St. Nicholas

I love St. Nicholas.  I mean you have to love a guy that gives money so people can get out of slavery and also punch a heretic in the face during a Church Council.  Unfortunately, when most people think of St. Nicholas they think of the guy in the red suit.  How sad.

Not many people know the story of St. Nicholas slapping Arius in the ace during the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  Here is a synopsis of the story from the website of the St. Nicholas Center:

In AD 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. More than 300 bishops came from all over the Christian world to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. It was one of the early church’s most intense theological questions. Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arius forcefully argued his position at length. The bishops listened respectfully.

As Arius vigorously continued, Nicholas became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear what he believed was essential being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face! The bishops were shocked. It was unbelievable that a bishop would lose control and be so hotheaded in such a solemn assembly. They brought Nicholas to Constantine. Constantine said even though it was illegal for anyone to strike another in his presence, in this case, the bishops themselves must determine the punishment.

The bishops stripped Nicholas of his bishop’s garments, chained him, and threw him into jail. That would keep Nicholas away from the meeting. When the Council ended a final decision would be made about his future.

Nicholas was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness, though he did not waver in his belief. During the night, Jesus and Mary his Mother, appeared, asking, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” Nicholas replied. Jesus then gave the Book of the Gospels to Nicholas. Mary gave him an omophorion, so Nicholas would again be dressed as a bishop. Now at peace, Nicholas studied the Scriptures for the rest of the night.

When the jailer came in the morning, he found the chains loose on the floor and Nicholas dressed in bishop’s robes, quietly reading the Scriptures. When Constantine was told of this, the emperor asked that Nicholas be freed. Nicholas was then fully reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

The Council of Nicaea agreed with Nicholas’ views, deciding the question against Arius. The work of the Council produced the Nicene Creed which to this day many Christians repeat weekly when they stand to say what they believe.

What I like about this story is that even though St. Nicholas was correct in his belief he showed repentance for his actions.  He lost his cool, and he never should have done that.  He was thrown into jail as a punishment where he found repentance.

This is a story that we all can grab on to for we have all done things we should not have and need to find reconciliation.  I am sure that none of our sins were this public, but they are sins none the less and we all need to be reconciled to each other and to God.

Use this time of the preparation for the Nativity of our Lord in the Flesh to reconcile yourself like St. Nicholas did.  Who knows, you might become a saint!

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