Saint Nicolas Eve
Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 2-4
2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, 3 and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, 4 But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
This is the source of the traditional names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.
Saint Nicolas Eve
The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6. Children leave their shoes outside their bedroom door the night before and awaken that day to find a surprise treat in their shoes. Saint Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in Lycia, a province in Turkey. He became well known for his generosity. He is also considered the patron saint of brides and children and the precursor to Santa Claus.
The Eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated throughout much of Europe with sweets and gifts to children. Legend tells us that Nicholas was a man of action and used his abundance that the Lord provided him to give special protection to children and unmarried young women. Let us find some way today to practice both the spiritual and temporal works of mercy. Today would be a good day to do something that helps children or young unmarried women from the abundance that God has provided us. For those who cannot share it is suggested to fast twice this week as was the practice of Saint Nicholas and give the cost of the food you would normally spend to help those in need. From the store house of your spiritual abundance your prayers can make a difference: pray especially for women who are enslaved in addictions and/or the sex slave trade. Thousands of men from over 80 countries consistently pray for women lead by an online organization called “e5 men”. Perhaps the Lord is calling you to this.
Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, and the Angels
As is well-known, "Santa Claus" comes from the Dutch rendering of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop famous for giving gifts anonymously to children and the needy. However, as Father Francis Weiser argues in his Handbook of Christian Customs (p. 113), the various legends surrounding Santa Claus actually come from the god of Norse and Germanic mythology, Thor (after whom Thursday is named). Thor was portrayed as a large, jovial old man with a long white beard whose symbolic color was red (owing to his association with fire). Thunder was said to have been caused by the rolling of his chariot (drawn by two white goats) across the clouds, and his home was said to have been "Northland," somewhere among the icebergs. The fireplace was also considered sacred to Thor because it was through it that he came into his element, the fire. We owe this odd metamorphosis of a Christian saint into a pagan god to New York City. When the Dutch founded the city in the seventeenth century, they observed the Catholic custom of "Saint Nicholas' visit" on the saint's feast day (December 5). This the Dutch did even though they were Protestant. When English Protestants later commandeered the city, they were offended by the practice, but their children very much liked it. The compromise that was eventually made was to transfer the giving of gifts from the 5th of December to the 25th and to add so many pagan elements to the story that the figure of the saintly Catholic bishop (who, incidentally, was notoriously intolerant of heretics) would no longer be recognizable. The older Christian custom is that on the night of December 5 (the vigil of Saint Nicholas Day), children write notes addressed to the Child Jesus and put them on their window sill, whence St. Nicholas carries them to heaven. A variation of this custom, prevalent in South America, is to write notes sometime between December 16 to 24 and to put them in front of the crib, from which point Angels carry the requests to heaven. Though the value of bringing children up on these stories is open to debate, at least the older customs explicitly tie the reception of gifts to the advent of Christ and portray the other figures (Nicholas or the angels) as His assistants. There was also a charming custom of "St. Nicholas" (a man dressed as a bishop) bringing gifts to children in person on his feast day.
49 Godly Character Traits
As we begin the Advent season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:
Creativity vs. Underachievement
Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective (Romans 12:2)
1000 This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ's transfiguration of our bodies:
Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.
2708 meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the lord Jesus, to union with him.
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