Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Holy Monastic Father Nicholas, the Former General.

Feast day 24 December.

   Our venerable father Nicholas was a general in the army of the "Greek Emperor Nicephorus", having under his command a number of regiments. In those days "Nicephorus" was at war with the "Bulgars", and "Nicholas" received orders to lead his troops against the foe. One evening, on the way to engage the barbar­ians, he entered a hostel, intending to lodge there. After sup­ping with the innkeeper, he prayed, then lay down to sleep. At the second and again at the third watch of the night, the inn­keeper's daughter, wounded by lust, quietly approached his bed, awoke him, and tried to entice him to commit fornication.
"It is Satan who stirs up unclean desires in you. Do not ruin your virginity and cast me, the wretch, into the abyss of Hades!", "Nicholas" pleaded with the maiden. Stung by the chaste gen­eral's words, the girl retreated. The third time she approached, she was on fire with yearning and ready to throw herself upon him, so the blessed one had no choice but to rebuke her harshly, saying, "You shameless hussy, do you not understand that it is the demons that are inciting you to defile yourself?. They wish to disgrace you and your family, and subject your soul to ever­lasting torments. You know that I, the unworthy one, am on my way to do battle with our enemies, to kill and risk being slain. May God keep me from sin at such a time!". Humiliated by the reproaches "Nicholas" heaped on her, the lewd girl flung off.
    At dawn the General rose, and after praying, continued on his way. The following night he dreamt that he was standing in the air, high above the ground. Nearby sat a mighty ruler upon His throne, His right foot resting upon His left. "Do you see the two armies below?", He asked Nicholas.
    "I see the Greeks defeating the Bulgars," said the General. "Look at Me," commanded the great Potentate, as He put His left foot on His right. As soon as the Ruler changed the posi­tion of His feet, the tide of battle turned, and the Bulgars began slaughtering the Greeks. When the struggle had ended, He said to the saint, "Study the corpses below, and tell me what you see."
    The godly one saw that the ground was blanketed by corpses, except for one spot in the middle, just large enough for a single body. Nicholas said, "Sir, dead Greeks are lying everywhere, There is only one patch of grass visible on the entire battlefield."
    "And what do you suppose this means?" asked the Ruler. "My Lord," said the General, "I am an ignorant man. I do not know what to make of it."
    Then said the great Ruler, "That grassy spot was where your body was appointed to lie. Your fate was to be slain with your troops, but thrice last night you drove off the demon of fornica­tion. Because you behaved virtuously, your life will be spared. Spend the remainder of your days laboring for Me and the sal­vation of your soul."
    Saint Nicholas awoke terrified, shaking violently, and quickly rose to pray for his soldiers. When the armies met, fierce strife ensued. At first it seemed the "Greeks" were winning; then sud­denly the "Bulgars" gained the upper hand. Like wild beasts the barbarians threw themselves upon the imperial troops, put them to flight, and mercilessly cut them down. They entirely destroyed the "Greek" army, and the Emperor himself barely escaped. Follow­ing this disaster, the blessed "General Nicholas", mindful of the dream, resigned his commission. Thanking God for his deliver­ance, he retired to a monastery, where he ceaselessly mourned and wept for his fallen men. He was tonsured into the holy schema, and after struggling in asceticism for many years, was granted the gift of clairvoyance. He became one of the great fathers, and now stands in heaven with the other holy monks, before Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory forever. Amen.

Father Thomas Marretta (2000), The Great Collection of the Lives of Saints, Volume IV: December, by Saint Dimitrius Rostov, Chrysostom Press, House Springs, Missouri, U.S.A.