WARNING

NOT EVERYTHING THAT

CALLS ITSELF ORTHODOX IS

TRULY ORTHODOX


The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."


blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham

joannahigginbotham@gmail.com

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who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007

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31 December 2010

Saint Niphon



The Life of Our holy Father 
Niphon of Cyprus
Bishop of Cyprus
4th century

from The Orthodox Word #92 May-June 1980
Translated from the Russian Lives of Saints based on the collection of St. Dimitry of Rostov Moscow 1903

To few of the saints was the invisible world of spirits so opened as it was to this great struggler.  The trials of St. Niphon, while greater than most Christians have to endure, are very realistic and in a particular sense can be understood by the Christians of this generation.  In particular the devil's temptation to declare "there is no God" is very close to some of the tortures administered to the inmates of concentration camps, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals in countries behind the Iron Curtain even today.


1. His Corrupt Youth

Saint Niphon was from the land of Paphlagonia, the city of Plagion, in the northern part of Asia Minor, and was the son of a certain renowned person named Agapitus.  As a child he was entrusted to the General Sabbatius, who had been sent from Constantinople to Paphlagonia by Constantine the Great.  The General sent the boy with his keeper of the wardrobe to his wife in Constantinople to be educated.  The boy began to study with the priest Peter, who lived in the house of the General, and he studied diligently and successfully, since he was good at learning.  At this young age Niphon was good, quiet, meek, humble, and loved to go to church.

However, when he came to the age of youth, he began to be corrupted by bad companions, for youths, if they are not raised in the fear of God, easily give themselves over to bad examples.  If among grown men a good person is easily corrupted by evil men, as it is written:  With the perverse thou shalt be perverse [Ps.17:27], then all the more often does this happen among young people, who are naturally more inclined to evil than to good, as it is written:  The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth [Gen.8:21].  Thus also the young Niphon began to lead an idle and lazy life, to eat too much, and drink; he learned from disorderly youths idle talking and foul language, began to go to the shows of clowns, and then to do unclean things.  He would spend the whole of the night in lawless deeds, being defiled by unclean sins; and at the same time he began to steal, to  quarrel and fight with everyone.  He was a scandal for other young people, so that not only did he himself perform every lawless deed, but many others he inclined to do the same things.

One friend of Niphon's whose name was Basil, would constantly say to him:  "Woe to you, Niphon!  You are living in a body but you are already dead in soul, and only your shadow is walking around among men."

Niphon would sometimes pay no attention to these words, but sometimes he wold begin to weep and lament over his sins. However, continuing to follow his bad habits, he was drowning in his filthy deeds as in the sea, and despairing completely of his salvation, he would say:  "I am already lost, and I cannot return to repentance; so at least I will enjoy here the pleasures of earth."

And the devil to such an extent made hard the heart of Niphon that he could not pray any more at all, for some kind of stone seemed always to lie on his heart.  And the landlady with whom Niphon lived, seeing his corrupt life, with contrition of heart would say:  "Woe is me, why has this misfortune come upon me?"  Many times she would instruct Niphon, quarrel with him, scold him, and hit him, but he remained incorrigible.

These things have been related in order to show how great is God's mercy, by which he leads out what is honorable from what is unworthy, and from sinners make righteous ones; and that there is no sin that exceeds God's love for mankind.  Let this be for us sinners as an example, so that we might not despair, being immersed in many iniquities, but that we might be corrected by repentance like Niphon.  For he was as it were a vessel of sin, but later, through true repentance, he became a vessel of the holy Spirit, as we shall now find out from the following account.


2.  He is Converted to a God-fearing Life

Niphon had a friend whose name was Nicodemus.  Once Niphon came to him; Nicodemus looked at him and was terrified, looking at his face with astonishment.  Niphon asked him, "Why are you looking at me as if you don't even know me?"  

Nicodemus replied, "Believe me, brother, I have never seen you  such as I see you now.  Your face is frightful, like an Ethiopian's."

At these words the youth was afraid, but at the same time ashamed, and covering his face with his hands, he went away grieved.  Along the way Niphon said to himself:  "Woe is me, a sinner!  If in this world I am black in soul and body, how shall I be at God's judgment?  How will I appear before the face of God?  Woe to me, miserable one! Where are you now, O my soul?  Woe is me!  What should I do?  Can I still repent?  Is there anyone who might instruct me in repentance and tell me whether I may be saved?  How shall I say to God, Have mercy on me, when I have performed before him so many vile deeds?"

And much besides this did Niphon say to himself.  Finally he came home sad and tired.  Two opposite thoughts were fighting in him.  A good thought said to him:  "Pray at night to God, and He will do with you as He wishes."  But an evil thought opposed this saying: "If you get up to pray, you will lose your mind, you will become a fool and everyone will begin to laugh at you."

