Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homily for St. Nicholas: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, OR

Dec 6th, 2012 Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop and Confessor

It is said that the saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent are those which the Holy Spirit has entrusted with preparing the way for the Lord for the Christian people. In life, he helped to prepare the way by being one of the 318 bishops at the Council of Nicaea who proclaimed that the Son is consubstantial with the Father.

…[N]early every source makes a point of repeating that as a child still nursing with his mother, he abstained on Wednesdays and Fridays, taking only one meal on those days and that in the evening. This was a divine gift to the child before the age of reason. He was born into nobility and had every privilege, but his parents died when he was young and, like many saints, he heard the call from Jesus to “sell everything and come follow me.” That he did.

As a noble, even without money, he had resources to make it. There were in the town three young ladies of marrying age who were poor. Their father, without a dowry to provide, could not secure for them an honorable marriage, so he was going to abandon them to a life of prostitution. Nicholas heard about this and he came by night to the house, and tossed through the window the amount of one dower. He returned on two other occasions and did the same thing, thus providing for each daughter, all of whom subsequently married respectable men.

He traveled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage and was so inspired that when he returned, he was an example that inspired others. He went to the city of Myra in the province of Lycia in which he was born. The bishop had just died. The bishops of the province had come together for the purpose of electing a successor. They were told by a revelation from heaven that they should choose the man who, the next day, would be the first to enter the church, and that his name would be Nicholas. The next morning, they found Nicholas waiting at the church door. He became the next bishop.

St. Nicholas slapping Arius
During the reigns of Diocletian and Maximian, Nicholas was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith, but continued to teach. After Constantine I legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, the Arian controversy arose. Nicholas was one of the bishops attending the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (325), called to resolve the controversy. At the Council, Nicholas slapped Arius, a bishop from Alexandria, in the face, for teaching that Christ was a created being instead of eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This resulted in Nicholas being deposed as bishop. However, several of the church fathers that night shared a dream in which they saw Nicholas reinstated as bishop by Christ and the Theotokos. The next day, Nicholas was reinstated as bishop and treated with respect.

Very soon after returning home from the council, he became very ill and soon died. His remains were transferred in 1087 from Myra to Bari in Apulia, Italy. At his tomb, there is an oil which emanates from the relics. This oil has been constant even from before the transfer a thousand years ago. There are countless cures that have occurred from this oil.

St. Nicholas is to the East what St. Martin of Tours is to the West. But he has been greatly venerated in the West, and there are liturgical sequences that were once chanted during the Mass and during processions on today’s feast. One of these sequences was written by Adam of St. Victor and they all recount the events of the saint’s life and the miraculous cures that have occurred due to the oil of St. Nicholas.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be courteous and concise.