Miracles of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker Nicholas,
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
Which Occurred after His Death
St. Nicholas performed many miracles not only during his lifetime, but also after his death. Who would not be astonished to hear of his wonderful miracles! For not only one country or region but the whole earth is filled with the miracles of St. Nicholas. Go to the Greeks, and there they marvel at them; go to the Latins–and there they are astonished at them, and in Syria they extol them. Throughout the whole world they are amazed at St. Nicholas. Come to Russia and you will see that there is neither city nor village where there is not a multitude of the miracles of St. Nicholas.
In the time of the Greek Emperor Leo and Patriarch Athanasius the following illustrious miracle of St. Nicholas was performed.1 At midnight, the great Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, appeared in a vision to a certain pious old man, a lover of the poor and hospitable to strangers, by the name of Theophanes, and said:
“Awake, Theophanes, rise and go to the iconographer Aggaeus and order him to paint three icons: our Saviour Jesus Christ the Lord, Who created heaven and earth and fashioned man; the most pure Lady Theotokos and intercessor for the race of Christians; Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, for I should reveal myself at Constantinople. When these three icons have been painted, present them to the patriarch and the whole council. Go quickly and do not disobey.”
Having said this, the saint disappeared. Having awakened from sleep, that God-loving man Theophanes, being frightened at the vision, at once went to the iconographer Aggaeus and begged him to paint three large icons: Christ the Saviour, the most pure Theotokos, and St. Nicholas. By the will of the merciful Saviour, His most pure Mother, and St. Nicholas, Aggaeus painted three icons and brought them to Theophanes. The latter took the icons, placed them in the chamber, and said to his wife:
“Let us serve a dinner in our house and pray to God about our sins.”
She agreed with joy. Theophanes went to the market, bought food and drink for thirty gold coins and, bringing it home, arranged a splendid meal for the patriarch. Afterwards he went to the patriarch and invited him and the whole council, that he would bless his house and partake of food and drink. The patriarch consented, came with the council to the home of Theophanes and, going into the chamber, saw the three icons standing there: on one the image of our Lord Jesus Christ; on the other, the most pure Theotokos; and on the third, St. Nicholas. Approaching the first icon, the patriarch said:
“Glory to Thee, O Christ God, Who hast fashioned all creation. It was fitting to paint this image.”
Then, approaching the second icon, he said:
“It is good that this image of the most holy Theotokos and intercessor for the whole world was painted.”
Coming to the third icon, the patriarch said:
“This is an image of Nicholas, archbishop of Myra. It was improper to depict him on such a large icon. He was the son of simple people, Theophanes and Nonna, who were peasants by origin.”
Calling for the master of the house, the patriarch said to him:
“Theophanes, do not order Aggaeus to paint an image of Nicholas of such large size.”
And he commanded him to take away the image of the saint, saying:
“He is not worthy to stand with Christ and the Most Pure One.”
The pious man Theophanes, with great sadness removing the icon of St. Nicholas from the chamber, placed it in an honourable place in a storeroom, and, choosing from the cathedral clergy a wonderful and prudent man named Callistus, he asked him to stand before the icon and magnify St. Nicholas. He himself was very saddened by the words of the patriarch, who ordered the icon of St. Nicholas to be removed from the room. But in the Scriptures it says: Them that glorify Me I will glorify.2 Thus said the Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom, as we shall see, the saint himself was to be glorified.
Glorifying God and the Most Pure One, the patriarch sat down at the table with all his council, and there was a meal. After it the patriarch stood up, magnified God and the Most Pure One and, drinking wine, rejoiced together with all his council. And during that time Callistus glorified and magnified the great hierarch St. Nicholas. But here there was a shortage of wine, and the patriarch and his escort wished to drink still and make glad. And one of the group said:
“Theophanes, bring more wine for the patriarch and make the dinner pleasant.”
He replied: “There is no more wine, my lord, and already the market is closed, and there is nowhere to buy it.”
