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The Historical Saint Nicholas
Part 2 of 3
The Three Schoolboys
Three boys were returning home from school for the holidays and had stopped at an inn overnight. The innkeeper, thinking to profit from this, took the boys, killed them, cut up their bodies, and put the parts into pickling casks. The parents of the boys were worried and appealed to Saint Nicholas who searched the road until he came to the inn. When confronted by the Bishop, the innkeeper admitted his sin. With a wave of his sceptre, Nicholas caused the boys to be reassembled and resurrected from the casks.
The Famine and the Grain
At one time a serious famine was ravaging the whole region, and no one had food to eat. Now the man of God, hearing that some merchant ships loaded with corn had put into harbor, immediately set out there, and asked the sailors to come to the aid of the starving by supplying a minimum of a hundred measures of corn from each vessel, They replied ‘We dare not, father. It was measured out in Alexandria, and we must deliver the full amount to the emperor's granaries.' The saint said: 'Do as I tell you, and I promise you, by the power of God, that your cargo will not be found wanting when the emperor's steward inspects it.' They did as he ordered, and delivered to the emperor's officials exactly the same amount as they had taken on board at Alexandria. They told everyone of this miracle, and praised and glorified God for his servant Nicholas. As for the corn they had given him, Nicholas distributed it to everyone according to their need, and miraculously provided not only enough food for two whole years, but grain for sowing as well.
The Cleansing of the Temple of Diana
Now in the past this whole region had worshipped idols, and the people had long held in particular veneration an image of the infamous goddess Diana. Even in the time of St Nicholas some country folk still adhered to this abominable superstition and performed pagan rites to Diana beneath a sacred tree. In an attempt to stamp out these rites the saint had the tree cut down. This infuriated the Ancient Enemy, who made up a magic oil which could burn even in water or on stone. Then, taking on the appearance of a nun, he put out in a little boat and drew alongside a band of pilgrims who were travelling by sea to meet Nicholas. 'I would have liked to go with you to see the saint,' he told them, ‘but I cannot. So please, would you take this oil to his church as an offering and, in memory of me, anoint the walls of the building with it?' He then vanished. And suddenly they saw another boat, full of honest souls, and among them someone very like St Nicholas, who said to them: 'Ah! What has that woman said to you? What has she brought you? They told him the whole story and he said 'that was the shameless goddess Diana! And to prove the truth of what I tell you, throw that oil into the sea!' They did as he said and a great tongue of flame leapt up from the water and, as they watched, the flames burnt away for hours with supernatural vigor. They completed their journey, and when they found the servant of God, they exclaimed: 'You really are he! You are the one who appeared to us out at sea and saved us from the snares of the Devil!’
Around this time a certain tribe had rebelled against the Roman Empire and the emperor sent three princes, Nepotianus, Ursus and Apilio, to quell them. They were compelled by contrary winds to put in at the port of Andriaca, and St Nicholas invited them to dine with him, hoping to get them to restrain their troops from the usual thieving on market days. Meanwhile, during the saint's absence, the Roman consul was bribed to condemn three soldiers to death by beheading. When Nicholas heard the news, he asked his three guests to join him as quickly as they could, and when he reached the place of execution, he found the condemned men already kneeling with their heads covered and the executioner brandishing his sword above them. Ablaze with zeal, Nicholas charged at him, dashed the sword from his hand, freed the three soldiers and took them home unharmed. Then he hurried to the consul's residence and, finding the door locked, he forced it open. Presently the consul came hurrying to greet him, but Nicholas rebuffed him. 'Enemy of God!' he cried. 'Subverter of the law! How dare you look me in the eye when you have committed so heinous a crime!' And he continued to hurl abuse at the man until finally, yielding to the princes' pleas, he acknowledged the consul's repentance and good-naturedly forgave him. Then, after receiving the saint's blessing, the emperor's envoys resumed their journey, subdued the enemy without bloodshed, and were given a splendid welcome by the emperor on their return.
But certain of their countrymen were jealous of the princes' success, and bribed the imperial prefect to accuse them of treason before the emperor. When the emperor heard the prefect's charge, he flew into a rage and had the princes thrown into prison, with orders that they should be executed that night without the formality of a hearing. The princes, learning what had happened from their guard, tore their clothing in despair and began to weep bitterly. Then one of them, Nepotianus, recalling that Nicholas had saved the three innocent soldiers from execution, urged the others to pray for his protection. In answer to their prayers, St Nicholas appeared that night to the emperor Constantine. 'Why have you been so unjust?' he demanded. ‘Why have you arrested these three princes and sentenced them to death, when they have done no wrong? Get up now, quickly, and have them released at once, or I will ask God to start a war in which you will be overthrown, and your corpse will be the prey of wild beasts!' The emperor replied: 'Who are you that dare burst into my palace and talk like this?' Nicholas replied: 'I am Nicholas, bishop of Myra.' He also terrified the prefect in the same way, appearing to him in a vision. 'You fool!’ he said 'You senseless man! Why have you consented to the murder of innocent men? Hurry now, make sure to set them free, or your body will be riddled with worms and your house collapse in ruins? The prefect replied: 'Who are you to threaten me like this?' 'I am Nicholas,' the saint replied, 'bishop of Myra.' Immediately both emperor and prefect awoke and recounted to each other their dreams. They sent at once for the prisoners. 'What is this sorcery of yours,' the emperor demanded, 'that you send such dreams to delude us?' They replied that they were no sorcerers and had not deserved to be sentenced to death. The emperor then asked them: 'Do you know a man called Nicholas?' When they heard his name, the princes stretched their hands to heaven in prayer and asked God, through the merits of St Nicholas, to save them from the peril that threatened them. And when the emperor learnt from them about the life and miracles of Nicholas, he said 'Go free, then, and thank God for saving you through the intercession of Nicholas. But take the saint some jewels as gifts from me, too, and ask him to threaten me no more, but to pray constantly to the Lord for me and my kingdom.'
A few days later they prostrated themselves at the saint's feet and exclaimed: 'You are a true servant of God, a true worshipper and lover of Christ!' And when they told him all that had happened, Nicholas raised his hands to heaven and thanked God from the bottom of his heart and, after instructing them fully in the faith, he sent them back home.
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