Thursday, December 6, 2012

St Nicholas

Forbes has a list (HERE) on the world's most powerful people. Who says that the Church has lost all her influence?

Now, today is St Nicholas's Day. St Nicholas, who is the model for Santa Claus, was a Greek born in Patara, a city in Asia Minor, in the 3rd Century. His parents died when he was young, leaving him with a large inheritance that Nicholas decided to use for the poor. His first legendary use of this money came when a man, who had lost everything, decided to place his daughters into prostitution. Nicholas threw money into the window (or down a chimney) so it could be used for a dowry. He did this three times, and was discovered on the third time by the father, who thanked him for his gratitude.

At some point he entered the minor orders, and was ordained a priest by his uncle. He was then sent to Myra, who had claimed him for their bishop. As the pastor during a persecution, he was arrested and sent to prison under Diocletian, and only released by the orders of Constantine I. Legend holds that he was in attendance at the Council of Nicaea, which was convened so that the Church could settle the dispute on the nature of the Trinity. An Alexandrian preacher named Arius had denied that the Son of God (Jesus Christ of course) existed before all time with the Father -meaning that only the Father always existed- that the Son was subservient to the Father, and that the Father created the Holy Spirit through the Son, which was then subservient to the Son. Nicaea rejected this, by issuing the Creed (presented here with the revisions from the Council of Constantinople):
I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son*,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
*This caused problems for the churches that became the Eastern Orthodox Churches who have been angry that the Latin Church especially modified the text of the Nicene Creed. 'Proceeds from the Father through the Son' is an expression of the same mystery, and it's too bad that two schisms have been caused over a misunderstood discussion of the nature of the Trinity (the other being the Monophysite schism following the Council of Chalcedon). 

Nicholas, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, might not have been at Nicaea. But, legend holds that Nicholas grew so angry at Arius' defense of his doctrine that he got up and heretic-slapped the man. His brother bishops were so angry at his display of violence, particularly since it was in front of the emperor, and after stripping his bishop's vestments, placed him in jail. That night, Christ visited him, and asked him why he punched him. Nicholas replied, "Because it was out of love for You." Christ gave him a Book of the Gospels, and the Blessed Mother restored his vestments. In the morning, the jailer found his chains loosened and Nicholas quietly reading the Scriptures, so he was let free.

His relics were originally placed in Myra, but were moved to Bari, Italy as protection from the Turks threatening the Byzantine Empire by sailors taking advantage of confusion during the fall of Myra to the Turks (though over the objection of the Orthodox monks...). Transparent pure water known as 'manna' flows from his relics in the crypt. His casket is impermeable, so there is no physical way for water to enter the crypt. Also, the manna continued to exude from his bones when they were kept in an urn (the first time at the Translation, and the second during renovations to the crypt in the 1950s).  The manna has been cited since the earliest days after the saint's death, and numerous miracles have been attached to the relic. May 9 is the Feast of the Translation (of the relics from Myra to Bari) after a solemn Mass in the presence of the papal delegate, an Orthodox bishop, civil authorities, and the faithful. The Roman Bishop and the Orthodox Bishop (separately) impart their blessings upon the water, which is distributed to the faithful to place on injured areas of the body.

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