In sadness he recalled how St. Nicholas appeared to him in a vision and commanded the three icons to be painted: the Saviour, the most pure Mother of God, and himself. Secretly entering the storeroom, he fell down before the image of the saint and with tears said:
“O holy Nicholas! Thy birth was wondrous and thy life holy; thou healest many of the ailing. I entreat thee, show now a miracle for me an evil one, and increase the wine for me.”
Having said this and having blessed himself, he went to where the wine vessels stood; and through the prayers of the holy wonderworker Nicholas these vessels were full of wine. Taking wine joyfully, Theophanes brought it to the patriarch. He drank and praised, saying:
“Never have I drank such wine before.”
And the drinkers said that Theophanes had kept the best wine to the end of the feast. But he kept secret the most marvelous miracle of St. Nicholas.
With joy the patriarch and council went away to the house near St. Sophia’s. In the morning there came to the patriarch a certain nobleman by the name of Theodore, from the village of Sierdal, from the island of Myra, and begged the patriarch to go with him, for one of his daughters was possessed by a demon of sickness, and read the Holy Gospel over her head. The patriarch agreed, took the Gospel, went aboard the ship with all his council and set sail. When they were in the open sea, a tempest of powerful billows arose, the ship capsized, and all fell into the water and swam, crying out and imploring God, the most pure Theotokos, and St. Nicholas. And the most pure Theotokos prayed to her Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, for the council so that the ranks of clergy not perish. Then the ship righted itself and, through the mercy of God, the entire council got into it again. While sinking, Patriarch Athanasius remembered his sin before St. Nicholas, and, crying out, he prayed and said:
“O great hierarch of Christ, Archbishop of Myra, Nicholas the Wonderworker! I have sinned before thee, forgive and have mercy on me a sinner and wretch, save me from the depths of the sea, from this bitter hour, and from sudden death.”
O marvellous wonder! the haughty was brought low, and the humble was wondrously exalted and worthily glorified.
Suddenly St. Nicholas appeared, walking on the sea, as on dry land, drew near to the patriarch and took him by the hand with the words:
“Athanasius, has it become necessary that in the abyss of the sea thou hast need of help from me who sprang from common people?”
And he, barely in a condition to open his mouth, exhausted, said with bitter weeping:
“O St. Nicholas, great hierarch, quick to help, remember not mine evil arrogance, deliver me from this sudden death in the depths of the sea, and I will glorify thee all the days of my life.”
And the saint said to him: “Fear not, brother, here Christ delivers thee by my hand. Sin thou no more, lest worse things befall thee. Enter thy ship.”
Having said this, St. Nicholas took the patriarch from the water and put him on the ship, with the words:
“Thou art saved, go back to thy duties in Constantinople.”
And the saint vanished.
Seeing the patriarch, all cried aloud: “Glory to Thee, O Christ Saviour, and to thee, O most pure Queen and Lady Theotokos, who have delivered our master from drowning.”
As if awaking from sleep, the patriarch asked them: “Where am I, brethren?”
“On thy ship, master,”they replied, “and we are all unharmed.”
Beginning to weep, the patriarch said: “Brethren, I have sinned before St. Nicholas, truly he is great: he walked on the sea as on dry land, took me by the hand and placed me on the ship; indeed he is quick to help all that call upon him with faith.”
The ship swiftly sailed back to Constantinople. Leaving the ship with all the council, the patriarch tearfully went to the church of St. Sophia and sent for Theophanes, bidding him to bring at once the wonderful icon of St. Nicholas. When Theophanes brought the icon, the patriarch fell down before it with tears and said:
“I have sinned, O St. Nicholas, forgive me a sinner.”
