In Sacred Scripture, one notices certain themes are present throughout, particularly in the Old Testament. One of these themes concerns miraculous acts, which are contrary to nature. One need look no further than the beautiful events in Exodus concerning the Burning Bush – aflame yet not consumed; the Parting of the Red Sea and Israelites passed through dry shod; and in the book of Joshua the striking miracle of the sun standing still.
So how is it that may be surprised or unbelieving of the miracles of the Saints? In the Acts of the Apostles, healings were bestowed at times by the laying on of hands, through a word, through blessed aprons, or even through the casting of the shadow of the Apostles. This past week we celebrated the memory of a Saint who should be included in this very discussion as our Lord was glorified in the miracles wrought by His servant, Saint Nicholas, the Wonder-worker.
As the Lord fed His people in the desert with Mana, so are we fed spiritually with the outpouring of the myrrh from the relics of the Saints. To this very day, the relics of Saint Nicholas still pour fourth myrrh, which has come to be known as Mana. Countless are the cures, miracles, and help given to the faithful by this power-house of Holiness! So beloved, so magnified is Saint Nicholas that there is scarcely an Orthodox family that does not have a child named after this beloved Saint. Even the name of the Saint testifies to his greatness for Nicholas is translated as “victor of the people”. To all those in need or in unfortunate circumstances who have received blessings from the Saint, Saint Nicholas has been a true victor.
Concerning the myrrh
Translated from the Italian by Fr. Winston Fernandez-Cabading, OP
—from the Centro Studi Nicolaiani di Bari
“The manna also exuded in the tomb of the Basilica of Myra immediately after the death of Saint Nicholas, as attested to by numerous biographies and eulogies, all are in accord of the exemplary virtue of the miracle worker. The Legends of the translation likewise affirm that the urn containing the remains of Saint Nicholas of Myra was full of Mana. After the translation to Bari the phenomenon continued uninterruptedly. It is also fully proven that the pilgrims coming to Bari, are attracted to the tomb of the Saint in view of the fact that the Mana is famous because of the miracles St. Nicholas accomplishes through it.
Between 1954 and 1957, the authenticity that this liquid truly came from the bones of the Saint, as was commonly held, was put into question. In 1954, because of the renovation being done in the crypt, the tomb was opened and the bones were exhumed. Then they were placed inside an urn, where it remained exposed to the public to see and venerate for three years in the hall of the treasures (of the Saint in the Basilica). Sometimes it was observed that the bones perspired a certain kind of fluid; one time the linen sheet which held the relics was found to be soaking wet when the mortal remains of St. Nicholas were re-interred in the tomb. This linen cloth has been preserved up to this day.
From 1980 onwards the manna is formally extracted every May 9, the Feast of the Translation (of the relics from Myra to Bari), by the Rector of the Basilica, in the presence of the delegate of the Pope, the Archbishop of Bari, an Orthodox Bishop, Civil Authorities, the Clergy and Faithful, after the solemn celebration of the Eucharist. The Bishop gives the blessing and after him the Orthodox Bishop too, to the excited assembly of the faithful, with the crystal vial containing the freshly extracted precious liquid, artistically handpainted and is called ‘glass of St. Nicholas.’ ”
So when we encounter things in Scripture or in the lives of the Saints, which sound embellished or even unbelievable, let us not be troubled. In our deep love for our Lord, Who created nature and is above all nature, we ascribe all glory and offer praise, honor, and worship for truly Wondrous is God in His Saints! For Him Who brought all things into being from nothing, overcoming the rules of nature is easy.
“Though you can’t get blood from a stone, you can get myrrh from old bones”.