To Punch a Heretic

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Since the feast of St. Nicholas is this Friday on the 6th of December 2013, I believe that it would be simply great to talk about his life and how he became the legend of Santa Claus.

But first, to kick it off let us list a couple of great ways to celebrate this Saint’s Feast:

  1. Take off your shoes and wait for someone to put oranges or sweet candies in them.
  2. Have a glass of beer while you wait for your oranges and sweet candies.
  3. You can also punch a heretic while you wait.

Alright well now that you are waiting for those candies, and have already given your Arian friend a shiner, freed your dogs from their loafer prisons, and you are drinking a beer – since you still have time to kill – Here is a brief history of St. Nick’s Life,  how he punched a heretic and one thing led to another and now he’s Santa Claus who rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer…

Who is Jolly Old St. Nick

Well, Nicholas was born in 270 AD. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius (Ἐπιφάνιος) and Johanna (Ἰωάννα) according to some accounts [and Theophanes (Θεοφάνης) and Nonna (Νόννα) according to others], and we are told that “He was exceedingly well brought up by his parents and trod piously in their footsteps. The child, watched over by the church enlightened his mind and encouraged his thirst for sincere and true religion”.  Legends of Nicholas say that he was to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter (priest). The death of his parents, however, left him well off and he determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity. This is when we received the opportunities that led to the creation of his habit of gift giving. One of the most popular of these activities included putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Ergo, he got a reputation for secret gift-giving, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.  He was eventually elected by the people as the Bishop of Myra in Lycia (modern day Turkey), and St. Methodius asserts that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison”. St. Nick died on December 6, 343 leaving a legacy that would grow into a strong and multifaceted cult. Although he is usually referred to as Sinterklaas, he is also known as De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) or simply as De Sint (The Saint). His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. The actual feast day of St. Nicholas is December 6th.

The Council of Nicaea (To punch a heretic) 

In 325, the Emperor called for an ecumenical council to settle the debate between Arianism and the Orthodox Christianity that we know and love today. One of the bishops to answer the request of Constantine at the First Council of Nicaea was none other than the Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas. Being the staunch anti-Arian Catholic that he was Jolly Father Christmas kissed the heretic, Arius’, face with his fist because he just couldn’t take the nonsense any longer.

The Emperor Constantine and the bishops present at the Council were alarmed by Nicholas’ act of violence against Arius. They immediately stripped Nicholas of his office as a bishop by confiscating the two items that marked out a man as a Christian bishop: Nicholas’ personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium (the vestment worn by all bishops in the East). However this was not the end of Chris Kringle. After Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic. Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.” Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.

When the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicaea. Today we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday so we know how the controversy played out (Nicholas Won). The bishops at Nicea sided with Saint Nicholas and Saint Athanasius and they condemned Arius as a heretic. To this very day, we still recite in the Creed that Christ is ‘God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.’

Now after hearing the story the real questions are:

 

How St. Nick became Santa

I know it is a secular video, but it very well done. You can piece together the entire history of St. Nicholas becoming Santa Claus with what we have written in the first paragraphs above. If you are interested in possibly having the dormitory make it’s own video on the topic, let us know in the comments section. Thank you, God Bless.

 

Sources

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4 comments

  1. Peter H. Reilly · · Reply

    This was a very interesting article; I had never heard the part about St. Nicholas striking Arius before. These are very hard questions to answer especially when taken into account Christ’s dealings with the usurers in the temple. I think that it was not becoming for Saint Nicholas to strike the heretic Arius not because this act is sinful in itself (see Summa Theologica Secunda Secundae Partis Q. 64 A. 2), but rather because of the office which Nicholas had, namely that of Bishop. The act of striking a heretic is a just and even a pious act, just not one that behooves a Bishop.

    “I answer that, it is unlawful for clerics to kill, for two reasons. First, because they are chosen for the ministry of the altar, whereon is represented the Passion of Christ slain “Who, when He was struck did not strike [Vulgate: 'When He suffered, He threatened not']” (1 Peter 2:23). Therefore it becomes not clerics to strike or kill: for ministers should imitate their master, according to Sirach 10:2, “As the judge of the people is himself, so also are his ministers.” The other reason is because clerics are entrusted with the ministry of the New Law, wherein no punishment of death or of bodily maiming is appointed: wherefore they should abstain from such things in order that they may be fitting ministers of the New Testament.” -Summa Theologica Secunda Secundae Partis Q. 64 A. 4

    I also state with Saint Paul:

    “Oportet enim episcopum sine crimine esse, sicut Dei dispensatorem: non superbum, non iracundum, non vinolentum, non percussorem, non turpis lucri cupidum.[ A bishop, after all, since he is the steward of God’s house, must needs be beyond reproach. He must not be an obstinate or quarrelsome man, one who drinks deep, or comes to blows, or is grasping over money.]” – Titus 1:7

    1. I understand where you are coming from, but at the same time, St. Nicholas was not acting in a fit of rage to prove his own belief. Rather, according to tradition, he was acting in godly righteousness. At certain times it can and is fitting to act in such a way, even though it might take away from ones honor and reputation; We are not called to be sons and heirs of this world, but of Christ.
      St. Nicholas’s actions, I think, would be unfair to take as actions with the intent to kill, rather, it would be more fitting, and in the realm of Christian charity to assume that St. Nicholas acted as he did with the intent of correction. I do believe that if Arius was only insulting St. Nicholas, that he would have let it go without out a blink of the eye. But, it was more likely the case of the Pharisees in the temple; it was in a holy place and against people who professed to be true believers, but who were, in fact, making a mockery of the holy of holies, intentional or not. St. Nicholas, I am guessing, was not surprised that his holy orders were stripped away from him, according to the letter of the law, but at the same time he would not be surprised that they were returned to him, according to the spirit of the law that is Christ. I end in the words of St. John Chrysostom:

      And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels! For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God.
      -Homilies on the Statues 1,32.

  2. Peter H. Reilly · · Reply

    Ok I agree with you, but will still hold that it is not most fitting that a Bishop should be the one to administer the blow. This is not to say that at certain times it might not be necessary (by your side of the argument this St Nicholas’s blow would qualify as being done at a necessary time).
    Also I did not mean to attribute a murderous or even malicious intention to Saint Nicholas’ actions. Please forgive me if this is how it was presented.

  3. […] To Punch a Heretic (thecatholicdormitory.wordpress.com) […]

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