December 6, 2013

Slap an Arian Day, or the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra

Today we commemorate St. Nicholas of Myra, whose resume boasts enough miracles for him to be called the “Wonderworker” in some parts of Christendom. Even before he became the Coca-Cola chugging world-traveler and reindeer master, he was known for his compassion for children and his sacrificial generosity. According to one story, he saved three daughters from a life of prostitution by dropping down bars (or else balls) of gold down their chimney. Some accounts say they landed in shoes; others assert they fell into stockings laid out to dry. (Sorry, Rankin Bass).

More interestingly and often less-known, St. Nicholas of Myra was evidently a delegate to the Council of Nicaea, which was convened to resolve the question of Christ and the Trinity. Arius and his followers asserted that Christ was not divine. This did not settle well with most bishops, who deemed this a threat to the very foundation of the Church. Good old St. Nick was no exception. According to some hagiographies, in his anger, he accosted Arius and slapped him before the entire assembly. He did come under censure and had to apologize, but his outburst nevertheless pointed to the intensity of the theological debate. Thankfully, the voice of the catholic orthodox faith rang clear, especially with the leadership of St. Alexander of Alexandria and St. Athanasius (who was then a young archdeacon).

What we as 21st century Christians do with this is left up to debate, but the provost of my alma mater, Dr. Gene Veith, has shared a few possible ideas in this humorous World magazine article. In the meantime, enjoy the Advent season!

9 Responses to Slap an Arian Day, or the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra

  1. rogerwolsey says:

    employing violence denies Christ’s teachings, values, example, and divinity.

    • I suppose – unless you are overturning tables, scattering money, interrupting business sanctioned by the church, using a whip, and calling people a bunch of snakes. But other than that – employing violence denies Christ’s teachings, values, example, and divinity. BTY, how would employing violence have anything to do with denying Christ’s divinity?

  2. rogerwolsey says:

    engaging in violence denies the values, teachings, example, and divinity of Christ.

  3. rogerwolsey says:

    re: “more interestingly…”, IMO, Nicholaus’ efforts to prevent young women from having to resort to prostitution to survive is far more interesting than his theological anxiety and his temper. There are more women enslaved into the sex industry around the world today — as well as humans enslaved in general — than at any other point in human history. Let’s follow St. Nick’s true legacy by ending forced prostitution and freeing those caught in it.

  4. […] Hat tip: Slap an Arian Day, or the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra […]

  5. Scott says:

    As seen in the comment section of another St. Nick blog…
    “Ho! Ho! Ho! HOMOOUSIOS!!!!”

  6. Betsy Willis says:

    Oh Roger, puleeez lighten up.

  7. Lewis Austin says:

    Not quite in a physical league with Preston Brooks’ caning of Senator Sumner, but close enough in spirit.

  8. […] for orthodoxy, slapping Arius in the face after he spoke. My former colleague, Bart Gingerich, has written about this, as […]

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