On the 19th of December (6th of December), the Russian Orthodox commemorate one of the most loved and revered saints in the world - Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. St Nicholas’ ministry during his lifetime, as well as his continuous intercession and miracles, prove that he is a very special saint for the Orthodox throughout the globe.
Saint Nicholas also means a lot to everyone here at St Elisabeth Convent because the very first church of the Convent was consecrated in honor of the saint, which means that on the 19th of December we celebrate its Patron Saint Day.
Out of all the saints throughout the history of Christianity, there are a few who have such popularity as Saint Nicholas. Believers and unbelievers, orthodox and non-orthodox, everyone seems to have at least heard of this saint and his life.
Saint Nicholas lived in the 4th century AD and was the archbishop of Myra in southern Asia Minor (the territory of modern-day Turkey). Since he was a young boy, he lived a Christian lifestyle and practised Christianity. His uncle introduced him to a bishop who saw potential in the young man and decided to take him under his patronage. Saint Nicholas was ordained as a priest at a relatively young age.
The young priest was seeking a solitary life in prayer, therefore he made a few pilgrimages to Egypt and then to Jerusalem. It was made known to him that he must return back to Myra and help others as his ministry. This is what he did. He returned and was ordained bishop.
He is mostly known for his abundant mercy for those in need. He helped the poor, gifted gold to the needy anonymously, delivered those who have been accused unjustly and sentenced to execution. He prayed for whoever asked for his prayers, especially for the travellers and sailors. His prayers helped people, so Saint Nicholas was very respected and loved during his lifetime.
St Nicholas is also known for his zeal of the truth. It is known that he took part in the First Ecumenical Council in the city of Nicaea in 325. He heard Arius, a presbyter from Alexandria, talk about the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God. Arius tried to convince everybody that the Son of God did not always exist and is subordinate to the Father.
Hearing this heresy, Saint Nicholas wanted to protect the Truth and even hit Arius in the face. The council resulted in the declaration of the Nicene Creed and the formal condemnation of Arianism. This is why we can find these words in the Creed or the Symbol of Faith that we proclaim during the Divine Liturgy and during our morning prayers: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made.”
Saint Nicholas is recognized as the patron saint of sailors and travellers, and he is often called upon by sailors who are in danger, drowning, or shipwrecked. Many people all around the world are inspired by St Nicholas’ charitable work and try to do the same. There is a tradition to anonymously give gifts and money to people in need on the 19th of December (6th of December). Parents also put chocolate golden coins into their children’s shoes that day and talk to them about the saint’s life, telling them how he would always help the poor.
In fact, Santa Claus evolved from Dutch traditions regarding Saint Nicholas. In Dutch, he is called Sinterklaas. The Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam in the USA, and the legend and tradition of Sinterklaas bringing presents to children became very popular there. People slowly started to call him Santa Claus and this is how the most loved Christmas character was born.
People pray to Saint Nicholas and he always hears their prayers. Many people tell stories of miracles happening by the prayers and intercession of the saint centuries after his death.
Saint Elisabeth Convent started with a small crypt church consecrated in honor of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker on December 10, 1999. This is why the feast day of St Nicholas is also the day when we celebrate that church’s Patron Saint day.
Icon of St Nicholas the Wonderworker with relics at St Nicholas Church
On December 19th we celebrate a festive Divine Liturgy, pray to Saint Nicholas and sing beautiful hymns like this one:
“You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,
For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ
By giving up your soul for your people,
And saving the innocent from death.
Therefore you are blessed as one becomes wise in the grace of God.”
(Kontakion of the feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker)
If you have any prayer intentions, please click on this link and send us a prayer request. The sisters of St Elisabeth Convent will be happy to pray for you on the joyous feast day of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker!
Saint Nicholas continues to teach us valuable lessons and has many more in store for the people today, and for generations to come. He lived a long time ago yet today he is still one of the most widely known and revered Christian Saints.