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Archive for December 6th, 2016

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity. Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Nicholas:  Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,”in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.(from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

The quote below is from an article by Lutheran lay theologian, Dr. Veith in World Magazine which cites a reliable tradition regarding the real Nicholas.

Known for his generosity and his love of children, Nicholas is said to have saved a poor family’s daughters from slavery by tossing into their window enough gold for a rich dowry, a present that landed in some shoes or, in some accounts, stockings that were hung up to dry. Thus arose the custom of hanging up stockings for St. Nicholas to fill. And somehow he transmogrified into Santa Claus, who has become for many people the secular Christmas alternative to Jesus Christ.

But there is more to the story of Nicholas of Myra. He was also a delegate to the Council of Nicea in a.d. 325, which battled the heretics who denied the deity of Christ. He was thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. And unlike his later manifestation, Nicholas was particularly zealous in standing up for Christ.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

The point is, the original Santa Claus was someone who flew off the handle when he heard someone minimizing Christ. Perhaps we can battle our culture’s increasingly Christ-less Christmas by enlisting Santa in his original cause. The poor girls’ stockings have become part of our Christmas imagery. So should the St. Nicholas slap.

Source: WORLD Magazine  December 24, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 50

Further reflection:  

It used to be in the Roman Catholic Rite of Confirmation the bishop would administer a light slap on the cheek of the confirmand to remind him that he is a soldier of Christ to spread the faith. I guess that people found the slap was offensive…but so is Christ Jesus to the devil and his angels. I think the confirmand slap means  a wake-up call.  Maybe it is Christians who need the slap more than heretics these days!  The Church has a backbone, pure doctrine, so that with a strong back we can bend and serve our dying neighbors Jesus Christ. Nicholas knew that. It’s about the true doctrine of The Nicene Creed. 

Nicholas is called “good St. Nick”!  He was not exactly good and that’s the point.  He knew he was not good on his own steam.  He slapped Arius for his false doctrine that there was a time when Christ was not. Nicholas  knew the Scripture, “The good that I want to do I don’t do but I do the very thing I hate…” (Romans 7: 7-25).  His goodness and love were purified by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit through the gift of faith by His grace.  Nicholas was good in Christ, but not nice.  We encourage children to “be nice”.  It used to be “be good”.  If a young woman was “good”, it meant, for instance, she was a virgin.  As a friend and colleague had as his screen saver, “Nice is the enemy of the good”.  Even Woody Allen got some things right:  “Have a nice day”  “No, thanks I have better plans”.  So does the Lord.

Nice is attainable as a kind of a law of nice deeds and feelings.  Nice Christians won’t stand up to false doctrine.  Nice Christians go along with the crowd, that is, the world and we have seen the result in many a Christian denomination. Good is related to God, as God is good, which also means He is Holy.  Nicholas knew that his goodness was predicated on the utter goodness of God in Christ in His Nativity for children, the fallen children of Adam and Eve.  It also meant that Nicholas stood for something.  The martyrs died for the good of the Gospel, no one was ever martyred for being nice.

So if a heretic tries to take Christ out of Christmas, literally Christ Mass, there is no Mass, no Holy Communion, no communion of saints and no salvation.  If a heretic denies the Law of God and it’s eternal validity on every soul, then we are soul-less and there is no need for the Savior…but obviously there is and He became flesh, frail flesh.  It’s not only about a “happy  Christmas” but more and more a “slappy Christmas”:  we need to wake up as we see His Day approaching. 

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only‐begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men * and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy Christian# and apostolic Church I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

*Us men means all people.
#Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine

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