Thursday, December 6
St. Nicholas's Day: Naughty or Nice
A particular shout-out to all our readers in the pious and God-protected city of New York (look, I can dream) on this feast of the favorite saint of Niuew Amsterdam, the tough, miracle-working Middle Eastern bishop who inexplicably is now depicted in America as a tubby old white guy with a wife and who dispenses gifts to good children rather than slaps to heresiarchs. (See above, St. Nicholas strikes the arch-heretic Arius, shown screaming like a little girly-man, at the Council of Nicaea.)
St. Nicholas is also patron of Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Campen in the Netherlands; Corfu in Greece; Freiburg in Switzerland; and Moscow in Russia; mariners, merchants, bakers, travellers, children, archers, Greek students, the abovementioned Nieuw Amsterdam (proclaimed as such by the New-York Historical Society in 1809), and Beit Jala in the West Bank.
The legendary Dutch gift-giver Sinter Klaas is believed to live in Spain, rather than the North Pole, due to an erroneous connection between his iconographic three sacks of gold and oranges, which, as everyone knows, come from Spain.
Other auctoritees state St. Nicholas lives with a bunch of short freaks in the "Santa Claus and His Old Lady Commune," where they consume brownies with very peculiar side affects.*
*Don't ask, really, don't ask.
The origin of all those wonderful paintngs of St. Nicholas that show him flying like Superman to the rescue. From Caxton's Englishing of the Golden Legend:
It is read in a chronicle that, the blessed Nicholas was at the Council of Nice [sic]; and on a day,as a ship with mariners were in perishing on the sea, they prayed and required devoutly Nicholas, servant of God, saying: If those things that we have heard of thee said be true, prove them now. And anon a man appeared in his likeness, and said: Lo! see ye me not? ye called me, and then he began to help them in their exploit of the sea, and anon the tempest ceased. And when they were come to his church, they knew him without any man to show him to them, and yet they had never seen him. And then they thanked God and him of their deliverance. And he bade them to attribute it to the mercy of God, and to their belief, and nothing to his merits.Padre Pio once did something similar but it involved him flying through the air to have a little word with the pilot of a plane trying to bomb San Giovanni Rotondo.
Stained-glass by Martin Travers:
Another charming illustration by this artist shows the saint sailing in a wonderfully frilly galleon with a gigantic "N" monogram on the stern.
More St. Nicholas stained glass here, courtesy of the St. Nicholas Center.
From the website of the Coptic Orthodox Church Network:
He was cast into prison during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian, but even there continued to instruct the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325, and, in his zeal, struck Arius with his hand. For this act, he was removed from the Council and from his episcopal duties [don't try this at home, kids], until some of the chief hierarchs had a vision of our Lord Christ and His most holy Mother showing their sympathy with Nicholas.I read somewhere it actually brought forth a "profusion of blood." As the our friends the Churchladies say, being good does not necessarily entail being nice.
Demre, the modern town built near Myra, once had a statue of St. Nicholas donated by the Russian federal government in its main square. In 2005, it was replaced by mayor Suleiman Topcu with a plastic figure of a strange white-bearded man in a fur-trimmed red suit known locally as Noel Baba. The Russian statue now stands somewhat forlornly, as a concession to Moscow, in the ruins of the nearby church of St. Nicholas.
Even to this day, St. Nicholas's tomb (hijacked from Turkey by Italian merchants working in the grand tradition of furta sacra) leaks an oily substance called manna, which is actually not that unusual in terms of saintly phenomena, being also ascribed to St. Walburga, Bl. Gundekar of Eichstädt, the martyr St. Glyceria, St. Sigolena, and St. William of York, among a long laundry-list of others.