December 6, 2019: ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA
December 6, 2019: ST. NICHOLAS (OF MYRA), BISHOP AND CONFESSOR
O! the mercy of Christ, worthy of all our praise! which makes known, through the length and breadth of the world, the merits of his servant Nicholas: for from his tomb there flows an oil, and it heals all that are infirm.
O God, who by innumerable miracles, hast honoured, blessed Nicholas the Bishop; grant, we beseech thee, that by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from eternal flames. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Divine Wisdom has willed that on the way which leads to the Messias, our Great High Priest, there should be many Pontiffs to pay him the honour due to him. Two Popes, St. Melchiades and St. Damasus; two Holy Doctors, St. Peter Chrysologus and St. Ambrose; two Bishops, St. Nicholas and St. Eusebius: these are the glorious Pontiffs who have been entrusted with the charge of preparing, by their prayers, the way of the Christian people towards Him, who is the Sovereign Priest according to the order of Melchisedech… To-day the Church celebrates with joy the feast of the great Thaumaturgus Nicholas, who is to the Greek Church what St. Martin is to us. The Church of Rome has honoured the name of Nicholas for nearly a thousand years. Let us admire the wonderful power which God gave him over creation; but let us offer him our most fervent congratulations in that he was permitted to be one of the three hundred and eighteen Bishops, who proclaimed, at Nicӕa, that the Word is Consubstantial to the Father. The humiliations of the Son of God did not scandalise him. Neither the lowliness of the flesh, which the Sovereign Lord of all things assumed to himself in the womb of the Virgin, nor the poverty of the crib, hindered him from confessing to be Son of God, equal to God, Him who is the Son of Mary: and for this reason, God has glorified this his servant, and given him the power to obtain, each year, for the children of the Church, the grace of receiving this same Jesus, the Word, with simple faith and fervent love.
Let us now listen to the eulogy of St. Nicholas, which the Roman Church has inserted in her Liturgy.
Nicholas was born in the celebrated city of Patara, in the province of Lycia. His birth was the fruit of his parents' prayers. Evidences of his great future holiness were given from his very cradle. For when he was an infant, he would only take his food once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and then not till evening; whilst on all other days he frequently took the breast: he kept up this custom of fasting during the rest of his life. Having lost his parents when he was a boy, he gave all his goods to the poor. Of his Christian kindheartedness there is the following noble example. One of his fellow-citizens had three daughters; but being too poor to obtain them an honourable marriage, he was minded to abandon them to a life of prostitution. Nicholas having got to know the case, went to the house during the night and threw in by the window a sum of money sufficient for the dower of one of the daughters; he did the same a second and a third time; and thus the three were married to respectable men.
Having given himself wholly to the service of God, he set out for Palestine, that he might visit and venerate the holy places. During this pilgrimage, which he made by sea, he foretold to the mariners, on embarking, though the heavens were then serene and the sea tranquil, that they would be overtaken by a frightful storm. In a very short time, the storm arose. All were in the most imminent danger, when he quelled it by his prayers. His pilgrimage ended, he returned home, giving to all men example of the greatest sanctity. He went, by an inspiration from God, to Myra, the Metropolis of Lycia, which had just lost its Bishop by death, and the Bishops of the province had come together for the purpose of electing a successor. Whilst they were holding council for the election, they were told by a revelation from heaven, that they should choose him who, on the morrow, should be the first to enter the church, his name being Nicholas. Accordingly, the requisite observations were made, when they found Nicholas to be waiting at the church door: they took him, and, to the incredible delight of all, made him the Bishop of Myra. During his episcopate, he never flagged in the virtues looked for in a bishop; chastity, which indeed he had always preserved, gravity, assiduity in prayer, watchings, abstinence, generosity, and hospitality, meekness in exhortation, severity in reproving.
He befriended widows and orphans by money, by advice, and by every service in his power. So zealous a defender was he of all who suffered oppression, that, on one occasion, three Tribunes having been condemned by the Emperor Constantine, who had been deceived by calumny, and having heard of the miracles wrought by Nicholas, they recommended themselves to his prayers, though he was living at a very great distance from that place: the saint appeared to Constantine, and angrily looking upon him, obtained from the terrified Emperor their deliverance. Having, contrary to the edict of Dioclesian and Maximian, preached in Myra the truth of the Christian faith, he was taken up by the servants of the two Emperors. He was taken off to a great distance and thrown into prison, where he remained until Constantine, having become Emperor, ordered his rescue, and the Saint returned to Myra. Shortly afterwards, he repaired to the Council which was being held at Nicӕa: there he took part with the three hundred and eighteen Fathers in condemning the Arian heresy. Scarcely had he returned to his See, than he was taken with the sickness of which he soon died. Looking up to heaven, and seeing Angels coming to meet him, he began the Psalm, In thee, O Lord, have I hoped; and having come to those words, Into thy hands I commend my spirit, his soul took its flight to the heavenly country. His body, having been translated to Bari in Apulia, is the object of universal veneration.
℟. From his marble tomb there flows
a holy oil, wherewith the blind are anointed and healed:
*The deaf recover their hearing: and the weak return home strong.
℣. The people rush in crowds, desiring to witness the wonderful works which are done by him.
*The deaf recover their hearing: and the weak return home strong.
The sick are restored to health by the miraculous oil.
They who are in danger of shipwreck are delivered by Nicholas' prayers.
He raised from amongst the dead a corpse which lay on the road.
