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Advent Thursday 1 - St Nicholas

Thursday, December 06, 2007
Readings: Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 117; Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Very little is known about this 4th century Bishop of Myra, other than a few pious legends. St Nicholas is famous for his association with children, with Russia and with pawn brokers, of all of whom he is the patron.

In all legends about the saint it is principally his generosity that shines through. But it was a generosity that Nicholas tried to hide as the legends attest. So why is this saint particularly important in Advent?

Saint Nicholas, as is well known, becomes 'Santa Claus' another legendary figure renowned for a gift-giving that prefers to remain hidden. We can relate these legends and traditions to today's gospel reading. Jesus says that it is not those who say 'Lord, Lord' who will enter the kingdom of heaven but those who do the will of his heavenly Father. The wise person, establishing his life on rock, not only listens and repeats the words Jesus teaches but actively puts them into practice.

In the sermon on the mount he says something similar: 'when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you ... but do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing' (Matthew 6:2-3). When the great gift was given to us, the Son of God born at Christmas, it was not with any great show of publicity, not with dramatic deeds or world-shattering events. Quietly, in a remote and ordinary place, 'while gentle silence enveloped all things' (Wisdom 18:14) the Eternal Trinity gave the earth the extraordinary gift of Its own infinite love. All who have come to value this Gift become givers in their turn and, more often than not, prefer to keep their generosity for the eyes of the Heavenly Father who sees in secret.


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