Posted by: Fr Chris | December 5, 2022

Saint Nicholas – December 6

He is on every iconostas, always on the north side. He has been given the title of “Wonder-Worker” because of the many miracles performed during his lifetime and after his death through his intercession, miracles that God wrought in answer to his prayers because of the life he led. Nicholas was leading a life of constant conversion, a life rooted in Jesus Christ. The town of Myra had many bishops until the Turks drove out the last of the Christians in 1923, but in 1,800 years of Christianity it is this one bishop who became the model for all bishops, who left such a profound imprint on his parishioners then and on Christians around the world today. In the Divine Office, the canon in the matins for tomorrow morning starts with the proclamation of Christ’s birth, because Nicholas is considered to be so  Christ-like. How did he show this?

He is the saint of charity, giving to others and doing for others in the Name of Jesus. He is the saint of justice, having saved those wrongly accused of crimes and exposing the corruption of government officials. He himself was imprisoned under the emperor Diocletian during the last big persecution in the Roman Empire, so he was a confessor of the faith.

Sailing in the ancient world was hazardous – as we see in the Acts of the Apostles when Paul had to sail to Rome, to go across the open sea was a frightening prospect, and there was no guarantee that a ship would arrive at its destination. As the bishop of the port of Myra, he would go down to the harbor to bless the ships and prayed in the church for those who were at sea. To this day he remains the patron saint of sailors and travelers, and his icons travel on the navy ships of majority-Orthodox countries like Greece.

Nicholas spent his inheritance helping orphans and abandoned children, building hospitals and schools, and giving relief to the poor. He’s famous for coming to the aid of three poor daughters who could not afford a dowry and so could not  get married. Icons show him tossing  three bags of gold through the window, landing in the stockings that were hanging up by the fire to dry. To this day, unmarried Italian women go to the shrine in Bari and put three coins into the collection box to ask his intercession in finding a husband.

A popular legend says that at the council of Nicaea, he was so scandalized about the heresy of Arius, which denies that Jesus is fully God as well as fully Man, that he got up and slapped Arius. The bishops then deposed him, saying he was out of control and offended those who favored Arius, including the imperial government. But that night, they all had the same dream, where Jesus and Mary restored the symbols of the bishop’s office, the Gospel book and the omophorion, to him. So in the morning they all contritely returned to him, and restored him to his rightful office. Unfortunately, we have the record of who attended that council, and Nicholas wasn’t there, and neither was Arius. But the point of the story is that Nicholas was solidly orthodox in faith, and having suffered for the Christian faith in Jesus Christ, he would not give in to the pressures of the government and the opinions of popular churchmen. Instead he held firm to the faith.

So, what does this enormously popular saint have to say to us?

1) he was honored in his lifetime not for spending money, but for giving of himself to others in the name of Christ

2) he was known for his holiness, for the time he spent in prayer and also the time he gave to others

3) he led a life that was simple, keeping the fasting seasons, not looking to build up his own wealth or power

4) he took risks so as to help others stay strong in faith, and he was willing to stand up for what he knew was right.

All of these are qualities that you and I can and should emulate. May Saint Nicholas intercede for us individually, our parish, and the Byzantine Catholic Church, so that we will reflect Jesus Christ accurately and well to those around us. And may we have the courage, like him, to stand firm for the faith and its truths.

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