Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! (Dec. 6th)

Though as of this posting we are only at the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas, commemorated on Dec. 6, I thought I'd do a post wishing everyone a happy feast! We attended a St. Nicholas party with two families from our parish yesterday for the kids to learn about St. Nicholas and celebrate his holy example in following Christ. And our kids will be setting out their shoes this evening, hoping for a visit from St. Nicholas with traditional gifts left inside!

Here's a brief summary of the life of St. Nicholas:
This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion, founded by his uncle.

Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).

When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: "Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me." Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God.

He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [AD 325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Jesus Himself and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas.

A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God.

Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, AD 343.
Easily my favorite part is imagining Bishop Nicholas of Myra giving the heretic Arius the proverbial back of his hand during the council of Nicaea! Somehow I don't think Old St. Nick was too "jolly" right then.

Part of the origin of "Santa Claus" is the fact that Nicholas secretly gave money and other items to families in need by dropping them through chimneys or through the windows of homes.

For more information on St. Nicholas, definitely go to this site. It's one of the best web sites I've ever seen on any topic; extremely well done.

And check this out. A feature film is coming Christmas 2008.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

St. Nicholas of Myra, preventing the falsely accused from being executed, by Ilya Repin, 1889.

1 comment:

Molly Koop said...

What a delight it was to enjoy this feast day with our children. Last night for family prayer each member of the family set a pair of his or her shoes in the middle of the living room. We circled around the shoes and each person took two shoes belonging to other family members. Then the person returned a shoe to its rightful owner and said, "(Name) May God bless you with a kind and loving heart, just like St Nicholas." It was just precious to see the children bless each other in this way. Then they placed their shoes under our tiny lit tree and went to bed. When they awoke, their shoes were filled with oranges, chocolate coins, candy canes, and personalized Christmas ornaments (Clara-Flip-Flops, Aidan-Football, Eleanor-Sparkly Shoe, Max-Teddy Bear). Max even got a new package of passies (he puts one in his mouth and then takes it out and looks at it like "what is this thing?" as the new ones are the big boy size) and a jar of sweet potatoes! They also received the "Christmas Cat Chat" CD--we've listened several times today! Soon after they discovered their gifts, we asked for the intercession of today's patron and the kids dug into their treats--that's part of the fun, right? Nothing makes my day like a toddler covered in candy cane drool before 8am.
I have to quickly mention a story that I often remember on today's feast. My sister, Beth, was home from college a few years back and had brought her roommate, Julie, along with her for the overnight. The next morning, Julie could not find her shoes anywhere. She searched the house and soon called to Beth confused, "I found my shoes, but what is THIS?!" Beth looked at the shoes and started laughing. She had forgotten that it was the Feast of St. Nicholas and Julie had never heard of the traditions of St. Nick. Their shoes were filled with treats. It was a wonderful opportunity for someone to share in the traditions of our family. May God bless you on this joyous feast day. St. Nicholas, patron of children, pray for us.