Praying with Icons: Part 12

With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan


December 19th, 2021


St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker


St. Nicholas [was] a fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city now in ruins in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He wrote no books nor have any of his sermons or letters survived, but few saints have been the object of such universal affection. He is seen as a brave defender of Orthodoxy, a model pastor, a protector
of the poor and defenseless, a guardian of children. He is the patron of seafarers, prisoners, and orphans.
No other saint has been so often represented in icons except the Mother of God.

Born about 280, Nicholas was the only child of wealthy parents, citizens of Patara in Lycea, who
arranged for their son to receive a Christian education from his uncle, the bishop of Patara. Taking literally
the words of the Gospel, when his parents died, Nicholas distributed their property to the poor, keeping
nothing for himself. Though drawn to a solitary monastic life, he felt led by God’s will to service as a priest in
the world. Soon after ordination, he was chosen as archbishop of Myra. Shortly before his election, Nicholas
is said to have had a vision of Christ handing him the Gospel book and the Mother of God placing on his
shoulders the bishop’s “omophorion” [the distinctive vestment of bishops in the Orthodox Church always
worn during services].


“Praying with Icons”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2021.
During the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian at the end of the third century, he was among
the many thousands imprisoned and tortured, but even in chains carried on his pastoral teaching and work.

Following Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Tolerance in 313, Nicholas was among the bishops
participating in the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325, where, according to legend, he was so angered
by the heretic Arius, who denied that Jesus was the Son of God, that he struck him on the face. For his
emotional act, he was removed from the Council and for a time was barred from episcopal service.

Restored to his office as archbishop of Myra, on one occasion, he saved three men from execution,
physically restraining the astonished executioner. Stories link him with the release of other men unjustly
imprisoned. Tireless in his care of people in trouble or need, he was regarded as a saint even during his
lifetime. At times, it is said, his face shone like the sun.

He died on December 6, 343, and was buried in Myra’s cathedral. In the eleventh century, his relics
were brought to Bari, Italy, where they remain.

The icons of St. Nicholas are usually full-face views in which we glimpse his kindness, his
attentiveness, and his strength of faith – qualities of the ideal pastor.

- Source: Jim Forest, Praying with Icons, pp. 125-126.


Reflections on the Icon of St. Nicholas

Legends abound. Nicholas as an infant, it is said, refused to nurse on the ancient fast days of
Wednesday and Friday. He aided the poor and once saved three daughters of a poor man from a life of
prostitution by putting three purses through the window of their home for the dowries. He wonderfully
constituted three boys who had been murdered and hidden in a pickling tub. He saved three unjustly
condemned men from death. He aided sailors who were in distress off the coast of his dioceses and once
went to the Holy Land and showed courage on board ship during a storm. (So he is patron of sailors.) He
attended the Council of Nicaea and gave the heretical bishop Arius a resounding box on the ear. He is the
patron of Russia and of Greece, the guardian of virgins and poor maidens; the protector of children,
travelers, sailors, and merchants, as well as guardian against thieves and violence. He is the patron of many
towns and cities including Bari, Venice, Freiburg, and Galway.

Because of his enormous popularity, he was impersonated by a man with a white beard, in the
vestments of a bishop, who was kind to children.

- Philip H. Pfatteicher, Festivals and Commemorations, pp. 442-444.


Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Nicholas, who was faithful in the
care and nurture of your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we
may by your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


“Praying with Icons”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2021.

Posted by Mark Hamby at 6:30 AM
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