Commemorated on April 3
The Monk Nikita
(Nicetas) the Confessor, hegumen of the Mydicia monastery, was born in
Bithynian Caesarea (northwest Asia Minor) of a pious family. His mother died 8
days after his birth, and his father – named Philaret, was tonsured into
monasticism. The infant remained in the care of his grandmother, who raised him
in a true Christian spirit. From his youthful years Saint Nikita attended in
church and was an obedient of the hermit Stephanos. With his blessing Saint
Nikita set off to the Mydicia monastery, where the hegumen then was Saint
Nicephoros (Comm. 13 March).
After seven years of
virtuous life at the monastery, famed for its strict ustav (monastic rule), the
Monk Nikita was ordained presbyter. And the Monk Nicephoros, knowing the holy
life of the young monk, entrusted to him the guidance of the monastery when he
himself became grievously ill.
Not wanting power, the
Monk Nikita began to concern himself about the enlightening and welfare of the
monastery. He guided the brethren by his own personal example of strict
monastic life. Soon the fame of the lofty life of its inhabitants of the
monastery attracted there many, seeking after salvation. And after several
years the number of monks had increased to 100 men.
When the Monk
Nicephoros expired to the Lord in his extreme old age, the brethren unanimously
chose the Monk Nikita as hegumen.
The Lord vouchsafed
Saint Nikita the gift of wonderworking. Through his prayer a deaf-mute lad was
restored the gift of speech; two demon-possessed women received healing; he
restored reason to one who had lost his mind, and many others of the sick were
healed of their infirmities.
During these years
under the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), the Iconoclast heresy resumed and
the oppression over holy icons intensified. Orthodox bishops were deposed and
banished. At Constantinople in 815 a council of heretics was convened, at which
they dethroned the holy Patriarch Nicephoros (806-815, + 828), and in his place
they chose the heretical layman Theodotos. In place of exiled and imprisoned
Orthodox bishops they likewise installed heretics. The emperor summoned before
him all the heads of the monasteries and tried to draw them over to the
Iconoclast heresy. Among those summoned was also the Monk Nikita, who stood
firmly for the Orthodox confession. On his example all the hegumens remained
faithful to the veneration of holy icons. For this they threw him in prison.
The Monk Nikita bravely underwent all the tribulations and encouraged firmness
of spirit in the other prisoners.
Then the emperor and
the false-patriarch Theodotos to trick with cunning those that persisted. They
explained to them, that the emperor would give them all their freedom and
permit the veneration to the icons on one condition: if they would take
Communion from the pseudo-patriarch Theodotos. For a long time the monk had
doubts, whether he should enter into church communion with an heretic, but
others of the prisoners besought him to partake together with them. Acceding to
their entreaties, the Monk Nikita went into the church, where for the deception
of the confessors icons were set out, and he accepted Communion. But when he
returned to his monastery and saw, that the persecution against icons was
continuing, he then repented of his deed, returned to Constantinople and began
fearlessly to denounce the Iconoclast heresy. All threats from the emperor were
ignored by him. The Monk Nikita was again locked up in prison, where he spent
six years, until the death of the emperor Leo the Armenian. And there, enduring
hunger and travail, the Monk Nikita by the power of his prayers worked
miracles: through his prayer the Phrygian ruler released two captives without
ransom; three men for whom the Monk Nikita prayed, who had suffered shipwreck,
were thrown up on shore by the waves. In the year 824 under the new emperor
Michael (820-829), the Monk Nikita expired to the Lord. The body of the monk
was buried at the monastery with reverence. Afterwards, his relics became a
source of healing for those coming to venerate the holy confessor.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.