We like to celebrate and learn from the success of others. And every day the Church gives us that opportunity. So while we can't party every day, we can celebrate a few Feasts especially meaningful to our community. We invite you to share in our joy. Welcome!
St. Nicholas, December 6
St. Nicholas, December 6
A Feast deserves a feast! After the candle lighting, we will be sitting down to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas with twin lobsters, arugula pesto potatoes, Greek salad and four apple, apple pie. Tickets include tax. There is no tipping, but there is an alms box.
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Christ's commandment to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was elected Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. At the Council he defended the divinity of Christ and the dignity of the Mother of God against Arius' clever words and in a fit of pique punched Arius forcing Emperor Constantine to jail him. That night the Fathers of the Council had a dream where the Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God) vested him as a bishop. Indeed when they opened his jail cell in the morning he was vested in his episcopal garments. St. Nicholas died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary person and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery with prostitution likely to follow. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from St. Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Ottoman Turkish pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the emir said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which later became his primary role in the West.
Another story tells of three students studying for the priesthood, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large tub of beer. It so happened that St. Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As St. Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. And so St. Nicholas became the patron of theological students and brewers.
Several stories tell of St. Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, St. Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. St. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.
Other stories tell of St. Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as Wonderworker for all of the miracles he called down from God and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need
Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (see list). Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.
Despite the eleventh century being a time of turmoil as a result of the Catholic Crusaders, St. Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Soldiers and sailors from the Italian cities of Venice and Bari plotted to steal the holy relics of St. Nicholas. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola. While the theft of the relics was a tremendous source of pain for the God-fearing people of Myra and the rest of the Greeks in the Roman Empire of the East, the relics would most assuredly been destroyed by the invading Ottoman Moslems by 1453.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by pious and God-fearing Christians. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Incarnation of Christ.
St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of apothecaries, bakers, barrel makers, boatmen, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, coopers, dock workers, druggists, fishermen, grooms, judges, lawsuits lost unjustly, longshoremen, maidens, mariners, merchants, penitent murderers, newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers, perfumeries, perfumers, pharmacists, pilgrims, the poor, prisoners, sailors, scholars, schoolchildren, shoe shiners, spinsters, students, penitent thieves, travellers, the University of Paris, unmarried girls, and watermen. Places he’s the patron for are Apulia, Avolasca, Bardolino, Bari, Cammarata, Cardinale, Creazzo, Duronia, Fossalto, Gagliato, La Thuile, Secco, Lorraine, Mazzano Romano, Mentana, Naples and Sassari in Italy; the country of Greece; ; Limerick, Ireland; Liptovský Mikulás, Slovakia; Miklavž na Dravskem polju, Slovenia; Cas Concos, Spain; Portsmouth, England; the country of Russia; Is-Siggiewi, and Malta.
He also has many names around the world, such as Baba Chaghaloo, Father Christmas, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, and Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man” or “Nikolaus”), among many others.