Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nicholas: not so nuanced

This is my icon of St Nicholas, it is 19th cent. Russian.

The roundels recall the legend that St Nicholas was imprisoned for beating up Arius, pulling his beard and punching him in the mouth. He heard the great heresiarch speak and couldn't bear hearing his blasphemies, he pulled his beard and punching him in the mouth. The Emperor Constantine was horrified that he should break the peace of the Council and had him deposed.
During the night Christ himself accompanied by his mother appeared to him and asked, "Why are you here?" he answered, "Because I love you, Lord". Christ gave him back the Gospels, the symbol of his teaching authority and his mother the omophorion (the eastern pallium) the symbol of his sacramental authority.

I love St Nicholas because he was so clear in his teaching, the other bishops sat around discussing subtleties and nuances. Holy Nicholas went to the heart of the matter recognising Arius as the enemy of Christ and his Church and indeed the whole of creation and risked all by attacking him.

Holy Nicholas, Bishop of Christ, pray for me a sinner.
Intercede for all the bishops and priests,
that they may recognise Christ and proclaim His Truth for the Salvation of the World.
Make them fearless in denouncing error and the contamination of heresy.
Give them courage, even in the face of the Princes of this World,
to risk all for love of Christ,
the True Bishop and High Priest, the Judge of Souls who will come in Glory.

Lord Jesus give us holy priests and even holier bishops.


Michael Petek said...

What would he have done to Anjem Choudary, the extremist leader of Muslims Against Crusades?

mundabor said...

Wonderful post, Father, and rather courageous if referred, as I think it is, to one "nuanced" person in particular.

We don't need "nuanced".
We need "Catholic".


Fr Ray Blake said...

Mundabor, I'm not sure what you mean.

Victoria said...

I learned from Joanna Bogle the delightful custom of giving children a bag of gold coins on the Feast of St Nicholas; I usually include a note about St Nicholas - the bishop who became Santa Claus - appropriate to the age of the child with the coins.

Anita Moore said...

St. John Chrysostom was so un-nuanced as to declare that heretics should be smitten across the face, and made to fear ever ventilating their errors in public, lest a Christian overhear them and visit consequences on them.

And here is an un-nuanced nugget from the story of St. John of Cologne in Dominican Saints by Dominican Novices (originally published 1921, currently re-published by TAN Books). This is about St. Jerome of Weert, one of the Martyrs of Gorcum who died with the Dominican John of Cologne in 1572:

Father Jerome of Weert was the second to be hanged. He ascended the ladder invoking the Mother of God and the Saints. A Calvinist minister placed himself directly before him on the other side of the ladder and said: "Do not invoke Holy Mary or Saint Peter or the Saints, but call upon God." The intrepid [Franciscan] friar, to show his indignation and contempt at this blasphemy, put his foot through the rungs of the ladder and kicked the minister in the stomach, prostrating him on the floor. He then reprehended him for his impiety. The heretics thrust their pikes into his mouth to silence him. He then submitted cheerfully to be put to death.

Terry said...

Michael, he would have pulled his beard and punched in the mouth! :)

Nicolas Bellord said...

Goodness. I am going to a talk by +VN this evening. I hope I do not have to ...

William Tighe said...

To the tune of "O Kto, Kto:"



Heretic most hated
Spread the lie
Our Savior was created
Hearing of his fall from grace
Nicholas hit him in the face
Holy Father Nicholas

Delia said...

Clear in teaching, sound in doctrine, yes, but surely there is room for a nuanced approach when it comes to strategy? I don't see that they have to be mutually exclusive.

momangelica said...

Dear Fr. Ray. You are a comfort to the heart.
I have lost my equlibrium these last few days because, as I got fed up with seeing nothing of any substance being discussed on facebook by a particular priest. and it unsettled me so much that I asked why was he content to ignore prolife issues, was it laity work only?
He replied "Che?"
My daughter went to a ladies group meeting which he was directing, during which he told them" Why do Pro-lifers get so worked up about abortion, the babies have no conciousness so it isn't that terrible a thing."
So there we have a priest directing women badly.
I'm hopping mad!
But you take away some of the feeling of dispair. Thank you.

Peter said...

Point de Vue magazine of 23-29 November has a picture of the three daughters of Princess Maxima of the Netherlands meeting St Nicholas complete with a Mitre decorated with a cross. All good Fr Christmas clothes should be like that.
"C'est partie pour les fêtes de Noël!"

Mike Cliffson said...

Iv e understood the stocking mandarins were gold coins of themselves, on account of the saint's secretive dowing efforts, but there's anineteenth cent croatian image with mandarins as opposed to coins.

Bother henery for abolishing 6th dec, let alone Cromwell for banning Xmas, they shudda bin punched i' the guts too.

