Readings & Reflections: Wednesday of the First Week of Advent & St. Nicholas, December 6,2017

Readings & Reflections: Wednesday of the First Week of Advent & St. Nicholas, December 6,2017

Today Jesus goes up the mountain. Isaiah prophesied that on a mountain the Lord would wipe away tears, remove people’s reproach, destroy death, and provide for all a feast. We unite ourselves with the lame, the blind, the deformed, and the mute gathered together with Jesus and we pray the primordial Advent prayer: “This is the Lord for whom we looked!”

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

Lord, you alone can satisfy the longing and hunger in our hearts. May I thirst for your kingdom and find joy in your presence. Give me the true bread of heaven and nourish me with your life-giving word.” Amen.

Reading 1
Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel
Mt 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.”
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?”
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – They all ate and were satisfied

In today’s gospel, we all see a great crowd follow Jesus. He healed the lame, the blind, the mute, and the maimed. Jesus did not only restore them and made them whole but He taught them and fed them His Word. After three days of being with Jesus the great multitude ran out of food. At this instance, Jesus sealed His compassion and love for those who sought Him by making sure that they were not only healed and made whole but that they all go home filled, not hungry and physically strong.

This brings us to what we can expect from our Lord Jesus when we seek Him in our lives, when we ask for His healing mercies and when we faithfully follow Him despite obstacles and trials that may come our way. Just as He ministered to everyone who faithfully followed Him for three days, He too assures all those who seek Him in faith and persevere in maintaining a close fellowship with Him that they will never be found wanting, for they will all be healed, restored and made full with His Word and His mercies which know no bounds and limits.

Meanwhile, as Jesus sought to feed the great multitude with what was on hand, He instructed His disciples to organize the momentous meal no one will ever forget. For out of seven loaves of bread and a few fish, Jesus and His group fed and satisfied the big crowd of 4,000 men excluding women and children, with enough leftovers to gather.

In this gospel scenario, we see Jesus do His thing amidst a faithful crowd in the same way that we see His disciples pursue an impossible task with full faith and obedience to the Lord.  They did as instructed. They gathered and organized the crowd, unmindful of the fact that their resources were insufficient to satisfy the people.  They allowed Jesus to prevail and work out the finer details of how to feed such a big group.

Today, Jesus reveals to us that as workers in His vineyard, we should be totally dependent on Him. He wants us not to be overly concerned about material things in our ministry of bringing people closer to Him. We only need to open our hearts to His plan for us. We just have to believe that He knows what His flock needs and that everything else will be provided for. He wants us to follow His lead, do what is required of us and let Him do the rest for us.

Only goodness and kindness follow those who are obedient to God.  If we allow Jesus to guide us and mold us there is nothing more that we need in our work for our Heavenly Father.  Alleluia, for the “Lord is our shepherd and there is nothing we shall want. In verdant pastures He gives us repose and beside restful waters He leads us and refreshes our soul!  He guides us in right paths for His Name’s sake. Even though we walk in the dark valley we fear no evil for He is at our side with His rod and staff that give us courage.”

Direction

Follow Jesus and be obedient to His laws and His plan. He will satisfy us and fill us with His grace.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be a faithful and obedient servant. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – What’s on your Christmas wish list?

Remember when you were a child, how you felt about the approach of Christmas? If you were raised in a Christian home, you associated the excitement of the season with Jesus’ birthday. But a big part of Advent, for most of us, was focused on our Christmas wish lists. We spent a lot of time hoping to get everything we wanted.

Today as adults, we understand that we should focus more on the needs of others than on ourselves. However, before we put coal in our stockings as penance for selfishly making wish lists again, let’s look at the psychological reasons for our greed.

There’s nothing wrong with hoping for gifts. God wants us to be open to receive more than we actually have, because he is so very generous and has such great love for us. However, to desire materialistic gifts without wanting to share them with others is greed.

And greed is a reaction to unmet needs.

No parents, no friends, no spouses can ever give us all that we need. We wish they did, but we must place our hope in God. Only God can be all that we need for all that we need. But unless we turn to God and ask him to fill us – unless we rely first and foremost on him for everything – we will continue to have selfish desires.

