Dear brothers and sisters, greetings to you all for the feast of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker Nicholas.His life is a model of Christian living for us all – not just for our bishops, despite the fact that he is the very ideal of hierarchical life – and in his life we all see all that is holy, true and righteous.
Despite the relative obscurity of this life, spanning the third and fourth centuries, St Nicholas quickly became the most universally loved and venerated saint of Christendom. We might ask why, as his power and influence seem so disproportionate to what we know of him in historical terms.
Surely, this is because his life shines so brightly with the Light of Christ, and he so clearly encapsulates everything that it is to be a Christian. The central meaning of this is love, for God is absolute and perfect love, Christ is Incarnate Love and we are all called to reflect God and His love in our lives.
We are all called to be icons of Christ, struggling for the image of God to be restored and renewed in us, not simply by our baptism, but by continual prayer and repentance in which we seek perfection by struggling to reflect the Saviour, making His Gospel real in our lives.
In the Gospel for the hierarch we heard the Beatitudes and, as Father Luke pointed out in the homily of today’s Liturgy, these Beatitudes were made real and appreciable in the life of St Nicholas.
I constantly tell my spiritual children that the Beatitudes are the whole manifesto of Christian living, telling us how to make the Gospel real in our lives and how to live the lives Christ wants us to have. When this happens, we touch the world with God’s love, mercy and compassion, bringing light and life to those around us. These Beatitudes are not for our gain, for our sake and our benefit, but for the benefit of our neighbour and the world that surrounds us. They are not rules for us to gain, but rather for us to give, for us to love, for us to care, for us to respond to the needs of others – loving and serving Christ by doing so!
St Nicholas not only did this in his earthly life, but having been glorified by God among the saints on His right hand, the great saint has worked great miracles for a millennium and a half, continuing to reveal God’s glory, love and power; continuing to touch the faithful with his fatherly and archpastoral care, as a shepherd of souls and wonderworker doing God’s inscrutable works in the world.
As Orthodox Christians, we continue to turn to him, not simply on his feasts, but day by day, week by week, and virtually every Orthodox home and church possesses an icon of St Nicholas. Apart from Holy Week and Bright Week, every Thursday of the year honours him. We celebrate his nativity, his death, the translation of his relics, and various feasts of his wonderworking icons.
All of these acts of piety and devotion make him a great presence in our lives, as one whom we love, to whom we turn as a trusted and respected father, guide, helper and source of strength.
May we ever do so, and we pray that he may ever help us, teach us how to follow Christ and show us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.