Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nicholas of Myra

was born in Asia Minor during the third century in the Greek colony of Patara in Lycia in the Roman province of Asia- today Antalya, Turkey — at a time when the region was Hellenistic in its culture and outlook. Nicholas became bishop of the city of Myra. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. According to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays, even when an infant, by abstaining on those days from his mother's breasts. Nicholas is said to have been born to relatively affluent Christian parents in Patara, Lycia, where he also received his early schooling.

As the patron saint also of sailors, Nicholas is claimed to have been a sailor or fisherman himself. More likely, however, is that one of his family businesses involved managing a fishing fleet. When his parents died, Nicholas received his inheritance but is said to have given it away to the poor. So was St Nicholas a working, albeit wealthy, man who complemented his day job with caring for his congregation, or was he a full-time bishop? The impressive list of deeds of Nicholas seems to point to the latter. This does not mean, however, that his appointment to priest or bishop meant a complete rupture with his former life. More likely this was a gradual process.

Nicholas's early activities as a priest are said to have occurred during the persecution of Christians under the reign of co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian (reigned 284–305) and Maximian (reigned 286–305) In the Eastern Empire Galerius (reigned 305–311) continued the persecution until 311 when he issued a general edict of toleration from his deathbed. Nicholas survived this period, although his activities at the time are uncertain.

Following Galerius' death his surviving co-ruler Licinius (reigned 307–324) mostly tolerated Christians. As a result their community was allowed to further develop, and the various bishops who acted as their leaders managed to concentrate religious, social, and political influence as well as wealth in their hands. In many cases they acted as the heads of their respective cities. It is apparently in this period that Nicholas rose to become bishop of Myra. Judging from tradition, he was probably well loved and respected in his area, mostly as a result of his charitable activities. As with other bishops of the time, Nicholas's popularity would serve to ensure his position and influence during and after this period.

The destruction of several pagan temples is also attributed to him, among them the temple of Artemis. Because the celebration of Diana's birth is on December 6, some authors have speculated that this date was deliberately chosen for Nicholas's feast day to overshadow or replace the pagan celebrations.

Not only was Nicholas intolerant of pagans, he was also intolerant of Arianism. Nicholas is listed as a participant in the First Council of Nicaea. There according to legend he became so angry upon hearing the views of Arius that he rushed over to the heretic and gave him a tremendous box on his ears, sending him to the ground.

Nicholas is also known for coming to the defence of the falsely accused, often preventing them from being executed, and for his intercession on behalf of sailors and other travelers. The popular veneration of Nicholas as a saint seems to have started relatively early. Justinian I, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (reigned 527–565) is reported to have built a temple (i.e. a church building) in Nicholas's honor in Constantinople.

Propers for Nicholas - Bishop of Myra

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy servant Nicholas: Grant to us, thy humble servants, the same faith and power of love; that, as we rejoice in his triumph, we may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.

REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.

WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was a hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

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