God wants us to give him our Christmas “hope lists” and then trust him to take care of us in his perfect way, in his perfect time, in his perfect generosity.

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus has just finished giving a three-day seminar. His message was so captivating that most people forgot to go home and eat.

Jesus understood their needs. He cared about them so much that he worked a miracle, taking what was insufficient and converting it into a generous heaping of more than what was necessary. Do you realize that Jesus wants to also give to you more than is necessary?

Today’s first reading says, “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.” The responsorial Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not lack anything.”

Jesus understands your needs! Jesus cares about you! He can and wants to give you more than you need!

Why do we find this so hard to believe? Because first we have to turn to him and trust him rather than demand it from the people around us.

Jesus often provides for us through our own talents and through the people he has placed in our lives, just as he provided for the crowd on the mountainside using the fish and bread of the people, but we must let him decide the best way to take care of us. He really enjoys taking what is too little and multiplying it into too much.

Give God your wish list and let him do something surprising with it. Have no expectations of what he will do. Make no demands on him. Let him do it his way, and the results will be better than you could ever imagine! (Source: Terry A. Modica, Good News Ministries: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-12-06).

Reflection 3 – This is the LORD – we have waited for him

What sign does God give his people that the promised Messiah, God’s Anointed Son, will come to bring his heavenly peace and blessing and kingdom power to overcome the power of sin and oppression? In Jesus’s time the people were in eager expectation that the Messiah would come soon. The prophets foretold that he would come in the power of Elijah and would perform mighty sings like Moses did when he delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. Some 700 years before Jesus came, Isaiah had prophesied that God would provide a heavenly banquet for all peoples and would destroy death once and for all (Isaiah 25:6-8). Jesus, God’s Anointed Son, came to fulfill that promise.

Jesus’ miracles are both a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom and a demonstration of God’s power to deliver his people from slavery to sin and Satan’s oppressive rule. Jesus’ miracles also showed the magnitude of God’s mercy.

When the disciples were confronted by Jesus with the task of feeding four thousand people many miles away from any source of food, they exclaimed: Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them? The Israelites were confronted with the same dilemma when they fled Egypt and found themselves in a barren wilderness. Like the miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness, Jesus, himself provides bread in abundance for the hungry crowd who came out into the desert to seek him. The gospel records that all were satisfied and they took up what was leftover.

Jesus nourishes us with the true bread of heaven
In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes we see a sign and a symbol of what God always does. God knows our needs and he cares. When God gives, he gives in abundance. The gospel account records that the leftovers from the miraculous meal was more than seven times the amount they began with. Seven is a symbol of completion and wholeness. When God gives, he gives until we are satisfied. When God works for his people he gives abundantly – more than we could deserve and more than we need. He nourishes us with his life-giving word and with the bread of heaven. In the kingdom of heaven God will feast us at his banquet table. Are you satisfied with God’s provision for you? And do you long with expectant hope for the coming of his kingdom in all its fullness?

Lord Jesus, you alone can satisfy the longing and hunger in our hearts. May I thirst for your kingdom and find joy in your presence. Give me the true bread of heaven and nourish me with your life-giving word.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/dec6.htm

Reflection 4 – Sharing our abundance 

In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes we see a sign and a symbol of what God always does. God knows our needs and he cares. What can satisfy the deepest hunger and longing of the human heart?

Here’s a story from the headline in the Washington Post last July 13, 2007 read, “A Gate-Crasher’s Change of Heart.” Readers were treated to an unlikely story about an armed robber who invaded a backyard dinner party. When the man threatened to start shooting if the diners did not hand over their money, one of the guests calmly invited him to join them for a glass of fine wine. After several sips, the robber agreed to try some Camembert cheese. He then put his gun down, apologized for his intrusion, and asked, “Can I get a hug?” The diners all embraced him and insisted that he take a glass of wine with him. They were amazed at the change that had come over the would-be thief and said it was “just miraculous.”