The demon placed fear in his mind and mightily disturbed his soul.  But after he had strengthened himself a little he said to himself:   "When I was living in fornication, no kind of evil happened to me.  Can it really be that now, when I wish to pray to God, some kind of evil will occur to me?  Be cursed, you unclean and sneaky demon who is instilling this in me!"

At night Niphon rose from his bed and began to weep and beat himself on the breast saying:  "How piously and virtuously I lived in earlier years, but now I am dead, being fiercely wounded by sins.  But, O Lord my God, in Thee have I put my hope, save me lest at any time like a lion the devil seize my soul, when there is none to redeem me."  [Ps. 7:3].

As he stood at prayer and looked towards the east, suddenly a thick darkness enveloped him, approached him, and threw him into a state of weakness, affliction, and excessive fear.  In terror Niphon lay on his bed, weeping and lamenting over his sins.  In the morning he went to Church; raising his eyes, he looked at the icon of the Most holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and with lamentation cried out:  "Have mercy on me, Intercessor of Christians, O Pure One Who heard the greeting Rejoice!  Help me according to Thy great mercy, for Thou art the hope and expectation of those who repent."

At these words of his, the image of the Mother of God smiled and her face was joyful. Niphon was astonished, seeing this miracle; he was joyful and rejoiced in heart and said:  "O the depths of God's love for mankind!  How great is Thy mercy , O Lord, which Thou showest to those who have sinned before Thee!!  For them Thou hast given Thy Most Pure Mother, that she might be an intercessor before Thy greatness!"

After a long prayer, having kissed with love the icon of the Most holy Mother of God, he went out, saying to himself:  "See,  O wretched soul, how God loves us, but we ourselves flee from Him!  He has given to us as an intercessor His Most Pure Mother, but we reject even this helper!

After this, in a dream at night the devil appeared to him in the form of a certain boy who had been his companion in sins.  He stood sadly, as if in great sorrow.  Niphon looked at him and said:  "Why are you so sad?"  The devil replied:  "This is already the third day since you went to your friend Nicodemus and became corrupted.  I am sorry over this and I cannot bear that you have come to despise me."  Then Niphon said "But why does this make you sad?"  The devil turned away and did not give him any answer.  Then Niphon awoke.  He understood that the devil was sorry over his repentance.  Quickly he arose, went to church, and directing his eyes and mind to that icon of the Most holy Mother of God, he prayed until he again saw her smiling, and he felt a divine sweetness in his heart.


3.  His First Trials

One day, going to church to pray, Niphon saw a certain man who was acting in a disorderly manner on the street, and in his mind he judged him.  Coming to the temple of God and looking at the icon as was his custom, he suddenly saw the Most Pure Mother of God with an angry and strict face turning away from him.  

Niphon was terrified and, directing his glance downward, said to himself:  "Woe to me a sinner!  I had only one joy -- thy most holy image, O Sovereign Lady, but now it turns away its face, and I do not know why!"  Then, reflecting in himself, he suddenly remembered how he had judged the sinner, and he understood that it was for this that the Mother of the Lord had turned her face away from him.  Loudly lamenting, he said:  "O God, forgive me a sinner; for I have taken upon myself Thy dignity and Thine authority and have judged my neighbor before Thy judgment.  But have mercy on me, O Master, for my soul hopes in Thee.  From this time forth, I will never judge my brother."

Then Niphon said yet much more with tears, and looking again at the icon, he saw that it was smiling as before; and from that time he began to keep himself most carefully from judging others.  Thus it always happened that when he sinned in anything, the image of the Most Pure Mother of God turned away her face, and by this Niphon was instructed and corrected.

Once, when Niphon was dipping up water from a well with a bucket, the devil pushed him and slipping with both feet, he fell into the well.  In falling down he seized the bucket and cried out:  O Lady, help me!"  And immediately he was standing unharmed on the beam over the well.  from this time on, having understood that the Mother of God was preserving him, Niphon began always to have her name on his lips.

After this, it happened that he was ill -- from the feast of the Resurrection of Christ to the feast of Mid-Pentecost -- and in this illness he could say nothing else but:  "Glory be to my God, glory be to my helper, the Most holy Virgin Mary."  On the Monday before the Wednesday of Mid-Pentecost he prayed thus:  "O Lord my God, vouchsafe me to receive communion of Thy holy Mysteries on the day of Mid-Pentecost, for my soul greatly desires to eat of Thy Flesh."

Then he fell asleep, and he had the following vision:   Two most bright women walked past his bed like myrrh-bearing women  -- one in royal purple, held an live branch, and the other similar to her, walked after her and carried a small vessel with a certain holy thing and a branch moistened in holy oil.  Going up to the bed, they stopped.  And the woman in royal purple said to the other:  "See, Anastasia, what this youth is suffering from."  And Anastasia replied to her:  My Lady, he is suffering from his unrestrained tongue, because when he was well his mouth was never closed, and now the Lord is chastising him so that he might not be condemned there with the whole world; for God loves him very much and is chastising him.  But thou, O my Lady, if you wish, have mercy on him and help him."

