St. Niphon Bishop of Constantia icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Niphon of Constantia.
Commemorated December 23.
Saint Niphon, Bishop of Cyprus was born in Paphlagonia, and was educated at Constantinople. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services, but in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fall; but believing that he was lost and could not receive forgiveness, he resumed his impious life.
He once met a friend who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. When Niphon asked why he was staring, the friend replied, “I have never seen your face like this before. It is black, like that of an Ethiopian.” These words showed to Niphon his fallen state, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.
After an intense and long prayer he saw that the face of the Mother of God on the holy icon was radiantly bright with a smile. From that time Niphon prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after tears and prayers, She mercifully turned toward him again.
Finally, Niphon completely turned his life around and began to spend his time in prayer and repentance. After an illness, from which he received healing from the Mother of God, he received the Holy Mysteries, and then accepted monastic tonsure and intensified his efforts, exhausting his body in the struggle against the passions.
This struggle lasted for many years, and devils often attacked St Niphon, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and alsoto see the departure of the soul after death. Already advanced in age, and arriving at Alexandria, he was pointed out to the Patriarch in a vision as one worthy to assume the office of bishop. They made him bishop of the city of Constantia on the island of Cyprus. However, he did not remain there for long. St Niphon knew the time of his death three days beforehand. St Athanasius the Great visited him before his blessed repose. On his deathbed the saint was granted to see angels and the All-Pure Mother of God.