Vita Nicolai Sionitae (575 circa)
The Life and Conduct of our Father Nicholas,
Dwelling Among the Saints, the Late Archimandrite
(of Holy Sion, and Bishop of the City of Pinara].
Translated by Ihor Shevcenko and Nancy Patterson Shevcenko
1. In those days it pleased God to gather together in one what the Scriptures had proclaimed through the Prophets concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. For the sayings of the holy Prophets also foreshadow the holy summons and designations of the righteous, which run: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you” in Heaven. For by the will of the good Lord, in the district of the Traglassians, in the hamlet of Pharroa, there was a wondrous man, holy before God, whose name was Nicholas. He was the elect of the Lord, Who was well pleased with him. And it pleased Nicholas to dwell together with his spiritual father and archimandrite Sabbatios; and while they were dwelling in the holy and glorious Monastery of Akalissos, Nicholas decided to found, according to God’s wish, [and] through a revelation [ that came from] Christ the Founder and the Lord of all things, the glorious and enduring shrine of glorious Holy Sion, as a memorial and for the propitiation of his sins.
2. And when [ the site of such] a [shrine] had been consecrated, it pleased the Lord of all that a fine child, goodly in the eyes of God, was conceived on the piece of property neighboring that which had been consecrated for glorious Holy Sion. He was related to the aforementioned holy man Nicholas, his father being Epiphanios and his mother Nonna. And when they saw that the newborn child was very pleasing to God and goodly, they called his name Nicholas. For at the time of his birth while he was still in the washbasin, by the power of God he stood upright on his feet for about two hours. And awestruck, his parents praised God. And they went to the Monastery of Akalissos, to the holy man Nicholas, the uncle of the child, and told him about the birth of the child, and how he stood upright in the basin for as much as two hours. And when the uncle had offered prayers, he said “ Glory be to Thee, O God, for a servant of God has been born to us.” And he enjoined them to speak of it to no one. “For he was born by the will of God and he shall glorify God in this [very] place.”
3. And when the child was seven years old, they resolved, in accordance with God’s will, to hand him over to learn his letters. Assisted by the Holy Spirit (his teacher of that time being inexperienced), the child Nicholas indicated [?] the words to his own teacher, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he would write [these words] for him syllable by syllable [?]. And once, when he was on his way to his lessons, a woman from the village came up to him, Nonnine by name, who had a withered foot. And he made the sign of the cross over her, and by the power of the Holy Spirit she walked away made whole, glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ.
7. When the most holy Archimandrite Nicholas saw that the work on the glorious shrine of Holy Sion was completed by the grace of God and the assistance of the youth, he had him consecrated priest. The youth was then nineteen years old. Afterwards came the dedication of Holy Sion and his uncle entrusted him with the glorious shrine. There being no clerics, God, Lover of mankind, Maker of heaven and earth, made him the gift of the faith to strive for Him; and having received hope from God, he joined to himself his brothers Artemas and Hermaios as disciples, for the ministry and carrying out of the rituals in the holy Church of Sion. He appointed his brother Artemas to be presbyter and deuterarios and to rule over Holy Sion.
8. One day he was seized by a desire to go down to the Holy City, to adore the venerable wood of the Holy Cross, and all the Holy Places. And going down to the metropolis of Myra, he went off to the martyrium of the glorious Saint Nicholas. And by the will of God, there was there a certain skipper from Askalon, by the name of Menas. And hearing reports about the holy man Nicholas, he came to meet him in Myra, in the martyrium of Saint Nicholas, and said to him; “I have heard that Your Holiness is about to sail on a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem to reap benefit from the power of the Venerable Cross. And if it pleases Your Holiness, come aboard my little boat and bless us [by your presence].” The servant of God Nicholas said: “If you [ thus] implement God’s love towards men, I’ll come aboard with great joy.” And he prayed, saying:
“O eternal God, Who knowest the hidden things,” Who hast understood everything before creation, Lord Jesus Christ, hear me the sinner, and give us in Thy name a favorable wind, so that we may cross the open sea, and glorify Thy name forever. Amen.”
14. The holy child grew up, and was entrusted by the Holy Spirit with the glorious shrine of Holy Sion; he received boldness from the Holy Spirit, and produced many [miraculous] signs and cures for those who believed through him in Holy Sion.
