St Nicholas the Wonderworker

St Nicholas the Wonderworker is commemorated on December 6 each year.  He is one of the most beloved saints of the Church and has a popularity far beyond Orthodoxy.


I’ve often wondered why or how he became so popular as a saint when in many ways his actions seem to me to be what I would expect of any Christian bishop.  He showed mercy to many, kindness to the poor, and is noted for his charity.  Is it the case that there really were so few bishops who did these things that Nicholas stands out as such an exception?   In the mid-9th Century when St. Methodius wrote a life of St. Nicholas, he noted that hardly anyone had heard of him.  In the 11th Century his popularity is noted through much of Europe.

Since St Nicholas is noted for his acts of love and mercy, here is a portion of a sermon by St Gregory Palamas on love of neighbor, which is an appropriate theme as we honor St Nicholas of Myra.  St Gregory is actually talking about St John the Theologian:

As he [St John] was amongst the foremost apostles, was particularly dear to Christ, and was called the beloved disciple, he speaks to us of the chief virtue, namely love (cf. Gal. 5:14), saying that God Himself is love, and anyone who has love has God, and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in him in whom love dwells (cf. 1 John 4:16). He shows that love’s energy within us is twofold, and divides it, without destroying its unity, into love for God and love for our neighbour, teaching that these two depend on one another for their existence, and calling anyone who thinks he has one without the other a liar (1 John 4:20).


The sign of our love for God, he tells us, is that we keep His word and His commandments (cf. John 8:31, 1 John 5:3), as the Lord Himself taught, saying, “He that loveth me will keep my commandments” (cf. John 14:15, 21). “This is my commandment”, He said, “that ye love one another” (John 15:12), and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Do you see how love for God is inseparable from love for each other? That is why the beloved disciple says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).      (On the Saints, Kindle Location 830-843)

St. Nicholas, Pray for us!

Happy St. Nicholas day!














(Litya Hymn, Feast of St. Nicholas)

Christopher’s Restaurant Christmas Charity Icon Sale (2011)

Christopher’s Restaurant & Catering, 2318 E. Dorothy Lane, Kettering, OH 45420, has for many years hosted a December Charity art sale.   All of the proceeds from the sale of the displayed art in December is donated by the restaurant to charity – this year to a prison ministry and a women’s shelter.

You are welcomed to stop in at the restaurant at any time to view the Nativity Icons on display.

Again this year, Christopher’s is featuring the iconography of Daryl C., a prison inmate, who converted to the Orthodox Church while in prison.  Shortly after his conversion he began painting icons using materials and tools which are limited by prison rules.

The icons this year are either framed or have a painted frame around them. The frames were donated by Patterson-Chase Company.     They vary in size from 4″x 6″ to about 12″ x 18″ with the asking price ranging from $65 to $160 plus shipping.   Many of the icons this year have gold leaf in them.

If you have interest in purchasing an icon, contact Christopher’s owner, Chip Pritchard, at (937) 299-0089 or at

You can view all 15 of Daryl’s 2011 Christmas Icons at Daryl C’s 2011 Icons.  Just click on the “Slideshow” button above the thumbnail photos to view the icons full size.

If you are interested in commissioning Daryl to paint you an icon, please contact

Thinking about St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

Jolly Ol’ St. Nick conjures up many images in the minds of people throughout the world, but the more Christian ones do certainly commemorate him as a bishop of generosity and charity in his dealings with the needy.

The main hymn on St. Nicholas’ Feast Day is the generic Tropar for sainted bishops.

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,

an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;

your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you.

Hierarch Father Nicholas, entreat Christ our God//

that our souls may be saved!

 I don’t know what century that hymn was composed but the monastic influence In it is obvious as it exalts those saints who are bishops for being teachers of abstinence and models of humility and poverty.   Two (for me) interesting questions:  1)  How many Orthodox would list poverty, humility, and asceticism as the top characteristics of the man they would want to be their bishop?   2)  How many think of poverty, humility and asceticism as being the main characteristics or the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about St. Nicholas?

At least in the lives of St. Nicholas that I’ve read charity and generosity always seem to be very evident in his life.    He did indeed followed a particular idea of discipleship – give everything away and then follow Christ.

In Psalm 146:7-9 (RSV) we are given a description of things that the Lord God does.  The Psalm says it is God

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the sojourners,

he upholds the widow and the fatherless;

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

St. Nicholas of Myra

If one thinks about the life of St. Nicholas it is easy to see how he as bishop did things he believed God Himself does.   “Go and do likewise,” might be Christ’s words to us.

The Gospel reading for the feast of St. Nicholas is Luke 6:17-19 (RSV) in which Christ says:

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  

Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. 

Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.”

St. Nicholas shows us how to immerse ourselves in the Gospel, for he demonstrates how we as Christians can make the poor, the hungry and those who are mourning to be blessed.  We don’t just have to puzzle over how these folks could be considered blessed, we can go out and bless them by imitating the good bishop St. Nicholas in ministering to those who are hungry, in poverty or any need, or who are grieving.  We are the ones to help those who are grieving to laugh, and we are the ones who are to bring the Kingdom of God even to the downtrodden.

St. Nicholas and Giving to the Poor

Susan Holman in her important historical study of the church’s response to famine in the 4th Century, THE HUNGRY ARE DYING: BEGGARS AND BISHOPS IN ROMAN CAPPADOCIA,  offers an assessment of the 4th Century church’s attitude toward the poor:  

 “In addition to their identity as kin, the needy are construed as heavenly citizens and entitled to civic justice by virtue of their identity as bearers of the divine image…by virtue of their relationship to God the creator, who has given them both their human nature and membership in the civic community known as the kingdom of heaven…This citizenship depends, further, on a special identification of the poor with Christ, and emphasizing the incarnate nature of deity in Christ.”  

As St. Gregory Nazianzen says of the poor:

our brothers in God…born with the same nature…compounded of nerves and bones as we are; more than this, they also have received the same divine image as we have, and have perhaps guarded it better…They have put on the same Christ…[and] have been made sharers with us of the same….doctrine, the same Testaments, the same Assemblies, the same mysteries, the same hope, Christ.” 

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

It is in this same 4th Century Church that the beloved St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, also lived and ministered to the needy.  As was normative in his day, one of the bishop’s main tasks was to distribute the funds the church collected to the needy.   St. Nicholas was noted for not just giving from the common collection to the poor, but for giving from his personal wealth.  

 St. Paul says, “God loves the cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7), which according to the accounts of his life, St Nicholas was the cheerful giver.     

Writing about charity and generosity Jalal ud-Din Rumi wrote, “A hand that is always open or always closed is a crippled hand.  A bird that cannot open and close its wings cannot fly.”  If we are to imitate St. Nicholas then we have to have hands that work for the needy.”

St. Nicholas – A Saint Not a Savior

nicholasSermon Notes from 6 December 1997 St. Nicholas of Myra

To have an adequate understanding of salvation one has to have a sense of catastrophe, for salvation is God’s action in dealing with catastrophe. Sin is a tsunami, devastating earthquake or hurricane – a catastrophe that has struck the earth and devastated humankind – causing massive death.

The moral optimist thinks that generous doses of goodwill or even education when applied to the great mounds of injustice, wickedness and corruption in the world will put the world aright. We just need St. Nicholas to correct what ails the world, or maybe like the television shows we just need a couple of angels to improve the world.

The technological optimist thinks scientific intelligence can solve the world’s problems of poverty, pollution, hunger and neorosis. Albert Einstein will save the world or Microsoft or Jean Lupicard.

But St. Nicholas only professed to be a servant of God, not the Savior of the world.  Saints are not saviors, but holy people who connect the Holy God to the world.

He did not try to keep God out of what is needed in the world. It is only if we fail to see sin as catastrophe or if we believe the world is in not too bad of shape that we think humanity itself can “fix” the world.* If humanity can fix the world, we don’t really need God. Only if we don’t understand the catastrophe which has inundated the world can we deny the need for God’s salvation.

God’s answer to the catastrophe of the world – of human sin and suffering, of poverty and pollution, of wickedness and war, of selfishness and anger – is to send His Son into the world – to take on suffering, not to fix it, but to make even this broken world a means to communion with Him. Even pain, suffering and death are shown not to have the final world, and not capable of separating us from the love of God.
* A note from 2008. The cover of the 8 December 2008 NEWSWEEK is “HOW TO FIX THE WORLD”!  featuring President elect Barack Obama.   See my Presidentolatry about electing a president not a savior.

We Have Met the Stranger… and He is Us

We all may be well familiar with the Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo’s saying, “We have met the enemy … and he is us.”   Reflecting on a comment about Christianity by Amy Oden in ANCIENT AND POSTMODERN CHRISTIANITY: PALEO-ORTHODOXY IN THE 21ST CENTURY may cause us to have to adapt Pogo’s wisdom to how we see ‘others’, visitors, the heterodox, the unsavory, the unemployed, the stranger and the strange.  Oden wrote: 

“The notion of welcoming the stranger can be found throughout early Christian writing and christlifegiverpreaching.  … two important insights in early Christian texts on hospitality.  The first is that Christians must recognize themselves as strangers in the world.  The second is that Christians must recognize strangers as Christ.” 

Perhaps for Christians in our parishes today, we need to think,  in Christ and in the least of His brothers and sisters, “We have met the stranger… and he is us.”

Especially in this Christmas season, as we contemplate Christ’s coming into the world and the reception He was given – by Herod and at the inn – we should think about what it means to be a stranger.

“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. “  (John 1:10-11)