Imagine the response of the 4,000 who were invited by Jesus to sit down on the mountainside for an impromptu picnic. They were ravenously hungry after spending three days with the Master who healed, encouraged and taught them. The disciples’ first suggestion was to have all in the crowd take care of themselves (Lk 14:15), but Jesus pointed them toward the abundance of resources that were already in their midst to be shared. Then the disciples followed even when they had little faith. Now the heart of Jesus was “moved with pity” for them and he was determined to feed every last one. He took the seven loaves and a few fish that were at hand. Then he blessed them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute. Who among those in the crowd, having soaked up Jesus’ loving presence for three days, could resist his example of sharing the abundance already in their midst?

We have experienced the generous nourishment offered by Jesus, no less than the multitude on the mountaintop. On this first Wednesday of Advent may, we commit ourselves to being more generous with the abundant resources God has entrusted to our care. For by our sharing, we will be transformed. In his poem “Moonless, darkness stands between,” Gerard Manley Hopkins speaks of the transformation he hopes Christmas will bring about him. He writes: “But the Bethlehem star may lead me, to the sight of him who freed me, from the self that I have been.”

Reflection 5 – St. Nicholas (d. 350? A.D.) 

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

Comment:

The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.

Quote:

“In order to be able to consult more suitably the welfare of the faithful according to the condition of each one, a bishop should strive to become duly acquainted with their needs in the social circumstances in which they live…. He should manifest his concern for all, no matter what their age, condition, or nationality, be they natives, strangers, or foreigners” (Vatican II, Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office, 16).

Patron Saint of: Bakers, Brewers, Brides, Children, Greece, Grooms, Merchants, Pawnbrokers, Russia, Travelers

Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s) 

The Real St. Nicholas, by John Feister

Read the source:   http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1221

SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

 Read this source: When Santa punched a heretic in the face & 13 memes on St. Nicholas https://www.stpeterslist.com/11939/when-santa-punched-a-heretic-in-the-face-13-memes-on-st-nicholas/

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

This article is about the 4th-century saint. For other uses, see Saint Nicholas (disambiguation).
“San Nicola” redirects here. For other uses, see San Nicola (disambiguation).
SAINT NICHOLAS
Icon c 1500 St Nicholas.JPG

Russian icon depicting St Nicholas with scenes from his life. Late 15th century or early 16th century. National Museum, Stockholm.
DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY, WONDERWORKER, HOLY HIERARCH, BISHOP OF MYRA
BORN 15 March 270[1]
PataraRoman Empire
(now in Turkey)
DIED 6 December 343 (aged 73)
MyraRoman Empire
(now in Turkey)
VENERATED IN AnglicanismBaptist,CatholicismEastern Orthodoxy,Oriental Orthodoxy,LutheranismMethodism,PresbyterianismReformed
MAJOR SHRINE Basilica di San NicolaBari, Italy
FEAST 6 December [O.S. 14 December] (main feast day –Saint Nicholas Day)
9 May [O.S. 22 May] (translationof relics)[2]
ATTRIBUTES Vested as a Bishop. In Eastern Christianity, wearing anomophorion and holding aGospel Book. Sometimes shown with Jesus Christ over one shoulder, holding a Gospel Book, and with the Theotokosover the other shoulder, holding an omophorion
PATRONAGE Children, coopers, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, brewers, pharmacistsarchers,pawnbrokersGalwayRussia,GreeceLorraine and Duchy of Lorraine.

Saint Nicholas (Greek????? ????????Hagios NikólaosLatinSanctus Nicolaus); (15 March 270 – 6 December 343),[3][4] also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek[5]Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey).[6] Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known asNikolaos the Wonderworker (???????? ? ????????????Nikolaos ho Thaumaturgos). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day?St Nicholas Day (6 December, Gregorian calendar, in Western Christianity and 19 December, Julian calendar, in Eastern Christianity);[7] and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints.[8] In 1087, part of the relics (about half of the bones) were furtively translated to Bari, in Apulia, Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. The remaining bones were taken to Venice in 1100.

