One of our greatest Christian ancestors lived about seventeen hundred years ago in the Mediterranean city of Myra, in the province of Lycia, (situated in modern-day Turkey), and is still known and revered today as “Nicholas the Wonderworker” or - Saint Nicholas.
He is the Patron Saint of our Parish, and the patron saint of children, travelers, and especially sailors, bankers and prisoners. He is also the Patron Saint of Russia, Greece, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sicily and Loraine. And, of course, he is the patron saint of Christmas, and is commonly referred to as “Good Saint Nicholas,” … “St. Nick,” … and … “Santa Clause”.
But unlike the modern story-book “jolly old elf” who lives at the North Pole and travels in a magic sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, our St. Nicholas – the original Santa Clause – was a real man who walked upon the earth. More importantly, he was not “magic” – he was holy. His wonder-working miracles have been recounted by millions all over the world for centuries – but never as a testament to some magical powers of a loveable cartoon super-elf or a department store entertainer. The name of the real St. Nicholas is still honored and revered today – only because of its association with our Lord, Jesus Christ: with the immediacy of His continuing Presence, with His unlimited power and grace, His love for mankind, and with His Holy Church.
Each year, the Church celebrates the life and living presence of St. Nicholas on the 6th day of December – the day that his precious body was laid to rest with honor in the cathedral of the City of Myra (ad. 345). Much later, in the year ad.1087, the saint’s relics were transported to the Italian city of Bari, where they remain to this day, having been visited and venerated by millions. For many years after his entombment in Myra, pilgrims would come from far and wide to venerate his holy relics. It has been recorded that, “his relics gushed forth a fragrant and healing myrrh with which the sick were anointed and received healing” of soul and body.
While St. Nicholas, our real Santa Clause, embodies what we have come to recognize as the “Spirit of Christmas” - generosity, love of children, association with gift-giving, goodness and cheerfulness, we also remember him for his piety, his holiness, devotion, religious integrity, bravery, closeness to God and His power to prosper and to preserve, to make peace, to harmonize, to bless all – even enemies; also for his temperance and selflessness, and especially for his care for the poor, the suffering, the endangered, and the victimized.
On one occasion, the story goes, St. Nicholas rushed in to save two innocent men from being beheaded in a public square, by boldly standing up to a poised executioner and a malicious public magistrate. He is also remembered for having averted a famine which was threatening his community of Myra.
St. Nicholas moved in harmony with, but also above, the ordinary laws of nature. For this, he has become known as “The Wonderworker”. He was seen walking on water to come to the rescue of floundering sailors; as being present and active in more than one place at the same time - sometimes miles, even hundreds of miles, apart. He calmed the sea. He restored life to a fallen sailor.
St. Nicholas is also loved and revered as a - “Defender of the Faith”. Through his miracles he won the respect, and even reverence, of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great (c. 285-337). During his time, the Council of Bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church also recognized St. Nicholas as a true “Wonderworker”.
When, today, our eyes are graced by an encounter with almost any icon of this most blessed saint, they are naturally drawn to the large crosses on his bishop’s vestments, and to the bejeweled Gospel which he holds in his hands. These were both miraculous gifts, presented to him directly by Our Most Precious and Holy Lady, the Theotokos, herself. In separate, but identical night-time visions, which were beheld simultaneously by several Orthodox bishops attending the Council of Nicaea (ad.325), Our Lord and His Holy Mother appeared – defending St. Nicholas, who had been previously “defrocked” for having slapped the notorious heretic, Arius, in defense of the True Faith.
Today, our hearts gladden at the thought that this same wonder-working saint of Christ still wears his Bishop’s vestments, and still carries his bejeweled Gospel, as he attends with us at our weekly services here at St. Nicholas Church. He has been defending our little parish in Regina for more than 100 years. To this very day he remains ever-active - carrying our prayers and petitions, untarnished by worldliness, and up-borne by holiness and tender compassion, to the footstool of Our Lord. There he defends us in our weaknesses and faults, and calls down limitless blessings upon us, as he did for his own parish in Myra seventeen hundred years ago.
As a Christian parish, we are deeply indebted to St. Nicholas for our perseverance and our prosperity. We adore his wonder-working; we latch onto it, for surely - therein lies our true and future greatness.
The Truth of things has revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness and a teacher of temperance. Therefore, you have achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Holy Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved!”
(St. Nicholas’ Tropar)
"Indreptãtor credintei si chip blândetilor, invãtãtor infrânãrii te-a arãtat pe tine, turmei tale, adevãrul lucrurilor. Pentru aceasta ai câstigat cu smerenia cele inalte, cu sãrãcia, cele bogate. Pãrinte Ierarhe Nicolae, roagã pe Hristos Dumnezeu sã mântuiascã sufletele noastre."