Orthodox Accounts of Saint Nicholas

Part of the Saint Nicholas Page honoring Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

[St. Nicholas]

Many accounts and stories of Saint Nicholas are available on the World Wide Web through the Saint Nicholas Links Page. Some non-Web accounts are here.

Accounts of Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Helps a Monastery During World War II

from An Athonite Gerontikon

"What are you doing?" the unknown priest asked. "Is this all the wheat you have? No more?"

The fathers at the Athonite monastery replied that this was all they had indeed. It was December, and they were unable to buy any more because of the Fascist Occupation. It should be noted that 10,000 okas' weight of wheat was needed a year for the monastery's survival, and that they could not even buy one oka of it.

The unknown priest took a few wheat kernels in his hand, blessed them and threw them on top of the rest of the wheat. He blessed the four points of the horizon, the monastery, and the sea, and then was about to leave.

"Where do you come from?" the fathers asked him. "Stay to have some bread and olives."

"I come from very far away -- from Myra in Lycia," he said and departed.

One of the brothers had in the meantime gone for some food to offer the visitor, but the elder, who turned out to be the monastery's protector, had vanished. The remaining 150 okas of blessed wheat lasted for half a year, that is, from the month of December when St. Nicholas appeared to them, until the following July when the new crop came in.

Saint Nicholas the Miraculous

From For the Glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - A history of Eastern Orthodox Saints, by Michael James Fochios. Translations from "MEGAS SYNAXARISTIS" and "BIOI TON AGION". Baltimore, Phanari Publications, 1974.

There was once a city in Anatolia in the vicinity of Lycia, named Patara. It was in this city that Saint Nicholas was born, the only child of humble Christianse Unlike the other children who would go and play after school, Nichols awould make his way to church and converse with the elders hoping to receive more education from them. His father's brother, who was also named Nicholas, was the bishop of that area. It was this Nicholas who ordained the Saint to the priesthood.

When Nicholas was still young, his parents died, leaving him a small sum of money. He used this money to buy food for the hungy, to dress the naked, and to care for orphans and widows. The most famous story associated with Saint Nicholas' distribution of is as follows: There was a rich man who had three very beautiful and virgin daughters. Quite suddenly, he lost all of his money and was left in poverty. To save the family from starvation, he decided to make his daughters prostitutes. God wanted to save these three girls from damnation; therefore, he told Saint Nicholas that this man had decided to sell his daughters' virginity. One night Saint Nicholas took three-hundred gold pieces, wrapped in a handkerchief, and left them at the door of the man's house. He left immediately so that his identity would remain unknown. The father found the money the next morning. He did not know who his benefactor was but wanted to find him. He used this money as a dowery and married his eldest daughter to a nobleman. He prayed to God hoping that the same person who had saved his eldest daughter would do the same for the other two. Seeing that the money had gone to a good cause, Saint Nicholas returned the second night and left another three hundred gold pieces. The man arose the second morning, saw the three hundred gold pieces, and arranged a marriage for his second daughter. He prayed to God to let him see this great philanthropist so that he could thank him. The third night, Saint Nicholas returned. He dropped another three hundred gold pieces at the door; however, this time the door opened and the father and third daughter stood there thanking him for his kindness. Since he was a well-known priest in that city, Saint Nicholas asked them not to disclose what he had done until after his death. In this manner, Nicholas saved the three daughters from eternal damnation. Because of many similar acts, Saint Nicholas has become the great patron Saint of children and the type of cheerful giver of gifts, who expects none in return. In Northern Europe his name was changed to Santa Claus.

Wanting to worship at the Tomb of Christ, Saint Nicholas boarded and Egyptian ship with many other Christians, destined for Jerusalem. That night, he dreamt of Satan. The next day, he told the sailors that there would be a storm; however, if they had their trust in God, they would have nothing to fear. True to the Saint's prediction, a dark cloud covered the sky and a fierce storm arose. The storm was so violent that the sailors were sure that they would die. They pleaded with Saint Nicholas to pray to God for ttheir salvation. Immediately, the storm subsided and the ship and its crew were saved. During the storm, a sailor had climbed the mast to fix the sails. The wind was so strong thet it knocked him off and he fell to his death on the deck of the ship. Saint Nicholas pitied the man and prayed to God to resurrect the sailor. With Divine help, the Saint's request was answered. When they reached land, the sailors recounted the Saint's miracles to the inhabitants. Many sick people came to him and were cured. He finally arrived in Jerusalem and worshipped at the Tomb of Christ. He wanted to remain here to rest; however, and angel of the Lord came and told him to return to Patara.

Thus wanting to return to his home, Saint Nicholas went to the docks seeking passage. He offered to pay a ship owner if he would take hime to Patara of Lycia. The winds were favorable; therefore, the captain decided to leave immediately. The sailors, however, wanted to return to their families and thus turned the ship towards their homeland. This was not God's will, and He again created a storm so that the ship became uncontrollable. Saint Nicholas prayed and the ship landed safely in Patara. The sailors fell on their knees and begged for the Saint's forgiveness. He blessed them and told them that they would return safely to their homes. All the inhabitants went to greet Nicholas for they had heard of the miracles which he had performed.

