Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Feast of St. Nicholas

The feast of St. Nicholas is about things that happen in the dark.

Nicholas lived in the city of Myra in what is today Turkey during the 4th century. It is said he was orphaned as a boy and left with a large fortune. Raised by an uncle who was a priest and blessed by a generous nature, Nicholas came to view his wealth not as an asset to be hoarded and multiplied, but as a gift to be given. Many stories attest to his generosity.

There was an impoverished man in Myra with three daughters. With no funds to either feed or dower them, he was going to be forced to sell them as prostitutes. No money, no life, no dignity. But while the family slept, Nicholas slipped three bags of gold through the window by night. In some versions of the tale, the father manages to stay awake and see the hand of God.

In another act of generosity, Nicholas took two bags of grain from a ship and with them was able to feed a multitude. Meanwhile, when the ship captain checked his stores, no bags of grain were missing, even though he had personally given away two.

The suggestion is that an economy of generosity works.

December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. In many European countries, today is the day when children lay out shoes or stockings in hopes that the Saint will remember them. In some traditions, only good children receive gifts. Naughty children receive lumps of coal instead, which might say something about the energy industry.

Santa Claus is simply an Americanization of St. Nicholas. If you say it out loud, it’s easy to hear.

How a saving act of grace turned into a commercial feeding frenzy is one of the spiritual mysteries of our time. But if we are asleep, we might mistake the truths that happen by night as “only a dream.”

Give a little of yourself away today.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Carol, I liked the way you told this story and ended with the "push." ~Diane