Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

12/06/2007

Saint Nicholas

the Rev. Canon Jim Rosenthal as Saint Nicholas

Saint NicholasToday is the day in which the church remembers Saint Nicholas of Myra, the third century Christian bishop in what is modern-day Turkey.

The Rev. Canon Jim Rosenthal (pictured above as St. Nicholas) has long been a proponent of better teaching about the real Nicholas. He created the St. Nicholas Center and you can see their Who is St. Nicholas web page for the short version and links for more information and ideas for how to celebrate the life of the saint.

The short version of the life of this Christian leader is that,
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. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church.
Saint Nicholas rescuing childrenSo one way we remember the real work of this ancient Christian is that each week we recite the Nicene Creed, created at the council in which Nicholas took part. There are also many legends about Nicholas, but in all of them we find, "a model for the compassionate life" in his generosity to those in need, especially children. But the myth of Nicholas has grown so large that it eclipses the Christ for whom the bishop was willing to die. I applaud efforts to help people get to know the real Saint Nicholas, but I don't see this changing our consumer-driven Christmas. Or am I being too cynical?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

6 Comments:

  • At 12/06/2007 5:32 AM, Blogger goodfornowt said…

    Although St Nicholas is properly remembered as a kindly bishop who distributed food to the poor, he has become associated in Europe with a darker side of Christmas illustrated by Santa's question to all children, "Have you been good?"
    Alice Miller (in Banished Knowledge) describes how until recently at this time of the year children were presented to St Nicholas and pressured to confess their sins which he then registered in a big book. They were ceremonially betrayed and humiliated by their parents.
    "Well, well, Stefan, you're still using a pacifier; you're much too big for that, you know. (Stefan was scarcely two and a half.) You might as well give it to St Nicholas."
    At this the other children laughed, while the one being addressed looked petrified with fear.
    The custom was carried so far that in postwar Germany, St Nicholas sometimes appeared carrying a sack from which a child's leg protruded, leaving the reprimanded child in no doubt as to what would happen to him unless he mended his ways.
    What most shocked Alice Miller was the willing complicity in this of the parents. Another example of bad religion bringing out the worst in people?

    David

     
  • At 12/06/2007 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is an awful thing we do; threaten our children with a Saint. I still hear parents trying to control their children while out shopping this time of year with the lump of coal or nothing from Santa.

    First we get the kids excited with a lie about a saint, expect them to control themselves in all the madness of the season, and when they fail to be angels we use the saint as a means to possible punishment.

     
  • At 12/06/2007 12:55 PM, Anonymous denise said…

    Cynical wouldn't even come to my mind when thinking of you.

     
  • At 12/06/2007 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why is it cynical to be disappointed in what we've done to the image of a saint?

     
  • At 12/06/2007 3:44 PM, Anonymous Kelly said…

    Denise and Anonymous are right Father Frank. You're not being too cynical considering how Saint Nicholas has evolved into Santa Claus through the ages. Unfortunately, this season will most likely always be consumer driven.

    One of the saddest days ever for me was when my oldest child got off the school bus from second grade. He grabbed me around my waist and sobbed, "It's a lie! It's all been a lie! There's no Santa! You lied to me!"

    I didn't feel sad because he didn't believe anymore. I felt sad and guilty for making him believe that way to begin with. His miracle of Christmas was Santa and presents more than Jesus. I also felt guilty for allowing the real Saint Nicholas to be forgotten in place of Santa Claus.

    It was a hard but necessary lesson for me. I only wish that I hadn't involved my children in the myth at all.

     
  • At 12/07/2007 12:01 AM, Blogger anything but typical said…

    We've always tried to teach David and Rachel about the real Nicholas and always told them that Santa Claus was a secret game that grown-ups played for children, and that their friends may not know the secret and they shouldn't spoil the game. Then they would get an opportunity to "Be Santa Claus" for someone else, whether it was Rachel picking out gifts to be left anonymously for a neighbor in need or with the Angel Tree programs or whether it was David staying up half the night to put together Rachel's toys with us. And now, they always ask who we're going to be Santa for this year.

    Of course, to make it fair, until David ran out of teeth, she usually got to be the tooth fairy.

    Debbie

     

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