WEDNESDAY THE SIXTH OF DECEMBER 2017
* Nicholas of Myra *
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.
( Ignatius of Loyola )
Let us lift our joyful voices in sweet well-timed harmony;
sing of Nicholas the blessed and his works of clemency.
As a child, he studied closely God's good word and holy ways.
Called by God to be a bishop; serving through his final days.
To the poor, the sick, the orphans, works of mercy he did show;
miracles of God's great goodness and his love for all to know.
Money needed for a ransom of three maidens, bound and sold;
retribution paid he for them, with three rings of bishop's gold.
Praying on a ship most ancient, tossed about the raging sea;
calm became the swelling waters; God looked down and heard his plea.
Nicholas your works remembered, as we all rejoice this day;
guide us through the stormy tempest, help us not to lose our way.
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Nicholas of Myra: thank goodness for hagiography
Today Saint Laika’s remembers Nicholas of Myra, the fourth century bishop, whom the world knows as Santa Claus.
Very little is known about the life of Nicholas, except that he suffered torture and imprisonment during the persecution under the emperor Diocletian. It is likely that he was one of the bishops attending the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, where he opposed the Arian heresy, and confessed Christ as God.
He was honoured as a saint in Constantinople in the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian. His veneration became immensely popular in the West after the supposed removal of his body to Bari, Italy, in the late eleventh century.
Nicholas is famed as the traditional patron of seafarers and sailors, and, more especially, of children. As a bearer of gifts to children, his name was brought to America by the Dutch colonists in New York, from whom he is popularly known as Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas is a prime example of the role hagiography plays in the life of the Church. Hagiography is an art form in which the stories told about an established saint, the legends or narratives are sifted and brought together in a kind of holy (from the Greek hagios) biography. The Hagiography surrounding Nicholas tells us this about him: Nicholas’ parents died when he was a young man, leaving him well off and he determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity. An opportunity soon arose. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognised his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude. This was the seed of the legend of Nicholas as the bringer of gifts to children, which turned him over time into the beloved figure he is today.
Scripture. In the first letter of Saint John, chapter four, verses nine to eleven, we read:
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
... for peace in the world.
... that we may be inclined to generosity.
... for the children of the world.
... for prostitutes, in particular those who have been forced, duped or sold into the sex trade.
... for sailors, merchants, repentant thieves, brewers, pawnbrokers, students and all people, congregations and institutions that claim Nicholas as their patron.
... for bishops and other church leaders; that they might practice what they preach and be imitators of Christ.
... for the people of Finland who celebrate their national day today.
... for those injured when two trains collided near the German city of Düsseldorf last night DETAILS; for all who have been involved in accidents recently; for the safety of those who are travelling.
... for refugees from conflict; in particular the one point seven million who have been forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year. DETAILS
... for the homeless people of the United States of America. DETAILS
... for those trapped in perpetual debt.
... for peace in the Middle East as Donald Trump's proposed actions regarding the status of Jerusalem threaten to bring increased instability to the region.
... for the five people who died whilst decorating a civic Christmas tree in El Carmen Frontera, Guatemala DETAILS.
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
From a treatise on "The Gospel of John" by Augustine of Hippo:
When the Lord asks Peter if he loves him, he is asking something he already knows. Yet he does not ask only once, but a second and third time. Each time Peter’s answer is the same: "You know I love you." Each time the Lord gives him the same command: "Tend my sheep."
Peter had denied Christ three times, and to counter this he must profess his faith three times. Otherwise his tongue would seem quicker to serve fear than love, and the threat of death would seem to have made him more eloquent than did the presence of life. If denying the shepherd was proof of fear, then the task of love is to tend his flock.
When those who are tending Christ’s flock wish that the sheep were theirs rather than his, they stand convicted of loving themselves, not Christ. And the Lord’s words are a repeated admonition to them and to all who, as Paul writes sadly, are seeking their own ends, not Christ’s.
"Do you love me? Tend my sheep."
Surely this means: “If you love me, your thoughts must focus on taking care of my sheep, not taking care of yourself. You must tend them as mine, not as yours; seek in them my glory, not yours; my sovereign rights, not yours; my gain, not yours. Otherwise you will find yourself among those who belong to the ‘times of peril’, those who are guilty of self-love and the other sins that go with that beginning of evils.”
So the shepherds of Christ’s flock must never indulge in self-love; if they do they will be tending the sheep not as Christ’s but as their own. And of all vices this is the one that the shepherds must guard against most earnestly: seeking their own purposes instead of Christ’s, furthering their own desires by means of those persons for whom Christ shed his blood.
The love of Christ ought to reach such a spiritual pitch in his shepherds that it overcomes the natural fear of death which makes us shrink from the thought of dying even though we desire to live with Christ. However distressful death may be, the strength of love ought to master the distress. I mean the love we have for Christ who, although he is our life, consented to suffer death for our sake.
Consider this: if death held little or no distress for us, the glory of martyrdom would be less. But if the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, has made so many of those same sheep martyrs and witnesses for him, then how much more ought Christ’s shepherds to fight for the truth even to death and to shed their blood in opposing sin? After all, the Lord has entrusted them with tending his flock and with teaching and guiding his lambs.
With his passion for their example, Christ’s shepherds are most certainly bound to cling to the pattern of his suffering, since even the lambs have so often followed that pattern of the chief shepherd in whose one flock the shepherds themselves are lambs. For the Good Shepherd who suffered for all mankind has made all mankind his lambs, since in order to suffer for them all he made himself a lamb.
Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: grant, we pray, that your people may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our saviour and lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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