Advent Day 10 ~ The Feast of St. Nicholas December 6th (the man and the legend)

Advent Day 10 ~ St. Nicholas’ Feast Day ~ December 6th, 2022

Here’s the true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. The saint’s name Nicholas is of Greek origin and means “victor of people.” At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.  He’s sometimes referred to as the “boy bishop” because he was consecrated Bishop of Myra at the tender age of 30.

Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, and was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea, the First Ecumenical Council of the Church, in A.D.325.  The Council of Nicaea formulated the Nicene Creed which outlines basic Christian belief that the Son is “consubstantial” (of one substance)with) the Father — the Creed we pray at Sunday Mass to this day.

He died on December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

The sometimes till used symbol of three gold balls at a pawn brokers’ shops echo this compassionate act. Surprisingly, St. Nicholas is considered the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer. Not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as the “Saint in Bari.”

To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.

The inspiration of St. Nicholas led French nuns during the Middle Ages to start the tradition of bringing anonymous gifts under the cover of night to needy families and their children on Dec. 5th, St. Nicholas Eve. The next morning, the feast of St. Nicholas, the poor families would wake to discover food, clothing, food treats and some modest money assistance.

When the poor tried to find out who their benefactor was, they got the answer, “It must have been St. Nicholas.”

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves!

 Candy canes have been a staple in America and are associated Santa Claus. Why? They really derive from the crozier, the bishop’s staff.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

Despite various variations of these customs handed down over the centuries, Dutch settlers brought the legend of Saint Nicholas, known to them as Sinter Klaas, to America towards the end of the 18th century. As their tradition goes, Sinter Klaas rode a white horse and left gifts in wooden shoes. This story merged with the  character Father Christmas, who dates back at least as far as the 17th century. Sinter Klaas was eventually Americanized to “Santa Claus.”

The rituals and fantasy surrounding Santa Claus became fixed in the modern American imagination with the publication of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore in 1823. better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the poem established Santa’s physical appearance (plump and jolly), his mode of transportation (a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer), and his method of toy delivery (down the chimney) for generations to come.

Now before you go, here’s a delightful Polish Christmas carol for you. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bob Traupman
Contemplative Writer
arise7@me.com
904.315.5268
Blog: http://www.bobtraupman.com

Wait for the Lord to lead,
then follow his way.
(Liturgy of the Hours.)

Advent Day 3 – The wolf and the lamb – the owl and the lion

 

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Dear Friends,

Isaiah dreams of a bright future for us; he also chastises us for our idolatry and unfaithfulness to God and encourages us to be our best selves.

But today he shows us a wonderful vision: the animals lead the way to peace!

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb . .

The calf and the young lion shall browse together,

with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,

together their young shall rest:

the lion shall eat hay like an ox

The baby shall play in the cobra’s den (Isaiah 11:5-10.)

Let’s muse about peace and harmony today.

About the animal’s leading the way to peace.

(I have a Christmas short story about an owl from the banks of the Shenandoah

and a young lion from the Serengeti  Plain in Africa leading the way to peace.

It’s a delightful story.  Why not download it and save it for close to Christmas?

My puppy Shivvy (of happy memory) demonstrated a love for fellow creatures of all sorts.

I have stories of him with turtles and little doves with broken wings and bunny rabbits and ducklings on our walks around our condo. 

What is so new about the promised “mountain of the Lord” is not that the wolf and the lamb are there, but that the wolf remains a wolf and the lamb remains a lamb and yet they dwell together without hurt in God’s kingdom. Under God’s rule, conversion and obedience do not mean the loss of identity, but the discovery of our true identity as one in Christ.

Think about it.

What can we do today to bring more harmony into the places in which we live . . .

– at home, at work, at church, in my neighborhood, in our world? 

In America today, we are so polarized and torn apart, this story can be an inspiration to us to help bring us together. Maybe this week you and I can make a little effort to reach out to someone across a divide and make a new acquaintance.

Behold a broken world, we pray,

Where want and war increase,

And grant us, Lord, in this our day,

The ancient dream of peace.

 

Bring, Lord, your better world to birth, 

Your kingdom, love’s domain,

Where peace with God and peace on earth,

And peace eternal reign. 

         ~ Timothy Dudley Smith / 1985

If you’re new to this Advent blog,  I recommend reading Welcome to Advent to get a sense of why we want to spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help you deepen your spirituality whether you are a Catholic or even a Christian.

I will be posting most days of Advent, (God willin’ n’ the creek don’t rise.)

