Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas

“Christ in Christmas is rooted in every child’s memories of an astonishing intervention of love in their life, found, of all places, in their stockings.”

Fr. Nicholas Ayo, on his latest book

It may be difficult to discern in the heroic and daunting figure of the fourth century Bishop of Myra, the “jolly old elf” of Clement Clarke Moore’s endearing and sentimental “Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem. The saint whose feast the Catholic Church celebrates on Dec. 6 may well have been such a pleasantly avuncular gentleman, but he is also remembered as a powerful leader who rescued many young women from sexual slavery, intimidated vengeful emperors, came between the executioner’s axe and the neck of a condemned prisoner, plucked despairing seafarers from perfect storms, and overwhelmed a threatened famine with a miraculous abundance of grain.

Writing of these older and more stirring accounts of his patron saint, Father Ayo remarks that “it does not take much imagination to wonder if the Santa Claus, who descends upon our roof, or the comic book superman, who swoops down upon our city, owe some of their inspiration and the cut of their figure to the original aerial wonder-worker, good Saint Nicholas.”

Computer generated reconstruction of the face of St. Nicholas from Discovery Channel

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