St. Nicholas is remembered for his great charity, especially in the case of anonymously providing the dowry for three sisters who desired to marry. But did you know that St. Nicholas also is remembered as a great defender of the Faith?
In a story owed to tradition, St. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, the council at which the Church’s bishops investigated the priest Arius’ claims that Jesus was not fully God.
As the story goes, when Arius denounced Jn. 1:1 (in effect claiming that the divine logos had a beginning in time), St. Nicholas became greatly distressed. The saintly bishop, who vehemently disapproved of Arius’ heresy, rose to the ground and punched the heretic in the face!
The council fathers disapproved of St. Nicholas’ action and had him brought to a holding cell and stripped him of his symbols of office as a bishop. The next day, St. Nicholas showed up at the council, much to the surprise of the attendees.
When asked why he was present again, St. Nicholas explained that he was visited the night before by the Lord and his Blessed Mother. They thanked him for his defense of Christ’s divinity and restored to him the symbols of office that disciplinarily had been removed. St. Nicholas, because of his heroic defense of Christ’s divinity, was vindicated. And the council denounced Arius a heretic.
While St. Nicholas’ action against Arius was stronger than we might expect, the entirety of the circumstances aren’t known to us. It’s obvious he was filled with a zeal for the Faith, perhaps a righteous anger at the heresy propagated by Arius.
The example of great charity for which we remember St. Nicholas, which lends itself to the legend of Santa Claus, cannot be recalled without remembering his heroic defense of Christ’s divinity. He is a powerful heavenly intercessor who strengthens us by his witness to the importance of both faith and charity.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael.