Children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, prostitutes, repentant thieves, many cities. O blessed Saint, we honor you, On this great festal day. Hail Nicholas the faithful say, Apostle of the Way. As you helped those who round you came; May we your presence feel, As our commitment is the same Answering Love's appeal. The father poor, the three young girls, Young men to life restored. Sailors can rest, the sea is blessed, Your miracles record. In prison dark, your faith was strong; Help those who suffer wrong, We heed your words, the gospel call, To hail Christ, Lord of all. As Bari's pilgrims make their way To sing of your great name, The wonder myrrh of Myra still Proclaims your loving fame. Lead us dear saint, in joy and peace, Your prayers we now implore, As we praise God, the Father, Son And Spirit blest adored. Today, December 6, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (died 346), the inspiration for many of our current secular Christmas traditions. This great saint is the most frequently depicted saint in art (only Our Blessed Mother surpasses him), and the veneration and honor he is given throughout the world are testimonials to his holiness and of the glory which he enjoys with God. Little is known about the life of Saint Nicholas. That which is most reliable comes from a monk, Saint Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who wrote a biography of Saint Nicholas approximately 500 years after his death. In his “life,” Saint Methodius tells us that that "Up to the present the life of this distinguished Shepard has been unknown to the majority of the faithful." He then describes the extraordinary events of the life of Saint Nicholas. The truth of many of these legends is unknown, but each speaks to a man of great faith. From this and other works, we know with certainty that when the See of Myra lost it’s bishop, Nicholas was chosen to fill the vacancy. There, he was recognized for his extraordinary piety, apostolic zeal, and became famous for working astonishing miracles. Nicholas was born at Patara in Lycia (Asia Minor), and demonstrated great piety and faith from an early age. For example, we are told that he fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, taking only nourishment in the evenings. Per his biography, "He was exceedingly well brought up by his parents and trod piously in their footsteps. The child, watched over by the church enlightened his mind and encouraged his thirst for sincere and true religion". Sadly, Nicholas’ parents died when he was still young, and taking his considerable inheritance, devoted himself to works of charity. One of his most “famous” charitable acts is thought to have inspired the giving of Christmas gifts: A citizen of Patara, where he lived, had lost all of his money. This honorable man had three daughters to support, and could not find suitable husbands because of their poverty. Upon hearing of this situation, Nicholas took a bag of gold, and in the night, threw the bag in the open window of the man’s house. (Some say that the gold—also sometimes referred to as gold balls, rather than bags, landed in the socks and shoes of the family, drying before the fire. This led to the tradition of hanging stockings to be filled.) The man, using the money as dowry, promptly found a suitable suitor for his eldest daughter, who was married. Nicholas repeated the act twice more, once for each remaining daughter. However, the man kept watch, and upon recognizing Nicholas, was overcome with gratitude and thanks. From this, we see Saint Nicholas as a holy man, charitable, and giving of himself to others. Nicholas soon departed Patara, traveling to the city of Myra where his uncle was the Archbishop. There, he was ordained, and appointed the Superior of a monastery. Upon the death of his uncle, Nicholas was appointed the new bishop by the people, who were certain that he had been chosen by the Lord. Around that time, the Diocletian persecutions of Christians were beginning, and "As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra." Saint Nicholas protected his flock against the heresies common in that time. He was likely present at the Council of Nicaea, where some legend tells of him striking Arius (the originator of the Arian heresy) and being imprisoned, only to be freed by visions of Jesus and Mary. Saint Nicholas also fought valiantly against paganism, destroying pagan temples throughout the region with “evil spirits fleeing, howling before him.” But Saint Nicholas did not limit himself to the spiritual affairs of his people. He served as protector and guardian, advocating for prisoners, and famously freeing three innocent men wrongly condemned to death by the governor, Eustathius. Upon freeing the men, Nicholas incessantly reproached the governor—in front of a large crowd—until he admitted his wrong-doing and became sincerely penitent. Saint Nicholas later miraculously freed three men from a distance, appearing to Emperor Constantine and demanding their release in a dream. The next morning, when the imprisoned men called upon the name of Saint Nicholas for intercession, the emperor freed them, sending them back to the great saint with a letter asking for no more threats, but for peace in the world. For this, Saint Nicholas is regarded as the patron of prisoners and captives. Additional miracles reported at the intercession of Saint Nicholas include the raising to life three young boys who were killed and hidden in pickling barrels to avoid detection (For this, he is the patron and protector of children), and the calming of stormy seas by his word upon voyages to the Holy Land. It is this latter miracle—during which he appeared to frightened sailors off the coast of Lycea, that led his patronage of sailors. Sailors in the Aegean and Ionian seas, following