Advent, Alexander, Arianism, Arius, Athanasius, Barton Gingerich, Catholic, Christmas, Church, Council of Nicaea, hagiography, heresy, history, Nicene Creed, orthodox, Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, theology
Today we commemorate St. Nicholas of Myra, whose resume boasts enough miracles for him to be called the “Wonderworker” in some parts of Christendom. Even before he became the Coca-Cola chugging world-traveler and reindeer master, he was known for his compassion for children and his sacrificial generosity. According to one story, he saved three daughters from a life of prostitution by dropping down bars (or else balls) of gold down their chimney. Some accounts say they landed in shoes; others assert they fell into stockings laid out to dry. (Sorry, Rankin Bass).
More interestingly and often less-known, St. Nicholas of Myra was evidently a delegate to the Council of Nicaea, which was convened to resolve the question of Christ and the Trinity. Arius and his followers asserted that Christ was not divine. This did not settle well with most bishops, who deemed this a threat to the very foundation of the Church. Good old St. Nick was no exception. In his anger, he accosted Arius and slapped him before the entire assembly. He did come under censure and had to apologize, but his outburst nevertheless pointed to the intensity of the theological debate. Thankfully, the voice of the catholic orthodox faith rang clear, especially with the leadership of St. Alexander of Alexandria and St. Athanasius (who was then a young archdeacon).
What we as 21st century Christians do with this is left up to debate, but the provost of my alma mater, Dr. Gene Veith, has shared a few possible ideas in this humorous World magazine article. In the meantime, enjoy the Advent season!