There was a city near Patara called Myra - the modern name for this city is Dembre and it is located in Turkey. [See the Turkish Saint Nicholas Page].The bishop of this city had died and the inhabitanst were searthing for someone who was worthy enough to replace the holy man. A meeting was held by the priests to elect the person for this position. Several priests were nominated. The meeting was ajourned so that the prists could decide on their choices. That night, an angel appeared to one of the most important priests. He told him that the new bishop would be Nicholas and that he would walk into the church the next day. The priest informed the others of his dream and together the went to the church to wait. Soon afterwards, Saint Nicholas walked into the church and he was asked his name. The priest then introduced him ot the other priests and Nicholas was ordainded Bishop of the District of Myra.

At this time, Diocletian was the ruler of the Roman Empire. He was agaist Christianity and threatened the citizens of the Empire with punishment if they did now worship the idors. Many people died for their beliefs, others sacrificed to the idols; while others, not wanting to die or to make sacrifice, ran to the mountains and hid in caves. Diocletian's edict reached Myra. Saint Nicholas and other Christians were imprisoned. Here they suffered from hunger, theirst, and mistreatment. During this time, the Saint gave strength to the others, encouraging them not to give up their faith in God. While Saint Nicholas and the others were in prison, Diocletian died, and Constantine, the son of Saint Helen, came to power. He issued the Edict of Milan which put a stop to the persecution of the Chrsitians and returned confiscated land to the Church. Saint Nicholas was thus released from prison under this ruling and continued in his position as Bishop of Myra.

During the rule of Constantine the Great, a dispute arose within the Church. There was a man in Alexandria called Arius. He preached that Christ was not the Son of God, but a creation of God. He was exiled from Alexandria for his teachings. However, when Achilles became the Bishop of Alexandria, Arius returned to that city and was made Metropolitan. During the bishop's lifetime, Arius preached his heritic ideas. After his death, Achilles was replaced by Alexander, who later was elevated to Sainthood. Arius had created quite a following. When Constantine saw the disharmony in the Church, he ordered all the bishops to meet in the city of Nicaea to bescuss the beliefs of Arius. Two hundred and thirty-two bishops attended the meeting . This number was brought to three hundred and eighteen when priests, deacons and monks were included. Some of those who were in attendance were Sylvester, the Bishop of Rome, Metrophanis, the Patriach of Jerusalem, Saint Pafnoutios, Saint Spyridon, and Saint Nicholas. Constantine headed the one-hundred-day meeting. Seeing tha Arius was monopolizing the meeting by his constant arguing, Saint Nicholas was angered and struck Arius with his fist. Arius complained and Constantine had Nicholas imprisoned. That night, Christ and the Virgin mary appeared to the Saint. He informed them that he had been imprisoned becaus of is love for Them. Christ then handed him a Gospel and the Virgin Mary gave him a bishop's garment. The next day, his friends came to prison to visit him. He told them what had happened and showed them the relics. They informed Constantine of the events and he went to the cell to ask for Saint Nicholas' forgiveness. He was set free, and after the Holy Synod, he returned to Myra.

When the great famine which befell Lycia occurred, this areas was almost completely abandoned. Saint Nicholas was determined to save his district. A ship filled with wheat was bound for the Gallic lands. Saint Nicholas appeared to the ship's captain one night and instructed him to take the wheat to Myra instead of the Gallic lands. He handed the captain three gold pieces as a down payment and told him that he would receive the amount due when he delivered the wheat to Myra. When the capain awoke the next morning, he actually had three gold pieces in his hand. He told his crew of the miracle and they immediately headed for Myra. Upon their arrival in Myra, he sold his wheat. The Myrians praised God in whom they had everlasting faith.

There was an area in the Roman Empire which revolted against Constantine. The Emperor sent three generals, Nepontianos, Orsos, and Erpillion, with a large army to end the insurrection. They arrived at Andriaca, Myra's port. The seas were rough, and they remained in Myra until the weather cleared. The soldiers, however, started to loot the market place. When Saint Nicholas heard of this, he went to the three generals and asked why they allowed their soldiers to ransack the city. They told him that they had no knowledge of this and that they would depart as soon as the weather cleared. Saint Nicholas told them that their mission was to suppress a revolution and not to create one. The generals restrained the sordiers and afterwards were invited to the home of Saint Nicholas. Later, the generals and soldiers, accompanied by Saint Nicholas, returned to their ships and the Saint returned to Myra. Upon his arrival, he saw several men and women crying. They begged Saint Nicholas to save three of their relatives who were unjustly condemned to death by the district's judge, Efstathios. Realizing the injustice of the situation, Saint Nicholas hurried to the place of execution. He released the three men and they fell to their knees in thanks. Saint Nicholas reprimanded Efstathios who begged for forgiveness. The generals with their army proceeded to their destination and suppressed the revolt. They then returned to Constantinople and told Constantine of their success and he rewarded them. Several enemies of Constantine, en order to cause trobule in the Emprie, approached Aflavia, the Emeperor's magistrate. They told him that the three generals had convinced their soldiers to suppress the revolt so that they could become rulers. They bribed the migistrate with money and he had the three generals thrown into prison, without Constantine's knowledge. They remained in prison several months, without knowing why. Fearing that Aflavia would discover that they were lying, the enemies gave him more money so that he would execute the three generals. Seeing that these men would would go to such extremes, Aflavia approached Constantine and told him what charges were pressed against the three. Constantine believed him and ordered the generals beheaded the next day. The jailkeeper informed the men of their sentence. They were at a loss for words, since they did not know what crime they had committed. Remembering that Saint nicholas had saved the three men in Myra from an unjust death, they prayed to God to have the Saint help the also. God aheard their prayers, and towards dawn, saint Nicholas appeared to Constantine. He told the Emperer that the three generals were unjustly condumned and that if they were not set free, he would be punished by God. Constantine asked who we was and was informed that the vision was Saint Nicholas. He also appeared to Aflavia and told him the same. Constantine and Aflavia discovered upon talking that they had the same dream. The three men were brought before Constantine. He asked them what magic they had used to make the same dream appear to two different men. They explained what had happered in Myra and of their praying to Saint nicholas to free them from an unjust death. Constantine asked for their forgiveness and gave them a golden Gospel and incense burner to take to the church where Saint Nicholas had been ordained. They took the gifts to the church and then proceeded to find Saint Nicholas who baptized them.

