Science of the Saints, 23 March, The Holy Venerable-Martyr Nicon and his Students martyred with him

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The Monk Martyr Nicon was born at Neapolis (Naples). His father was a pagan, and his mother a Christian. Having reached maturity, Nicon remained a pagan. He served as a soldier and showed unusual courage and strength.

One time, Nicon with his military company was surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the Christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the sign of the cross, he prayed to God, vowing in the event of being saved to be baptised. He managed to escape inescapable death and, having returned home, with the blessing of his mother he set off in search of a priest, which in this time of persecution was no easy thing to do.

Saint Nicon reached the island of Chios on a ship. He went up on an high mountain there and spent eight days in fasting and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him. In a dream vision an Angel of God appeared to Saint Nicon, showing him the way. Saint Nicon set off to Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosios the bishop of Kyzikos. Saint Nicon received from the bishop both the mystery of Baptism and the Angelic form (ie. monasticism).

Having settled at the cave-church, Saint Nicon became an exemplar for all the brethren. When the monk Nicon had dwelt on the mountain for three years, it was revealed to the bishop by an Angel that he should ordain the monk Nicon to the dignity of bishop, and should order him to re-settle with all the monks to the province of Sicily. Bishop Theodosios fulfilled this and, having entrusted the 190 monks to Saint Nicon, he died.

Having buried bishop Theodosios, Saint Nicon sailed off with the brethren to Sicily, thereby being saved from approaching barbarians. But through Divine Providence, Sainted Nicon came to his native city of Naples. He found his mother there among the living, and he remained together with her for the final day of her life. His mother, seeing him, collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a prostration to the ground, she said: “I do give thanks to Thy Most Holy Name, O Lord, in that Thou hast granted me to behold my son in Angelic form and in bishop’s dignity; and now, my Lord, my Lord hear me Thy servant, and accept my soul into Thine hand.” Having made this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.

Rumours about the arrival of Saint Nicon spread through the city, and ten soldiers – his former companions – came to see him. After conversing with the saint they believed and were baptised, and proceeded with him to Sicily. Having arrived on the island, Saint Nicon settled together with the monks in a desolate area, called Gigia, not far from the river Asinum.

Many years passed, and again there began a persecution against Christians. The governor of Sicily, Quintilian, was informed that bishop Nicon lived with many monks not far away. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left Sainted Nicon among the living, so as to give him over to torture. They burned him with fire, but he remained unharmed; they tied him by the legs to wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the saint’s tongue, beat him with stones, and finally they beheaded him. The body of the hieromartyr Nicon was thrown to be devoured by wild beasts and birds. A certain shepherd, possessed of by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the saint, he immediately fell on his face to the ground because of the unclean spirit – having been vanquished by the power of the saint – had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: “Woe is me, woe is me, whither might I flee, from the face of Nicon?”

The healed shepherd told about this to the neighbouring people. The bishop of the city of Messina learned also about this, and together with his clergy he buried the bodies of the hieromartyr Nicon and his disciples.

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