Sunday, 23 December 2012

St Nicholas, a gentle reminder of Christmases past

St Nicholas was born in Patara (Lycia) in about 270 and died c.343. He was bishop of Myra Asia Minor in what is now Turkey. His parents were said to be wealthy Christians and the young Nicholas was very religious from an early age. After his parents died of the plague he was taken in by his uncle who was the bishop of Myra.
                His cult is early and his reputation as a miracle worker very strong. His reputation spread widely from about the 6th century and became widely known in the West from about the 10th century. When the Muslims invaded Myra in 1078, his relics were translated by Italian sailors to Bari, Italy, where many Greeks had taken refuge. He is particularly venerated in Russia where his name is popular to this day and many Russians make a pilgrimage to Bari. Each year on his feast day there is a strange oily secretion emanating from his shrine.  This was noted before his translation and continued afterwards in Bari. This substance known as manna is said to have healing qualities .
                St Nicholas has a wide patronage, he is patron of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, pawnbrokers, apothecaries, perfumers and perhaps surprisingly prostitutes. It is his patronage of children and prostitutes which we will look at here, for sadly they are linked.
                St Nicholas’s patronage of children is well known but he became the protector of children after his death, for on the eve of his feast there were celebrations in Myra when a band of Arab pirates raided the church and kidnapped a young boy to make him a slave.  He was made the servant of the local Emir but St Nicholas appeared and intervened and whisked the young boy away and home to his parents in Myra. He is known as the patron of prostitutes because of his help to a father of three girls who were being sold into prostitution by their father who had fallen on hard times and could not provide endorsements for his daughters. St Nicholas provided three bags of gold for the girls. This is where pawnbrokers gets the three balls that signify their trade.
                Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on 6th December. The Orthodox celebrate it on 19th, and Protestants also honour him. Even the secular world seems to wish to claim him, with their assertions that Father Charismas is really a pre-Christian custom of rewarding good children and punishing bad ones, but despite these assertions I can’t find any hard evidence for this. However, Father is the title the English speaking world gives to a priest, and his red robes predate popular myth that it was all started by Coca-Cola in the 1930s. Santa Claus is obviously an abbreviation of St Nicholas. This actually came from the low countries’ version of St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) where he was depicted in art in a red chasuble.
                Where children should be looking to St Nicholas as a guide to lead them to Jesus this Advent tide, sadly the media of today give children celebrities. Often these celebrities are pop stars, or actors on programmes they see during primetime television, whose antics on the screen are little more than selling their bodies along with sexual lyrics and dialogues. St Nicholas is their saint as well for all can find redemption by turning to Jesus.                       
               Catholic parents, if you do not already do so, tell your children the true story of St Nicholas this Advent and Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Christmas to all our supporters, see through to media maze to the Child Jesus who came to save all men and through Him all can be saved.