St. Nicholas is one of the “favoritest” saints in the Orthodox Church. I have read about him many times and don’t usually remember much. I didn’t grow up hearing about him as the real historical not-Santa-Claus person that he is, or knowing that there was such a thing as St. Nicholas Day, and since I became Orthodox I haven’t succeeded in implanting him in my heart in any satisfying way.
But we both live by and in the love of Christ, so he must be in my heart in spite of my neglect. I will pass on to you (again) what blessed me some years ago, from The Winter Pascha:
The extraordinary thing about the image of St. Nicholas in the Church is that he is not known for anything extraordinary. He was not a theologian and never wrote a word, yet he is famous in the memory of believers as a zealot for orthodoxy, allegedly accosting the heretic Arius at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea for denying the divinity of God’s son.
He was not an ascetic and did no outstanding feats of fasting and vigils, yet he is praised for his possession of the “fruit of the Holy Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). He was not a mystic in our present meaning of the term but he lived daily with the Lord and was godly in all his words and deeds. He was not a prophet in the technical sense, yet he proclaimed the Word of God, exposed the sins of the wicked, defended the rights of the oppressed and afflicted, and battled against every form of injustice with supernatural compassion and mercy.
In a word, he was a good pastor, father, and bishop to his flock, known especially for his love and care for the poor. Most simply put, he was a divinely good person.
-Fr. Thomas Hopko
Only in the 21st century was St. Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) officially recognized a saint by the Orthodox Church. He was born in 1907 and in this brief story of his life it is told that as a young boy he was inspired to go to Mount Athos, and stowed away on a boat to get there.
He wrote a book titled Wounded by Love. [correction: He did not write a book, but others compiled his sayings.] Just that phrase speaks something essential to my heart, and sort of sums up for me the example of the saints who shine the Light of the Savior into the world. The book I haven’t read yet, though it is featured in our parish bookstore and when I’m on duty I have once or twice looked inside the cover.
St. Porphyrios’s feast day is December 2, and while I have posted quite a few quotes from him on my blog in the past, I don’t think I have mentioned him on his day until now; here is a word of exhortation from, and to commemorate, this shining elder.
Turn your mind towards Him continually. Learn to love prayer, familiar converse with the Lord. What counts above all is love, passionate love for the Lord, for Christ the Bridegroom. Become worthy of Christ’s love. In order not to live in darkness, turn on the switch of prayer so that divine light may flood your soul. Christ will appear in the depths of your being. There, in the deepest and most inward part, is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is within you [Luke 17:21]. — St. Porphyrios
[Update next day: I have seen a video just now on YouTube of St. Porphyrios’s life, very well done, with scenes from Greece and stories from many people of his clairvoyance and healings. Fascinating.]
Kindle in our hearts, O God,
the flame of love
that never ceases,
that it may burn in us,
giving light to others.
May we shine
forever in your temple,
set on fire
with your eternal light,
even your Son Jesus Christ,
our Saviour and Redeemer.
-St. Columba 521-597
Today and tomorrow there is so much going on! Of course, every day is like that, even in the liturgical calendar, but I noticed three of the events or commemorations secular and ecclesial overlap just now.
The second Sunday after Pascha is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, when we remember Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who ministered to our Lord’s body, and the women who brought spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus, where they met an angel instead. The angel told them that Christ had risen! Joanna was one of those women, so today was my name day. 🙂
Earth Day is celebrated on April 23rd, about which I once wrote an article that I don’t know how to improve upon. And starting this evening, it’s the feast of St. George the Greatmartyr, who received the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.
It wasn’t until I was walking to the parking lot this afternoon at church and stopped to take a picture of the bells, that I remembered that our big bell is named after St. George. All of the bells have names, but the great one bears the name of the Greatmartyr. He has wisteria adorning, and a chain protecting him from thieves who would peddle his metal. One of our slightly smaller bells was stolen once and had to be replaced.
In the morning the bell George will be rung for the saint George. One hymn of the day includes these lines:
God raised you as his own gardener, O George,
for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue.
Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy…
May we all have good reason to rejoice on this day and every one.