The historical Saint Nicholas is commemorated and revered among Anglican,[9] CatholicLutheran, and OrthodoxChristians. In addition, some Baptist,[10] Methodist,[11] Presbyterian,[12] and Reformedchurches have been named in honor of Saint Nicholas.[13]Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

Life[edit]

Nicholas was born in Asia Minor (Greek Anatolia) in the Roman Empire, to a Greek family[14][15][16] during the third century in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), in present-day Turkey,[17][18]which was a port on the Mediterranean Sea,[18] and lived in MyraLycia[19](part of modern-day Demre, Turkey), at a time when the region was Greek in itsheritage,[18] culture, and outlook and politically part of the Roman diocese of Asia.[18] He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius (?????????) and Johanna (??????) according to some accounts[20] and Theophanes (????????) and Nonna (?????) according to others.[18] He was very religious from an early age[16] and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him apresbyter(priest).

In the year AD 305, several monks from Anatolia in Asia Minor came to the Holy Land to Beit Jala, Palestine and established a small monastery with a church named in honor of the Great Martyr George (Saint George). This was before St. Sava’s Monastery was founded in the desert east of Bethlehem on the Kidron Gorge near the Dead Sea. These monks lived in Beit Jala on the mountain overlooking Bethlehem in a few caves. In the years 312-315, St. Nicholas lived there and came as a pilgrim to visit shrines in the Holy Land. A text written in his own hand is still in the care of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. It was in his prayers that St. Nicholas heard the Holy Spirit call him back to Asia Minor, to Myra, where soon after his return in 317 he was consecrated bishop.[21]

In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea. There, Nicholas was a staunch anti-Arian and defender of the Orthodox where can you buy generic propecia Christian position,[22] and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.[23]

The relics[edit]

Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy where most of the relics of St. Nicholas are kept today.

The church of San Nicolò al Lido(Venice), hosts half of Nicolas’ relics

On 26 August 1071 Romanus IV, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire(reigned 1068–1071), faced Sultan Alp Arslan of theSeljuk Turks(reigned 1059–1072) in the Battle of Manzikert. The battle ended in humiliating defeat and capture for Romanus. As a result, the Empire temporarily lost control over most of Asia Minor to the invading Seljuk Turks. The Byzantines would regain its control over Asia Minor during the reign of Alexius I Comnenus (reigned 1081–1118). But early in his reign Myra was overtaken by the Turks. Nicholas’ tomb in Myra had become a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics.[3]Taking advantage of the confusion, in the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari in Apulia seized part of the remains of the saint from his burial church in Myra, over the objections of the Greek Orthodox monks. Returning to Bari, they brought the remains with them and cared for them. The remains arrived on 9 May 1087. There are numerous variations of this account. In some versions those taking the relics are characterized as thieves or pirates, in others they are said to have taken them in response to a vision wherein Saint Nicholas himself appeared and commanded that his relics be moved in order to preserve them from the impending Muslim conquest. Currently at Bari, there are two churches at his shrine, one Roman Catholic and one Orthodox.

Sailors from Bari collected just half of Nicholas’ skeleton, leaving all the minor fragments in the grave. These were collected by Venetian sailors during the first crusade and brought to Venice, where a church to St. Nicholas, the patron of sailors, was built on the Lido. This tradition was confirmed in two scientific investigations of the relics in Bari and Venice, which revealed that the relics in the two cities belong to the same skeleton.[24][25] Many churches in Europe, Russia and the United States claim to possess small relics, such as a tooth or a finger.[26]

It is said that in Myra the relics of Saint Nicholas each year exuded a clear watery liquid which smells like rose water, calledmanna (or myrrh), which is believed by the faithful to possess miraculouspowers.[27] After the relics were brought to Bari, they continued to do so, much to the joy of the new owners. Vials of myrrh from his relics have been taken all over the world for centuries, and can still be obtained from his church in Bari. Even up to the present day, a flask of manna is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nicholas every year on 6 December (the Saint’s feast day) by the clergy of the basilica. The myrrh is collected from a sarcophagus which is located in the basilica vault and could be obtained in the shop nearby. The liquid gradually seeps out of the tomb, but it is unclear whether it originates from the body within the tomb, or from the marble itself; since the town of Bari is a harbour, and the tomb is below sea level, there have been several natural explanations proposed for the manna fluid, including the transfer of seawater to the tomb by capillary action.

In 1993, a grave was found on the small Turkish island of Gemile, east of Rhodes, which historians believe is the original tomb of Saint Nicholas.[28] On 28 December 2009, the Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of St. Nicholas’s skeletal remains to Turkey from the Italian government.[29][30] Turkish authorities have asserted that St. Nicholas himself desired to be buried at his episcopal town, and that his remains were illegally removed from his homeland.

An Irish tradition states that the relics of Saint Nicholas are also reputed to have been stolen from Myra by local Norman crusading knights in the 12th century and buried near Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, where a stone slab marks the site locally believed to be his grave.[31] This is not widely accepted beyond local tradition.

Supposed effigy of St. Nicholas near Thomastown, Ireland.

Legends and folklore[edit]

The dowry for the three virgins (Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1425,Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).

One legend[32] tells how during a terrible famine, a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher’s horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. Another version of this story, possibly formed around the 11th century, claims that the butcher’s victims were instead three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The Saint saw through this and brought the men back to life.

In his most famous exploit,[33] a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Even if they did not, unmarried maidens in those days would have been assumed as being a prostitute. Hearing of the girls’ plight, Nicholas decided to help them, but being too modest to help the family in public (or to save them the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to the house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house.

One version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. Another has him throwing the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes of age. Invariably, the third time the father lies in wait, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In another version, Nicholas learns of the poor man’s plan and drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

A key ring with the image of Nikolaos of Myra as patron of the sailors

According to another legend, during a great famine that Myra experienced in 311–312, a ship was in the port at anchor, which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nicholas promised them that they would not suffer any loss for their consideration, the sailors agreed. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find: the weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing.[34]

While yet a young man, Nicholas followed the example of his uncle, the abbot, by making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Christianity—the Holy Land. Desiring a serene time of preparation, Nicholas set sail on an Egyptian ship where the other pilgrims did not know who he was. The first night he dreamed a storm would put them all at peril. When he awoke in the morning he warned the sailors that a severe storm was coming, but they need not fear, for “God will protect us.” Almost immediately the sky darkened and strong winds roared round the ship. The wind and waves made it impossible to keep the ship under control. Even with lowered sails, the sailors feared for their very lives and begged Nicholas to pray for safety. One sailor climbed the main mast, tightening the ropes so the mast would not crash onto the deck. As he was coming back down, the sailor slipped, fell to the deck, and was killed. While Nicholas prayed, the storm did quiet, relieving the sailors. Their comfort, however, was dampened by grief over their comrade’s death. As Nicholas prayed over the dead sailor, he was revived, “as if he had only been asleep.” The man awakened without pain and the ship finished the journey to the Holy Land. Saint Nicholas then embarked on his pilgrimage to the holy places, walking where Jesus had walked. One night while staying with a family in Jerusalem, he wanted to pray at the only church remaining in Jerusalem at that time. It was the Church of the Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion. As he approached the heavy, locked doors, they swung open of their own accord, allowing him to enter the church. Nicholas fell to the ground in thanksgiving.[35]

Before returning to Lycia, he lived in the Holy Land several years in a cave overlooking Bethlehem and visited the Holy Sepulchre, Golgotha, Bethlehem, and many other holy sites. The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is located on the site of his cave in Beit Jala where today there are innumerable stories about Saint Nicholas still handed down from generation to generation.[36]

The legends with the most likely historical basis are the stories of Nicholas helping three girls and stories of Nicholas coming to the aid of sailors. Others, especially the legend of the three murdered children, are much later additions to Nicholas lore, historian Dr. Adam English concludes[37] in a new biography of Nicholas forBaylor University Press based on a four-year study of current historical research into Nicholas of Myra.

Face of the historical saint[edit]

Saint Nicholas, Russian icon from first quarter of the 18th century (KizhimonasteryKarelia).

Whereas the devotional importance of relics and the economics associated with pilgrimages caused the remains of most saints to be divided up and spread over numerous churches in several countries, St. Nicholas is unusual in that most of his bones have been preserved in one spot: his grave crypt in Bari. Even with the allegedly continuing miracle of the manna, the archdiocese of Bari has allowed for one scientific survey of the bones. In the late 1950s, during a restoration of the chapel, it allowed a team of hand-picked scientists to photograph and measure the contents of the crypt grave.[38]

In the summer of 2005, the report of these measurements was sent to a forensic laboratory in England. The review of the data revealed that the historical St. Nicholas was barely five feet in height and had a broken nose. The facial reconstruction was produced by Dr. Caroline Wilkinson at the University of Manchester and was shown on a BBC2 TV program ‘The Real Face of Santa’ [39]

Formal veneration[edit]

Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting byIlya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).