The woman in royal purple answered:  "I shall have mercy; only conduct him there where we are going."

Anastasia took him by the hand and conducted him into the church of the holy Apostles.  Then the woman in royal purple said to her: "Take oil from the lamp which burns in the altar and anoint him from head to foot."  She anointed him and said, "Behold, O Lady, I have fulfilled your order." The woman in royal purple smiled and said: "This is a sign of mercy,and it is for this that we have come."

And she gave Niphon the live branch which she held in her hand, with the following words: "Behold and understand that this branch is from the grace of the Lord, and I give it to you because now the mercy of the most compassionate God has been poured out upon you.  But do you now fight with the demons, and you will conquer them just as easily as if they were a weed or dry grass.

Niphon bowed down to her feet and awakening, understood that this vision indicated the blessing of the Most Pure Mother of God.  He immediately became well and rose from his bed.  On Tuesday he strengthened himself with food, and on the very day of Mid-Pentecost he came to church and with great joy received communion of the Divine Mysteries.  Thus, with the help of God, blessed Niphon left off his former sinful life, went away from the world, and became a monk.

He began to struggle fervently and to labor mightily, mortifying his body and subjecting it to the spirit, spending his days in tears and in strict repentance.  He carefully kept his lips from idle words, and all the more from filthy words and slander, and made it his rule to beat himself hard forty times on the face if any time, out of lack of caution, he should pronounce any indecent or offensive word.  Sometimes however, he would place a stone in his mouth and carry it about for a long time, saying to himself: "It is better for you, O lawless one, to eat stones than to speak any kind of evil words."


4. His Four Years of Testing

...   ...

God allowed a special temptation to come upon Niphon so that being tried like gold in the furnace, he might turn out to be worthy of the grace of the Lord.  Accordingly, the blessed one went out of his mind at the instigation of the devil, and this continued for four years.  Once Niphon was standing at prayer from evening until morning, and suddenly he heard a frightful noise going from right to left.  The saint became terrified and wondered what kind of noise this might be;and immediately the devil appeared with a great roar and rage and caused such terror in the saint that his mind was darkened.  Scarcely coming to himself, he wished to pray and sign himself with the sign of the cross, but the devil fell upon him and said:  "Leave off prayer, and I will cease fighting with you!"  The blessed one, however replied:  I will not obey you for anything, unclean spirit; if God has commanded you to destroy me, I will accept this with gratitude; but if not, then soon with the help of God I will conquer you!"

The devil said to this:  "You are in error, Niphon.  There is no God -- for where is He?"  Thus the demon constantly spoke to him, corrupting and darkening his mind.  The saint, however, replied to him:  "You speak, O devil, as a fool; for The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God [Ps.13:1].

He wished to pray, but he could not.  He would produce the words, but his mind did not obey him.  The saint became greatly saddened, being muddled in mind; and from this time he olost his mind and suffered.  And when he came a little to himself, again the demon, without ceasing, would say to him:  "There is no God!"  But the saint replied:   "Even if I fall into fornication , or if I commit murder, or perform any other sin, I will not renounce my Christ."

But the devil again said to him:  "What are you saying? Is there a Christ? There is no Christ, but I alone have authority over everything and reign over all.  Who told you that there is a God or a Christ?"

"You will not deceive me, dark power!" replied the saint; "depart from me, enemy of all righteousness!"

The devil, however, did not go away, but continued to fight with him darkening his mind and trying to force him to say:  "There is no God."  Thus for four years the Saint fought with the demon and forced himself to pray.  Once, during the time of prayer, coming to doubt whether there is a God, he stretched out his hands to the icon with the words:  "O God, my God, Why hast Thou forsaken me? [Ps.21:1]. Grant me to know that that there is none other than Thee, so that I may not bow down to the counsel of the enemy."

With these words he saw that the face of Christ on the icon was shining like the sun, and at the same time he smelled an unutterable fragrance,  In terror he fell down to the ground, saying:  "Forgive me, O Master, that I have tempted Thee, doubting Thee, my God; now I believe that Thou art the only God and Creator of all creatures."

Lying on the ground, he turned his head, looked at the image of the savior, and he saw a miracle:  the image of the Lord moved his eyes and brows like a living man. Niphon cried out:  "Blessed is my God, and blessed is His glorious name, now and unto the ages, amen!"  From that time on the grace of God descended upon Niphon, because the four years of his testing had passed.


5.  His Spiritual Eyes are Opened

After this Niphon's face was always joyful and bright, so that some people were perplexed and said:  "What does this mean?  For many years he was walking around gloomy, and now he is joyful and rejoicing."  The saint had acquired courage against the demons; laughing at them he said,:  "Where are those who say there is no God?"  And he conquered them by constant prayer.  Reflecting on his previous sin, he said to himself:  "Let us go to church, sinful Niphon; let us confess our sins to the Lord.  There a bountiful Father awaits us."

