Jolly old elf? Nope. The real St. Nicholas put the smack-down, literally, on the arch-heretic Arius. This Nicholas definitely found out who was naughty, and who was nice, when it came to Christology and … he did something about it. Apparently, Nicholas was so upset with the heretic Arius’ denial that Christ was in fact God incarnate, not a lesser god or a stepped-down version, but God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all thing were made.
It got me to thinking. How best today do we maintain eternal vigilance, which is the price of orthodoxy, against false doctrine and even, if necessary, give it a firm slap, without so offending people that they won’t even bother to listen or pay attention? In our world today courtesy, tact, being nice and polite are cardinal virtues. And, intolerance is regarded by many as the chief vice.
We speak the truth, in love, and keep moving forward. I’m not so sure slapping heretics is actually the way to go, but you sure have to admire St. Nicholas for taking such a clear stand against error. The church that can not curse, can not bless. We forget that sometimes.
Pastor Petersen has some helpful thoughts about St. Nicholas. He told me always to make sure to link to his site, so, be sure to click over there.
Legends abound concerning the generosity of St. Nicholas, Bishop and
Confessor. Mainly he is remembered for his charity to children. But
that is not why he is remembered in the Church. He is remembered and
celebrated in the Church because he was a Theologian, a Bishop, a
Confessor. He was one of the authors of what we call the Nicene Creed,
that ancient, genuine, and truly ecumenical confession of the saving
Faith. Through Nicholas, as through the prophets and apostles, God has
provided for us. He has handed the Faith down to us, delivered the Good
News of his generosity and compassion, bestowed upon us the Wisdom of
God which confounds the wisdom of men.
A less popular legend than Nicholas dispersing his inheritance to poor
children, is a story that he got so upset with Arius, who was denying
the Divinity of Christ in much the way the Jehovah’s Witnesses and
Mormons do today, that he slapped him. Because of this outburst of
violence he was to be suspended from his post as Bishop. Bishops rule
in the kingdom of the right, not the left. There is no place for
violence. After reflection and prayer, however, the Council decided not
to remove him for the offense. Not because Arius had it coming (which
he did,) but because Nicholas was repentant. Even Bishops of his
stature, generosity, and compassion can lose their cool, and the way of
the Church is forgiveness.
Nicholas struggled with his fallen flesh, even as we do. But God was
gracious unto him, restored him again and again through His Word and
Sacraments so that Nicholas, for all his weaknesses, was strong enough
to confess, and the grace of God was multiplied in, and through, him.
May God make us all such good and faithful servants, such grateful
recipients of His love, such bold confessors until He comes again to
give us even more.