SAINTS BOOK – ORTHODOXY
Saint Simeon the Niger,
from the 70 Apostles of Jesus Christ (+1st ce.)
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The sacred Icon of Saint Simeon the Niger
has been dedicated to the Holy Metropolis of Nigeria
Saint Simeon the Niger is mentioned in chapter 13 verse 1 of The Acts of the Apostles, as one of the prophets of Antioch, by whom the Apostles Paul and Barnabas had been ordained for their first missionary itinerary. The descriptive “Niger” of his name is indicative that he originated from Africa and, perhaps, from the land of Niger. Also mentioned among the prophets of the Church of Antioch is Lucius the Cyrenaean, who it appears, was also of African origin, from the area of Cyrene in Libya [like st Simon the Cyrenaean].
Saint Simeon the Niger has been allocated by Saint Epiphanius of Salamis (PG 41, 1232) to the Holy Seventy Apostles. This signifies that it is proper that he also be commemorated on the feast day of their Synaxis, on the 4th of January.
Thus, in 2018 the Pan-Cretan Union of Theologians dedicated an Icon of Saint Simeon the Niger to the Holy Metropolis of Nigeria. The icon was the work of art of a young hagiographer, Peter Constantakis, a 3rd year High School student at the time, currently studying at the University of Crete. The inscription on the Icon was alsoo rendered in the Igbo language, with the help of the Orthodox Nigerian Priest, Fr. Cornelius, a student in Athens.
The Saint has been portrayed with the attire of a Bishop, because along with the other holy prophets of Antioch, he had ordained the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, which means that he had to have the rank of Bishop to perform ordinations. Besides, it is a known fact that – according to the ecclesiastic historians, as drawn from the ancient sources (for example, the “Didache” of the Apostles), the proto-Christian order of “Prophets” is the precursor to the order of Bishops. Just as the early Saints Titus and Timothy are depicted in icons wearing the “omophorion” – the liturgical stole worn around the shoulders to denote a bishop – even though it was not worn during their time, likewise Saint Simeon has been depicted wearing a bishop’s omophorion. His temporal placing in the proto-Christian era is denoted by the Christian ΙΧΘΥΣ (fish) symbol appearing on his omophorion.
In the letter to the Orthodox Church of Nigeria the Union of Theologians made the following dedication:
“With love, and the sentiment of humility in the presence of the Orthodox Mission, especially in areas that are in serious trouble and dangerous – such as the ones that the Holy Metropolis of Nigeria ministers to – we would like to present this Icon as a very small contribution to your in-Christ labours. We pray to our Most Benevolent God that the honouring of Saint Simeon the Niger will move our Orthodox Christian brethren of Nigeria, of Niger, of Togo and of Benin, who will hopefully find in him a familiar Christian role model, and one more patron Saint, along with the others, of their homelands.”
Translated by A.N.