Among the Greeks and Italians he is a favorite of sailors, fishermen, ships and sailing. As such he has become over time the patron saintof several cities maintaining harbours. In centuries of Greek folklore, Nicholas was seen as “The Lord of the Sea”, often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon. In modern Greece, he is still easily among the most recognizable saints and 6 December finds many cities celebrating their patron saint. He is also the patron saint of all of Greece and particularly of the Hellenic Navy.[40]

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Nicholas’ memory is celebrated on almost every Thursday of the year (together with the Apostles) with special hymns to him which are found in the liturgical book known as the Octoechos. Soon after the transfer of Saint Nicholas’ relics from Myra to Bari, a Russian version of his Life and an account of the transfer of his relics were written by a contemporary to this event.[41] Devotional akathists and canonshave been composed in his honour, and are frequently chanted by the faithful as they ask for hisintercession. He is mentioned in the Liturgy of Preparation during the Divine Liturgy (Eastern Orthodox Eucharist) and during the All-Night Vigil. Many Orthodox churches will have his icon, even if they are not named after him.

In Oriental Orthodoxy, the Coptic Church observes the Departure of St. Nicholas on Kiahk 10, or 19 December.[42][43]

In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas’ Day parishes held Yuletide “boy bishop” celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries. According to one source, in medieval times nuns used the night of 6 December to deposit baskets of food and clothes anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on 6 December every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries (which at that time was virtually all of the male population) would descend to the harbour towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the variousNicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children made Saint Nicholas a patron saint of children and later students as well.[citation needed]

Among Albanians, Saint Nicholas is known as Shen’Kollë and is venerated by most Catholic families, even those from villages that are devoted to other saints. The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on the evening before 6 December, known as Shen’Kolli i Dimnit (Saint Nicholas of Winter), as well as on the commemoration of the interring of his bones in Bari, the evening before 9 May, known as Shen’Kolli i Majit (Saint Nicholas of May). Albanian Catholics often swear by Saint Nicholas, saying “Pasha Shejnti Shen’Kollin!” (“May I see Holy Saint Nicholas!”), indicating the importance of this saint in Albanian culture, especially among the Albanians ofMalësia. On the eve of his feast day, Albanians will light a candle and abstain from meat, preparing a feast of roasted lamb and pork, to be served to guests after midnight. Guests will greet each other, saying, “Nata e Shen’Kollit ju nihmoftë!” (“May the Night of Saint Nicholas help you!”) and other such blessings. The bones of Albania’s greatest hero, George Kastrioti, were also interred in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Lezha, Albania, upon his death.[citation needed]

Iconography[edit]

Russian Orthodox statue of Saint Nicolas, now in a corner near the church in Demre.

Saint Nicholas is a popular subject portrayed on countless Eastern Orthodox icons, particularly Russian ones. He is depicted as an Orthodox bishop, wearing the omophorion and holding a Gospel Book. Sometimes he is depicted wearing the Eastern Orthodox mitre, sometimes he is bareheaded. Iconographically, Nicholas is depicted as an elderly man with a short, full white fluffy beard and balding head. In commemoration of the miracle attributed to him by tradition at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, he is sometimes depicted with Christ over his left shoulder holding out a Gospel Book to him and the Theotokos over his right shoulder holding the omophorion. Because of his patronage of mariners, occasionally Saint Nicholas will be shown standing in a boat or rescuing a drowning sailor.[citation needed]

St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Russian merchants. Fresco byDionisius from the Ferapontov Monastery.

