The Symbol Of Santa

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

242px-Nikola_from_1294Before we commercialized and infantilized every aspect of our culture, we used to understand the power of symbols. Our government was regarded as a benevolent uncle named Sam bidding us to do our part. Our soaring strength and spirit of ever climbing higher was embodied in an eagle. A bell in Philadelphia announced to the world that while our society was far from perfect it remained free of the Old World’s pretenses and encumbrances. A statue in a harbor welcomed even the wretched to a land promising both opportunity and hard work. Symbols define our ideals about life, desires, and even ourselves.

And regardless of your religious affiliation or if you have none at all, the symbol of Christmas remains one of life’s enduring icons of what is best in all of us. The holiday is personified by a fourth century clergyman, Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Myra lay in the Roman province of Lycia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).  Almost nothing is known about Nicholas except that he was born sometime around 260 CE and died after 333 CE. Most of his good works in Lycia are obscure and his piety is presumed but never verified. He stands as a part of history based on one story told and retold throughout the centuries.

In his capacity as bishop, Nicholas became aware of a man living in the City of Patara. Once a wealthy and influential member of the community, the man had fallen on hard times and could not provide even the basics of life. Blessed with three daughters, the man knew he would never be able to pay the dowries that would permit the young women to be properly married and assume their places in polite society. In that culture being unable to marry meant more than just a life of hard labor in the fields; it usually meant prostitution for young girls. Distraught the man turned every stone to improve his situation but all to no avail.

Hearing of the plight, Nicholas resolved to do something about it. Whether based on religious prescription or his own benevolent intuitions, the prelate decided to provide direct aid to the man by tossing a small bag of gold through his open window during the early hours of the morning and thus avoid further embarrassment for the man. Nicholas returned night after night to add to the man’s dowries but, finding the window inexplicably locked on the third night, dropped the gold down the chimney where it landed in a wet stocking  that was drying by the dying embers.

There was good reason for the locked window after all as the occupant was waiting for the good bishop after he clamored down off the roof. Learning at last who his benefactor really was, the man promised to let everyone know about the kindness of the Christian bishop. Nicholas would have none of it and had the man promise never to tell anyone about what had happened. That promise was likely not fulfilled.

Saint Nicholas of the Roman Church has come to define all that we admire about charity — generosity of spirit, selflessness, and a genuine regard and understanding of the sometimes intolerable plight of our fellow man.   It is true religion and that is what many of us will honor on Tuesday.

God Bless us — every one.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

72 thoughts on “The Symbol Of Santa

  1. Oro:

    Mark, your article was incorporated into this morning’s 5th grade Bible study”


    Thanks, Oro. It’s the best use of a post I can imagine.

  2. SwM,

    Thanks for that example.
    The mass of Christ is now become Father Christmas. Not even St. Nicholas is here. But to each their own. Just as long as the spirit is right.

    Hope you next swing in Eire will be a soon and happy one.

  3. I believe that even many will be inspired, moved, and enlightened by this post on CNN about Saint Nicholas.

    Messpo’s space was limited, but media offers both space and at times good quality.
    Written by an associalte professor, who is also author of a book devoted to finding Saint Nicholas in history and his place in our culturrd.
    An excellent article to put into the hands of children ready to master it and be entertained.

    I will not mention the best parts (the myrrh of St Nicholas, etc) but will mention how popular his is. Only St Mary has more churches dedicated than he, and he is post-bibilical.

    His message endures today, and is the spirit behind our giving, even to strangers with ho expectation of recompense.

  4. All well and good, a cute folk story, but isn’t it time for people to give up beliefs of supernatural creation, of religion-based concepts of sin and evil, and to face the reality of an existing world not “created’ by imagined forces?

  5. edward,

    Although some here do believe that good entered the world with the advent of Christianity, many also recognize that this is a legend of a man who saw the needs of others, and satistied them anonymously.
    He did it as one human thing to do for other humans.

    Fortunately for we humans, this has been around a long time.

    As for god bashing and other sports, come back another day. We have those sessions too.

    My only objection to the blog was that it was too much Christianity centered, which is natural since St Nick is one. But let’s don’t let any sect take away our human birthright—-from those who wish to help others. It is in our genes.

  6. Offered as a gift to all. as is the meaning behind the essay from the NYTimes.

    Frank Bruni
    Op-Ed Columnist
    These Wretched Vessels
    Published: December 24, 2012

    I asked a friend of mine what she wanted for Christmas.
    “Botox,” she said, joking, but not entirely. She hates the deepening creases in her forehead, the age in her face. She wishes she looked younger, prettier and, of course, thinner. She has vowed to exercise more and eat healthier in the New Year. Haven’t we all?

    It sometimes seems to me that one-third of the conversations I have with the people around me — most of us privileged and to varying degrees pampered — concern physical plaints: the love handles that won’t be whittled, the hairline in retreat, the knees crying foul over decades of running, the crow’s-feet heralding the end of our salad days and the beginning of — what? Our wilting? If we don’t feel bad about our necks, we feel bad about plenty else.

