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Finally a mass in the church of Saint Nicholas in Myra (+ life of St. Nicholas)
Asia News ^ | December 5, 2007 | Mavi Zambak

Posted on 12/06/2007 8:03:07 AM PST by NYer

The ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, after years of insistence, was finally given the possibility to celebrate mass inside of what is, according to the State, only a museum. A saint which is unknown in Turkey, but is origin of Santa Claus.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Since 99 % of Turkey is Muslim, Christmas is not an official holiday, though it is not prohibited. For the few Christians, December 25th is a regular day in which they go to school or to work and are then left with no choice but to celebrate either in private or in the few available churches.
 
For most Turks, Christmas is an unknown holiday. Unfortunately, many times it is portrayed by the mass media as a holiday for Santa Claus, lights, gifts and decorated Christmas trees as a sign of shining hope for the start of the new year. And so like that in homes, in streets and now more frequently even in public buildings, one can find decorated Christmas trees as well as different versions of the traditional Santa Claus – usually an elderly man, full-bodied, jovial with spectacles, dressed with a red costume that has white leather inserts, and a long beard that is also white.
 
In Turkey, for the most part, not only are the origins of Christmas unknown, but much less is known about the true identity of Santa Claus, who in reality is actually Turkish!
 
Each version of the modern day Santa Claus derives in fact from the same historic person: the Bishop Nicholas from the city of Myra (an ancient city of modern day Turkey), who lived in Asia Minor between the III and IV century, during the Emperor Constantine’s reign who is said to have regularly given gifts to the poor. The same Saint Nicholas, which in Italy is known most of all for his ties with the city of Bari and whose body was taken there from Myra by sailors in the spring of 1087, 16 years after the invasion of Asia Minor by the Seljuk Turks and after the conquest of Apulia by the Normans.
 
The church in the city of Demre was dedicated to Nicholas. It is a very common modern Turkish city along the magnificent Turkish coast, on a strip of fertile and warm land, that continues to produce flavourful vegetables even in December, that probably would not have made history if it were not the Holy See of this saint.
 
The church’s origins go back to the IV century when Nicholas was the bishop of the city Demre, then known as Myra. Currently under renovation, it has now been transformed into a museum. For many years, religious and political authorities have argued over whether the Eucharist should be celebrated there. It has not even been possible on December 6th, the date in which the saint’s death is traditionally remembered, presumably around 343.
 
And just like that, for years no celebrations have been permitted, nor even prayers. Just guided tours after having purchased a ticket from the Turkish Tourism Agency, like a normal entry to any museum.
 
This, however, has never discouraged the faithful, the locals or the pilgrims. And mainly the Russians are the ones who travelled there, since it was from Byzantium that the image of Saint Nicholas and the traditions were taken to the Russian cities, where after centuries, they became so embedded there that the saint was then made the national patron. Only in the first half of 2007, according to a survey by the journalist Serpil Yilmaz from the newspaper Hurriyet, two hundred and fifty thousand Russians visited the site.
 
Now it seems that the Saint, who distinguishes himself from the others by his generosity, justice, and capacity to intervene decisively and fairly, has performed a “miracle”. With great joy and satisfaction on behalf of the entire Orthodox church, the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, after five years of patience and insisting determination towards the authorities of Ankara has now been granted permission to celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy in the church of the Saint.
 
The meeting last year in Ankara between the patriarch and the new Minster of Culture, Ertuğrul Gunay from the AKP party ( a party of the government known for its Muslim elements) was the decisive turning point. The Minister said, “I earnestly want every citizen in this country to be able to freely celebrate their own religion in the place seen as most important for worship.” And the proof that he did not want to go back on his word was that not only did he allow the mass to be celebrated in Saint Nicholas in Demre, but he also gave forty-thousand Turkish Lira (approximately twenty-five thousand euros circa) for the completion of the basilica’s makeover. Especially in the winter and in the spring, the basilica is submerged under rain water because it is three meters under the street level damaging the mosaics and the frescos found in the crypt of the sarcophagus of the Bishop Nicholas.



TOPICS: Catholic; History; Orthodox Christian; Worship
KEYWORDS: bartholomewi; myra; nicholas; turkey
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1 posted on 12/06/2007 8:03:09 AM PST by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...
Who is St. Nicholas?

Saint Nicholas by Susan Seals
St. Nicholas
Artist: Susan Seals 
Used by permission
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. 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. 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 the 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, 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 Nicaea in AD 325. He died 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.

