December 06, 2011

The night Santa went crazy

Happy St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas of Myra is the prototype St. Nick: a Byzantine bishop of the fourth century renowned for his generosity. In particular, he is known for his gift to the three daughters of a pious Christian man: impoverished, they were about to resort to prostitution to make ends meet. Nicholas, anonymously and under cover of night, threw three bags of gold through the family's window, one for each daughter to use as a dowry.

Acording to another, less well-known tradition, Nicholas was present at the Council of Nicæa, in AD 325. The council had met to deliberate the theology of Arius, an Egyptian heretic who taught that Christ was not equal in substance to the Father. Arius himself was present at the Council to defend his views. Supposedly, Nicholas—an ardent defender of the orthodox position that Christ was the eternal Son of God, of the same substance as the Father—became increasingly incensed as Arius continued to expound upon his heresy. Finally, he lost it completely and slapped Arius across the face.

For this offense to the dignity of Church proceedings—and for hulking out in front of Emperor Constantine, to boot—Nicholas was stripped of his rank and thrown in jail. Legend says he received a vision of Mary and Jesus, who vindicated him and restored to him the symbols of his office. When Constantine heard of this miracle, he formally reinstated him as bishop as well. Because of this, and other supposed miracles attributed to St. Nicholas of Myra, the traditional liturgical calendar celebrates his feast day today, December 6.

So, have a happy Slug a Heretic Day.