See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Saturday, December 06, 2008

St. Nicholas Day




The miracle worker.

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The image of Santa Claus shown above is by Wm. Holbrook Beard. It is one of my favorite images of Santa, and is directly inspired by the miracles of St. Nicholas of Bari, whose feast we celebrate today. Santa as we know him is forever linked to the great wonder-worker St. Nicholas, the early Christian bishop from Myra, now Turkey. (He is also known as "of Bari" in Italy because his tomb is there, where his relics continue to produce miracles, and even exude a miraculous fluid.)

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Images of Santa propelled through the air have been inspired by Christian iconography, depicting St. Nicholas performing the miracles that were attributed to him. One of the Saint's attributes is that he is revered as the patron of sailors, since he saved many from shipwreck amidst storms at sea - hence, painters illustrating the prodigy have St. Nicholas appearing in mid-air surrounded by a brilliant comet-like light, blessing the unfortunate sailors and thereby rescuing them. In these depictions, the Saint appears to be flying through the air - hence the vision of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops.

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The secretive distribution of gifts is also inspired by the miracles of the Saint. With tender compassion for the poor, and in order to save three young virgins from being forced into prostitution because of their father's poverty and inability to provide a dowry, the Holy Nicholas came to the family's aid. Under cover of night, the Saint placed three bags of gold - enough for each maiden's dowry - in through a window of the house, and in the morning, they rejoiced over the gifts which guaranteed their freedom from a miserable life.

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Incidentally, few people ever bothered to learn what happened to the girls St. Nicholas rescued. Well I looked into it and found out that two of them did indeed get married. But the other, who had a bit of a weight problem, turned out to be a lesbian who decided to use the money for school. So she left home and traveled to NYC. When she got there she changed her mind and decided to do stand-up comedy instead. She also did a little acting, and eventually landed herself a talk show... which failed. Then she went on The View, but she screwed that up too. Finally she did a special on NBC - which really flopped - and now she lives in obscurity someplace in suburban Long Island, or Connecticut, or Florida - something like that. (I actually made this part up.)

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Anyway. Happy St. Nicholas day.
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Visit this site for a more complete story of St. Nicholas.

1 comment:

  1. Terry-

    I love this image, too. It's so nineteenth century (the period when Beard lived) and so “christmassy.”

    ReplyDelete


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