And he went to church.  Going up to the church door, Niphon raised his hands with bitter lamentation and cried out:  "Receive me who am dead in soul and mind, O Lord Jesus Christ my God, receive me a foul-mouth sinner who am defiled in soul and body, and do not turn away Thy face.  Do not say, O Master: 'I know not who you are,' but heed the voice of my entreaty and save me.  For Thou dost not wish the death of sinners, and I will not depart from Thee until Thou hearest me and grantest the forgiveness of my transgressions!"

During this prayer there was suddenly heard a loud noise from heaven, and the saint in ecstasy saw the face of a bright man which appeared in a cloud; and hands were seen stretched out, by which He embraced the blessed one as once the father had embraced the prodigal son; and He kissed him on the neck, saying:  "You have done well that you came here O My grieving child!  I have been very sad and afflicted over you; how My heart grieved with waiting when you would return to Me, whether in the evening or the morning.  And now I rejoice, now I am glad, seeing that you have been converted to me with all your heart,"

This Saint Niphon later related to his disciple, and while doing so greatly wept.  After this, when he was again praying, an angel of God appeared with a cup full of myrrh, which he poured out over his head; and that place was filled with fragrance.  [...]

So much did the spiritual eyes of blessed Niphon become enlightened that he knew the secrets of human hearts, he conversed with angels openly as with friends, and saw demons clearly.  Once, on the way from the church of St. Anastasia to his own hut, at the gate of the house of a certain harlot he saw an angel in the form of a youth who was bitterly weeping, and he asked him the reason for his tears. The angel replied:  "I have been given by God the safekeeping of a certain man who is now sleeping in this house with a harlot, and by this cruelly offends me;  I cannot look at the iniquity which he is performing.  How can I not weep when I see into what darkness the image of God has been submerged?"

The blessed one said to him:   "Why do you not chastise him, so that he might step away from his sin?"  "It is not possible for me,"  the angel answered, "to come near him, since from the time he began to sin, he has been the slave of the demons, and I do not have nay power over him.  For God made man with free will and pointed out to him the narrow path and the broad path, so that he might go on whichever one he wishes."

Then Saint Niphon said to his disciple:  "There is no sin more vile than the sin of fornication. However, if one who has fallen into this sin repents, God receives him more quickly than other sinners, because this sin comes from nature itself, at the instigation of the devil, and this passion is banished by fervent prayer, strict fasting and various mortifications of the body."

The Saint was able to see how the demons would go about among the people and tempt them, inspiring in them judgment, slander, quarrels, and various sorrows. Once he saw a certain man at work, and there came to him a demon who began to whisper into his ear.  Not far away another man was working; the demon came and also whispered into his ear.  Then, leaving off their work, they began to quarrel.  The blessed one standing up said:  "O temptation of the demons!  How you sow hostility among men!"

Once the demon of vainglory fell upon him and said:  "Now you will begin to perform signs and your name will be glorified in all the earth, for you have pleased God."  But the blessed one said to that demon:  "Wait, and I will perform a sign for you."  Finding a stone in front of him he said:  "Now I say to you, stone:  go away from here and remove to a different place,"  But the stone lay unmoving.  Then the Saint said to the demon:  "Here is your gift, O devil!"  And he spit in his face.  Then he prayed, and the devil instantly disappeared.

Another time Niphon saw a certain clergyman behind whom a demon was walking, instilling in him filthy and blasphemous thoughts.  This man, feeling in himself the snares of the devil, often turned around and spit at the demon. The blessed one said to the evil demon, :  "Leave off disturbing the servants of God, O devil!"  What profit is it to you if this soul will go to perdition?"  The demon replied:  "There is no profit for us in this, but we have an order from our king and our princes who reign over us, to fight against men.  If the princes find out that we are not fighting with men, then they will beat us cruelly."

Yet another time the blessed one saw a certain monk who was walking and whispering a prayer, and from his mouth there flew out a fiery flame that reached to heaven.  With him was his angel with a fiery spear in his hand, with which he was chasing away the demons from that monk.

On the eve of the feast of the Resurrection of Christ, in the evening of Great Saturday, Niphon was standing in church with the people and saw the Most holy Mother of God with the apostles and a multitude of saints; she had entered the church and with mother only love looked at the people who were present.  If she saw any of them concerned over his salvation,she greatly rejoiced; but looking at the careless ones, she shook her head and wept.  However, stretching out her arms, she prayed to God for everyone, that all might receive salvation.  Seeing this, the saint unutterably rejoiced that the Most Pure Mother of God did not abandon Christians, but was constantly helping them, and to him also she was a special helper and defender.

Once, when Niphon was sleeping, suddenly the devil appeared with a weapon in his hand and threw himself upon him with the intention of killing him; but being stopped by the power of God, he could not do anything evil to the Saint, and he fled, gnashing his teeth and saying:  "O Mary, you always chase me away from this man who is so cruel to me!"


