The Life and Work of St. Nicholas of Japan

The Life and Work of St. Nicholas of Japan

[Music] [Applause] it is in the depths of the heart that one decides who to become seeds of hope and love for fear and hatred often find their way into the soil of a person’s heart and quickens their gait toward either a vision of unending light or toward a deceptively poisonous darkness a young seminarian with a pure and fertile heart sat in a classroom in Smolensk Seminary in 1853 and listened to stories about the gospel of Christ being preached in far-off China these accounts inspired within him a dazzling vision of his own future as a missionary an entrance into the luminous darkness of the unknown the unanticipated the uncomfortable an Abrahamic journey that would take him 6,000 miles eastward to Japan born Eve on dmitriyevitch cos at Caen in 1836 in a village near Smolensk Russia the future Nicholas st. and enlightener of Japan showed much promise as a young seminarian and upon completion of his studies in Smolensk he earned a scholarship to the st. Petersburg theological Academy he excelled there too and earned the respect of the authorities of the Academy who thereafter encouraged him to pursue a life of scholarship and teaching but to the rector’s dismay instead of heeding this advice Evon chose to follow his heart’s deepest yearning after he saw a posting for a replacement priest at the Russian consulate in Japan I have a strong resolution in my heart to preach Christianity and enlighten the foreign people they’ve on the marked going to Japan is the best chance to accomplish my desire Yvonne took the name Nicholas or Nikolai in Russian upon being tortured a monk on June 22nd 1860 and was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood within the same year while tonsuring him bishop nicht re encouraged him in his missionary calling it is not in a monastery that you will spend your devotional life but having left your homeland you will have to serve our Lord in a far-off and Pagan land you must take the cross of a zealot the staff of a pilgrim you are called not only to be a monk but to be an apostle as well the bishops words were prophetic as father Nikolai’s calling would not be limited to the parochial duties of a diplomatic chaplain but rather would overflow far beyond the monastery and consulate and into the hearts and minds of the Japanese people father Nikolai traveled 6,000 miles by horse and carriage crossing the Urals eastward through Siberia to acquits before crossing the Baikal Lake by ferry where he was forced to winter in Nikolai asked his delay seemed to be the work of Providence as it brought him face to face with one of the Orthodox churches most renowned missionaries st. innocent of alaska who was also constrained in his travel by the poor weather conditions in st. innocent father Nikolai found a kindred spirit whose heart also burned with a desire to spread the gospel beyond the horizon of his familiar homeland st. innocent encouraged father Nikolai and gave him advice from his 40 years of missionary experience his first task said st. innocent was to learn the language of the people st. innocent also warned father Nikolai the importance of enduring through the darkness of loneliness and despair that often accompanies missionaries he also outfitted him with a new clerical cassock and cross in order to gain the respect and trust of the Japanese people arriving to Jaco that day like a frail and naked seed on a sun-scorched summer day in 1861 st. Nicholas faced the fierce xenophobia of the Tokugawa Shogunate the last feudal military government in Japan that saw any foreign missionary presence as a threat to its sovereignty and ancient heritage father Nikolai attempted to take his mentor’s advice in cultivating the soil of his missionary field by learning the language of the people but he found it nearly impossible to learn Japanese and converse with the local people and soon he teetered on the brink of abandoning his calling he even began reverting back to his academic interests but just as an unexpected shower of rain brings renewed hope of harvest to an arid land so too did father Nikolai’s second providential encounter with st. innocent of alaska the Blessed hierarch was reroute through Japan enroute to Kamchatka and thus had the opportunity to see his beloved protege and breathe new life into his efforts through this meeting father Nikolai received a renewed vigor and zeal launching him into seven years of intense study of the language culture religion and customs of the Japanese people father Nikolai even sat at the feet of the teachers of Confucianism Xin Poisson and Buddhism and listened to the sermons of Buddhist preachers and storytellers in his attempt to make the unknown familiar after years of cultivation with seemingly no fruit in sight father Nikolai one day was visited at the consulate by what seemed to be a harbinger of pestilence and drought to the work that had been done but was in fact the first fruits of his arduous labors a samurai Shinto priest and an aggressively xenophobic and hostile nationalist Suwabe Takuma who frequented the consulate in order to give fencing lessons to an officer confronted father Nikolai about his intentions in Japan after a tense exchange Suwabe was struck by the humble priests calm demeanor and reasonable responses to his accusations and questions slowly he began to open up to the missionary and visited him more often eventually this man who might very well have come to kill the priest became his first convert to the faith and was ordained as an Orthodox priest Suwabe given the baptismal name Paul risked his life numerous times to bring others to the faith because missionary activities were banned by the government and converts could be executed the growth of the Orthodox Church simultaneously brought a period of persecution but nikolai saw this as a further catalyst to the flourishing of the church in japan these persecutions have served he reflected with the help of God’s grace to make it so that those who had the faith only in their mind now had it in their heart the enemies of Christ did not have the satisfaction of hearing even from women or children a single word of weakness or fear in professing Christ Japan continued to persecute Christians until 1873 when it finally overturned it xenophobic edicts and opened its doors to the outside world throughout his missionary career father Nikolai focused on the formation of the local leadership of the church and on translating a scriptural liturgical and theological texts into Japanese by 1878 more than 4100 believers had joined the church largely through the instruction and catechesis of indigenous leaders father Nikolai requested that a bishop be sent from Russia after being summoned back to the homeland by the Synod he was consecrated bishop on March 30th 1880 in response to his own entreaty the fruit from the flowering tree of Orthodoxy in Japan which began as a small seed of Hope sown in the heart of a young idealistic seminarian at Smolensk seminary almost fifty years earlier was now ripe for harvest yet the laborers were still few if the number of preachers here correspond to the mission spiritual needs nicolas remarked in a letter to a friend there would be Orthodox Christians in all the cities and villages of the provinces of Japan all of Japan is ready to adopt Christianity and only men are needed to gather the harvest in the field of God the missionaries plea for assistance to the Holy Synod of Russia fell on deaf ears as the russo-japanese war broke out on February 10th 1909 despite limited resources father Nikolai is remembered as a model Orthodox missionary for fully immersing himself in the culture of the people he wanted to convert and by allowing them to assist him in sharing the faith with others within 50 years after his first arrival the Church of Japan numbered 266 communities with over 33,000 Orthodox Christians one Archbishop one Bishop 35 priests six deacons 14 teachers of singing and 116 catechists father Nikolai reposed in peace On February 3rd 1912 and is still remembered fondly by the Japanese people to this day the holy resurrection cathedral built by Saint Nicholas elf in the ancient Byzantine style stands perched on a hill overlooking the city of Tokyo like a tree providing shade and nourishment to those around it passers-by are reminded that Nick Coronel or a Nikolai’s house as the locals call it is awaiting them with open arms may a seed from this tree of Christ’s universal love fall into our hearts and through the prayers of our Father among the saints Nicolae enlightener of Japan may we to cultivate a desire to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone who has ears to hear [Music] [Music]

