"Nicholas" is interpreted "Conqueror of nations", or, better, "Vivtoy of the people" (from "Nike", the goddess of victory, and "laos", people). For this reason, he is most worthily extolled as "A namesake of Victory":
As a true namesake of victory, / to the faithful people thou hast shown thyself to be mighty amid perils, / O holy Nicholas, hierarch of Christ; / for whenever thou art invoked, / thou dost quickly hasten to those who with love / have recourse to thy protection. / For, appearing to the faithful by day and at night, // thou savest them from dangers and evil circumstances. (Lord I have Cried, Second Sticheron)
St Nicholas became Bishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. This is in Asia Minor.
When St Nicholas was baptized, he stood in the font for three hours, even though he was only an infant. This was certainly a harbinger of things to come, as he was a great ascetic to the end of his days.
The Saint was a great faster, and had a great love for God even as a baby. On Wednesdays and Fridays, he only nursed once, after the ninth hour (3:00 PM), after his parents completed their customary prayers. At anytime he nursed, he only drew near to his mother's right breast.
In the first ecumenical council, the brutal Arius was trying to sow the thorns of his impious opinions among the fathers gathered. He was quite erudite, although not wise, because he likened our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to a mere creature, saying that he was created by the Father before time. The holy Nicholas heard his vain babbling, and was repulsed by it. Perhaps Arius was beginning to win the day because of his erudition, or perhaps the holy Nicholas could not bear to hear his savior blasphemed anymore. He slapped Arius, who, at the point was still a distinguished Protopresbyter, although rotten within. The fathers were shocked at this action, and immediately deposed Nicholas.
In the evening, several of the holy fathers had a vision. The Saint appeared between the Mother of God, and Jesus Christ. The Lord held the gospel book, and His mother held the omophorion, and each gave to Nicholas these emblems of his rank. In the morning, this vision was reported, and the fathers reinstated the Holy Nicholas with fear and joy, and the impious Arius was put to eternal shame.
"With what songs of hymnody shall we praise the holy hierarch, / the opponent of impiety and champion of piety, / the leader, great ally and teacher, / who putteth to shame all the infamous, / the destroyer of Arius and his minions? / For his sake hath Christ, Who hath great mercy, // cast down the arrogance of the enemy." (Sticheron of Lord I have cried, from the service to St Nicholas)
The Holy Nicholas was elected a bishop because of two divine visions. He was living the life of an anchorite, but this light was not allowed to remain under a bushel for long. He received a vision when a voice from on high told him to go back into the world, for the good of the flock. He decided to go to the town of Myra, in Lycia, because he feared vainglory if he made his abode in Patara, where everyone knew him.
The blessed one went to Myra, in the region of Lycia, and lived as a pauper, with hope in God. At that time, the Bishop of Myra, who was of great authority in the entire region of Lycia, reposed, and all the bishops of the region gathered to choose a worthy successor. No matter who was nominated, the bishops could not agree and there was even great discord and strife. One of the bishops suggested that the bishops all devote themselves to prayer and fasting, with the ardent expectation that God would make known his will. This they did, and after some time, the eldest bishop among them received a vision as he stood in prayer. He was told by an angel to go to the church at night, and observe who entered the portal before anyone else for the morning service. The angel told him that such a man was Nicholas, and he was the only one worthy of the episcopacy for Myra.
The bishop told all the other fathers of this vision, and they gathered at the church, to await the arrival of Nicholas, as the angel has prophesied. When Nicholas arrived, the eldest bishop came to him, and asked him his name. The blessed Nicholas remained silent. Upon being pressed, the blessed one meekly answered, "My name is Nicholas, I am the servant of they holiness, Master". The bishop then led Nicholas before the entire council of bishops, where he was acclaimed as worthy of the sacred office. Holy Nicholas resisted for some time, but in the end, acceded to the request of the people, and the will of God, as was installed as the Bishop of Myra.
St Nicholas is known as a great protector of fishermen and sailors. He is also a great protector of travelers. There are numerous accounts of his intercession and physical intervention by faithful in all sorts of life threatening situations. He is also known as a helper of captives. He has helped the unjustly accused many times, to this present day.
"For those of us who find ourselves amid misfortunes / as we journey by land or sail the seas, / for those of us who are nearby or afar off, / thou art a great and fervent advocate, / an exceeding merciful and mighty intercessor, / O holy Nicholas, sacred preacher of Christ. / Wherefore, assembling, we cry: / Entreat the Lord, // that we may be delivered from every evil circumstance." (Sticheron of Lord I have cried, from the service to St Nicholas)
In Phyrgia, there arose a great revolt, which necessitated the dispatching of soldiers. Some of the soldiers took advantage of the situation, and oppressed the people unfairly, and stole from them. When St Nicholas heard of this problem, he traveled to the region, and with tact and hospitality, prevailed upon the commanders to discipline their disobedient troops.
In his absence from Myra, some men were unjustly condemned to death, the ruler having been bribed. When Nicholas heard of this, he rushed to Myra, and by the providence of God, found from some travelers when he arrived in Myra that the men were to be executed that very day. The Saint rushed to the place, and his meekness was transformed into righteous anger. The men were already bound, and the executioner was set to make his blow, when the Saint rushed upon him, and grabbed the sword out of his hands. He then set the men free, and no one dared to stop him; such was his authority.
Later, some commanders who had won great honors in their service were slandered before the Emperor Constantine, who condemned the men to death. These self-same men had seen the Blessed Nicholas deliver the aforementioned captives from death, and they tearfully sought the intercession of Nicholas while they were in prison, awaiting their execution. Saints are not bound by distance and time. The soldier's plight was revealed to the holy one, even though he was far away, and he appeared to the Emperor in a dream, and threatened him with dire consequences if he executed the innocent men. He likewise appeared to another ruler, Ablavius. Together, they called the condemned men, who told of their prayer to the Holy Nicholas. The astonished Emperor freed the men, and sent them with gifts, to Myra.
"In a dream thou didst appear to the Emperor Constantine / and to Ablavius, / and instilling fear in them, / thou didst speak to them thus: / "Quickly release those whom ye hold bound in prison, / for they are undeserving of a lawless execution. / But if thou wilt disobey me, I will petition the Lord and King // against thee when I pray!" (Sticheron of Lord I have cried, from the service to St Nicholas)
"O father Nicholas, the shrine of thy relics, like a phial, enricheth Myra with myrrh. And, appearing to the emperor in a vision during sleep, therein thou didst free from death, fetters and prison those unjustly held condemned. And now, as then, do thou ever appear in visions, praying for our souls." (Sticheron from the Liti for St Nicholas)
Every Thursday, both St Nicholas and the Holy Apostles are remembered, and their troparia are sung.
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