6.  His Gifts of Consoling and Healing

The Saint had the gift of instructing and consoling the sorrowing by his words.  A certain brother came to the saint in sorrow and asked: "What shall I do, father?"  The evil demons are cruelly disturbing me, whether I am eating or drinking or standing at prayer, they instill in my heart either heresies or frightful blasphemies against my Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Pure Mother, and against the holy icons.  I am afraid that fire will come down from heaven and burn me alive."

The Saint replied to him:  "Take my advice, brother.  When the sea is disturbed, what waves it raises up and causes them to break against the rocks!  But the waves again return to the sea.  So also the evil thoughts which are sent by the devil act upon the human soul, and if a man listens to their advice, and follows it, he perishes, as many who have submitted to them have perished.  But is someone battling against foul thoughts does not give way, but all the more becomes courageous and opposes them, despising the demons, the ill will of the demon is turned against himself and that man receives a reward from God.  You also, my child:  endure, oppose the demon by prayer and fasting, and he will soon flee from you..  Flee from slander and anger; they more than anything else evoke blasphemy.  Thus having instructed the brother, he let him go in peace.

The Saint was not deprived also of the gift of healing infirmities.  There came to him a certain woman with a toothache and begged the saint to heal her.  He said to her:  "We are sinful and unclean people, and we cannot heal you unless God Himself has mercy on you."  And with these words Niphon went to church, prayed, and having taken oil from the lamp before the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, anointed the face of the sick woman over the whole swelling -- and immediately the pain ceased. Being healed, the woman went away, glorifying God.  Another woman also, who had earlier brought him food, when she became sick and was near death, he healed by prayer, and she became well.


7.  He Beholds the Fate of Souls after Death

With his clairvoyant eyes the Saint saw also the souls of men after their departure from the body.  Once, standing at prayer in the church of St. Anastasia, he raised his eyes to heaven and saw the heavens opened and many angels, of whom some were descending to earth, and others were ascending, bearing to heaven human souls.  And when they came near the toll-house of fornication, the demonic tax collectors came out and said with anger"  "This is our soul; how do you dare to carry him past us?"  The angels replied: "What kind of sign do you have on this soul, that you consider it yours?  The demons said:  "It defiled itself before death with sins, not only natural ones but even unnatural ones; besides that, it judged its neighbor and died without repentance.  What do you say to that?"

"We will not believe," said the angels, "either you or your father the devil, until we ask the guardian angel of this soul."  And when they asked him he said:  It is true that this soul sinned much, but when it got sick it began to weep and confess its sin before God; and if God has forgiven it, He knows why: He has the authority.  Glory be to His righteous judgment!"  Then the angels, having put the demons to shame, entered the heavenly gates with that soul.

The the blessed one saw the angels carrying yet another soul, and the demons ran out to them and cried out:  "Why are you carrying souls without knowing them?  For example, you are carrying this one, who is a lover of money, a bearer of malice, and an outlaw."  The angels replied:  "We well know that it did all these things, but it wept and lamented, confessed its sins, and gave alms; for this God's has forgiven it."  But the demons began to say:  "If even this soul is worthy of God's mercy, then take and carry away sinners from the whole world. Why should we be laboring?"  To this the angels replied:  "All the sinners who confess their sins with humility and tears receive forgiveness by God's mercy; but he who dies without repentance is judged by God."

Thus, having put the evil spirits to shame, the angels went past.  The Saint further saw how they were carrying the soul of a certain God-loving man who was chaste and merciful and loved everyone:  the demons, seeing him from afar, ground their teeth, but the angels of God went out to greet it from the heavenly gates and welcomed his soul, saying:  "Glory to Thee, O Christ God,  that Thou hast not left it in the hands of the enemy, but has delivered it from the pits of hell."

A certain time later, blessed Niphon saw how demons were dragging a soul to hell and this was the soul of a certain slave whom his master had worn out with hunger and beaten.  He had not endured such torment and, by the instigation of the demon, had taken a rope and hanged himself.  His guardian angel was going at a distance and weeping bitterly, while the demons were rejoicing.  The weeping angel was commanded by God to go to the city of Rome and to guard there a new-born infant who was being baptized there at that time.

The Saint also saw another soul who was being carried in the air by angels and they were met by a legion of demons; they had not reached the fourth toll-house when the demons took that soul away from the hands of the angels and with mockery threw it into the abyss.  This was the soul of a certain cleric of the church of St. Eleutherius; he had constantly angered God by fornication, sorcery, and thievery, and he had died suddenly without repentance, and was the joy of the demons.

The Saint built a church in Constantinople dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God, and he lived at this church and converted many unbelievers to the faith of Christ.  The devil did not endure the fact that Niphon was turning away many from the temptations of the demons, and he came to him with a multitude of demons, about a thousand; they fell upon the Saint at night and wished to torture him; his whole dwelling was filled with demons. But he forbade them with the sign of the cross, and with the help of God and the aid of a holy angel, he took each of them, one at a time, and gave them a thousand blows, until they swore to him that they would not even go near to the place where the name of Niphon was pronounced.

