St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

3 / 16 February

Saint Nicholas of Japan

In the world Ivan Dmitryevich Kasatkin, Saint Nicholas was born on 1 August 1836 in Smolensk province, the son of a deacon. His mother died when he was very young. Ivan Dmitryevich was always very serious in church. He attended the Smolensk Theological Seminary where he excelled in his studies, particularly in languages. As he approached the end of his studies he offered fervent prayer to God seeking to know what path his life should take. At that time the priest serving the Russian Consulate in Hakodate, Japan, took ill and was forced to return to Russia. A notice was posted at the Academy seeking candidates for the position. Filled with a strong desire to preach the Gospel to those who had not heard it, Ivan asked to be sent to Japan. His superiors were hesitant to send the talented Ivan to the Consulate position feeling that it would be a waste of his skills, but Ivan convinced them that he would not simply carry out his duties at the Consulate but would devote much time to missionary work. Thus was tonsured with the name Nicholas in 1860, ordained, and left for Japan. What labours awaited the saint in Japan! Eight long years he studied the Japanese language, literature, history, customs, philosophy. He laboured at translating the Gospel into Japanese, the services, the catechism, and only after eight years did he acquire his first disciple, a pagan priest who at first wanted to kill him. Facing his assailant, Father Nicholas asked the priest - a man named Sawabe - if he was acquainted with Christian doctrine. Mr Sawabe replied that he was not, but that he knew the doctrines to be evil. Father Nicholas questioned him again: "How can you be sure of that? Before making such an assertion, ought you not to examine my religion to see whether or not it is so hateful as you suppose?" Mr Sawabe agreed, and Father Nicholas began to explain the tenets of the Christian faith. Mr Sawabe became interested, took notes, and asked if he could return for daily instruction. He was later baptised with the name Paul. Then there began the struggle for each Japanese soul, amidst constant danger of being killed by pagan fanatics. There was joy over the first small Japanese Orthodox community, then joy over the first Japanese priest, then the construction of the cathedral, the school for catechists, and finally - recognition as a diocese, in essence, a local church. It was in fact Paul Sawabe who became the first Japanese priest, ordained in 1875. In 1878 five more priests were ordained to minister to the Japanese flock which by then numbered about 4,000. Then, in 1880, Father Nicholas was summoned to Russia and on March 30 he was consecrated bishop in the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. On his return to Japan Bishop Nicholas began to devote even more time to liturgical translations. He considered the holding of the divine services in Japanese as one of the conditions for the successful spreading of Orthodoxy since the entire majesty, wealth and depth of Christian thought was contained in the Orthodox divine services and had to be revealed to the members of the Japanese Church. To this end he faithfully spent four hours a night over the last thirty years of his life. Bishop Nicholas reposed on February 3, 1912. His funeral was the largest ever of a foreigner to be held in Tokyo. By the time of his repose, there were 35,000 native believers, 32 priests, 7 deacons, 15 choir directors, 121 lay preachers, a cathedral, 96 churches, and 265 chapels. To think that there had been no native believers when the young Father Nicholas arrived in Japan in 1860! There are no accounts of miracles attributed to Saint Nicholas. His "miracle" is evident in his efforts as a modern apostle who brought Orthodoxy to Japan and established a Church which continues to prosper to this day with some 30,000 Japanese Orthodox faithful, over forty parishes, and between two to three hundred converts made every year. For these labours in May 1993 the Synod of Bishops of the ROCA resolved to recognise Archbishop Nicholas as a saint, along with Metropolitan Innocent of Moscow and Archbishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco. The service of glorification of Saints Innocent and Nicholas took place on 17/30 January 1994; at Chester, St. Werburga , virgin; in Cornwall, St. Ia (Ives), virgin and martyr; in Ireland, St. Caellainn, virgin; St., Werburga of Mercia, widow, abbess (ca700).

On the same day: St. Colman MacDuach, bishop of Connaught; St. Laurence of Canterbury, bishop (619)

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