a common Eastern custom, had their "star of Saint Nicholas" and wished one another a good voyage in the phrase "May Saint Nicholas hold the tiller.” Under the rule of Emperor Diocletian, Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith, but refused to recant, and was eventually freed upon the death of the Emperor. He is recorded as makinga "glorious confession" of the faith to his jailors, converting many. Saint Nicholas died at Myra, and is buried there in the basilica named for him. At Myra "the venerable body of the bishop, embalmed as it was in the good ointments of virtue exuded a sweet smelling myrrh, which kept it from corruption and proved a health giving remedy against sickness to the glory of him who had glorified Jesus Christ, our true God." During the Saracen occupation, the relics of Saint Nicholas were translated to Bari, Italy. The translation of the relics did not interrupt this phenomenon, and the "manna of St. Nicholas" is said to flow to this day. This “manna”-- a unique relic which forms in his grave, is a liquid substance said to have healing powers. It was one of the great attractions which draws pilgrims to his tomb from all parts of Europe. An anonymous Greek wrote in the tenth century that, "the West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the furthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. Images of him are set up, panegyrics preached and festivals celebrated. All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence his memory and call upon his protection. And his favors, which know no limit of time and continue from age to age, are poured out over all the earth; the Scythians know them, as do the Indians and the barbarians, the Africans as well as the Italians." As a bishop, Saint Nicholas, was first and foremost a shepherd of the people, caring for their needs. His active pursuit of justice for his people was demonstrated when he secured grain in time of famine, saved the lives of three men wrongly condemned, and secured lower taxes for Myra. He taught the Gospel simply, so ordinary people understood, and he lived out his faith and devotion to God in helping the poor and all in need. Regardless of the accuracy of the legends and miracles reported in his name, the life and deeds of Saint Nicholas, and the attitude with which he praised the Lord, make him an inspiration to us today. As we move through Advent, toward Christmas, let us emulate Saint Nicholas in our care and concern for the welfare of others. O God, Who didst adorn blessed Nicholas, the bishop, with miracles unnumbered, grant, we beseech Thee, that by his merits and prayer we may be delivered from the fire of hell. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Text Shared from 365Rosaries Blog
ST. NICHOLAS BREAD Klauskerl (German St. Nicholas Doughman)
For the Feast of St. Nicholas
1 package active dry, or cake, yeast ½ cup lukewarm water 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour 2 eggs, divided 2 tablespoons sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt ½ cup soft butter 1 cup warm milk
ONE Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in ½ cup flour; mix thoroughly. Let rise in covered bowl.
TWO Sift 2 ½ cups flour into bowl; make "well" in center; put dough in it. Add 1 egg, sugar, salt, butter, milk. Knead until dough starts to blister. Dust dough with flour; cover; let rise to double thickness.
THREE Punch to ¼-inch thickness and cut pieces in shape of body, head, arms, legs. Assemble to form "St. Nicholas doughman;" cover; let rise.
Make face, using raisins, slivers of almond, currants, etc. Brush with milk, beaten egg.
Bake at 375º F. until golden brown. Yield, 1 St. Nicholas Doughman
From The Catholic Cook Book: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes by William I. Kaufman. The Citadel Press, 1965.
(Vatican Radio) Let us allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ; let us allow ourselves to be able to be re-created, freeing us from our sins. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, centred on the theme of the renewal that the Lord brings. The Pope put us on guard about painting over our sins without truly being ashamed in our hearts. Only by calling sins by their name, he said, will we be able to allow God to make us new women and men.
The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the deaf will hear. The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks to us about renewal, the Pope said. Everything will be changed, from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good.” A change for the better: this, he said, is what the People of Israel were expecting from the Messiah.
The change that Jesus brings is not simply make-up
Turning then to the Gospel of the day, Pope Francis noted that Jesus went about healing people, helping them “to see a path of change” and this is why they followed Him. They didn’t follow Jesus because He was some sort of novelty; “they followed Him because the message of Jesus touched their hearts.” And “the people saw that Jesus healed, and they followed Him” for that reason as well:
But what Jesus did was not only change things from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good: Jesus made a transformation. It’s not a problem of making something beautiful, it’s not a problem of cosmetics, of make-up: He changed everything from the inside! He made a change that was a re-creation: God had created the world; man fell into sin; Jesus came to re-create the world. And this is the message, the message of the Gospel, that we can clearly see: before healing that man, He forgave his sins. Go that way, to a re-creation, He re-creates that man, [changing him] from a sinner to a just man: He re-creates him as a just man. He makes him new, totally new. And this gives scandal: this gives scandal!