15. One day there came men from the village of Plakoma, who fell down before holy Nicholas and said: “O servant of God, on our land there is a sacred tree in which dwells the spirit of an unclean idol, that destroys both men and fields. It is also ... to the district and we are unable to go unhindered about our business [?] on account of it. May Your Holiness yield to our entreaties and deign to come with us and fell it, so that God, Lover of mankind, may through your prayers drive out the unclean spirit dwelling in that tree, and the fields and the district may be at peace and find respite.”
16. Being so strongly urged by the inhabitants of the village of Plakoma, Nicholas, the servant of God, offered prayers, and came to the spot where the tree stood. Seeing the tree, holy Nicholas said: “Is this the sacred tree?” In response, the men of the aforementioned fields said to him: “Yes, Lord.” And Nicholas the servant of God said: “What are those gashes in the tree?” They said to him: “Some man of old came to fell the tree with two hatchets, and an axe. And as he began to fell it, the unclean spirit snatched away the blades, and slaughtered the man, so that his grave was found at the roots of the tree.” Offering prayers, the servant of God Nicholas—there being a crowd of nearly three hundred men, women and children to watch the workings of God, for none believed that such a tree, being sacred, was about to be felled - then the servant of God Nicholas knelt and prayed for two hours. And rising, he enjoined the men around saying: “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of Holy Sion, come here, try and cut it down.”
17. A shiver ran through all those who were standing around holy Nicholas, and no one dared so rnuch as to look at the tree. Then the servant of God Nicholas said:
“Give me the blade and I will cut it down myself in the name of my Lord.” Taking the blade, the servant of God Nicholas made the sign of the cross over it and struck the sacred tree seven times. The unclean spirit saw that the servant of God Nicholas had power from God, and when the tree was struck by Nicholas’ holy hands, the unclean spirit cried out, saying: “Woe be unto me: I made for myself an ever-expanding dwelling in this cypress tree and have never been overcome by anyone; and now the servant of God Nicholas is putting me to flight, and no longer will I be seen in this place. For not only has he expelled me from my dwelling in the tree, but he is driving me from the confines of Lycia, with the help of Holy Sion.”
18. When he was about to fell this sacred tree, the servant of God said: “Assemble with one accord up the slope on the North side.” For it was expected that the tree would fall to the West. The unclean spirit thought at that moment to frighten the crowd. And he made the tree lean toward the North, up the slope where the crowd stood watching, so that they all screamed with fear in one voice, saying: “Servant of God, the tree is coming down on top of us, and we will perish.” The servant of God Nicholas made the sign of the cross over the tree, pushed it back with his two hands, and said to the sacred tree: “In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ I command you: turn back [in the other direction] and go down where God has ordained you.” Forthwith, the tree swayed back by the will of God and moved toward the West, where it crashed. From that time on, the unclean spirit was no longer seen within those parts. And they all glorified God, saying: “One is God, who gave power to his servant against the unclean spirits.”
19. The sacred tree having been felled, the servant of God gave instructions in the metropolis of Myra that workmen be found to saw up the tree. When the workmen heard of the size of the tree, that not only was its stump the thickness of three and a half cubits but that its height was forty cubits, they were afraid, saying: “We will not be able to cope with such a tree.” So the servant of God Nicholas made it known that he was seeking workmen from any city. And finding none, he was forced to make his announcement in the village of Karkabo. And workmen were found, five in number, and by the power of God and the prayers of holy Nicholas, they sawed up the tree. When the whole surrounding district of Arneai and Myra saw that the tree had been sawed up by the prayers of holy Nicholas, they obtained his permission [?] and came to drag it away. It was dragged to the holy and glorious shrine of Holy Sion, and all glorified God, who had given such power unto His servant Nicholas.
