Monday, December 6, 2010
St. Nicholas of Myra (d. c. 342)
Fr. John Julian, OJN, in his Stars In A Dark World, makes this interesting observation about the corruption of the St. Nicholas tradition in the United States: "In early New York, 'Saint Nicholas' was recognized by the Dutch Protestant settlers as 'Sint Klaes', and, apparently preferring paganism to popishness, they mixed the saint’s story with the Scandinavian legends of Thor who, as the god of fire, dressed all in red, rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats named Gnasher and Cracker, entered homes through chimneys and hearths, and was worshipped and honored by the burning of a Yule Log. This less than-creditable hybridization produced, of course, the totally secular, uniquely American, and notably un-saintly 'Santa Claus', the greatest symbol of contemporary consumerism. And, sad to say, this perversion of sanctity was advanced considerably by the word of an Episcopal priest and seminary Dean, The Rev. Clement C. Moore, who wrote what became the classic pagan Yuletide poem, 'The Night Before Christmas'." Only in America!
Now that our rampant and insane practices of acquiring and consuming more and more trifling things on a mega-scale has begun to come back and haunt us in the serious recession we're currently experiencing, perhaps this would be a good day for us pause and resolve to remember and begin to emulate the spirit of a man who devoted himself to far nobler human and spiritual ideals: providing for the welfare and future of children, the feeding of the unemployed and the poor, and the selfless easing of others' sufferings and burdens.