On December 6th, we will celebrate one of our beloved Saints and Patrons of the Church, St. Nicholas the wonderworker. He is the patron of several countries, the protector of children, especially orphans. He watches over sailors. The Kodak for his akathist reads:
“Through power from on high you wipe away every tear from the face of those in cruel suffering – you are father of the hungry, a superb pilot fro those on the high seas, a healer of the sick.”
He is in this service greeted as: “protection for those who are drowning – a guide for those in storms.” He is invoked as a special patron for those about to be unjustly executed.
A remarkable thing about his life is that we know so little about it. He had a reputation of being a loving, generous bishop who attended the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. He had a reputation for the wonderful anonymous gift of charity and he gave to the poor and to those in financial trouble. St. Nicholas secretly gave dowries to women so that they could marry. At night he would throw bags of money into the open windows of those in need. Unfortunately, his name has been corrupted into “Santa Claus”, yet his memory is remembered as being a giver of gifts. We have the custom of giving small, thoughtful, and inexpensive gifts to friends and family on his feast day.
Which brings us to the subject of that frantic, near desperate, whirlwind of shopping for gifts at this time of the year. Maybe St. Nicholas can be of some help to us. I am sure he would not recommend the super pricey gift catalogs that are popular. He would, more than likely, recommend something small and inexpensive and thoughtful as a gift.
“Lift up and stretch out your hands, not to heaven, but to the poor. If you stretch out your hands to the poor, you have stretched them out to the summit of heaven. But if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, your prayer is worth nothing.” (St. John Chrysostom)
During this time of entertaining, we might remember Christ advise from His etiquette book:
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends, or brethren, or the rich, less they invite you in return and you would be repaid. When you give feast, invite the poor, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you and you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” (Luke: 14:12)
OK, most of us are not ready to do this, however, how about giving an equal amount spent on our Christmas entertainment to a group such as “The Little Poor Brothers of Christ”, or to Mother Theresa’s sisters here in Chicago?
St. Nicholas is the patron of children and orphans. As we make our Christmas shopping list, this is a time to remember children in need, such as the unfortunate children of prisoners. We also have orphanages in the Ukraine and here in the city of Chicago that would appreciate your thoughts and kindness for the children.
St. Nicholas’ remains are in Bari, Italy. Out of his relics, oil still comes forth. On his feast day, those who attend liturgy at St. Joseph’s will be anointed with oil from his relics.
“O Holy St. Nicholas, Holy preacher of Christ, always willing to help all on land, air and sea, whether they be near or far, you have compassion on all. We ask you to pray to the Lord to be delivered from all stress and sorrow.” (Morning Prayer of his Feast)
Originally published on November 30th, 2003