Today in the venerable Julian Calendar is the feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, a Saint that has been important to me personally for many years now. He’s also one of the precursors to the story and character of Santa Claus, another character that, while not exactly Christian, I’ve always had an interest in and a fondness for. Not much else to say other than I’m kind of loving the winter gloom, it’s murky, damp and dark atmospheres have even reached as far as North Central Florida, albeit with high humidity and warm temps. This season lends itself to meditation, reflection, prayer and contemplation much more than other times– at least it seems that way to me.
My girlfriend left for her family in Orlando a day or two ago so I’ve got all this time to spend alone with my cat and quite frankly it’s kind of nice. I’ve had a lot of time to crack open an old favorite The Winter Solstice, The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews.
It’s basically a beautifully illustrated foray into all the various stories, mythologies and customs from around the winter solstice. There’s even some stories of St Nicholas in there, and how Santa may have ultimately had his roots in Northern Shamans who would ascend the World Tree and bring back the gifts of knowledge to their tribesman. That would link the Christmas tree itself all the way back to ancient Norseman, although I’m sure the stories about sacred trees are not just from various Nordic mythologies. This book is one of the few that I open up every year without fail and pretty much read it cover to cover. How I wish there was something similiar for all the other 3 seasons!
Of course when it comes to St. Nicholas there are so many stories of him making appearances, even from modern times. Just recently the Russian Orthodox website Pravoslavie.ru had a piece about a worn torn church being rebuilt when a mysterious character fitting the good saints description put some money in the collection plate. There are plenty of stories like this, and quite frankly it seems like he’s one of the most loved and most active saints in history. It’s no wonder he’s commemorated every Thursday in the Eastern Churches, and has feast days in both May and December. One of the icons I have of him is commemorating him saving a city in Russia.
On another note, one of my readers sent me a book on the Papacy that I just got today, so I thank him wholeheartedly for it and look forward to reading it. Believe me, I’m always looking to read about things that might help me get a better understanding of the place of Peter in the Church. I can say that at this point I believe that Peter did have a primacy, and that the bishop of Rome had some sort of special place in the early church, but I am radically skeptical of the papacy as it came to be, and at least for now I cannot in good faith say that I am a Roman Catholic or in any way in communion with the See of Peter, even though I love and appreciate many of the good things about Roman Catholic piety and teaching. I must follow my conscience in this and I just cannot be obedient to the modern papacy or the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
At any rate, Happy Feast of St. Nicholas to all you on the Julian calendar, and happy week before Christmas in the Gregorian.