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St. Nicholas and the Spirit of Charity and Giving

 

St. Nicholas is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and beloved Christian saints. Universally venerated among traditional Christian denominations, one would be hard pressed to find a city that doesn’t have a church named after the 4th-century Bishop of Myra.

 

He is known as Nicholas the Wonderworker because of the many miracles and stories attributed to him both during his life and after his repose.

 

One of the greatest was when St. Nicholas interceded on behalf of three innocent men condemned to death by a corrupt governor. He is said to have boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, which was already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The governor, denounced by St. Nicholas for his wrongdoing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

 

Famously, St. Nicholas is also said to have aided a poor man who had three daughters but no dowry for them. At the time, remaining unmarried meant that the daughters would have fallen into lives of poverty and public ridicule, and so Nicholas decided to secretly help them. He went to their house under the cover of night and tossed three purses filled with gold coins through the window.

 

These are only two of the many great stories credited to St. Nicholas, but nearly all of them have to do with his devotion to charity and sacrifice.

 

Because of the saint’s habit of secret gift-giving, the diminutive “Saint Nick” is one of the many names given to Santa Claus, the legendary Western character who gives gifts to children on Christmas eve and is thought to be a combination of several figures, including the real St. Nicholas and several pagan winter characters.

 

As the weeks leading up to Christmas mark the proverbial “Season of Giving,” St. Nicholas serves as a reminder to embody a spirit of charity both during the holiday season and far beyond it.

 

Giving Tuesday” was exactly one week ago, a movement established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.

 

And in the last month, civil rights and anti-discrimination organizations have experienced an unprecedented increase in donations following the U.S. presidential election.

 

Once again, as it miraculously does every year, St. Nicholas’ famous spirit of charity and giving lives on during his feast day here and around the globe.

 

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is commemorated on Dec. 6.

 

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

 

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 
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