St. Nikephoros the Leper
St. Nikephroros and the Coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2 and COVID-19)
(Taken from an ukaz from Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco, ROCOR):
It has been reported that, “the newly-glorified Saint Nikephoros the Leper has appeared in Greece to a pious Orthodox serviceman and assured him that he will intercede for all who ask his prayers to be protected and healed from the Coronavirus.”
Troparion, Tone 1:
“All the angels were awestruck by the courage and fortitude of Saint Nikephoros the Leper, in ascetic deeds and contests, for like another Job he suffered pain, with patience, ever-glorifying God, who has crowned him now with glory, granting him grace to work great, wondrous miracles. Rejoice, O guide of monastics and their aid, Rejoice O shining beacon of light, Rejoice for thy relics now exude a fragrance bringing joy to all.”
Kontakion, Tone 8:
“The valiant athlete of endurance and fortitude, the steadfast diamond of great patience and long-suffering, was tried by the affliction and pains of illness, and who in this way did glorify the Most High God, let us praise and laud the leper Nikephoros, saying unto him: Rejoice, true namesake of victory.”
(Taken from Orthodox Wiki)
Father Nicephorus was born Nicholas Tzanakakis in 1890 in a village of Serikari of Chania, Crete. His parents, who were simple and pious villagers, died while he was a small child, leaving him an orphan, under the care of his grandfather. When he was thirteen he moved to Chania and began to work in a barbershop. Soon after he began to show signs of Hansen’s disease (i.e. leprosy). When he was sixteen years old his disease became more visible. As leprosy was a transmissible disease that was treated with fear, Nicholas fled to Egypt to escape an exile to Spinaloga, an island leper colony. The disease continued to advance as he worked in a barbershop in Alexandria, Egypt. At the suggestion of a cleric who told him of Lovokomeio, the home for lepers on the island of Chios, Nicholas fled again.
In 1914 at the age of 24, Nicholas arrived at the home for lepers in Chios that was administered by the priest Anthimus Vagianos, later remembered as St. Anthimus of Chios. The chapel of St. Lazarus at the leper home, with its wonder-working icon of the Panagia of Ypakoe (Obedience), provided an atmosphere that opened for Nicholas his spirituality and faith. Within two years Fr. Anthimus saw that Nicholas was ready for the schema and tonsured him a monk with the name Nicephorus (Νικηφóρος).
His illness continued, as it would be until 1947 before a treatment is found for stopping leprosy. Yet, Nicephorus continued his obedience, fasting and working in the gardens, as a unique spiritual relationship grew between the monk Nikephorus and his mentor Fr, Anthimus. From this he compiled a catalogue of the miracles of St. Anthimus that he had seen with his own eyes. Nicephorus would pray for hours at night, performing countless prostrations, yet not offering a word to anyone nor spoiling his heart on anyone. He became the head chanter of the church. However, as he slowly lost his eyesight because of his illness, most of the hymns were chanted by others.
In 1957, Lovokomeio was closed and Nicephorus, along with the remaining patients, was moved to the Anti-Leper Station of St. Barbara in Aigaleo, west of Athens. At that time Nicephorus was about 67 years old, and his body and eyes had been totally transformed by his illness. At the Anti-Leper station lived a priest, Fr. Eumenius, who had been cured of the disease through the recent medical advances and decided to remain in the station near his fellow patients. Fr. Eumenius soon became a spiritual child of the monk Nicephorus, to whom as a reward for his patience, the Lord had granted many gifts.
Many people began to visit the leper monk Nicephorus, to receive his blessing. Confined to his bed, racked with pains and barely able to see, he would call on his visitors saying, “My children, do you pray? And how do you pray? …with the prayer of Jesus you should pray, with the “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. Thus you should pray.”
On January 4, 1964, Fr. Nicephorus reposed in the Lord, at the age of 74. His holy relics were fragrant when they were later uncovered.