistic vocation and mission as members of the Melkites? What more can asked of us than to be keen witnesses of St. Nicholas in the world today? May we, in fact, have our sins forgiven and be brought one day into perfect communion with the most holy Trinity.
Let us pray for those who are named after St Nicholas, especially for our Bishop Nicholas Samra.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.