Conversing once with the brethren for the benefit of their souls, Niphon remembered the following:  "There was in this city the slave of a renowned man; his name was Basil, he was a tailor by trade, and was of evil life: he used foul language,was disobedient and was a clown; he spent all his time in games and unclean fleshly sins with harlots,and he did not listen to the instructions of his master.  But by the wondrous providence of the merciful Master, he received salvation in this way:

"By God's allowance, for the sins of the people, there occurred a great famine,and the masters began to chase away their slaves because there was not enough food; and Basil's master also chased him away.  Basil went away and the first day sold his clothing so as to acquire food for himself; then he began to go naked and beg for alms.  It was winter then, and he was shivering  and freezing from cold.  Finally, in exhaustion he lay down in a certain street.  After sometime his toes froze off, and then his feet also. Basil endured everything, considering this as a chastisement for his sins, and he said nothing but 'Glory be to God for everything!'  Thus he lay for two months in the street without covering, weeping over his sins  By chance a certain lover of Christ, Nicephorus by name, was walking on that street.  Seeing the sufferer Basil, he commanded his slave to take him to his house, where with love he gave him repose;with his own hands he made his bed and fed him.  In two weeks, on a Saturday, the sick Basil began to say: 'Your coming is joyful to me, O holy angels; rest a little and we shall go.' And they said: 'No, come quickly, for the Lord is calling you.'  'Wait a little,' replied Basil, 'until I give over my debt; I took a loan of ten copper pieces from a certain friend of mine, and up to now I have not given it back.  If I do not, the devil may detain me in the air for this.'

"And again the angels waited until Basil, having gathered ten copper pieces, sent them to the one to whom they were owed; and then he gave over his spirit to God.  So you see, children," Niphon finished his account, "what are the decrees of God and how, according to His desire, He saves a sinner."


8. His Divine Visions

Once the blessed one came with his disciple to pray in the church adjoining the palace of Aponius, where the bishop performed the Divine services.  And the spiritual eyes of the Saint were opened, and he saw fire descending from heaven and covering the altar and the bishop.During the singing of the Thrice-holy Hymn, four angels appeared and sang together with the singers.  And when they read the Epistle, he saw the holy Apostle  Paul watching the reader from behind.  When they began to read the Gospel, the words like lanterns rose up into the heavens. During the transferal of the Gifts the church curtain was opened and the heavens were revealed, and a marvelous  fragrance could be sensed.  Then angels began to descend, singing:  "Glory to Christ God!"  They brought a splendid child, placed Him on the Paten, and themselves surrounded the altar-table and served the Holy Gifts.  Two Seraphim and two Cherubim, hovering over His head, covered Him with their wings.

When the time came for the consecration of the Gifts and the performance of the fearful Mystery came,  one of the most bright angels came up and, having taken a knife, pierced the child.  He put the Blood into the holy Chalice, and having placed the child on the Paten, again stood with reverence in his own place.  Then there began the communion of the Divine Gifts, and the blessed one saw that among some who were receiving communion their faces were as bright as the sun, while the faces of others were dark and black like Ethiopians.  The angels who stood there beheld how each one came up, and they crowned those who received worthily, but turned away from those who were unworthy and disdained them.

At the end of the holy service, he saw that the Child suddenly again was whole in the hands of the angels and ascended to heaven.  Later the Saint himself related this to his disciple, who wrote it down for the benefit of many.

Once the Saint was going to the church of the Most Holy Mother of God which he himself had built, and he saw that on the way an Ethiopian was walking being very sorrowful.  This was a prince of the demons, and other demons were following him. When they went up nearer and heard church singing, the lesser demons began to scold their prince, saying:  See how the name of Jesus is glorified by those whom we had once in our power.  Where, then, is our power? They have conquered it, and our kingdom is destroyed."

Thus the demons heaped reproach on their prince;but he said to them:  "Do not be grieved, do not despair; I will soon arrange it so that the Christians will leave Jesus and will glorify us."

They went a little away and met thirty men; the prince of the demons went up to one of them and whispered to him in his ear -- and the man was darkened in mind and began to utter unclean words, laugh and sing shameless songs.  Then they went to a musician who was walking and playing.  The blessed one saw how one Ethiopian bound them all with a single rope and dragged them after the musician; and they all went dancing after him.  Many people joined them and went further, dancing and singing shameful songs -- for the demons dragged them, hooking them by the heart.  One wealthy man, however, looking out of his house, gave the musician a copper coin so that they might dance before him.  When the musician placed the coin in his pocket, the demons took it and sent it to hell to their father satan, and said to him:  "Rejoice, our father!  Alazion our prince has sent this to you as a sacrifice which our enemies, the Christians, have offered, giving copper coins for playing."

