Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hail, Nicholas, Bishop and Wonderworker

Flask for St. Nicholas of Bari's manna, or myrrh

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Nicholas of Bari (d. 345 or 352 AD).   St. Nicholas is one of the most popular of all saints; his feast is kept with joy in the Orthodox East and the Latin West, and St. Nicholas' day is honored from Moscow to Liége, and from Liverpool to Naples.  Notwithstanding his wide popularity, very little is known for certain of St. Nicholas' life, except that he was bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.  There are, however, numerous legends regarding St. Nicholas, many of which tell of St. Nicholas bestowing gifts in secret.  The most famous of these concerns a poor man with three daughters, for whom he could not afford dowries.  Hearing of this, and wishing to save the daughters from dishonor without humiliating their father, St. Nicholas tossed three purses of gold coins (one for each daughter) in their window at night.  Other versions have the purses being dropped down the chimney, and landing in the stockings of the daughters left hanging by the fire to dry.   

St. Nicholas' relics were originally kept at his burial church in Myra.  However, in the eleventh century when Asia Minor fell to the Seljuk Turks, Italian merchants seeking either to protect the relics from the Muslim invaders, or to take advantage of the confusion, seized the relics and translated them to Bari, where they remain today.  A watery liquid called St. Nicholas's manna flows from the relics, and is said to have healing properties.  Each year a flask of manna is removed from the cask of St. Nicholas on May 9, the feast of the translation of his relics from Myra to Bari.  Vials of manna may be purchased in a shop near the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari.  Alas, they are not available on Amazon.

St. Nicholas of Bari, patron of children, pray for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment