Saint Nikon The Dry
Commemorated December 11
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them that suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the flesh.” (Heb.13:3)
These words of the Apostle call to mind the miracles of the blessed prisoner Nikon. This blessed-one was from an eminent Kievan family. He came to the Caves Monastery, took upon himself the captivity of obedience to Christ, and became a diligent monk. Then, when the Polovtsian tribes made a raid on Kiev, blessed Nikon and St. Eustraty were taken captive to the Polovtsian lands and imprisoned in irons. A Christ-loving citizen of Kiev came to the Polovtsi, offering to ransom the captives. Nikon did not seek the benefactor’s aid and the man assumed that the Saint had wealthy relatives who were expected to ransom him. This person paid the ransom for many people and returned with them to Kiev, where he told of the blessed Nikon. The Saint’s relatives heard of this and came to ransom the Saint. Blessed Nikon, however, said to them:
“Do not waste your wealth in vain. If the Lord wanted me to be free, He would not have committed me into the hands of these lawless men, for He commits to captivity those whom He wills. But His hands shall restore them.”
His family reproached him and did not ransom him. When the Polovtsi saw that they were not going to receive gold for the captive, they began to torture him. He was forced to serve a heavy enslavement. For three years he was tormented daily. His hands and legs were kept in chains. He was often burned with hot irons or coals, or cut with knives. They starved the Saint, often giving him food only every other day, or even every third or fourth day. In summer, he was left in the hot sun, and in winter the Saint was exposed to the snow and cold. The Polovtsi did all this in order to make the Saint seek ransom by his relatives. But St Nikon thanked the Lord and ceaselessly prayed to Him for his tormentors.
At length, he said to his torturers:
“Christ will deliver me from your hands. My brother Eustraty appeared to me, he whom you sold to the Jews to be crucified, and for whom you will be judged... This my brother informed me of my liberation. He told me that on the third day hence, I shall be in the monastery, thanks to the prayers of Sts. Antony and Theodosy of the Caves. And you wretched men, with Judas who sold Christ to the Cross, will be tormented.”
When they heard this, the Polovtsi thought that the Saint planned to escape and so they severed the tendons on his feet and legs, and put him under guard. On the third day after this, at the sixth hour, while the guards were watching, the Saint suddenly disappeared and the guards heard nothing, but a voice: “Praise the Lord from the heavens.”
Thus was St Nikon invisibly transported to the Caves Church of the Most Holy Theotokos just at the time when the serving priest was beginning the preparatory prayers for the Divine Liturgy. All the brethren immediately gathered around him and asked how he came. At first he wanted to conceal the great miracle but the brethren, seeing him bound in chains and his body putrid from wounds, and blood oozing from the cut tendons, began to beseech him to tell the truth. Then the blessed-one told all that had happened to him, but he would not allow the iron chains to be removed from his hands and feet.
The abbot told him: “Brother! If it were pleasing to the Lord to see you in these chains, He would not have delivered you from captivity. Therefore, listen to us now.”
They removed the irons from him and reworked them into implements for the sanctuary.
After a considerable time, a peace was concluded with the Polovtsians. A group of Polovtsi visited the Caves Monastery on one occasion and the warrior who had held Nikon captive saw the Saint and immediately recognized his former prisoner. He told the abbot and brethren in detail what had happened. The brethren glorified God and the Polovtsian warrior was so moved in spirit that he became a monk -- together with a number of his companions. Blessed Nikon, therefore, by enduring his sufferings and working for his tormentors, had become the cause of the salvation of their souls.
Blessed Nikon was called “the dry” because he was so withered and drained of blood by his sufferings that he could truly say with David, “My strength was dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my throat...the congregation of those acting wickedly surrounded me. They dug into my hands and my feet” (Ps. 21:13-15), and we, looking in wonder at the life and miracles of this earthly angel, say with the Apostle, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
His dryness withered all passions, so that the Saint burned with a fire of love for God, enlightened by good deeds. For the physical corruption he suffered in this life, he received the crown of incorruptibility in the world to come.
Taken from The Kiev Caves Paterikon, Translated from the Russian by Rev. Lev Puhalo and Vasili Novakshonoff, Synaxis Press, Copyright 1980 by Sts. Kyril and Methody Orthodox Christina Educational Society.
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