In Roman Catholic iconography, Saint Nicholas is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this dignity: a bishop’svestments, a mitreand a crozier. The episode with the three dowries is commemorated by showing him holding in his hand either three purses, three coins or three balls of gold. Depending on whether he is depicted as patron saint of children or sailors, his images will be completed by a background showing ships, children or three figures climbing out of a wooden barrel (the three slaughtered children he resurrected).[citation needed] In medieval paintings, Saint Nicholas is depicted as a dark-skinned man, as in Pietro di Giovanni d’Ambrogio‘s Saint Nicholas of Bari, a 1430s painting held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or Francesco di Giorgio e di Lorenzo‘s 1461 Altarpiece with the Annunciation made for the church ofSpedaletta.[44]

In a strange twist, the three gold balls referring to the dowry affair are sometimes metaphorically interpreted as being oranges or other fruits. As in the Low Countries in medieval times oranges most frequently came from Spain, this led to the belief that the Saint lives in Spain and comes to visit every winter bringing them oranges, other ‘wintry’ fruits and tales of magical creatures.[citation needed]

In music[edit]

Operetta St. Nicholas arrives[edit]

Salesian priest Jerko Gržin?i? wrote a Christmas operetta in three acts entitled Miklavž prihaja (St. Nicholas arrives). The premiere took place before World War II in the Union Hostel in Ljubljana (now in Slovenia) with great success.[45]

Demre[edit]

The modern city of DemreTurkey is built near the ruins of the saint’s home town of ancient Myra, and attracts many Russian tourists as St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint. Restoration to Saint Nicholas’ original church is currently underway, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2007 permitting Divine Liturgyto be celebrated at the site, and contributing 40,000 Turkish Lira to the project.[citation needed]