57. And when the servant of God Nicholas saw that what had been left over was considerable, he understood that the Holy Spirit, who had appeared to him, was with him; and he went from Nea Kome to the shrine of Saint Apphianos in Partaessos. And there he slaughtered one pair of oxen and called together all the people. And they ate, and were filled, and praised God. And there was much blessed bread left over, so that the servant of God praised God even more. And from there he came down to the shrine of the Archangel and of Saint Demetrios in Symbolon. And he slaughtered two oxen and called together all the people and, making merry, they glorified God through the faith of the servant of God Nicholas. And as provisions grew in abundance, he gave thanks to the Holy Spirit and journeyed from there to the shrine of the Virgin in Nauten. And there, too, he slaughtered a pair of oxen, and called together all the people of the place, and they made merry, and gave praise to God. And from there he journeyed to the shrine of Saint Irene [?] in Serine. And there he slaughtered a pair of oxen and called together all the local people, and they made merry and gave praise to God. And from there he journeyed to the shrine of the Archangel at Trebendai. And there he slaughtered one pair of oxen and gave a great feast, glorifying God. And from there he journeyed to Kastellon, to the shrine of Saint Nicholas. And there he slaughtered two oxen, and all the Christ-loving people made merry, and glorified God through the holy man. And from there he journeyed to the shrine of Melissa in Hemalissoi. And there he slaughtered two oxen, and called together all the people, and they made merry and gave glory to God and to His servant Nicholas. And then, having fulfilled the command [?] of the Holy Spirit, and rejoicing together with the brethren who had been with him, he arrived at his monastery at Holy Sion after twenty-five days.
76. When the time of the Rossalia of our forefather Saint Nicholas came, the servant of God Nicholas went down to the metropolis of Myra, to take part in the Synod. And he prayed, and, having enjoyed the [company of] the holy men [?] and of the venerable fathers, who were his concelebrants at the holy Synod in Christ, he embraced them all, gave [the kiss of] peace to all, went back up to his venerable monastery, and was seized by illness.
77. While he was bedridden and ailing, there came a certain woman by the name of Eugeneia, from the village of Sokia, who had a spirit of lunacy. And she fell down before him, and he made the sign of the cross over her. And having prayed over her, bedridden as he was and about to hand over that which had been committed to him [that is, his soul], the servant of God Nicholas healed her. And the woman who was cured stayed in Holy Sion, giving thanks to God.
78. When the most holy and most blessed servant of God Nicholas beheld the inexorable decree of death, he began to pray and to sing Psalms and to beseech God that He give favorable orders to the [host of ] angels that were being sent to him to receive his soul from him. And beholding the holy angels, these glorious protectors and intercessors, coming toward him, he bowed his head and crossed himself in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and prostrated himself and said: “ ‘In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed. Deliver me in Thy righteousness and rescue me”, and so on until “Lord, into Thine hands I will commit my spirit.” And when he finished the prayer, he gave up the ghost with glory, having given praise to God. And at his side were his very own brothers, [Hermaios and] Artemas the most devout priest, [who also was his assistant, that is, deuterarios. And having embraced him, he yielded up his soul in peace into the hands of the holy archangels who had appeared to him. Nicholas the most devout archdeacon shrouded his holy remains and [closed] his eyelids and tied the honorable base [?] of his face, along with Artemas the most devout priest and archimandrite. Also present were Nicholas the deacon and cellarer and all the brethren living in his venerable monastery
79. And there were grief and wailing and lamentation and great mourning. And Paul [son] of Hermaios, the most devout deacon from the hamlet of Oumbe, arrived himself [?] for that [?] honorable wake. Having consoled all the holy fathers and brethren, he went down to Myra to meet Philip, God’s most beloved bishop of the city of the Phellites, that Philip might bury Nicholas. And the aforementioned bishop, most beloved of God, came up and performed the psalmody and readings, as the holy fathers have appointed it in the Canons.
80 The servant of God and most holy Bishop Nicholas died, by [the will of] God, Lover of mankind, on Wednesday, the tenth of the month of December, in the thirteenth Indiction, in the thirty-eighth year of the rule of our God loving Emperor Justinian, at the time of the most holy Archbishop * * * and of Patriarch Makarios. And his holy remains, beloved of God, were buried inside Holy and glorious Sion, where are deposited the remains of the glorious, victorious, triumphant, and holy martyrs, Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, Saint Stephen the Protomartyr, and Saint Theodore, and Saints Sergios and Bakchos and the Holy Forty [Martyrs]. He was buried in the right part of the right section for women. He fulfilled his life, and is interceding for all who believe in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as always, so now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.