|(Gentile da Fabriano)|
And it was so that one, his neighbour, had then three daughters, virgins, and he was a nobleman: but for the poverty of them together, they were constrained, and in very purpose to abandon them to the sin of lechery, so that by the gain and winning of their infamy they might be sustained. And when the holy man Nicholas knew hereof he had great horror of this villainy, and threw by night secretly into the house of the man a mass of gold wrapped in a cloth. And when the man arose in the morning, he found this mass of gold, and rendered to God therefor great thankings, and therewith he married his oldest daughter. And a little while after this holy servant of God threw in another mass of gold, which the man found, and thanked God, and purposed to wake, for to know him that so had aided him in his poverty. And after a few days Nicholas doubled the mass of gold, and cast it into the house of this man. He awoke by the sound of the gold, and followed Nicholas, which fled from him, and he said to him: “Sir, flee not away so but that I may see and know thee.” Then he ran after him more hastily, and knew that it was Nicholas; and anon he kneeled down, and would have kissed his feet, but the holy man would not, but required him not to tell nor discover this thing as long as he lived.The holy bishop was also known for having raised to life three boys who had been butchered by an evil man and placed in a barrel. He also was said to have calmed a tempest at sea when asked to do so by troubled mariners, and has since been invoked against storms at sea. He accepted the bishopric of Myra only under the greatest protest, and the Legend briefly describes his character as bishop: "He woke in prayer and made his body lean, he eschewed company of women, he was humble in receiving all things, profitable in speaking, joyous in admonishing, and cruel in correcting."
One of the oriental akathist hymns declares his glory:
Through power given thee from on highThe popularizing of the holy bishop into various folk figures—Sinterklaas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Father Frost, and so on—are fascinating in their own right, but clearly have little to do with the man himself. This writer is more forgiving of the folk appropriation of the saint than of the appropriations of corporations and governments (Coca-Cola's chubby cookie-eater and the Soviet Union's push of Ded Moroz as a non-religious winter figure come to mind). The revival of Santa Claus's dark mirror figure of Krampus in modern pop culture is also fascinating, but probably not indicative of a healthy folk revival.
thou didst wipe away every tear from the face of those in cruel suffering,
O God-bearing Father Nicholas;
for thou wast shown to be a feeder of the hungry,
a superb pilot of those on the high seas,
a healer of the ailing,
and thou hast proved to be a helper to all that cry unto God:
The revival of St. Nicholas as a hammer of heretics is a good sign, even if it does tend to overlook his other fatherly qualities. We should only be so lucky as to deserve a bishop as great as Nicholas, today.
St. Nicholas, all-luminous lamp, beloved of all, pray for us!