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.

St Nicholas in prison
St. Nicholas in prison
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
St Nicholas giving gold to father
St. Nicholas giving dowry gold
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

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.

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, as 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.

St Nicholas rescuing boys
St. Nicholas rescuing murdered children
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
St Nicholas saving ship
St. Nicholas' prayer calming seas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.

St Nicholas famine relief
St. Nicholas providing food during famine
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
St Nicholas stopping execution
St. Nicholas saving innocents
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.

Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need (see list).

St Nicholas blessing ships
St. Nicholas blessing ships
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
Saint Nicholas statue in niche
Saint Nicholas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (See list). Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

St Nicholas with the angels
St. Nicholas' death
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
St Nicholas bringing gifts
St. Nicholas bringing gifts
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

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 "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola.

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.

Children with St. Nicholas cookies
Celebrating St. Nicholas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky
Children with St. Nicholas cookies
Celebrating St. Nicholas
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

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! 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.

The Origin of Santa Claus

Was St. Nicholas a Real Person?

Is St. Nicholas Still a Real Saint?

An Advent Saint

Illustrations by Elisabeth Jvanovsky from Saint Nicholas by Henri Gheon, Sheed and Ward, 1936. Used by permission of Continuum Press.back to top

2 posted on 12/06/2007 8:10:41 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Kolokotronis; The_Reader_David; kawaii

Orthodox ping!


3 posted on 12/06/2007 8:11:22 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer

They say that pawn shops have this saint as a patron since the symbol are 3 gold balls, symbols of the 3 doweries for the 3 sisters for mariage. Also churches in Europe have been named after him.

A Catholic PING!


4 posted on 12/06/2007 8:24:02 AM PST by Biggirl (A biggirl with a big heart for God's animal creation, with 4 cats in my life as proof. =^..^=)
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To: NYer
In Turkey, for the most part, not only are the origins of Christmas unknown, but much less is known about the true identity of Santa Claus, who in reality is actually Turkish!

Well, Turkish in the sense that he lived in the present-day country of Turkey, but he was definitely not ethnically-Turkish. He belonged to the Greek-influenced world and possibly was descended from Greeks, though perhaps he also had ancestors that were of the pre-Greek Asia Minor peoples.

5 posted on 12/06/2007 8:26:13 AM PST by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: NYer
Since 99 % of Turkey is Muslim, Christmas is not an official holiday, though it is not prohibited.

So sad, considering "Turkey" used to be almost 100% Christian. Talk about ethnic cleansing. How long do you think it'll take the Turks to offer their official apology?
6 posted on 12/06/2007 10:17:38 AM PST by Antoninus (Republicans who support Rudy owe Bill Clinton an apology.)
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To: NYer
Yay! Tooting our horn here, too. St. Nicholas is the patron of our "mother" parish, in Anchorage, AK. And, he's one of my favorite saints.
7 posted on 12/06/2007 10:17:53 AM PST by redhead (VICTORY FIRST, THEN PEACE)
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To: NYer
This is a great thread.

My wife and I visited the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy on our honeymoon. And as a result, one of our kids is named Nicholas.

I watched one of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials last night which supposed to explain the early life of "Santa Claus". Of course, it was spun from whole cloth, with not a trace of St. Nicholas to be found anywhere. I think it's long past time for Christians to start re-introducing their kids to this great saint and jettisoning some of the fluff that's grown up around him.
8 posted on 12/06/2007 10:22:00 AM PST by Antoninus (Republicans who support Rudy owe Bill Clinton an apology.)
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To: NYer
In Turkey, for the most part, not only are the origins of Christmas unknown, but much less is known about the true identity of Santa Claus, who in reality is actually Turkish!

Turkish? Uh, not exactly...
9 posted on 12/06/2007 10:22:51 AM PST by Antoninus (Republicans who support Rudy owe Bill Clinton an apology.)
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To: Biggirl
They say that pawn shops have this saint as a patron since the symbol are 3 gold balls, symbols of the 3 doweries for the 3 sisters for mariage.

Wow! Thank you! I did not know that.

10 posted on 12/06/2007 10:25:39 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Antoninus
How long do you think it'll take the Turks to offer their official apology?

I for one, am not holding my breath.

11 posted on 12/06/2007 10:26:50 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Antoninus; Kolokotronis
Turkish? Uh, not exactly...

