Oil Dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra
St Nicholas of Myra is dedicated to the 4th century saint from Asia Minor.
Nicholas has been honored for many ages. The number of altars and churches all over the world that are dedicated in his memory are testimonials to his wonderful holiness. As an episcopal see, and his childhood church falling vacant, the holy Nicholas was chosen bishop. In that station he became famous by his extraordinary piety and zeal and by his many astonishing miracles. The Greek histories of his life agree he suffered an imprisonment of the faith. He made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution raised by Dioletian. He was present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. It is said that St. Nicholas died in Myra, and was buried in his cathedral.
St. Nicholas, also known as “Nikolaos of Myra,” was a fourth century saint and Greek bishop of Myra. He was born in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire as an only child to Christian parents. Nicholas would take nourishment only once on Wednesdays and Fridays. “He was exceedingly well brought up by his parents and trod piously in their footsteps. The child, watched over by the church, enlightened his mind and encouraged his thirst for sincere and true religion.” Both of his parents tragically died during an epidemic when he was a young man. He was left well off to be raised by his uncle – the Bishop of Patara. Nicholas was determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity. His uncle mentored him as a reader and later ordained him as a presbyter (priest).
St Nicholas’ charity
An opportunity soon arose for St. Nicholas and his inheritance. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money. He needed to support his three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty/ The wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. Nicholas became informed of this, and thus took a bag of gold and threw it into an open window of the man’s house in the night. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married.
At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and the third. At the last time the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor. He overwhelmed Nicholas with his gratitude. It would appear that the three purses represented in pictures, came to be mistaken for the heads of three children. They gave rise to the absurd story of the children, resuscitated by the saint, who had been killed by an innkeeper.
Coming to the city of Myra when the clergy and people of the province were in session to elect a new bishop, St. Nicholas was indicated by God as the man they should choose. This was during the time of persecutions in the beginning of the fourth century. Nicholas was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty. The divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. Constatine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released. Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra.”
Council of Nicaea
According to traditions St. Nicholas was not only there during the Council of Nicaea in 325, but so far forgot himself as to give the heresiarch Arius a slap in the face. The conciliar fathers deprived him of his episcopal insignia and committed him to prison; but our Lord and His Mother appeared there and restored to him both his liberty and his office.
As against Arianism so against paganism, St. Nicholas was tireless and often took strong measures: among other temples he destroyed was that of Artemis, the principal in the district, and the evil spirits fled howling before him. He was the guardian of his people as well in temporal affairs. The governor Eustathius had taken a bribe to condemn to death three innocent men. At the time fixed for their execution Nicholas came to the place, stayed the hands of the executioner, and released the prisoners. Then he turned to Eustathiujs and did not cease to reproach him until he admitted his crime and expressed his penitence.
St. Nicholas died and was buried in his episcopal city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian, there was a basilica built in his honor at Constantinople.
Legend of Nicholas
An anonymous Greek wrote in the tenth century that, “the West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the furthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. Images of him are set up, panegyrics preached and festivals celebrated.
All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence his memory and call upon his protection. And his favors, which know no limit of time and continue from age to age, are poured out over all the earth; the Scythians know them, as do the Indians and the barbarians, the Africans as well as the Italians.” When Myra and its great shrine finally passed into the hands of the Saracens, several Italian cities saw this as an opportunity to acquire the relics of St. Nicholas for themselves. There was great competition for them between Venice and Bari.
His relics are moved
Bari won and the relics were carried off under the noses of the lawful Greek custodians and their Mohammedan masters. On May 9, 1087 St. Nicholas’ relics safetly landed in Bari, a not inappropriate home seeing that Apulia in those days still had large Greek colonies. A new church was built to shelter the relics and the pope, Bd. Urban II, was present at their enshrining.
Devotion to St. Nicholas has been present in the West long before his relics were brought to Italy, but this happening greatly increased his veneration among the people, and miracles were as freely attributed to his intercession in Europe as they had been in Asia.
At Myra “the venerable body of the bishop, embalmed as it was in the good ointments of virtue exuded a sweet smelling myrrh, which kept it from corruption and proved a health giving remedy against sickness to the glory o f him who had glorified Jesus Christ, our true God.” The translation of the relics did not interrupt this phenomenon, and the “manna of St. Nicholas” is said to flow to this day. It was one of the great attractions that drew pilgrims to his tomb from all parts of Europe.