At another time, there were some sailors who were endangered during a storm at sea. They had heard of the miracles of Saint Nicholas and how he had helped many other sailors. They knelt in prayer, "Saint Nicholas help us this hour for we are drowning." The Saint appeared at the stern of the ship and took the helm. He turned and said to them, "Do not fear for I am with you." In a few moments the storm subsided and the Saint disappeared. The sailors decided to go to Myra so that they could find the Bishop. They were told that he had just entered the church with his priests. Arriving at the church, they recognized him immediately as the person who had appeared on the ship. They fell on their knees and thanked him for their salvation.

Saint Nicholas died an ill man in 330 A.D. Thousands of people mourned his death for they had lost their leader and teacher.

After his death, the citizens of Myra built a church in his honor. The Church of Saint Nicholas now stands in the plain at the western portion of Dembre. [See The Church of St. Nicholas.] Its floor is far below the present level of the plain, and for some time the church was half filled with earth. The Saint's body remained in this church for many years because so many were cured by worshipping at the grave.

Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children and sailors, and also the patron Saint of Russia. Our Church celebrates his memory on the 6th of December. He is considered the patron Saint of children because from infancy he was a model of innocence and virtue.

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The Transfer of Saint Nicholas' Body to Bari, Italy

Source: For the Glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (ibid.)

When Alexii Cominos was Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 1081, a barbaric tribe attacked Asia Minor. The area which suffered the most was Pisithian where most of the city became completely desolate. The barbarians murdered the man and elderly peaple while the women and children were taken as slaves. The body of Saint Nicholas the miracle worker remained in the city of Myra. The Saint appeared in the dream of a priest in the city of Bari, Italy. The Saint told him that he did not want to remain in such a barren place and instructed the priest to come and take him away. The priest told the clergy and the people of Bari about his dream. They immediately sent three ships to Myra to claim the body of Saint Nicholas.

The explorers found only four monks in the Church of Saint Nicholas. They showed the men whene they had taken the coffin of the Saint to keep it safe from the barbarians. When they opened the coffin, they found a sweet ointment flowing from the Saint's body. The sailors and monks filled many vials with this fluid and then placed the Saint's body on one of the ships to transfer it to Bari. Two of the monks accompanied the Saint to Italy while the other two remained in Myra. Several days later, the ships arrived and the cleryg and people were waiting. With a great liturgy, they took the Saint's body to the Church of Saint John the Baptist. A silver box was made and the head and hands of the Saint were placed in it. The remainder of the Saint's body stayed in the original coffin. Soon afterwards a large Church was build in honor of Saint Nicholas and the two boxes were taken there. This is celebrated on May 20th. The ointment still flows from the Saint's remains [and is still collected in vials; see the Saint Nicholas Icons Page.] Even though it is recognized that the body of Saint Nicholas is in Bari, Italy, a story exists that the Saint's body is in Russia. The Russians celebrate the transfer of the Saint's body to Russia on the 9th of May. [See also the Saint Nicholas Pages Roman Catholic Page.

Enshrinement of the Relics of Saint Nicholas in the United States

Source: For the Glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (ibid.)

As a sign of the healing of the 900-year-old breach between Eastern and Western Christians [which healing is not complete, lacking the recanting of some Western doctrines foreign to ancient Christianity], the Roman Catholic Church presented relics of Saint Nicholas to the Greek Orthodox Church during December of 1972. The relics consisted of a fragment of the casket in which the Saint's body had been transported to Bari, tiny fragments of his skull resting on cotton and a vial of the holy myrrh. The relics, encased in a small gold reliquary fashioned for them in Athens, were enshrined an the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New york. The ceremony was led by [now-retired] Archbisop Iakovos, the Greek Orthodox primate of North and South America, and the Most Reverend Francis Mugavero, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn, New York.

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