When contemplating how they should oppose enemies of the Church, Orthodox Christians often recall St. Nicholas, who slapped Arius in the face. Several Russian Orthodox clergymen talk with us about the saint’s “intolerant” deed.
This virtue of love and mercy in all its beauty and power is personified, my dear ones, by the one whom our faithful, pious hearts glorify today: the “feeder of orphans,” consoler of the sorrowing, intercessor in prayer for all who seek God’s help and mercy—St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
There isn’t an Orthodox church in Russia that does not have an icon of St. Nicholas. His image appears also on the wall of a church that was once the main cathedral of the St. Kirill of Novozersk (New Lake) Monastery on Ognenny (Fiery) Island in Novozersk (Belozersk region). The Monastery has long been occupied by a penal colony, and in 1990 they began sending here those who have been given life sentences.
The weather forecasts were good, and nothing indicated any trouble. Just the same, on the horizon there appeared at first a large dark cloud, which started growing rapidly. A sharp wind blew, which grew into a strong squall. A storm began. Huge waves started beating against the small ship.The ship was tossed from side to side. Water flowed into the machinery area. The ship was on the verge of stopping, and that would fatal for all.
Tell me, Orthodox Christians: If there were ever such a man who for a grave crime were sentenced by royal decree to eternal prison, and his kind master would ask of the king that he would be forgiven, and instead this master accepted his punishment upon himself, while the criminal remained free; and that this good master sent him this good news, in a letter saying “I freed you, and took upon myself your just punishment from the king”? Tell me, brothers, what would the emancipated criminal do with this treasured letter?
God has granted me in my life to experience many miracles of St. Nicholas, some of which I have written about in my short stories. But there is one incident that shook all of Russia over fifty years ago in the city of Kuibishev, now Samara. This was an event that occurred with the girl, Zoya. Many of you already know about this—another miracle of St. Nicholas.
On this day, the 19th of December (December 6 according to the Julian calendar), the Church celebrates the memory of one of her most beloved saints—St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra and Lycia. We are half way through Advent, the fast preceding the feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, born as a babe to the Virgin Mary. This is a time when we especially delight in the beauty and sanctity of children—defenseless, dependent, yet meaning everything to us. We would do anything to protect a child, even die ourselves, because we see in him God’s gift of our own eternal existence.
Alexei Cominos ascended the throne of the Byzantine Empire in 1081, in which year Asia Minor suffered various attacks and threats of barbarian invasion. St Nicholas' relics at this time remained in his city of Myra. However, a priest in the Italian city of Bari soon beheld a vision in which Nicholas appeared and informed him that he did not wish to remain in a city as barren as the defeated Myra. He instructed the priest to remove his body from the city. After informing the residents of Bari of his vision, three ships were sent to Myra to retrieve the saint's relics.
The Russians like to call Saint Nicholas “Nikola the Merciful” because his miracles are as numerous as the stars of heaven. I would like to remind you of one touching miracle that shows his mercy. This did not happen once upon a time, long ago; it happened in our time, in the city of Harbin [China], where I lived for over 40 years.
“I took the sack. It was heavy. I took it inside the hut and opened it… My dear children!...” the elder began to sob. “There were fresh loaves of bread in the sack. And they were still warm, absolutely hot! As if they had just taken them out of the oven. But what oven could be there?! There wasn’t a single home within fifty versts, only exiles and prisoners.
Nicholas was taught by his parents to love the Lord with his whole mind, heart, soul, and with ail his strength. When they died he inherited their money. He used this to help the poor, the hungry, and the sick. Whenever he helped anyone he did it secretly, so that only God would know, He did not want praise from people; he wanted his reward to be only in Heaven.
The heroic achievement of the navigator Albanov who crossed the distance of approximately 420 km, walking on drifting ice to Franz-Josef land, added a glorious page to the history of Russian polar research. This journey had a great scientific significance, and the story itself was well covered in specialized and popular scientific literature of the Soviet period. A famous Russian writer Veniamin Kaverin created the character of navigator Klimov in his novel «Two Captains» with Albanov as his prototype. However the heroic exploits of the navigator is not only the result of his personal courage, but also another evidence of St. Nicholas’ help to «those at sea and travelling».