You can make yourself  mini-retreat for five minutes a day and have the best and most meaningful Christmas ever!
It’ll relieve your stress.  Calm your nerves.  Put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face.  And it’s free!
So, what are you waiting for?  Come on board!  Put your email address in the hopper and you won’t have to think about it again.

And now, for your listening pleasure from Handel’s Messiah here’s “And the Glory of the Lord”  from Robert Shaw’s Atlanta Symphony.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings:  Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

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Stay Awake! Be Prepared!

IMG_0057The First Sunday of Advent / November 27, 2022

Dear Friends,

Sunday, November 27th, begins the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches.  Funny enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world.  The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon.  Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.

Paul admonishes us in Romans today:

“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).

” Stay awake !

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .

You must be prepared,

for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that no one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God, and will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky.  Thus, speculation regarding the time  of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God which belong to God alone.  

He tells us these verses are a warning never to become so immersed in time or worldly affairs, however necessary, to completely distract us from God, and our life should be in his hands, and whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.  

And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own.  ~ Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.

Now here’s my reflection:

Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake

knowing what’s happening

. . .  but so many of us are asleep, Lord.

We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.

We often dull our senses ~ stay in our own little worlds.

Choosing not to care.   We become complacent.

Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues

And thus, we go like lemmings over the cliff.

So tribulations loom. We become fearful. Threats . . .

. . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast

losing health insurance because we lost our job

global warming

corruption on Wall Street and government

a new Congress

uncertainty

Stand erect!   Face your fears with courage.

Be strong!

Do not fear the terror of the night! (Psalm 91.)

This is what Advent faith is all about . . .

Being vigilant.  Being prepared for anything life throws at us.

Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.

That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.

I want it. I ask you for it.

Today I consent to it.  May we all consent to it too, as Mary did.

Amen.  So be it.

Now here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood ~ an interesting take on the old hymn Soon and Very Soon             by a young lady by the name of Brooke Fraser.  Click here. Turn up your speakers since she has a soft voice.

Here are all of today’s Mass readings. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112722.cfm

As I do every Advent – Christmas, I will be publishing a new blog almost every day.  So be sure to look for them and make a retreat for yourself to counter the commercialism of this hectic season.

+ + + + 

Have a wonderful Advent!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 ~ Revised Edition                                                 The Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1975

Advent Day 20 ~ O Rising Dawn!

MONDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT

“O Rising Dawn, splendor of eternal Light and Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

                                                                                                                       ~ O AntiphonsIMG_0303

Here’s my prayer for today . . . .

O John, In your humility,

you knew there was One to come ~

that you were only to prepare the way for Him.  

      Help me ~ help us to prepare my heart ~ our hearts for Him this Christmas.

Help us to prepare a way for Him in our world today.

COME LORD JESUS!

Now before you go, here’s a terrific music video of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With Love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Advent Day 20 ~ O Rising Dawn!

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

“O Rising Dawn, splendor of eternal Light and Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

                                                                                                                       ~ O Antiphons

Here’s my prayer for today . . . .

O John, in your humility, 

you knew there was One to come ~

that you were only to prepare the way for Him.  

      Help us to prepare our hearts for Him this Christmas.

Help us to prepare a way for Him in our world today.

COME LORD JESUS!

Now before you go, here’s a terrific music video of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung by Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With Love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Advent Day 2 ~ The lesson of the shadows (Hanukkah Day 2)

                       image bob traupman 2007 / St. Augustine Beach, Florida

MONDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT

I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.

I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.

And so I now  pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.

Teach me to  stop and be confronted, to be changed,  by them.

This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me
about You and Your great love for me.

Editors note:  This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.                                                                                                           

I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.                                                                                                                                     I wonder what they were saying?  

I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.

It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.

Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.

If we deny they are there, we’re in trouble.

If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it, we become whole. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them: Click here. 

But since our Jewish sisters and brothers are already beginning their eight-day holiday celebration of Hanukkah, if you don’t know about the origins of that feast in Maccabees or the customs around it for their children you might want to take a peak at one of the following videos  . . .

The Miracle of Chanukah click here.

Hanukkah, Traditions Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

                                         

Advent Day 16 ~ The Lesson of the Shadows (and day 5 of Hanukkah)

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Advent Day 16 ~ Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.

I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.

And so I now  pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.

Teach me to  stop and be confronted, to be changed,  by them.

This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me about You and Your great love for me.

Editor’s note:  This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.                                                                                                                       

I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.

I wonder what they were saying?

I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.

It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.

Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.

