Reflection on Feast of St Nicholas with Fr Robin Gibbons

Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos

Saint Nicholas of Myra - December 6th

It is good to have a breather in the dark days of winter in the northern lands of the planet, I expect its also good to have a break in the hottest times of the summer in the south. For those teaching in schools, term is coming to a close and the holidays rapidly approach. In University either we have finished undergraduate teaching term as at Oxford, but not our research or postgraduate work just yet or we are simply winding down, getting those projects and administrative bits and pieces tidied up. Or the rest of the world much goes on a normal, the dark days here crowd in making mornings dismal and returning home in the dark difficult. We do have the holiday and Christmas lights up in our streets. Yes, I know people don't like the conflation of religion and festival to start this early, but we have had Hanukah and everybody can be forgiven for wanting a little bit of cheer.

So welcome Saint Nicholas, welcome to a world in need of cheer and hope. Your goodness and care for all kinds of 'others' means you now remain one of the most popular of the Christian Saints and have turned into a symbol of giving and compassion in the figure of Santa Claus, which is really your name. I actually like the sound of the Middle Eastern Baba Noel, Papa Noel, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that you were a living breathing person and now share in our lives as one of the great company of saints!

How can we discover you a bit more? There are people and websites who can tell us your historical story and places closely associated with your ministry and life. We can go to your tomb in Bari and venerate your relics, travel through Turkey to see where you were born and spent your life as a Bishop! We can link you to so many kinds of people, children, sailors, brides, the poor and even those who teach church doctrine (as you were supposed to be at the Council of Nicaea in 325!)

Tales of you capture our imaginations. In England you came with the Norman Conquest and before the Reformation put you on a shelf for a while, there were 500 churches in England alone dedicated to your name! So it seems you are never very far away from people at all. But perhaps most of all, you can help us all young and old just relax a moment, spend a day being concerned and caring about others, making your feast day a big preparation for the coming of the child of heaven who lives in each one of us always.

Prayer (adapted by Fr Robin Gibbons)

Generous God,
who in your love gave to your servant Nicholas of Myra
the gift of caring for others by deeds of kindness on land and sea:
Enable us who honour him to love as he did and never cease to work
for the happiness and protection of children,
the safety of sailors and all who work on the sea,
the relief of the poor,
and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. Amen


Make ye merry, as ye may,
And sing with me,
I you pray.

In Patras there born he was,
The holy bishop Saint Nicholas.
He wist mickle of Godes grace,
Through virtue of the Trinity.

He rais'd three boys from death to life
That were in salt put full swythe,
Cut up by butcher and his wife,
And hidden all in privacy.

He sav'd three maidens of mild mood;
He gave them gold to have food,
Thus turning them from ill to good,
Through virtue of the Trinity.

God grant us grace here, old and young,
Him to serve at his pleasing;
To heaven's bliss may he us bring,
Through virtue of the Trinity.

Text adapted from a 15th century carol

Tags: St Nicholas

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