St. Nicolas Saving Three Innocents from Death by Ilya Repin | Image source: Wikipedia
We’ve all been wondering if whether or not a person known as Santa Claus even existed. Well, he actually did! But not as you know him. In fact, he is venerated as a saint in both the Western and Eastern Churches.
This saint in no other than St. Nicholas, a bishop of Myra in Lycia within what is now Turkey. His feast day is upcoming on December 6, but in the Eastern tradition, it's on October 19. Although he is widely venerated, there is little record on him apart from a few facts and legends. Here they are below.
1. He was affected by the persecution against Christians by Emperor Diocletian.
Under the reign of Diocletian, Christians were ruthlessly persecuted. St. Nicholas himself was exiled and imprisoned. During that time, even criminals had no room inside cells as they were filled with Christians who could not practice their faith freely!
When Constantine became emperor, Nicholas was released along with the other bishops and ministers who had been imprisoned as he allowed Christianity to operate throughout the empire.
2. He slapped the famous heresiarch Arius during a trial!
During the First Council of Nicaea—the famous council which reasserted the divinity of Christ—Nicholas was one of the bishops which observed the whole discussion. Arius, a known heresiarch who argued that Christ was not actually divine and was a simple human being, began defending his argument. This caused great outrage and St. Nicholas was getting fuming mad. In a fit of rage, he approached Arius and slapped him across the face there and there!
The other bishops were so shocked at Nicholas’s move that he was stripped of his stole and sent to a room where he was detained. He regretted his actions and prayed for forgiveness. Upon waking up in the morning, he saw his stole—newly restored—and he knew he was forgiven of his sin.
3. He secretly provided dowry to a poor man with three daughters whom he would send off to marry.
A poor man was worried that his three daughters could not get married as he does not have any dowry for them. Hearing this story, St. Nicholas decided to help the man out. He prepared three bags each filled with gold coins for the poor man’s three daughters. Discreetly, he threw the bags inside the poor man’s house and walked away without telling anyone of what he had done.
The man, upon finding the gold coins, was filled with joy, safe in the knowledge that his daughters won’t be without husbands. This is all thanks to St. Nicholas.
As we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas a few days from now, let us remember his deeds and ordeals, as well as how human he is. May he serve as an inspiration for us all!