Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saint Nicholas of Myra

on Mount Mela, Altindere (Torrent of Gold) Valley, is the Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela
In what was the province of Pontus, and later Trebizond, and now Trabzon, on the south shore of the Black Sea in eastern Anatolia, there is a monastery founded in 386 on a stony mountain. The people there were Pontic Greeks, until the Turks deported the population in 1923. In the 14th century many frescoes were painted on the stone walls of church and chapel. One is of the Council of Nicaea (325). The Turks have, in the last few years, had it as a tourist site. On Dormition (Aug. 15, 2010) the Turks allowed the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the first time since expulsion. In the lower left of the Nicene fresco is the episode of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra striking the heretic prelate of Alexandria, Arius. Arius was presenting his case, and Nicholas could not stand to hear any more. Nicholas struck/slapped/punched/hit Arius upon the face. Nicholas breached episcopal etiquette by this. He was removed from council and jailed. This is where the miraculous takes a turn. A vision of Mary appeared to several bishops and defended Nicholas. Nicholas was restored to office.

Arius believed that
"there was [a time] when he (the Son) was not." When the council began 22 bishops were supportive of Arianism. The council created the first uniform creed of the church, which stated the Son was consubstantial with the Father. This did not end Arianism. Emperor Constantine called the council for clarity. Constantine was baptised on his deathbed (337) by an Arian bishop. His son Constantius II created and appointed a great many Arian bishops. Emperors and kings, and their bishops promoted Arianism for several centuries. Not until c. 800 was the heresy put away, well until late in the second generation of Protestantism.

One of the greatly beloved saints of the Universal Church did not permit his fellow bishops and prelates to advance false theology; and they wanted to punish him severely, but Heaven held for him and not for them. This moment of righteous anger is not what most remember of Good Saint Nick. He is primarily remembered for his charity, and defense of the poor, and wrongly accused.

Serbian fresco of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

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