Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop, Confessor

Today is the feast day of
St. Nicholas (+343), a holy 4th century bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia of Asia Minor (yes, he's the chap from whom our modern Santa Claus is loosely descended).

The saint is renowned for his many miracles, for having endured imprisonment and torture for the Faith, and for steadfastly resisting the errors of Arianism and paganism. He is the patron of sailors, merchants, bakers, travelers, and children; he is also especially popular in Russia.

One pious tale of the saint is that he used his inherited wealth to aid an impoverished family. Butler renders the account thus:

A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness, threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and the third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognized the benefactor, and overwhelmed him with his gratitude.

The story may well be apocryphal, yet one can see how such an episode could give rise to the old fellow of our time who pops down chimneys to leave gifts for children.

The remains of our St. Nicholas were transferred to Bari in southeast Italy some time after Myra was conquered by Muslims. Since the saint's death on this day 17 centuries ago, his remains have continuously produced a transparent liquid endowed with miraculous properties. Called the "manna of St. Nicholas," the liquid continues to flow from his tombs (both the tomb in Myra and the tomb in Bari), and is made available to the pious faithful throughout the world.


Kindred Spirit said...

Very nice post, Sean: thank you. I didn't know until I read this today: that good Saint Nicholas had given Arius a good hard knock in the head. Too bad it didn't jog his memory for the truth...

Sean said...

I'd heard that "lump of coal for Arius" story too. Good stuff.