Sw Mikolaj said...

Fr Ray. When I was a little girl, my brother and I used to get very excited when the 6th December was approaching.
My dear Mother taught us that St Nicholas would visit our home during the night, on his Feastday.

If we (the children) had been good all year, we would receive a nice little present under our pillows. If we had been particulary naughty (that applied to me several times)we would find some twigs with a little red ribbon wrapped at the bottom of the stems, and a little note saying we should say our prayers for the poor and homeless.
I have never forgotten the effort my late Mother would go to to teach us that the Saints were there for us to guide us, by way of their example.

My son also believed in St Nicholas. He would go to untold lengths to get a nice present on the 6th December - even volunteer to do the wahing up after supper.

These memories put a smile on my face.
Sw Mikolaj

pelerin said...

Those interested in Icons may find the latest post in the New Liturgical Movement interesting on why some icons' faces are green. (link in side bar of Fr Ray's blog)

One of the first things I learnt as an art student in the 'Life' classes was that we should always mix green into the colour of shadows for faces, hands etc. to make it more lifelike. And it seemed to work too!

Gigi said...

Thanks for the post; beautiful icon Father Ray!
Because Dad was belgian, we celebrated the feast of St Nicholas when I was little. Although Christmas presents would happen in some form whatever had transpired during the year, I would only get chocolates and cute lttle gifts left in my winter boots and shoes on the feast of St Nicholas if I'd been good, or at least goodnatured. No-one seems to celebrate his feast anymore as a courageous man who gave to the poor and loved children. I love Christmas as much as anyone, but the whole ho-ho-hoing of the man in red in the grotto outside Debenhams (complete with elves) seems almost a reversion to pagan yuletide now..
Having said that, I am woefully ignorant about Arius beyond his very basic statements about the Trinity. If anyone can recommend some layman's reading about Arius, I'd be grateful :)

Solent Rambler said...

Surely those who live by the sword shall die by it?

If bishops and priests start punching people in the mouth because of their unorthodox views, then I'm out of here.

Is priests kicking people in the stomach really the best way to win people's hearts and minds?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd find it rather hard to be fairminded if a priest did that to me.

Fr Ray, I wish you'd made your point for clarity in another way. Haven't we had more than enough of violence in God's name?

Michael1 said...

I'm with Solent Rambler and Delia on this one. There is more than enough intemperance in the world, in thought as well as in action. It is salutary to remember that so much of Erasmus' argument against the Reformers was that their turbulence meant there was no peace for the voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard.

Too often I am disturbed by some contributors to this blog whose tone seems filled with hatred against those whose views may disagree with them. In disagreement, charity should remain the supreme virtue. By all means dissent from someone's views, but do so in charity. separating the person from an idea which might - as yet - be only half-formed.

The suggestion that there is something wrong with nuance is to be deprecated. The 'truth' inexactly formulated is not the truth. Precision matters in faith and doctrine, because truth matters.

Ours is a faith that holds apparently contradictory views - that God is all-loving and all powerful, yet evil really exists, that God is wholly one, yet three, that Christ is both wholly God and wholly human, hating the sin and loving the sinner, that under the appearance of bread and wine.... and so on. The explanation of mystery stretches language to its limits, which is why nuance in the pursuit of truth is vital. G.K.Chesterton, in 'Orthodoxy', points out that the way heresy works is to take some part of Catholic faith and truth and to make it the whole truth about faith, unmoderated by the other truths which condition it.

I'm afraid I give daily thanks for the nuance and precision of St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, St Anselm, Origen, St Ambrose, and many great modern philosophers and theologians wrestling with the great truths of faith, looking for ever more precise understanding.

And, please God, I will never punch on the nose someone who thinks otherwise from me.

Anita Moore said...

The "nuance" under discussion here is not the learning of the Angelic Doctor nor the subtlety of the mind of Augustine. It is the game of trying to compromise with evil while keeping a clear conscience. The ultimate goal of our lives is not to be "fair-minded," but to triumph over the powers of hell and attain heaven. This world is a battlefield, and we must fight or die.

It is worth noting that no one was ever more lacking in nuance than Jesus Himself. It was a most un-nuanced Jesus Who drove the money-changers out of the Temple. An un-nuanced Jesus called His enemies children of the devil (John 8:43-45); liars (John 8:54-55); hypocrites (Matthew 15:7-9, to mention just one example); children of hell (Matthew 23:15); blind fools (Matthew 23:16-17); whited sepulchers (Matthew 23:27-28); serpents and brood of vipers (Matthew 23:33). This lack of nuance on Jesus' part exposes the truth and teaches us not to compromise with the enemy of our souls.