A solemn bronze statue of the saint by Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky was donated by the Russian government in 2000, and was given a prominent place in the square fronting the medieval Church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Süleyman Topçu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted an image more recognisable to foreign visitors. Protests from the Russian government against this were successful, and the bronze statue was returned (albeit without its original high pedestal) to a corner nearer the church.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^ Book of Martyrs. Catholic Book Publishing. 1948.
  2. Jump up^ “Serbia”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  3. Jump up to:a b “Who is St. Nicholas?”. St. Nicholas Center. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  4. Jump up^ “St. Nicholas”. Orthodox America. Retrieved 7 December2010.
  5. Jump up^ Cunningham, Lawrence (2005). A brief history of saints. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 33.ISBN 978-1-4051-1402-8The fourth-century Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Greek Anatolia (in present-day Turkey) spread to Europe through the port city of Bari in southern Italy… Devotion to the saint in the Low countries became blended with Nordic folktales, transforming this early Greek bishop into that Christmas icon, Santa Claus’.
  6. Jump up^ Lloyd, John; Mitchinson, John (December 2008). The book of general ignorance (Noticeably stouter edition). Faber and Faber. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-571-24692-2.
  7. Jump up^ Carus, Louise (1 October 2002). The Real St. Nicholas. Quest Books. p. 2.ISBN 9780835608138In Myra, the traditional St. Nicholas Feast Day is still celebrated on December 6, which many believe to be the anniversary of St. Nicholas’s death. This day is honored throughout Western Christendom, in lands combrising both Catholic and Protestant communities (in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Saint’s feast date is December 19). On December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day, some American boys and girls put their shoes outside their bedroom door and leave a small gift in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.
  8. Jump up^ Jones, Charles W. (1978). Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-40700-5.
  9. Jump up^ “The Calendar [page ix]”. Prayerbook.ca. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  10. Jump up^ “St. Nicholas Bethel Baptist Church”. Stnicholasbethelbaptist.com. 2 June 2013. Retrieved 12 December2013.
  11. Jump up^ “St. Nicholas United Methodist Church – Church Gazetteer”. Stnicholascenter.org. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  12. Jump up^ “St Nicholas’ Cardonald Parish Church – Church Gazetteer”. Stnicholascenter.org. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. Jump up^ “New York’s Dutch Cathedral: The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, Fifth Avenue”. Andrewcusack.com. Retrieved 12 December2013.
  14. Jump up^ Domenico, Roy Palmer (2002). The regions of Italy: a reference guide to history and culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 0-313-30733-4Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city… A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.
  15. Jump up^ Burman, Edward (1991). Emperor to emperor: Italy before the Renaissance. Constable. p. 126. ISBN 0-09-469490-7For although he is the patron saint of Russia, and the model for a northern invention such as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra was a Greek.
  16. Jump up to:a b Ingram, W. Scott; Ingram, Asher, Scott; Robert (2004). Greek Immigrants. Infobase Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 9780816056897The original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, was a Greek born in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey) in the fourth century. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life to Christianity.
  17. Jump up^ Lanzi, Gioia (2004). Saints and their symbols: recognizing saints in art and in popular images. Liturgical Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-8146-2970-9Nicholas was born around 270 AD in Patara on the coast of what is now western Turkey.
  18. Jump up to:a b c d e Collins, Ace (2009). Stories Behind Men of Faith. Zondervan. p. 121.ISBN 9780310564560Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara around 270 AD. The son of a businessman named Theophanes and his wife, Nonna, the child’s earliest years were spent in Myra… As a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the sea lanes that linked Egypt, Greece and Rome, Myra was a destination for traders, fishermen, and merchant sailors. Spawned by the spirit of both the city’s Greek heritage and the ruling Roman government, cultural endeavours such as art, drama, and music were mainstays of everyday life.
  19. Jump up^ Faber, Paul (2006). Sinterklaas overseas: the adventures of a globetrotting saint. KIT Publishers. p. 7. ISBN 9789068324372The historical figure that served as model for the Dutch Sinterklaas was born around 270 AD in the port of Patara in the Greek province of Lycia in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). His Greek name Nikolaos means something along the lines of “victor of the people”.
  20. Jump up^ Lanzi, Gioia (2004). Saints and their symbols: recognizing saints in art and in popular images. Liturgical Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-8146-2970-9Nicholas was born around 270 AD in Patara on the coast of what is now western Turkey; his parents were Epiphanius and Joanna.
  21. Jump up^ “Stories from Beit Jala”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  22. Jump up^ Federer, William J. (2002). There Really Is a Santa Claus – History of St. Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions. Amerisearch, Inc. p. 26. ISBN 978-0965355742.
  23. Jump up^ Davis, Leo Donald (1990). The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology. Liturgical Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-8146-5616-1.
  24. Jump up^ Ci sono ossa di san Nicola anche a Venezia? (in Italian)
  25. Jump up^ Are all the bones in Bari? (in Italian)
  26. Jump up^ “Relics of St. Nicholas – Where are They?”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved11 February 2014.
  27. Jump up^ de Ceglia, Francesco Paolo: “The science of Santa Claus : discussions on the Manna of Nicholas of Myra in the modern age”. In Nuncius – 27 (2012) 2, p. 241-269
  28. Jump up^ Santa’s tomb is found off Turkey The Independent, 17 December 1993. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  29. Jump up^ “Turks want Santa’s bones returned”BBC News. 28 December 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  30. Jump up^ “‘Santa Claus’s bones must be brought back to Turkey from Italy’”. Todayszaman.com. 28 December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  31. Jump up^http://www.heritagecouncil.ie/fileadmin/user_upload/conservationplans/Newton_Jerpoint.pdf (pg.79)
  32. Jump up^ http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=409(Dutch)
  33. Jump up^ Bennett, William J. (2009). The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas. Howard Books. pp. 14–17. ISBN 978-1-4165-6746-2.
  34. Jump up^ Le Saux, Françoise Hazel Marie (2005). A companion to Wace. D.S.Brewer.ISBN 978-1-84384-043-5.
  35. Jump up^ “Pilgrimage to the Holy Land”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved 31 December2014.
  36. Jump up^ “St. Nicholas: Father of Beit Jala”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved31 December 2014.
  37. Jump up^ English, Adam, and Crumm, David (2 December 2012). “Adam English digging back into the real St. Nicholas”ReadTheSpirit online magazine.
  38. Jump up^ “Anatomical Examination of the Bari Relics”. Saint Nicholas Center. Retrieved6 December 2013.
  39. Jump up^ “The Real Face of Santa”. (navigate to 4th of 4 pictures)
  40. Jump up^ “Greece”. St. Nicholas Center. Retrieved 12 December2013.
  41. Jump up^ “Feasts and Saints, Commemorated on May 9”. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  42. Jump up^ “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”Synaxarium (Lives of Saints). Coptic Orthodox Church Network. Retrieved 13 December2013.
  43. Jump up

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