And in one’s prayer life, the mystics like St. John of the Cross talk about the “dark night of the soul.”

If we deny the shadows are there, we’re in trouble.

If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it,

we become whole.

And now before you go, here’s a selection from Handel’s Messiah to put you in an Advent mood

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

Advent Day 9 ~ Where are you going?

photo (c) bob traupman 2007. all rights reserved.

MONDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT

“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  Isaiah 40:3

This image was taken on I-95 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine one misty December Sunday morning about 2 AM.  I was living in St. Augustine at the time.

On my way home from “Father Bob’s night out,” I was so taken by the magic of the vista before me I had to pull on the shoulder and capture it on my Canon Power Shot.

For me, even the interstate can be a place for reflection. . .

I was thinking of John the Baptist’s message that also appeared in the gospel for that Sunday:

“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”

And this was what I wrote back then, inspired by that moment on the side of a highway at 2 AM on a magical ~ mystical Sunday morning.

Where are we going, Lord?

Every day we’re on a journey that will not be complete until we meet You.

In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?

Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wasteland that America is today, Lord?

John’s message was one of repentance.

When he said, “make straight His paths,” he meant  to clear a way for the coming of God into our hearts and souls.

Help us get rid of the roadblocks that stop us from making progress.  Our addictions.  Our resentments. Our selfishness, Lord. Our incivility toward one another.

If we don’t make an effort to do that, our Christmas will be hollow ~ empty.

In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for You to come
into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?

What are we doing, Lord?  Really doing with our lives?

Where is our life’s journey taking us?

What is life really  all about?

I-95 at 2 AM helped me ponder that question.

I realized that was a special moment for me, a moment I seized.

Or rather seized me.

Carpe diem.

Thank you, Lord.

On Monday morning there would be a return to frenzied /  furied  / hurried / unaware / unreflected lives of  many going to and fro and not knowing really where they were going.

Time for a change, dear friend?  Time for a change?

Here’s a video from Godspell: Where are You Going? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. (The first reading from Isaiah is a very beautiful piece of poetry. Check it out). Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 18 ~ O Rising Dawn! ~ and the winter solstice

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

“O Rising Dawn, splendor of eternal Light and Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

                                                                                                                       ~ O Antiphons

The Winter Solstice, will happen today at 11:28 am, EST, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrated by our pagan brothers and sisters.  I do not use the term pejoratively; they are the peoples who are reverently close to the earth.

Actually the date of Christmas was taken from the winter solstice because it marks, in the northern hemisphere, the beginning of the ascendency of the sun.  It connotes the phrase from John 3:22-30 in which John the Baptist says “He must increase, I must decrease.”  And the Baptist’s feast, likewise is near the summer solstice on June 24th.  Thus, the church did not hesitate to borrow from the existing pagan customs.  Christmas trees, for example, came from Germany as well as evergreen wreathes that symbolized eternity.  Again, these were pagan customs.

And did you know that in the middle ages they lit real candles on their Christmas trees?  How ’bout that?

Some Christians today misunderstand our “cross-enculturation”  of things that once had a pagan origin and sometimes berate those of us who celebrate Christmas.

Here’s my prayer for today . . . .

O John, in your humility,

you knew there was One to come ~

that you were only to prepare the way for Him.  

      Help us to prepare our hearts for Him this Christmas.

Help us to prepare a way for Him in our world today.

COME LORD JESUS!

Now before you go, here’s a terrific music video of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung by Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With Love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Advent Day 12 ~ Soar like an eagle! (and Hanukkah Day 3)

The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah is so amazing.    He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.

At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.

I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:

God gives strength to the fainting,

for the weak he makes vigor abound.

Though young men faint and grow weary,

and youth stagger and fall,

They that hope in the Lord

will renew their strength,

they will soar as with eagle’s wings;

They will run and not grow weary,

walk and not grow faint.

– Isaiah 40:30-31.

(This was the first reading of yesterday’s Mass) So many of us become discouraged by life. We may lose our job or are told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family. And many of us are now worried how we’ll be affected by the Republican’s tax bill, if it becomes law.  We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed.  And are, indeed, in need of  an infusion of renewed strength.

In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will!  As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never cease to raise me up again.

And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings.

I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways. 

You have renewed my strength again and again.  

And I’d love to soar as if with eagle’s wings, 

if you would grant me that grace even now. 

Soar to the heights of the mountains,

and dive to the depths of the ocean of Your love, Lord.  

Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to serve You, Lord

as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.  

Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will.

Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.  

Today is the Feast of St. John of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic and reformer Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer