Today we celebrated (on the Julian Calendar…and new calendrists alike) the feast of St Nicholas. Nicholas was a bishop in the 4th century, and his extreme acts of charity helped to mold the eventual myth (I say myth as St Nicholas was very much a real man,, from turkey (Dont tell the greeks that part) of Santa Claus.
However there is more to Nicholas then a lot of people realize. Among students of patristics (that is… the roots of our Sacred Traditions), We know him to have been a Bishop who with others, attended the first eccumenical counil, at Nicea. Nicea specifically dealt with the first challenge to Christ’s nature, the Arian Heresy. Arius, a Bishop from Alexandria, held that while Christ was more then a Man, he was less then God. This was contradictory not only to sacred tradition, but also to the deposit of faith found in Holy Scripture. It is said that the debate got so very heated, that “Jolly old Saint Nick” reached over and struck Arius for his heresy, of which Nicholas quickly found himself imprissoned. Now, eventually the council came to its senses, deposed of Arius, exhonerated Nicholas, and formulated the Nicene Creed… which above all says that
“God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, Begotten, Not MADE, Consubstantial with the Father ……. By the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became MAN”
This is the absolute core to Christology, and leads us to Theosis. As St Thomas Aquinas said ” God Became man, so that man could become like God” (ironically… alot of orthodox dont like Thomas… ‘cus scholasticism… I digress) – If there is nothing else to know about the Man..its that He is God..and he loved us so much that he lowered himself to be with us…so that we could be raised to Him.
The bigger lesson here, and is most relevant to today, is the courage of Nicholas. He wasnt concerned (or perhaps in his angst didnt think) that he would have consequences for defending the faith. He was vocal, and strong about it – We might not have a church today, had it not been for St Nicholas.
I think someone who has the “power” should have declared him a Patron of Bishops a long time ago. Perhaps this is why he very much is a super patron to many orthodox flavors. There probably isnt a better embodiment of the Eastern orthodox mind then St Nicholas.
So, today as you recollect on the shoes, and chocolate coins, and so forth, perhaps also reflect on where the man himself came from, and what he did. Implore his intercession, and pray to have the courage that St Nicholas had, who despite all odds, stood for what was right, and orthodox, even at risk to his own life