A Jew asks for baptism, on witnessing the miraculous recovery of his money.
A vase that had sunk in the deep sea, and a child that was lost to his father, are both recovered.
O how great a saint did he not appear by the multiplying corn in a famine!
Let, then, this congregation sing the hymns of Nicholas' praise;
For all who pray to him with earnest hearts, will go back cured of their spiritual ailments.
Another account of St. Nicholas
The great veneration with which this saint has been honoured, both in the Greek and Latin churches for many ages, and the great number of altars and churches which have been everywhere erected in his memory, are proofs of his extraordinary sanctity, and of the glory which he enjoys with God. The Emperor Justinian built a church in his honour at Constantinople, in the quarter called Blaquernӕ, about the year 430, and he was titular saint of four churches in Constantinople. All accounts agree that he was a native of Patara, in Lycia. We are told that in his infancy he observed the fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays, refusing to suck the breasts on those days, which were consecrated to fasting by the law of the church, as St. Clement of Alexandria mentions, and as Bishop Potter proves, in his note upon that passage from the Apostolic Constitutions, and the canonical epistle of St. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria and martyr. Also St. Epiphanius and others testify the same. Happy are they who, from their infancy and innocent age, are inured to the exercises of devotion, penance, and perfect obedience. St. Nicholas increased his fervour in these and all other virtues with his years, especially when he had devoted himself to a religious life in the monastery of Holy Sion, near Myra, of which house he was made abbot, by the archbishop, its founder. Charity in comforting and relieving the distressed, seemed his characteristical virtue. Amongst, many other instances, it is related, that when three young virgins were exposed through distress to the danger of falling into vicious courses, he, for three successive nights, conveyed to them through the window a competent sum of money for a fortune for one of them, so that they were all portioned, and afterwards happily married. Lycia was a large ancient province of Asia, in which St. Paul had planted the faith. Myra, the capital, three miles from Patara, and from the sea, was an archiepiscopal see, founded by St. Nicander, of so great dignity, that, in later ages, thirty-six suffragan bishoprics were subject to it. This metropolitan church falling vacant, the holy abbot Nicholas was chosen archbishop, and in that exalted station became famous by his extraordinary piety and zeal, and an incredible number of stupendous miracles. The Greek histories of his life agree that he suffered imprisonment for the faith, and made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution raised by Dioclesian: and that he was present at the great council of Nice, and there condemned Arianism. The silence of other authors make many justly suspect these circumstances.
The history of the translation of his relics place his death in 342. He died at Myra [Turkey], and was buried in his own cathedral. The relics of St. Nicholas were kept with great honour at Myra, till they were translated into Italy. Certain merchants of Bari [Italy], a sea-port in the kingdom of Naples, situate on the Adriatic Gulf, sailed in three ships to the coast of Lycia; and watching an opportunity when no Mahometans were near the place, went to the church in which the relics of St. Nicholas were kept, which stood in a desert place three miles from the sea, and was guarded by a small community of monks. They broke open the marble coffin in which the sacred bones lay, and carried them off to their ships; the inhabitants, upon the alarm given, pursued them to the shore with horrible outcries, but the Europeans were got safe on board. They landed at Bari on the 9th of May, 1087, and the sacred treasure was deposited by the archbishop in the Church of St. Stephen. On the first day, thirty persons were cured of various distempers, imploring the intercession of St. Nicholas, and from that time the tomb of St. Nicholas of Bari has been famous for pilgrimages. The authentic history of this translation, written by John, at that time archdeacon of Bari, by order of the archbishop, is extant in Surius. The same account is confirmed by another history of this translation, drawn up at the same time by Nicephorus of Bari, also an eye-witness, commissioned by the magistrates of the city, quoted in manuscript by Baronius, and published by Falconius. By this history of Nicephorus, it appears that the Venetians having formed a design of carrying off the relics of St. Nicholas, certain merchants from Bari, who happened then to be at Antioch, prevented them. This enterprise could only be justified by the laws of a just war, joined with the apprehension of the sacrilegious impiety of the Mahometans. Mention is made in a novella of the Emperor Emmanuel, recorded by Balsamon and all modern writers, of a fragrant unctuous matter which issues from the relics of St. Nicholas in his shrine at Bari, a large quantity of which was found in his sepulchre, near Myra, in Lycia, when his relics were brought thence.
St. Nicholas is esteemed a patron of children, because he was from his infancy a model of innocence and virtue, and to form that tender age to sincere piety was always his first care and delight. To impress on the minds of children perfect sentiments of devotion, religion, and all virtues, with an earnestness in all duties, is a task often as delicate as it is important. Instructions must be made sensible, and adapted by similes, parables, and examples, to the weakness of their capacities. Above all, they are to be enforced by the conduct of those with whom children converse. They learn their maxims, imbibe their spirit, and are moulded upon their example. A child which sees those who are about him love their own ease, and ever seek what best pleases their senses; still more, if he observes them to be choleric, peevish, vain, slothful, or impatient, will naturally cherish these passions, and yield up the government of himself to them, instead of learning by tractableness, humility, meekness, and self-denial, to subdue and govern them. And so in all other points. Precepts and exhortations lose their force when contradicted by example; and whilst the infant sees every one study to please himself in everything, in flat opposition to the rules of the gospel which he hears preached from their mouths, he seems tacitly persuaded that such a conduct is reconcileable with those very maxims which condemn it.
from: The Liturgical Year - Advent, Edition 1870;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.