    And even when I was younger, I heard or participated in no shortage of similar talks. From the time we become fully aware of our bodies, so many of us are at ceaseless war with them. We obsess over their imperfections. We will them into different contours and hues. And we line the coffers of beauty purveyors, as if attaining some carnal ideal could confer contentment.

    I think about this whenever I reflect on one of my favorite movies from 2012. I saw it about three months ago, at a screening before its theatrical release, and it has stayed with me since, not so much for its artistic worth — though it’s amply worthy — as for its spiritual merit.

    That probably makes it sound sappy, which it is, just a bit. It’s also a chamber piece, not a symphony, and it’s performed in a minor key.

    But this movie, “The Sessions,” has as much to say about the human experience as grander, more lavishly praised and more widely discussed productions like “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” And part of what it says is that our bodies are not ourselves. That we can be dealt a set of imperfections — of crushingly severe limitations, in fact — and nonetheless transcend them, with some help and some luck and, above all, some grit. That we can look as far beyond the flesh that we’ve inherited as we resolve to, and that fulfillment is a mind-set, at least in many cases and to some extent.

    “The Sessions” tells the real-life story of Mark O’Brien, a writer who was afflicted with polio in his childhood and, as a result, was mostly paralyzed from the neck down. He was tiny, too: just 4-foot-7 as a fully grown man, and about 60 pounds. He spent his nights in an iron lung, which helped him breathe. When he ventured out during the day, he did so either in a specialized wheelchair or on a kind of gurney. There were indeed places he couldn’t go and things he couldn’t do.

    But at some point he decided that one thing he would do was have sex. He advertised for a girlfriend on his Web page, wryly noting, “There will be no walks on the beach.” Ultimately, he visited a sex surrogate. “The Sessions” focuses on that interlude and relationship, rendered so unblinkingly that the movie is all too easy to see only as a parable of sexual awakening and an account of an unconventional liaison.

    What “The Sessions” illuminates is bigger than that. It shows an individual insisting on experiences and pleasures outside the limits of what, because of his physical form, he’s supposed to envision for himself and others envision for him. For example, O’Brien, who died in 1999 at the age of 49, couldn’t type or write longhand, but through dictation and the movement of a stick with his mouth he put word to paper and fashioned a career as a journalist and poet. And, if the movie is credible, he found joy.

    There are countless ways for our bodies to betray us and, in the more charmed precincts of the world, a woeful lack of perspective in assessing which of those ways are consequential and which merely warrant minor annoyance, if that. There’s also a widespread failure to grasp the happiness-dooming futility of endless yearnings for transformations beyond what diet and exercise are rightly prescribed for and can reasonably accomplish. Beyond what’s healthy and sensible and proportional.

    We’re so much more than these wretched vessels that we sprint or swagger or lurch or limp around in, some of them sturdy, some of them not, some of them objects of ardor, some of them magnets for pity. We should make peace with them and remain conscious of that, especially at this particular hinge of the calendar, when we compose a litany of promises about the better selves ahead, foolishly defining those selves in terms of what’s measurable from the outside, instead of what glimmers within.

    • ID707,

      Your link to the video about Mr. Wright was beautiful and I am forwarding to my friends who are both teachers and parents.

      As for the link regarding the Cleveland Clinic’s Multidisciplinary approach it does seem to be the way to go. You and I have both been treated for serious ailments and have both spent time in hospitals. I don’t know the system in Sweden, but I do know the system in the U.S. having been an inpatient in many hospitals through the years. I could go into graphic details, but suffice it to say I could have been saved much grief and pain had there been a multi-disciplinary team treating me, rather than specialists called in only when the need had turned to crisis.

  7. I hope nobody needs hospital care now, but if you’re hospital shopping, here’s one someone says a good word for. It is the Cleveland Clinic. (Comment Blouise). Here in the NYTimes:

    A few questions still in my mind:

    How rare is multi-disciplinary care in hospital?. Hopefully many offer it.
    We are still lacking a total responsibility for the female system, even within cancer care. So we need improving here.
    Costs for Medicare compared to others could reflect a lot of factors, not just quality as implied.

    Being rated as a “Rising Star! without knowing more about context sounds like at best a very relative boast without info about context.

    Their system of yearly contracts with data-based evaluation of doctors sounds good, but generally short term contracts with less security of employment ends up costing more in salary per individual…….but if it improves quality it must be good.

    Just a tip, it is your choice.

  8. As my last XMAS post, I want to help those who, like myself, don’t know nuthin’ bout birthing babies OR choosing vacation travel via use of Internet.

    We knew it was a hard world out there. Seldom do we here get a report from a small business on how working with big companies can go.
    Amazing how small print in the contract, which seem reasonable and fair, can be used and used and used to ruin you, your rep, etc.

    Read and weep. Next time it will be you. Or you sitting in court as a defendant and not being wired to a good lawyer, and the prosecutor cum judge wants you to use their “defense to your detriment.

    The last paragraph idea is stolen without permission.

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