For this reason, the Pope said, the Doctors of the Law, “began to discuss, to murmur,” because they weren’t able to accept His authority. Jesus, he said, “is capable of making us – us sinners – new persons.” It is something, Pope Francis said, “that Mary Magdalen intuits.” She was healthy, “but she had a wound within: she was a sinner.” She had an intuition that Jesus was able to heal not only the body, “but the wounds of the soul. He could re-create it!” And for reason “great faith” is needed.
Opening the heart before the Lord: calling sin by its name
The Lord, the Pope said, “helps us to prepare ourselves for Christmas with great faith” because “for the healing of the soul, for the existential healing the re-creation that Jesus brings requires great faith in us.” Being transformed, he said “is the grace of salvation that Jesus brings.” We need to overcome the temptation to say “I can’t do it,” and to allow ourselves instead to be transformed, to be re-created by Jesus. “Courage” is the word of God:
We are all sinners, but look to the root of your sin, and that the Lord goes there and re-creates it; and that bitter root will flourish, flourish with works of justice; and you will be a new man, a new woman. But if we [say]: ‘Yes, yes, I have some sins; I go, I confess myself… two little words, and then I go on as before,” I don’t allow myself to be re-created by the Lord. Only two coats of paint, and we believe that with this the story’s over. No! Naming my sins, with name and surname: I’ve done this, and this, and this, and I am ashamed at heart. And I open my heart: ‘Lord, the only thing I have. Re-create me! Re-create me! And so we have the courage of going with true faith – as we asked – towards Christmas.’
The Pope said we always “seek to hide the gravity of our sins.” For example when we diminish envy. This, on the other hand, said Pope Francis, “is a very ugly thing. It is like the venom of a serpent” that seeks “to destroy the other!”
Let us allow the Lord to cancel our sins in order to make us truly new
And so the Pope encourages us “to get to the bottom of our sins and then give them to the Lord, so that He will cancel them and help us go forward with faith.” And he emphasized this passage, telling the story of a Saint, a great Bible scholar, who had a very strong character, who was often moved to anger, and who sought forgiveness from the Lord, doing so many acts of renunciation and penance:
The Saint, talking to the Lord said, ‘Are you content, O Lord’ – ‘No!’ – ‘But I have given you everything!’ – ‘No, there’s something missing…’ And this poor man did another penance, said another prayer, did another vigil: ‘I have done this for you, O Lord. Is everything ok? – ‘No! Something’s missing…’ – ‘But what is missing, Lord?’ – ‘Your sins are lacking! Give me your sins!’ This is what the Lord is asking of us today. ‘Courage! Give me your sins and I will make you a new man, a new woman.’ May the Lord give us faith, to believe this.
Monday of the Second Week in Advent Lectionary: 181
Reading 1IS 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; The abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Responsorial PsalmPS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
R. (Isaiah 35:4f) Our God will come to save us! I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. R. Our God will come to save us! Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. R. Our God will come to save us! The LORD himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and salvation, along the way of his steps. R. Our God will come to save us!
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth, and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Hermit, born at Mutalaska near Caesarea in Cappadocia, 439; died in his laura 5 December, 532. He entered a Basilian monastery aat the age of eight, came to Jerusalem in 456, lived five years in a cavern as a disciple of St. Euthymius, and, after spending some time in various monasteries, founded (483) the Laura Mar Sabe (restored in 1840) in the gorges of the Cedron, southeast of Jerusalem. Because some of his monks opposed his rule and demanded a priest as their abbot, Patriarch Salustius of Jerusalem ordained him in 491 and appointed archimandrite of all the monasteries in Palestine in 494. The opposition continued and he withdrew to the new laura which he had built near Thekoa. A strenuous opponent of the Monophysites and the Origenists he tried to influence the emperors against them by calling personally on Emperor Anastasius at Constantinople in 511 and on Justinian in 531. His authorship of "Typicon S. Sabæ" (Venice, 1545), a regulation for Divine worship throughout the year as well as his authorship of a monastic rule bearing the same title (Kurtz in "Byzant, Zeitschrift", III, Leipzig, 1894, 167-70), is doubtful. After him was named the Basilica of St. Sabas with its former monastery on the Aventine at Rome. His feast is on 5 December.