“With a little old driver so lively and quick I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.” We all know where those words come from and who they refer to. And today is the religious commemoration day of that “Saint Nick.” More properly, Saint Nicholas of Myra or of Bari. He was probably born and raised in a city called Myra in what is now Turkey. He was also buried there, but after his death, his remains were transferred to the city of Bari on the Adriatic coast of eastern Italy. Some years ago, I had the privilege of visiting his tomb there in Bari; there is great devotion to him both in the Catholic Church in that part of the world and among the Orthodox Christians. And, of course, in our part of the world, religious or not, “Saint Nick” is beloved and popular as a semi-mythical figure who in some countries comes dressed as a bishop to bring gifts, and with us, he retains his name but dresses in a red and white, fur-trimmed suit. I say that he retains his name because “Saint Nicholas” in the Dutch language is “Sint Nicklaas” which, over the years, was morphed into “Sinterklaas.” Then, when the Dutch settlers brought their culture to the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam—later, New York—“Sinterklaas” became “Santa Claus” which is the name by which he is principally known today in our country.
The charm of Santa Claus or Saint Nick is that he is the personification of goodness, generosity, and benevolence and these qualities are so much associated with the birth of our Divine Lord in this Advent and Christmas season. In the sacred liturgy for this feast. One of the great scriptural themes used in our prayer at Christmastime is this: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” It is a statement attributed to Our Lord as he comes into this world by his incarnation. He is already in the womb of the Virgin Mary; he will soon be born. And when he IS born, he will be coming to do, not his own will, but that of his heavenly father. Actually, these two divine Persons, along with the Holy Spirit, want the same thing: the salvation of the human race. But since a bag of gold or a bunch of toys and candies and Christmas gifts appeal to small children more than a concept like the redemption, “good Saint Nick” brings those simpler things which radiate generosity and goodness and delight.
As we celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, let us remember the basic idea: God is good; those who are good, are generous. Those who are generous bring joy to their beneficiaries. Therefore, let us be good, let us be generous, let us be Christian in spreading joy to those around us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.