24 Replies to “The Life and Work of St. Nicholas of Japan”

  1. What a beautiful story! The story of christianity in Japan isn't often discussed, so this is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about it.

  2. According to Orthodox Wiki pages, Nestorians sowed seeds of Christianity in East Asia through an intentional Chinese mistranslation of the Buddha’s Indian works into a more Christ-like role model. This mistranslation influenced Japan as well. Nestorian Christian monks brought idea that fasting has spiritual powers. Greek influence in Indian art had already put halos on the Buddha and Lord Krishna. Do your own research.

  3. Beautifully done!! Amen!!

    When I was a young man, long before my conversion to Orthodoxy, I studied Yagyu Shinkage Ryu swordsmanship with a family of descendants of Kato Kiyomasa.

    I learned about Buddhism and the 'Tengu', or the warrior demons (angelic beings) who according to ancient scrolls taught men the art of the sword, and war craft, and of the brutal Seppuku (a.k.a hara Kiri) by which men would commit suicide to save their honor, and under obediance to a feudal Lord's command.

    Of course at the time I considered the Tengu mythology, and could never rectify the practice of institutional suicide.

    Decades later in my life, long after my conversion to Orthodoxy, I was reading the biography on St. Paisios the Elder by Hieromonk Issac, and I came to a story called, 'Young George from the Far East" (pages 212-215), where the Elder meets a young man (George) who came to Mt. Athos to find him. Young George has astonishing magical abilities that fail in the presence of the cross, and demons reveal themselves to be the source of the magic (I encourage everyone to read the story AND the footnotes). George repents, and stays on Mt. Athos.

    What is incredible is that this story of Elder Paisios connects the Tengu, the nearly 2 millennia of Japanese civil war, the samurai and their innumerable suicides, and the religious persecution of Orthodoxy.

    It is incredible to think that St. Nicholas made any headway in Japan considering the dark spiritual forces that were st work to keep an entire nation under it's figurative and literal spell for so long.

    Clearly this great priest had missionary zeal implanted in his spirit by God himself to want to go and bring the Gospel to such a barbaric civilization.

    St. Nicholas of Japan, pray for us!!

  4. Beautiful Story!
    I'm in agreement with Herman, Christianity in Japan is, most often, shoved under the rug. we don't always hear about it. St. Nicholas of Japan, please pray for us!

  5. Bedouin Arab orthodox Christian fan of yours for a long time! Thank you so much you made me learn so much about orthodocy

  6. Just went to Ascension Vespers. Saint Nickolas of Japan was mentioned. I appreciated this information on his background. Thanks for this great channel.

  7. Great video! Can you make film about st Mark of Ephesus in the future? It's one of the most important Defenders of Orthodoxy. Greetings from Poland 🇵🇱

  8. Saint Nicholas, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Archbishop of Japan, born Ivan Dimitrovich Kasatkin (Russian: Иван Дмитриевич Касаткин; August 13 [O.S. August 1] 1836 – February 16, 1912) was a Russian Orthodox priest, monk, and bishop.

    He introduced the Eastern Orthodox Church to Japan.

    The Orthodox cathedral of Tokyo (metropolitan diocese of Japan), Tokyo Resurrection Cathedral, was informally named after him as Nikorai-do, first by the local community, and today nationwide, in remembrance of his work.

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