Having said this, he took the icon in his hands, kissed it reverently together with the council and carried it away to the church of St. Sophia. Next day he laid the foundation in Constantinople for a stone church in the name of St. Nicholas. When the church was erected, the patriarch himself consecrated it on the day of the commemoration of St. Nicholas. And the saint healed on that day forty ailing men and women. After that the patriarch gave thirty litres of gold and many villages and farms for the adornment of the church. And he built near it a honorable monastery. And many came there: the blind, the halt, and lepers. Having touched this icon of St. Nicholas, they all went away healthy, glorifying God and His wonderworker.
In Constantinople there lived a certain man named Nicholas, who lived by handicraft. Being pious, he made a pledge never to pass through the day consecrated to the memory of St. Nicholas without remembrance of the God-pleaser. This he kept unfailingly, according to the words of the Scripture: Honour the Lord by thy righteous labours,3 and always firmly remembered this. Thus he reached ripe old age and, not having strength to work, fell on hard times. The day of the memory of St. Nicholas drew near, and here, pondering to himself what to do about it, the old man said to his wife:
“The honourable day of the great hierarch of Christ, Nicholas, is coming; how can we poor ones celebrate this day in our poverty?”
The pious wife answered her husband: “Thou knowest, my lord, that the end of our life is near, for old age has overtaken both thee and me; even if we have now come to the end of our life, do not change thy vows and do not forget about thy love for the saint.”
She showed her carpet to her husband and said: “Take the carpet, go and sell it and buy all things necessary for the worthy celebration to the memory of St. Nicholas. We have nothing else, and we don’t need this carpet, for we have no children to whom this could be left.”
Hearing this, the pious old man praised his wife and, taking the carpet, left. When he came to the square, where stands the column of the emperor St. Constantine the Great, and was passing by the church of St. Plate, he met the always-ready-to-help St. Nicholas in the form of an honorable elder, and he said to bearer of the carpet:
“Dear friend, where are you going?”
“It is necessary for me to go to the market,”replied the other.
Coming closer, St. Nicholas said:
“A good thing. But tell me for how much thou wishest to sell this carpet, for I would like to buy thy carpet.”
The old man said to the saint: “This carpet at one time was bought for eight gold coins, but now I will take for it whatever thou givest me.”
The saint said to the old man: “Would you agree to take six gold coins for it?”
“If you give me so much,”said the old man, “I will take it with joy.”
St. Nicholas put his hand into the pocket of his garment, took gold from there and, giving six large gold coins into the hand of the old man, said to him:
“Take this, friend, and give me the carpet.”
The old man gladly took the gold, for the carpet was worth less than that. Taking the carpet from the hand of the old man, St. Nicholas went away. When they parted, those present on the square said to the old man:
“Are you seeing apparitions, old man, that you alone converse with?”
For they saw only the old man and heard his voice, and the saint was invisible and inaudible for them. Meanwhile St. Nicholas came with the carpet to the wife of the old man and said to her:
“Thy husband, my old friend, meeting me, he turned to me with this request: ‘If thou lovest me, take this carpet to my wife, because if is necessary for me to carry another thing, and do thou guard it like thine own.’”
Having said this, the saint became invisible. Seeing this honourable man, who shone with light, and taking from him the carpet, the wife out of fear did not dare to ask who he was. Thinking that her husband had forgotten his words spoken to her, and his love for the saint, the wife became angry with her husband and said:
“Woe is poor me, my husband is a transgressor and full of lies!”
Saying these words and others similar to them, burning with love toward the saint, she did not wish even to look at the carpet.
Not knowing about what had happened, her husband bought all that was necessary for the celebration day in memory of St. Nicholas and was walking to his cottage, rejoicing in the sale of the carpet and that it made it unnecessary to depart from his pious custom. When he came home, his indignant wife met him with evil words:
“Henceforth go away from me, for thou hast lied to St. Nicholas. Truly said Christ, the Son of God: No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”4
Having said these words and others similar to them, she brought the carpet to her husband and said:
“Here, take it, but thou shalt never see me again; thou hast lied to St. Nicholas and, therefore thou shalt lose all that thou shalt achieve by the celebration of his memory. For it is written: If a man shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one, he is guilty of all.”5
Hearing this from his wife and seeing his carpet, the old man was astonished and could not find words to answer his wife. For a long while he stood and finally he understood that St. Nicholas had performed a miracle. Sighing from the depths of his heart and being filled with joy, he lifted up his hands towards heaven and said:
“Glory to Thee, O Christ God, Who hast wrought wonders through St. Nicholas!”
