Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Putting the Christmas back in "Christmas": St. Nicholas Day 2017

SAINT Nicholas. Day of death: (according to the martyrology) December 6, about 360. Grave: originally at Myra; since 1087 at Bari in Italy. Life (highly legendary): Nicholas was born at Patara in Asia Minor to parents who, having long been childless, had petitioned God with many prayers. Already as a youth Nicholas became noted for his zeal in helping the unfortunate and oppressed. In his native city there lived a poor nobleman who had three marriage-able daughters; he could not obtain a suitor for them because he could offer no dowry. The contemptible idea struck him to sacrifice the innocence of his daughters to gain the needed money. When Nicholas became aware of this, he went by night and threw a bag containing as much gold as was needed for a dowry through the window. This he repeated the second and third nights. During a sea voyage he calmed the storm by his prayer; he is therefore venerated as patron of sailors. On, a certain occasion he was imprisoned for the faith. In a wonderful way he later became bishop of Myra; his presence is noted at the Council of Nicaea. He died a quiet death in his episcopal city, uttering the words: "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

Nicholas is highly venerated in the East as a miracle worker, as "preacher of the word of God, spokesman of the Father."
--Pius Parsch

THE celebration of the feast of the nativity of Christ in the Orthodox church is patterned after the celebration of the feast of the Lord's resurrection. A fast of forty days precedes the feast, with special preparatory days announc-ing the approaching birth of the Savior. Thus, on St. An-drew's Day (November 30) and St. Nicholas Day (December 6) songs are sung to announce the coming birthday of the Lord.

Adorn yourself, O cavern.
Make yourself ready, O manger.
O shepherds and magi,
bring your gifts and bear witness.
For the Virgin is coming
bearing Christ in her womb.
--Thomas Hopko

O you who love festivals,
Come gather and sing the praises
of the fair beauty of bishops,
The glory of the fathers,
The fountain of wonders and great protector
of the faithful.

Let us all say: Rejoice, O guardian of the people of Myra,
Their head and honored counsellor,
The pillar of the church which cannot be shaken.

Rejoice, O light full of brightness
That makes the ends of the world shine with wonders.

Rejoice, O divine delight of the afflicted,
The fervent advocate of those who suffer from injustice.

And now, O all-blessed Nicholas,
Never cease praying to Christ our God
For those who honor the festival of your memory
With faith and with love.
--Orthodox Liturgy

WHAT keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? "I'm not doing any harm," you say. "I justwantto keep what I own, that's all." You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone's use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. After all, didn't you come into life naked, and won't you return naked to the earth?

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.
--Basil, 4th century

THE large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds-and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor. . . . There is your sister or brother, naked, crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.
--Ambrose, 4th century

A voyce from heven to erth shal com:
"Venite ad iudicium."

This voyce both sharp and also shryll
Shal be herd from heven to hell;
All mydle erthe it shall fu Ifyll:
"Venite ad iudicium."

"Venite" is a blyssed song
For them that for joye dooth longe
And shall forsake paynes strong:
"Venite ad iudicium."

Glad in hert may they be
Whan Chryst sayeth, "Venite;
Ye blyssed chyldren, come to me,
Into vitam eternam.

"Whan I hongred, ye gave me meat;
Ye clothed me agaynst the heat;
In trouble ye dyde me not forget;
Venite ad iudicium.

"Ye socoured me at your doore
And for my sake gave to the poore;
Therfore wyll I you socoure;
Venite ad iudicium."

Sory in hert may they be
That hereth this hevy worde: "Ite;
Ye cursed chyldren, go fro me,
Into ignem eternum.

"Whan for nede that I dyde crye,
Comfortlesse ye lete me dye;
Therfore now I you deny;
Venite ad iudicium.

"For by me ye set no store,
Ye shall abye ryght dere therfore
In hell with devyls for evermore;
Venite ad iudicium."
--English carol, 16th century

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