Good point!
12 posted on 12/06/2007 10:27:02 AM PST by kawaii (Orthodox Christianity -- Proclaiming the Truth Since 33 A.D.)
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To: redhead
Toot away! Happy Feast Day!


13 posted on 12/06/2007 10:30:35 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer
The ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, after years of insistence, was finally given the possibility to celebrate mass inside of what is, according to the State, only a museum. A saint which is unknown in Turkey, but is origin of Santa Claus

Kudos to Bartholomew for accomplishing this!

That said I think Santaclaus may mix a few other figures into his visage today. I kind of like remembering St Nicholas as he was...
14 posted on 12/06/2007 10:31:14 AM PST by kawaii (Orthodox Christianity -- Proclaiming the Truth Since 33 A.D.)
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To: kawaii

St. Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death, Ilya Yefimovich Repin, 1888
15 posted on 12/06/2007 10:33:10 AM PST by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: Pyro7480; kawaii; FormerLib; NYer; antonius; redhead

That is one wonderful painting. It has been one of my favorites for many years.

You might be interested to know that +Nicholas at the Great Council at Nicea, attempted to get the heresiarch Arius to repudiate his heresies against Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos through the use of patient reasoning. He was unsuccessful and in his frustration, crossed the hall to where Arius was sitting and slugged him! The Holy Fathers of the Council immediately stripped him of his episcopal rank and threw him out of the Council. That night a number of the Holy Fathers had visions of the Theotokos telling them to restore +Nicholas to his position and honor and to condemn Arius, which, of course, is exactly what happened.

When I was little I always loved it when one of my grandparents told that story about +Nicholas!


16 posted on 12/06/2007 11:21:21 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis
Well, you were the one who told me the story behind the painting when I saw it on a FR thread last year, and I credited you on my blog when I wrote about it.

http://dignareme.blogspot.com/2006/12/st-nicholas-saves-three-innocents-from.html

I love that story about St. Nick vs. Arius! It reminded me of what St. Edmund Campion said to an Anglican minister as he was being lead to the scaffold.

Campion stood in prayer. The lords of the council still shouted up questions to him about the Bull of Excommunication, but now Campion would not answer and stood with his head bowed and his hands folded on his breast. An Anglican clergyman attempted to direct his prayers, but he answered gently, "Sir, you and I are not one in religion, wherefore I pray you content yourself. I bar none of prayer; but I only desire them that are of the household of Faith to pray with me, and in mine agony to say one creed."

They called to him to pray in English, but he replied with great mildness that "he would pray God in a language which they both well understood."

17 posted on 12/06/2007 11:30:14 AM PST by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: Antoninus
My wife and I visited the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy on our honeymoon. And as a result, one of our kids is named Nicholas.

Love that name! He should be proud of the link to this saint as his patron.

The parish Christmas party is scheduled for Saturday evening after Mass for the Immaculate Conception. In the past, Santa would pay a visit and bring gifts to the kids. I made some changes this year. I plan to gather the children around and read them The (real) Christmas Story. This will be followed by the story of St. Nicholas and the arrival of Santa with simple gifts for the kids. Over the next few years, we will reshape Santa's costume into that of St. Nicholas :-)

18 posted on 12/06/2007 11:40:07 AM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer
"The parish Christmas party is scheduled for Saturday evening after Mass for the Immaculate Conception. In the past, Santa would pay a visit and bring gifts to the kids. I made some changes this year. I plan to gather the children around and read them The (real) Christmas Story. This will be followed by the story of St. Nicholas and the arrival of Santa with simple gifts for the kids. Over the next few years, we will reshape Santa's costume into that of St. Nicholas :-)"

We won't be able to celebrate Holy Nicholas' feast until the 16th this year because of scheduling conflicts with the St. Nicholas parish, but it will be a good time. The little ones are always impressed when St. Nicholas arrives in his beautiful red vestments and sparkling miter. I wrote a little post in my blog last year about the experience for #1 Grandson. LOL!

19 posted on 12/06/2007 11:55:44 AM PST by redhead (VICTORY FIRST, THEN PEACE)
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To: Pyro7480
“Well, you were the one who told me the story behind the painting when I saw it on a FR thread last year, and I credited you on my blog when I wrote about it.”

You’ll be old , simple and forgetful one day too! :)

I am pleased that you like the story about +Nicholas and Arius. It occurred to me after posting it that my childhood was filled with some wonderful...and strange, bedtime stories!

20 posted on 12/06/2007 1:19:34 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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