Today, Dec 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Today the feast is subordinated to the Second Sunday of Advent. Still, the bishop is being celebrated today. He is considered to be the inspiration behind "Santa Claus", with that name being a mutation of St. Nicholas.
He is also known for his confrontation of the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicea. Thus, on Facebook I'm seeing things like "Happy Slap-A-Heretic Day" and a song starting with "I saw Santa slapping Arius". I just got done with a Facebook discussion in which I held (still do) that Nicholas's slapping was a definite moral lapse. From an account of the event found on "St Nicholas Center", it seems that the sainted bishop himself would have concurred. Note that it says Nicholas was ashamed and asked forgiveness. Only after he did that did Our Lord and His mother appear to Nicholas and he was later restored.
Arius was committing heresy, no doubt. Had Nicholas refuted him verbally in the course of the council, there would have been no problem. But Nicholas slapped him - an act of violence. The ends don't justify the means. St. Nicholas realized that later so I'm not troubled by this episode. What does trouble me is the undercurrent of glee that I detect in many of my friends as they ponder the incident. Any reader of this blog (and thank you for the half-million hits, by the way!) knows that I share their displeasure at so much heresy, blasphemy and scandal pouring from the highest echelons of Church hierarchy. However, we cannot let that frustration impel us to view with glee any violence inflicted upon any dissidents. The ends don't justify evil means.
So many of us are up to our eyeballs in fighting the rot within the Church that we can find ourselves defeated by it if we aren't vigilant over ourselves. I speak to myself as well.
Happy St. Nicholas Day and blessed Advent.
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