Sunday, December 6, 2015

St. Nicholas of Myra, Faithful Bishop. Fisticuffs? Not So Much...

Happy St. Nicholas of Myra Day!

This Wonder-Working Saint (AD 270-343) lived in that murky time when the persecuted Church of the Roman Empire was emerging into legal acceptance. 

There is no firm evidence that St. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), but given the rather general invitation for all bishops to attend, it is entirely plausible.

Of much less historical certitude is the often quoted claim that St. Nicholas slapped or punched out Heresiarch Arius at that Council.

The oldest extant source of this claim is quite late, coming from a Venetian Bishop named Petrus De Natalibus in the 14th Century. He wrote that:

Fertur beatum Nicolaum jam senem Nicaeno concilio interfuisse et quemdam Arrianum zelo fidei in maxillam percussisse.
It is said that Blessed Nicholas, already an old man, was present at the Nicene Council and that he struck a certain Arius in the jaw, from zeal of the Faith. 

While it is probably  true that this Bishop Peter was not originating the story, it is entirely too late to be trustworthy. And it certainly not responsible for anyone to be passing on this story as established fact.

I have had the great honor, while in Bucharest, Romania, to venerate the right hand of St. Nicholas, which is in a reliquary at the Church of St. George the New. 

There is a Russian proverb that says, "If God Himself were to die, at least we would still have St. Nicholas."

Now, don't be scandalized by the apparent blasphemy of this hyperbole. First off, if you are a Christian, you already believe God died. And rose from the dead. But the proverb voices an abandoned veneration of this ancient Bishop, so faithful to his episcopal duties. And he did so out of abandoned service to the People of God.

Pray for us, St. Nicholas of Myra!

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