Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Real St. Nicholas

On a day when many question the true nature of Christmas, we speak lightly of a man who has been so distorted by myth and legend. Most will admit that such a man as Nicholas DID exist, but feel that he was insignificant when it comes to Christmas as such. While "Christmas" was not observed in his day, Nicholas of Myra WAS there when the human nature of Christ was "settled" to most of the church's satisfaction. This was at the council of Nicea, when the Nicene creed was first set down on paper. It was subsequently amended, but the first and second clauses stayed essencially then same:

The "Nicene" Creed

We 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 the 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 sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Nicholas was a short man, with apparently a short fuse. One story has it that while at the Council of Nicea he was so angry at the heretic on trial, Arius, that he slugged him across the face, knocking him to the ground! He had previously shown this zeal against the pagan worshipers of Artemas ("Diana") - to the tearing down of the temple in Myra - that the church is said to have adopted HER birthday as Nicholas' feast day (since he did not suffer martyrdom).

His kindness and generosity among believers, though, was "legendary." And thus, his nature as a giver of gifts survived through the ages. Read about the saint at the wikipedia article.

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