This Martyr, who was from Antioch in Syria, contested during the reign of Gallienus, about the year 260. Through the working of the evil one, his friendship with a certain Christian priest named Sapricius was turned to bitter hatred. Nikiphoros, repenting of his enmity, tried both through intermediaries and in person to be reconciled with Sapricius, but to no avail. Later, when the persecution broke out under Valerian and Gallienus, Sapricius was seized as a Christian. When Saint Nikiphoros learned that Sapricius had been arrested by the pagans and was enduring torments for Christ, he sent intermediaries to Sapricius, begging his forgiveness; but Sapricius would not forgive him. Later, as Sapricius was being taken to beheading, Nikiphoros, hoping that Sapricius, at his end, in such a holy hour, would at last forgive him, met him on the way, fell before him, and fervently asked his forgiveness; but Sapricius forgave him not. Wherefore, though Sapricius had passed through many sufferings, and the crown of martyrdom was now awaiting him, because he disdained the chief commandments of love and forgiveness, the grace of God, which had been strengthening him in his torments, departed from him, and he told his executioners he would sacrifice. Nikiphoros immediately confessed Christ before them, and being himself beheaded, took the crown that Sapricius had cast away.GOARCH Website
I read the story of Nikiphoros from our beautiful book, Friends of Christ – February, to my children on his feast day, February 9th and could not even contain my deep tears. Woe is me, a prideful and arrogant sinner. Unforgiveness can enter into our hearts and fester. It robs us of our joy in Christ but even more importantly–our very salvation. So often, in our culture of “Evangelical easy believeism” we are told “just have faith… forgive yourself… you are already forgiven.” People are told that their deepest rooted problem is not forgiving themselves but the issue of forgiving others is rarely addressed. This can even the case within parishes of Holy Orthodoxy. The story of St. Nikiphoros makes clear what the Holy Scriptures tell us plainly: in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive,
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:19
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15
I am all together undone. Forgive me, a sinner.