Taking it, satan rejoiced and said:  "Strive, O children, so that our sacrifices might increase and conquer Christians."  And then again he returned the coin to the pocket of the musician.  blessed Niphon, however, seeing this with his spiritual eyes, said with bitterness:   "Oh, woe to those who offer through playing a sacrifice to demons!"  And he instructed his listeners to avoid unclean and disorderly playing, since it is from the devil.

Once, after prayer, the Saint was in a state of spiritual ecstasy and saw a broad field, equal in width and length, and on it stood a multitude of Ethiopians, divided into regiments; there were 365 regiments in all, according to the number of the most serious sins.  One of the darkest Ethiopians counted the warriors, arranging the regiments as if for battle, and said:  "Look at me and do not fear anything; my power will be with you!"

Several demons brought a multitude of various weapons and distributed them by regiments.  Then the devil gave to each regiment the power of sorcery and magic, and let them go through all the earth against the Church of Christ.  As blessed Niphon looked upon this, suddenly he heard a voice:  "Turn, O Niphon, to the east and behold."

He turned and saw a clean and splendid field, and upon it a numberless multitude -- hundreds of thousands -- of soldiers, more than the Ethiopians, in white garments, all armed as for battle.  Then a man appeared, brighter than the sun, and said:  "Thus the Lord of Sabaoth commands:  Go through the whole earth, help the Christians, and guard their life."  Seeing this, the Saint glorified God who helps His Church.


9.  He is Made a Bishop

Saint Niphon was approaching old age.  The time came for him to receive the rank of bishop,which had been predicted to him by God in the following vision.  He saw a certain field filled with a great multitude of sheep, but there was no shepherd for them.  The blessed one thought:  "What is this:  do these sheep without a shepherd not fear the wolf?"  Immediately there appeared a bright man, similar in appearance to the holy Apostle Paul, and said:  "Why are you standing idle and looking at the royal sheep?  Why do you not shepherd them?"  blessed Niphon replied:  "Am I to shepherd royal sheep?  I am not acquainted with this word, and I am very weak."  But the one who had appeared said:  "The King has commanded you to shepherd them for a short time, and then having reposed, you will receive a great reward."

And with these words he gave him a staff and entrusted him with the sheep and the enclosure, and then departed.  Awakening, the blessed one thought:  What does this mean?  And he understood that the man that appeared to him was the holy Apostle Paul; the sheep were men;and the enclosure was the church.  He became very frightened lest they make him a bishop in the reigning city {Constantinople].  Niphon said to himself:  "Did I not entreat God that I might not have any authority over anyone?  And here He wishes to give me authority!  I will act like the Prophet Jonah and flee from here!"  Taking his disciple, he left his cell and got on a boat.

With a gentle wind the boat quickly reached Alexandria, where at that time the Patriarch was Alexander,* who governed the church after Peter, who had suffered for Christ under Diocletian.  On the same day the residents of the city of Constantia came from the island of Cyprus and entreated Patriarch Alexander to make them a bishop, whomever he should find worthy, since their shepherd, Christopher, a man holy and revered had reposed.  The Patriarch said to them:  "Wait a little until God shall show me such a man."

The same night the Patriarch saw the holy Apostle Paul, who asked him:  "Whom are you going to ordain bishop for the city of Constantia?"  The Patriarch replied:  "I do not know; whomever God should will."  St. Paul said:  "God will show you a worthy one.  Only be tomorrow with all the clergy in church, and look at those who enter.  Whomever you will see who in everything is like me -- entrust the flock to him."

In the morning the Patriarch sat in the church and looked to see who of those entered would be like the one who had appeared to him.  Niphon, not knowing anything about this, went into the church and said on the way to his disciple:  "I feel in my heart something which is both sorrow and joy.  Will not something happen to us?"  And with these word he entered the church.  Seeing him, the Patriarch said to his Archdeacon:  Look, Athanasius, is not this man similar in face to the image of the holy Apostle Paul?"  "Yes, father," replied the Archdeacon, "truly he is, and he is worthy to shepherd the church of Christ; I see an angel of God going with him and conversing with him; and besides this, a crown of precious stones can be seen on his head."

Then the Patriarch  called the Saint up to him, and they sat down.  The Archdeacon said with a smile to Niphon:  "Why did you flee, O father?  You have come to it now against your will."

When the blessed one knew what was going to happen to him, he said with a sigh:  "Woe is me!  I am a sinner and unworthy to accept such authority!"  The Patriarch replied:  "Oh!  If only I were so unworthy!"  And with these words he stood up and began the Divine Liturgy, and he consecrated Saint Niphon to the rank of cleric.  Then, in the course of several days, he ordained him deacon and presbyter; and afterwards he raised him up to the rank of bishop, and all rejoiced over such a shepherd revealed by God.