And the old man said to his wife: “For the sake of the fear of God, tell me, who brought you this carpet, a man or a woman, an old man or a youth?”
His wife replied: “A radiant old man, honorable, clothed in bright garments, brought us this carpet and said to me: ‘Thy husband is my friend, and so, meeting me, he asked me to carry this carpet to thee, take it.’Having taken the carpet, I did not dare to ask the one who came who he was, seeing him shining with light.”
Hearing that from his wife, the old man wondered and showed her the portion of gold left over and all the things bought by him for the celebration of the day in memory of St. Nicholas: the victuals, wine, prosphora, and candles.
“The Lord liveth!”he exclaimed. “The man who bought the carpet from me and brought it back to the house of us paupers and lowly servants, indeed it is St. Nicholas, for a man who saw me in conversation with him said: ‘Do you see an apparition?’They saw only me, but he was invisible.”
Then both the old man and his wife exclaimed, sending up thanksgiving to Almighty God and praise to the great bishop of Christ, Nicholas, the speedy helper of all that call upon him with faith. Being filled with joy, they went at once to the church of St. Nicholas, bearing gold and the carpet, and made known to all the clergy and all who were there concerning what had happened to them. And all the people, hearing their story, glorified God and St. Nicholas who worketh mercy for His servants. Afterwards they sent to Patriarch Michael6 and told him everything. The patriarch commanded that the old man be given an allowance from the property of the church of St. Sophia. And they made an honourable feast, with the sending up of praises and the singing of hymns.
There lived in Constantinople a pious man by the name of Epiphanius. He was very wealthy and honored with great respect by Emperor Constantine,7 and had many slaves. One day he wished to buy a youth to serve him and on the third day of the month of December, taking a litre of gold in seventy-two gold coins, he mounted a horse and went to the marketplace where merchants, newcomers from Russia, sell slaves. He was unable to buy a slave, and he returned home. Dismounting the horse, he entered his palace, removed the gold which he had taken to the market from his pocket and placed it somewhere in the palace and forgot where he put it. This befell him from the perpetual evil enemy, the devil, who unceasingly makes war on the race of Christians, so that honor will flourish on the earth [i.e., Christians will triumph over the devil, although that is not his intention when he makes war against them–ed.]. Not being able to bear the piety of this man,- he intended to cast him into the depths of sin. Next morning the nobleman called a youth who was servant to him, and said:
“Bring me the gold which I gave thee yesterday, it is necessary for me to go to the marketplace.”
Hearing this, the servant was frightened, for the master had not given the gold to him, and he said: “You did not give the gold to me, Master.”
The master said: “O evil and lying head, tell me, where didst thou put the gold given to thee by me?”
He, not having anything, swore that he did not understand what his master was saying to him. The nobleman became angry and ordered the servants to bind the youth, beat him without mercy, and put him in irons.
And he said to himself: “I will decide his fate when the feast of St. Nicholas is past,”for this feast had to be the next day.
The imprisoned one, the youth, with tears cried out to Almighty God, Who delivers all in misfortune:
“O Lord my God, Jesus Christ, Almighty One, Son of the living God, Who dwellest in light unapproachable, I cry unto Thee, for Thou knowest the heart of man, do Thou, the helper of orphans, the deliverance of those in misfortune, the consolation of the afflicted, deliver me from this danger from an unknown source. Cause merciful deliverance so that also my master, having been delivered from sin and unrighteousness because of me, will glorify Thee with gladness of heart, and so that I, Thy wicked servant, delivered from this danger, unjustly come upon me, may exalt Thee in thanksgiving for Thy love for mankind.”
