February 9th is the day of celebration of the name-day of Saint Nikiforos the Martyr. The life of my Patron Saint is a source of inspiration for every Christian. Saint Nikiforos was faithful, pious, and loving. He followed the teachings of the Gospel. There was a priest, whose name was Saprikios, who had a controversy with Saint Nikiforos. Saprikios could never forgive Nikiforos. Although, being a priest, he should be an example of forgiveness, his heart was hardened by egoism. Nikiforos was trying to ask mediators to bridge their differences. He also personally begged for the forgiveness of Saprikios, without a result.
Christians were persecuted during that century very severely. The authorities found out that Saprikios was one of the Christian priests and ordered his execution. Nikiforos heard about the potential martyrdom of Saprikios, which would take place in public. He rushed to ask for his forgiveness once again. “You will be a Saint soon” he cried, “please, forgive me and give me your blessing.” However, Saprikios could not forgive Nikiforos, not even at that sacred hour. His heart was hardened and his faith was weakened. He saw the sword of the executor and he asked to be let free. He renounced Christ and his priesthood…
Nikiforos was sad to see that a Saint could be made on that day, but did not. He wanted to receive the forgiveness of Saprikios and he gave him the example of perseverance and strength. He confessed that he was a Christian in public. “Today, there is a crown of martyrdom expecting to decorate a person who believes in Christ” he announced. His execution took place immediately after Nikiforos forgave the authorities and the soldiers who carried out the penalty. His memory is celebrated on February 9th, the day of his martyrdom. For centuries, his example inspires us to forgive others, to have a strong faith and to live a life according to the teachings of the Bible. Nothing should overwhelm a Christian who lives a Christ-like life.
All of us have been hurt by people, one time or another. Some of us more, some less… Nevertheless, we extend our love and forgiveness to all, because we also ask our redemption from God, for our many shortcomings. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” A hard and unforgiving heart is like an open wound that allows spiritual diseases to enter our life; egoism, arrogance, hatred and thinking that we are better than others are the outcome of lack of forgiveness. The Lord forgave his executors on the Cross. The Saints followed that example to also teach us the virtue of forgiving.
Economos Nikiforos Fakinos