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St. Nilus, the Myrrh-Guster of Mount Athos icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Nilus, the Myrrh-Guster of Mount Athos.
Saint Nilus the Myrrh-Gusher of Mt Athos was born in Greece, in a village named for St Peter, in the Zakoneia diocese. He was raised by his uncle, the hieromonk Macarius. Having attained the age of maturity, he received monastic tonsure and was found worthy of ordination to hierodeacon, and then to hieromonk.
The desire for greater monastic struggles brought uncle and nephew to Mt Athos, where Macarius and Nilus lived in asceticism at a place called the Holy Rocks. Upon the repose of St Macarius, the venerable Nilus, aflame with zeal for even more intense spiritual efforts, found an isolated place almost inaccessible for any living thing. Upon his departure to the Lord in 1651, St Nilus was glorified by an abundant flow of curative myrrh, for which Christians journeyed from the most distant lands of the East.
St Nilus has left a remarkably accurate prophecy concerning the state of the Church in the mid-twentieth century, and a description of the people of that time. Among the inventions he predicted are the telephone, airplane, and submarine. He also warned that people’s minds would be clouded by carnal passions, “and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger.” Men would not be distinguishable from women because of their “shamelessness of dress and style of hair.” St Nilus lamented that Christian pastors, bishops and priests, would become vain men, and that the morals and traditions of the Church would change. Few pious and God-fearing pastors would remain, and many people would stray from the right path because no one would instruct them.
St. Nina Equal to Apostles icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Nina or Nino, Equal to Apostles.
Commemorated January 14th.
The virgin Nino of Cappadocia was a relative of Great-martyr George and the only daughter of a widely respected and honorable couple. Her father was a Roman army chief by the name of Zabulon, and her mother, Sosana, was the sister of Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. When Nino reached the age of twelve, her parents sold all their possessions and moved to Jerusalem. Soon after, Nino's father was tonsured a monk. He bid farewell to his family and went to labor in the wilderness of the Jordan. After Sosana had been separated from her husband, Patriarch Juvenal ordained her a deaconess.
She left her daughter Nino in the care of an old woman, Sara Niaphor, who raised her in the Christian Faith and related to her the stories of Christ's life and His suffering on earth. It was from Sara that Nino learned how Christ's Robe had arrived in Georgia, a country of pagans. Soon Nino began to pray fervently to the Theotokos, asking for her blessing to travel to Georgia and be made worthy to venerate the Sacred Robe that she had woven for her beloved Son. The Most Holy Virgin heard her prayers and appeared to Nino in a dream, saying, Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector.'
But the blessed Nino was overwhelmed at the thought of such a great responsibility and answered, 'How can I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and how can I believe that this vision is real?' In response, the Most Holy Theotokos presented her with a cross of grapevines and proclaimed, 'Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies! When she awoke, Nino was holding the cross in her hands. She dampened it with tears of rejoicing and tied it securely with strands of her own hair. (According to another source, the Theotokos bound the grapevine cross with strands of her own hair.)
Nino related the vision to her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal, and revealed to him her desire to preach the Gospel in Georgia. Juvenal led her in front of the Royal Doors, laid his hands on her, and prayed, O Lord, God of Eternity, I beseech Thee on behalf of my orphaned niece: Grant that, according to Thy will, she may go to preach and proclaim Thy Holy Resurrection. O Christ God, be Thou to her a guide, a refuge, and a spiritual father. And as Thou didst enlighten the Apostles and all those who feared Thy name, do Thou also enlighten her with the wisdom to proclaim Thy glad tidings. When Nino arrived in Rome, she met and baptized the princess Rhipsimia and her nurse, Gaiana.
At that time the Roman emperor was Diocletian, a ruler infamous for persecuting Christians. Diocletian (284-305) fell in love with Rhipsimia and resolved to marry her, but St. Nino, Rhipsimia, Gaiana, and fifty other virgins escaped to Armenia. The furious Diocletian ordered his soldiers to follow them and sent a messenger to Tiridates, the Armenian king (286-344), to put him on guard. King Tiridates located the women and, following Diocletian's example, was charmed by Rhipsimia's beauty and resolved to marry her. But St. Rhipsimia would not consent to wed him, and in his rage the king had her tortured to death with Gaiana and the fifty other virgins. St. Nino, however, was being prepared for a different, greater task, and she succeeded in escaping King Tiridates persecutions by hiding among some rose bushes.
When she finally arrived in Georgia, St. Nino was greeted by a group of Mtskhetan shepherds near Lake Paravani, and she received a blessing from God to preach to the pagans of this region. With the help of her acquaintances St. Nino soon reached the city of Urbnisi. She remained there a month, then traveled to Mtskheta with a group of Georgians who were making a pilgrimage to venerate the pagan idol Armazi.
There she watched with great sadness as the Georgian people trembled before the idols. She was exceedingly sorrowful and prayed to the Lord, O Lord, send down Thy mercy upon this nation ...that all nations may glorify Thee alone, the One True God, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Suddenly a violent wind began to blow and hail fell from the sky, shattering the pagan statues. The terrified worshipers fled, scattering across the city. St. Nino made her home beneath a bramble bush in the garden of the king, with the family of the royal gardener.
