Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Saint Nicholas, also known as Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century figure.

His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.

Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the poor, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and became Bishop of Myra at a very young age.

Nicholas was known for his generosity, his love of children, and his concern for sailors and ships. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is venerated as the Miracle Creator or the Wonderworker.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered persecution, was exiled from Myra and incarcerated.

It is said that the prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons that there was no space for murderers, thieves and robbers.

After his release from prison, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told about St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so loved and revered as a protector and helper of those in need.

One of the legends has it that during a great famine a ship which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor of Byzantium, was is in the port at anchor.

Nicholas asked the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors, at first disliked the request because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. But when Nicholas promised them that they would not take any damage for their consideration, the sailors agreed. When they later arrived in the capital, they made a surprising find. The weight of the load had not changed. The amount of wheat they left in Myra lasted for two full years and could even be used for sowing.

Saint Nicholas Day is joyfully celebrated in Europe, especially in Poland and Germany, but also in Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and France. The Orthodox Christians celebrate this holiday on December 19 in accordance with the Orthodox calendar. 

To learn more please visit St. Nicholas Center