December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent
Today is the Second of Advent and the feast day of St. Nicholas who unfortunately will not be making a visit today due to the Coronavirus. So, I thought I would share some information about St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra and is the basis of the legend of Santa Claus. He is a patron saint of Russia, Greece, and Sicily, and of many other cities and dioceses, as well as patron saint of children and pawnbrokers. Born at Patara in Lycia (southwestern Turkey), a province in Asia Minor, he became bishop of Myra, the province’s capital, where he enjoyed a reputation for piety and pastoral zeal. He was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution (303 – 305) and was later present at the Council of Nicaea (325), where he joined in the condemnation of Arianism, the heresy that denied the full divinity of Christ.
He died at Myra, and there was a basilica built in his honor in Constantinople by the emperor Justinian. In 1087 his relics were taken to Bari and a new shrine built in his honor there in 1095. Pope Urban II was present for the solemn opening of the shrine. From that time forward, Nicholas’s cult became almost universal in the West. He also has had an important place in the Byzantine liturgical traditions. He is thought to have been the most frequently represented saintly bishop for several centuries.
The tradition of giving gifts to children on his beast began in the Low Countries and became popular in North America through the Dutch settler of New Amsterdam. The Dutch also combined with the gift giving the Nordic legend of a magician who punished naught children and rewarded good ones with presents. His patronage of pawnbrokers is linked with yet another legend about Nicholas’s throwing three bags of gold through a window to be used as dowries for three young women who would otherwise have been given over to a life of prostitution.
The feast of St. Nicholas is also observed by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Let us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. 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.
Have a Blessed Advent!