Nicholas and his brother John enjoyed going to [[church]] and reading the [[Holy Scripture]]s and other spiritual books. As they grew, John and Nicholas decided to embrace [[monasticism]]. To aid in their search, the brothers cut up a list of Russia's monasteries from an old book. After praying to God, Nicholas was asked to pick one of the strips from the pile. The strip he selected read, "The Optina Hermitage of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, Kozelsk." Until that moment, neither of the boys had heard of this [[monastery]].
With their mother's blessing, the brothers traveled to Optina on [[February 24]], 1907 to request entry to the monastery. On [[December 9]], they were accepted into the [[skete]]. In October 1908, Nicholas was assigned as secretary to Fr. [[Barsanuphius of Optina|Barsanuphius], the Superior of the Skete, a position, that except for reading and serving in church, became his chief monastic obedience for the rest of his life. Fr. Barsanuphius foresaw that he would become an excellent [[monk]] as well as a worthy [[disciple]]. Nicholas was devoted to the Elder and followed his will in all matters. In turn, Fr. Barsanuphius gave him the benefit of his knowledge and experience. During those years before the Bolshevik Revolution, Fr. Barsanuphius foresaw times of difficulty for monasteries when Christians would be persecuted and suffer [[martyr]]dom. He predicted that he himself would be dead before this happened, and that Nicholas would endure those terrible times.
On [[May 24]], 1915, Nicholas was [[tonsure]]d into the Lesser Schema and given the new name Nikon in honor of the martyr St. Nikon. On [[April 30]], 1916, Nikon was [[ordination|ordained]] a [[deacon]], and on [[November 3]], 1917, a [[priest]], as the Bolsheviks began to gain control of the government.