The gardener and his wife were childless, but through St. Nino's prayers God granted them a child. The couple rejoiced exceedingly, declared Christ to be the True God, and became disciples of St. Nino. Wherever St. Nino went, those who heard her preach converted to the Christian Faith in great numbers. St. Nino even healed the terminally ill Queen Nana after she declared Christ to be the True God. King Mirian, a pagan, was not at all pleased with the great impression St. Nino's preaching had made on the Georgian nation. One day while he was out hunting, he resolved to kill all those who followed Christ. According to his wicked scheme, even his wife, Queen Nana, would face death for failing to renounce the Christian Faith. But in the midst of the hunt, it suddenly became very dark.
All alone, King Mirian became greatly afraid and prayed in vain for the help of the pagan gods. When his prayers went unanswered, he finally lost hope and, miraculously, he turned to Christ: God of Nino, illumine this night for me and guide my footsteps, and I will declare Thy Holy Name. I will erect a cross and venerate it and I will construct for Thee a temple. I vow to be obedient to Nino and to the Faith of the Roman people! Suddenly the night was transfigured, the sun shone radiantly, and King Mirian gave great thanks to the Creator. When he returned to the city, he immediately informed St. Nino of his decision.
As a result of the unceasing labors of Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino, Georgia was established as a nation solidly rooted in the Christian Faith. St. Nino reposed in the village of Bodbe in eastern Georgia and, according to her will, she was buried in the place where she took her last breath. King Mirian later erected a church in honor of St. George over her grave.
St. Niphon Bishop of Constantia icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Niphon of Constantia.
Commemorated December 23.
Saint Niphon, Bishop of Cyprus was born in Paphlagonia, and was educated at Constantinople. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services, but in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fall; but believing that he was lost and could not receive forgiveness, he resumed his impious life.
He once met a friend who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. When Niphon asked why he was staring, the friend replied, “I have never seen your face like this before. It is black, like that of an Ethiopian.” These words showed to Niphon his fallen state, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.
After an intense and long prayer he saw that the face of the Mother of God on the holy icon was radiantly bright with a smile. From that time Niphon prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after tears and prayers, She mercifully turned toward him again.
Finally, Niphon completely turned his life around and began to spend his time in prayer and repentance. After an illness, from which he received healing from the Mother of God, he received the Holy Mysteries, and then accepted monastic tonsure and intensified his efforts, exhausting his body in the struggle against the passions.
This struggle lasted for many years, and devils often attacked St Niphon, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and alsoto see the departure of the soul after death. Already advanced in age, and arriving at Alexandria, he was pointed out to the Patriarch in a vision as one worthy to assume the office of bishop. They made him bishop of the city of Constantia on the island of Cyprus. However, he did not remain there for long. St Niphon knew the time of his death three days beforehand. St Athanasius the Great visited him before his blessed repose. On his deathbed the saint was granted to see angels and the All-Pure Mother of God.
Sts. Menodora, Metrodora and Nymphodora icon
Orthodox icon of the Saints Menodora, Metrodora and Nymphodora, the Virgin-Martyrs of Nicomedia.
Commemorated September 10.
The Holy Virgins Menodora, Nymphodora, and Metrodora (305-311), were sisters from Bithynia (Asia Minor). Distinguished for their special piety, they wanted to preserve their virginity and avoid worldly associations. They chose a solitary place for themselves in the wilderness and spent their lives in deeds of fasting and prayer.
Reports of the holy life of the virgins soon spread, since healings of the sick began to occur through their prayers. The Bithynia region was governed at that time by a man named Frontonus, who ordered that the sisters be arrested and brought before him.
At first he tried to persuade them to renounce Christ, promising great honors and rewards. But the holy sisters steadfastly confessed their faith before him, rejecting all his suggestions. They told him that they did not value the temporal things of this world, and that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom, for death would be their gateway to eternal life.
Flying into a rage, the governor took out his wrath on Saint Menodora, the eldest sister. She was stripped of her clothes and beaten by four men, while a herald urged her to offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint bravely endured the torments and cried out, “Sacrifice? Can’t you see that I am offering myself as a sacrifice to my God?” Then they renewed their torments with even greater severity. Then the martyr cried out, “ Lord Jesus Christ, joy of my heart, my hope, receive my soul in peace.” With these words she gave up her soul to God, and went to her Heavenly Bridegroom.
Four days later, they brought the two younger sisters Metrodora and Nymphodora to the court. They showed them the battered body of their older sister to frighten them. The virgins wept over her, but remained steadfast.
Then Saint Metrodora was tortured. She died, crying out to her beloved Lord Jesus Christ with her last breath. Then they turned to the third sister, Nymphodora. Before her lay the bruised bodies of her sisters. Frontonus hoped that this sight would intimidate the young virgin.
Pretending that he was charmed by her youth and beauty, he urged her to worship the pagan gods, promising great rewards and honors. Saint Nymphodora scoffed at his words, and shared the fate of her older sisters. She was tortured and beaten to death with iron rods.
The bodies of the holy martyrs were to be burned in a fire, but a heavy rain extinguished the blazing fire, and lightning struck down Frontonus and his servant. Christians took up the bodies of the holy sisters and reverently buried them at the so-called Warm Springs at Pythias (Bithynia).
Part of the relics of the holy martyrs are preserved on Mt. Athos in the Protection cathedral of the Saint Panteleimon Russian monastery, and the hand of Saint Metrodora is on the Holy Mountain in the monastery of the Pantocrator.