Sunday, 16 December 2018

St Nicholas’ quiet but remarkable life

TODAY (Friday) is the feast of Saint Nicholas in the calendar of the western churches.

TODAY (Friday) is the feast of Saint Nicholas in the calendar of the western churches.

Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey in the 4th century and became one of the most popular saints of Christendom.

He was a patron of countries (most notably Russia) and provinces, diocese and cities, the saint of sailors and children, merchants and pawnbrokers and, perhaps most notably, he transmogrified from Saint Nicholas into Santa Claus and ultimately into Father Christmas.

He is also patron of the little and very pretty little parish church of Remenham, near the start of the royal regatta course on the Berkshire side of the river and only a mile or so from the centre of Henley along the river bank (an excellent Boxing Day walk, perhaps?).

The church dates back to at least the 10th century (the first known parish priest was appointed in 1076) and at one time was a monastic foundation, a daughter church to a nearby Benedictine monastery.

But why Saint Nicholas? We can only guess at the reason, especially as, although there are many stories told of Saint Nicholas, we actually know almost nothing about him.

Certainly his life must have been in many ways remarkable — he had a magnificent church built to honour him in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) within 200 years of his death — but real facts about him are very difficult to come by.

All of this would seem to suggest that on the whole he lived a quiet and relatively unremarkable life, except in so far as he was clearly a holy man who had a profound effect on the lives of other people.

So as you enjoy(?) the run-up to Christmas, give a thought to the man who has become so closely associated with the festival of Christ’s birth and consider perhaps whether your own life might have even a little of the positive effect on others than clearly Nicholas’ did!

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