Saying this with tears and such like, adding prayer to prayer and tears to tears, the youth cried to St. Nicholas:
“O honourable Father St. Nicholas, deliver me from calamity! Thou knowest that I am innocent of that which my master accuses me of. Tomorrow will be thy feastday, and I am in great distress.”
Night came, and the exhausted youth fell asleep. And St. Nicholas, always quick to help all that call upon him with faith, appeared to him and said:
“Grieve not: Christ will deliver thee through me His servant.”
Immediately the irons fell off his feet, and he arose and sent up praise to God and St. Nicholas. At that same hour the saint appeared also to his master, and reproached him: “Why art thou unjust to thy servant, Epiphanius? thou thyself art guilty, for thou didst forget where thou didst place the gold, and the youth thou dost torture is guiltless, and he is faithful to thee. But as thou thyself didst not design this, and wast taught by the primordial evil enemy, the devil, thus I also appear to thee so that thy love for God will not cease. Arise and release the youth: and if thou disobey me, then great misfortune will befall thee.”
Then, pointing his finger to the place where lay the gold, St. Nicholas said: “Arise, take thy gold and release the youth.”
Having said this, he became invisible.
The nobleman Epiphanius awoke with trembling, went to the place in the palace indicated to him by the saint, and found the gold put there by himself. Then, seized with fear and filled with joy, he said:
“Glory to Thee, O Christ God, the hope of all the race of Christians; glory to Thee, the hope of the hopeless, the speedy consolation of the despairing; glory to Thee Who hast shown light to the whole world and speedy upraising to those fallen in sin, St. Nicholas, who healeth not only bodily ailments but also temptations of the soul.”
All in tears he fell before the honorable image of St. Nicholas and said:
“I thank thee, honorable Father, for thou didst save me the unworthy and sinful one, and came to me, an evil one, cleansing me of sin. What shall I render unto thee, for thou didst take care of me, coming to me.”
Having said this and like things, the nobleman came to the youth, and seeing that the irons had fallen from him, he fell into yet greater awe and reproached himself very much. He commanded the youth to be released at once and he alleviated him in every way; he himself watched the whole night through, giving thanks to God and St. Nicholas who delivered him from such a sin. When the bells began to ring for Matins, he stood up, took the gold and went with the youth to the church of St. Nicholas. Here he joyfully related to all what mercy God and St. Nicholas had bestowed upon him. And all glorified God Who worketh such miracles through His servants. When Matins was finished, the master said to the young man in church: “Child, it was not me a sinner, but Thy God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and His holy servant Nicholas, that freed thee from slavery, so that some day I will be forgiven for the injustice which I, unknowingly, did to thee.”
Having said this, he divided the gold into three portions: the first portion he gave to the church of St. Nicholas, the second to the poor, and the third he gave to the youth, saying:
“Take this, child, and thou shalt be in debt to no one except only to St. Nicholas. And I will care for thee as a child-loving father.”
Giving thanks to God and St. Nicholas, Epiphanius joyfully went to his home.
Once upon a time in Kiev, on the day in memory of the martyrs Boris and Gleb, a multitude of people flocked from all the cities and villages for the feast of the holy martyrs. One Kievan, having great faith in St. Nicholas and in the holy martyrs Boris and Gleb, took a boat and sailed to Vishegorod, to venerate the tomb of the holy martyrs Boris and Gleb8 taking with him candles, incense, and prosphora - everything necessary for a worthy celebration. Having venerated the relics of the saints and having rejoiced in spirit, he departed for home. When he sailed on the river Dnieper, his wife, holding her child in her arms, fell asleep and dropped the child into the water, and he drowned. His father, began to tear his hair, crying aloud:
“Woe is me, St. Nicholas, for I did not have great enough faith in thee that thou mightest save my child from drowning! Who will be heir to my property; whom shall I teach to make radiant festivity to thy memory, my protector? How shall I proclaim thy great kindness, which thou hast poured out on the whole world and on me the unfortunate, when my child is drowned? I wanted to raise him, enlightening him with thy miracles so that after my death he would praise me because my offspring keeps the memory of St. Nicholas. But thou, O saint, hast not only given me sorrow, but also to thyself, for soon it will be necessary for commemoration of thee to cease in my house, for I an old and await the end. If thou hadst wished to save the child, thou couldst have saved him, but thou thyself didst allow him to drawn, and didst not deliver mine only child from the sea deeps. Or dost thou think that I do not know of thy miracles? For they are innumerable, and the tongue of man cannot relate them, and I, holy Father, believe that with thee all things are possible that thou desirest to do, but overcome mine iniquities. Now I understand, tormented with sorrow, that if I had kept the commandments of God blamelessly, all creation would be subject to me, as to Adam in paradise before the fall. But now all creation revolts against me: water drowns, wild beasts attack, serpents swallow, lightning burns, the birds consume, animals rage and trample everything, people destroy, bread given us for food does not satisfy us and, by the will of God, will be unto us for ruination. And we, endowed with soul and intelligence and created in the image of God, do not fulfill, however, as required, the will of our Creator. But be not angered against me, holy Father Nicholas, that I dare to speak boldly, for I do not despair of my salvation, having thee as helper.”
And his wife tore her hair and beat herself on the cheeks. Finally they reached the city and in sorrow came to their home. Night came, and then the bishop of Christ, Nicholas, who is quick to help all that call upon him, performed a wondrous miracle, such as never in olden times. During the night he took from the river the drowned child and placed him in the choir loft of the church of St. Sophia, alive and unharmed. When the time came for morning prayers, the sacristan entered the church and heard a child crying in the choir loft. And he stood a long while wondering: “Who has allowed a woman into the choir loft?”
He went to the one in charge of the choir and began to reprimand him; that one replied that he knew nothing, but the sacristan accused him: “You are caught in the act, for children cry in the choir loft.”
The one in charge of the choir was frightened and, going up to the lock, he saw that it was untouched and he heard a child’s voice. Entering the choir loft, he saw before the icon of St. Nicholas a child, all soaking wet with water. Not knowing how to explain it, he told the metropolitan about it. Having finished the morning service, the metropolitan sent to gather the people in the square and asked them whose child lay in the choir loft of the church of St. Sophia. All the citizens went into the church, wondering how this child came to be in the choir loft, wet with water. The father of the child came also, in order to wonder at the miracle, and, seeing, recognized him. But, not trusting himself, he went to his wife and told her all in detail. And she at once began to reproach her husband, saying:
“How is it that thou dost not understand that this is a miracle performed by St. Nicholas?”
She went with haste to the church, recognized her child, and, not touching him, fell down before the icon of St. Nicholas and prayed, with compunction and tears. Her husband, standing at a distance, shed tears. Hearing about this, all the people flocked to see the miracle, and the whole city gathered, glorifying God and St. Nicholas. The metropolitan celebrated an honorable feast, as observed on the commemoration day of St. Nicholas, glorifying the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 This was in the middle of the 8th century, during the reign of Leo the Isaurian.
2 I Kings (I Samuel) 2:30.
3 Proverbs 3:9.
4 Luke 9:62.
5 Cf. James 2:10.
6 Michael Cerularius, 1043 to 1058 A.D.
7 Constantine Monomach, of course, who reigned from 1042 to 1060 A.D.
8 The relics of Sts. Boris and Gleb were then still in Vishegorod of Kiev. The miracle which is related here occurred between the years 1087 and 1091.
Taken from Orthodox Life, Volume 37, No. 6, November-December 1987, Published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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