Glory to Jesus Christ!
My brothers and sisters in Christ:
The Gospel reading for the day is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. All readings we use today (Old Testament readings at Vespers, Epistle, and Gospel) are readings used in the Church for saints who are of the category of "Wonderworkers". Let's focus on the Gospel account. It calls to our attention the aspects of the life of Saint Nicholas that we also should value and seek for ourselves.
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” In other Evangelists, this reads “poor in spirit”, but we can take the meaning either way and find profit. Saint Nicholas was rich in the world, by virtue of the estate left him by his parents. And yet he gave it all away, not without discretion, but to those to whom he was led by the Lord, for the benefit of their salvation, and by the accounts of these blessed gifts, for the benefit of the salvation of all who throughout all time would hear the accounts of Saint Nicholas’ life.
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.” Saint Nicholas was so hungry for doing the will of God that he didn’t withhold his righteous anger over the heresy of Arius, but struck him – in the presence of the Emperor. This was an offense punishable by death, and for it, the assembly stripped Saint Nicholas of his episcopal rank. His hunger was filled quickly by the intervention of the Lord in giving a common dream to all who rightly (by canon) but wrongly by principle, stripped his rank, a dream showing the Lord and His Blessed Mother returning the saint’s omophorion and the Gospel to him. That next morning the council obeyed the instruction of the dream and reinstated St. Nicholas' episcopal office!
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Years ago on this Feast, we discussed the miracle of the young man who in 1920’s Russia was being led away by Communists to be murdered with other former city officials. His family knowing that he was lost, not reporting for duty, already feared the worst and prayed to Saint Nicholas for intervention. We can only imagine Saint Nicholas weeping over the plight of so many at the time. But his weeping was changed into laughter by our Lord. Saint Nicholas approached the line of those being led away to slaughter and took this young man by the hand and began to walk away from the group. A soldier shouted at Saint Nicholas – “Go away, old man!” Unflinching in his resolve, Saint Nicholas looked at the man and simply said, “Let this one go. I know him.” And they walked away without so much as another word. After reaching a safe distance, the blessed saint told the young man, “Go home to your mother,” and the saint vanished. We can only imagine the blessed saint's laughter!
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake.”
See how the world hates Saint Nicholas. Oh, they LOVE “Santa Claus”, because he sells things. But Saint Nicholas is only out to sell selfless love. There’s no room in the world for THAT. The saint’s name is a bad word in our society. Isn’t it sad when we can openly talk about the perverted image of Santa Claus, but cannot bring the discussion of Saint Nicholas to the fore without immediately being labeled a fanatic, a believer in phantasy, or worse. Think of the obvious error - Saint Nicholas is labeled a fantasy, but Santa Claus, he’s “real”. Inconceivable, but you know it’s true, and it’s where we find ourselves today!
“Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven.” Let me suggest that it is not only Saint Nicholas whose reward is great in heaven, but it is great for all who revere his memory, who believe in his message of love and selfless giving, who find in his life the image of Christ that we are all called to reflect while serving our Lord here in this world, who seek to follow Christ by conforming ourselves to the example given us BY St. Nicholas. And if we only find within ourselves the ability to partially accomplish some of the love and giving of Saint Nicholas, then our reward is also promised!
“For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” Let me suggest that this is a warning to us, that the world, who has already spiritually assassinated Saint Nicholas, that same world, and its leader Satan, will try to do the same to any who attempt to walk the same path as he has shown to us. The world will try to reframe us as irrelevant, as fanatical, as judgmental, as being filled with hate (imagine that!), as being founded in ancient traditions and not having the “wisdom to use modern thinking” to guide us. Lord, help us - we NEED more "ancient wisdom"!!!
Saint Nicholas is looking upon us now, standing ready to accept our plea to him, along with our pleas to Saint Herman, our patron, to intercede before the Lord, that our offerings as a people attempting to be faithful to the Lord will not be in vain, that our actions will be guided by the Lord’s will, and not our own.
On this Saint Nicholas day, let us not forget the love of this revered Wonderworker. Let us call upon him as did the mother of the young man in Russia, to deliver us and our children from the evil that surrounds us in the world today. Let us seek his intervention so that we might be found to be worthy of the same love shown by our Lord when he returned Saint Nicholas’ episcopal rank. May our Lord return to us the pure garments of our own baptism, so that we may also serve Him – in faith and love.
Glory to Jesus Christ!