After being ordained bishop, Niphon remained in Alexandria for three days, conversing with the holy men who were there.  After this the Patriarch let Niphon go to his see, having sent with him, to show him honor, his own Archdeacon and other holy men.  They came to the city of Constantia in Cyprus on the fourth of September.  Those who had been sent with him, having entrusted the flock to him, returned to Alexandria, glorifying God.

Niphon, the hierarch of God, began diligently to shepherd the flock of Christ and to be concerned with the salvation of the faithful.  He was a father to the orphans and widows, an unmercenary physician for the sick, and a benefactor for the infirm.  At the same time he performed various miracles, to describe all of which would be impossible.  For this he was very beloved and revered by all.

Being vigilantly concerned for his flock, he saw once a great Ethiopian who was leaning on a staff as if in sorrow; he was walking in to the city and frequently rested on the way.  The Saint understood that this was the devil, and cried out to him:  "I say to you,  O vile one:  Why and how have you dared to come here?"  The Ethiopian looked at him with anger, as if he wished to devour him, and said:  "I heard that you were here, and I came to crush you with your sheep."  The saint replied:  "Weakling!  You yourself are crushed, and you wish to crush me?  I have seen how a single struggler was fighting with you, and thirty of your demons grew faint in the battle with him.  Who would not laugh at your weakness?"

"Do not be surprised at this," the devil said.  "If I had my previous strength, it would cause me no effort at all to crush you; but from the time that Jesus was crucified, I have really been weak."

The Saint replied:  "And now, if I pray to my Christ, what will become of you, O shameless one?"  "I know," replied the devil, " that you can do much; but do me no evil, and I will go away from your city and will not come anymore to it."

Seeing this, the hierarch gave thanks to God, that He was preserving him and keeping his flock from the evil demon.


10.  The Saint's blessed Repose

After governing the Church of Christ for short time, Saint Niphon drew close to the time of his repose, which he knew three days beforehand.  There came to him then the great Athanasius who had previously been Archdeacon, and then, after the death of Alexander, occupied the see of the Church of Alexandria.  He was informed by God, in good time of the coming death of Niphon, and therefore he came there with all his clergy to the final farewell with the Saint of God. Niphon, seeing Athanasius, asked him:  "Why have you labored, O blessed father, to come to me, a sinful man?

"I know," replied Athanasius, "that tomorrow you will go to the Jerusalem on high, and I came to converse with you.  I beg you; when you will stand before the throne of God, remember me there, so that I may receive mercy from the Lord."

"And you, father," said the Saint, "when you perform the Divine services, remember also my poverty."

In the same night Niphon prayed long for himself and for his flock.  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord with consolation and the news that there was prepared for him eternal repose.

At the time of the morning prayer he began to suffer severe signs of bodily illness, and therefore he said to his disciple:  "Child, spread a mat for me on the ground."  And when the disciple fulfilled his instruction, he lay down on it totally sick.

At the coming of day, Athanasius the Great came to him and,sitting near him, he asked:  "father, does a man gain any benefit from illness, or not?"   The Saint replied:  "Just as gold, when burned in fire, puts off rust, so also a man, when he grows sick, is cleansed from his sins."  Then, being silent a little, he wept; and then he smiled, and his face became bright, and he said:  "I greet you, O holy angels!"  After a little while, he said:  "Rejoice, holy martyrs!"  And his face became yet brighter.  And after a certain time he said:  "Grace to you, blessed prophets!"

Then the spiritual eyes of Saint Athanasius himself were opened, and he saw that the blessed one was being greeting by all the choirs of saints, each one separately.  The Niphon said joyfully:  "I greet you priests, monks, and all saints!"  And he was silent again.  Soon he cried out:  "Rejoice, thou who didst hear the greeting 'Rejoice,' splendid light, my helper and strength; I glorify thee, O Good One, for I remember thy mercy and grace!"

After this he was silent, and his face became as bright as the sun, so that all present were terrified.  There was sensed also a fragrant aroma, and soon a voice from heaven was heard, calling him to eternal repose.  Thus he gave his precious holy soul into the hands of God, on the 23rd day of December.  There was weeping and bitter lamentation in the whole city, and they buried Saint Niphon with honor in the great church of the Holy apostles, glorifying Him Who is merciful to sinners and Who is wondrous in His saints, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

Commemorated December 23/January 5

Troparion of St Niphon, Bishop of Constantiana tone 4

Thou wast chosen by God to be shepherd and herald of His Church,/
and to teach repentance to the fallen./ 
By thy prayers thou didst reveal the demons' deceits/ 
and thy countenance shone like Moses'./
 O Father Niphon, pray to Christ our God for those who honour thee.


Kontakion of St Niphon of Constantiana tone 2

Thou didst subdue the flesh by fear of God/
and didst soar to the heights of knowledge./ 
Thou didst attain to thy desire, O blessed Niphon./ 
Intercede to Christ our God for all who honour thee.