St. Nicholas of Myra (270-343), also known as Santa Claus, was one of 318 bishops who attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The council was called together to discuss the beliefs of Arius. While Arius was defending his teachings of Christ being created by God the Father and thus, being lesser and inferior, St. Nicholas, being filled with the love of Christ, arose from his seat, approached Arius and smacked him across the face.
The bishops present, stunned by the actions of St. Nicholas, stripped him of his episcopal symbols, namely the Gospels and the omophorion (an episcopal vestment) and then Emperor Constantine placed him in prison. During the night, in a dream, St. Nicholas was visited by Christ, who asked him, “Why are you here?”
St. Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.” Christ then gave him the Gospels and then Mary, the Mother of God, bestowed upon him the omophorion. The next morning, when the bishops gathered together to discuss how they slept, one recalled a dream he had. In it Christ and the Mother of God granted the imprisoned St. Nicholas the Gospels and the omophorion. Upon hearing this, another bishop said he had the same dream. Then another and another until they realized that all the bishops had the same dream.
Recognizing the miracle that took place, they raced to the prison to find the sleeping St. Nicholas in his jail cell with the Gospels and omophorion placed neatly at his side. Emperor Constantine freed him from prison and the bishops reinstated him to his episcopate.
The slap that St. Nicholas laid on Arius’s face was one of the first times a Christian would defend the Christian faith with his hands – and it would not be the last. Throughout history, especially Armenian history, Christians have defended their faith so that future generations could worship the Holy Trinity. From the battle of Avarayr and the Genocide to the War for Artsakh and the present day war in Syria, Christians use their hands to defend their faith and the Gospels.
Yet how many of us defend our faith or are willing to protect it? How many of us sit back and let others disgrace and ridicule our faith? How many of us watch and wait for others to defend it, while Christ is waiting for us to defend Him? We are called to be preachers of the Gospel and also defenders. Let us make an effort, in the coming new year, to stand up for Christ, the Gospels and our faith and let us also follow St. Nicholas’s example and words that he uttered to our Lord, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”
*The original article can be found in Vol. 2 No. 1 2016 Winter edition of The Treasury, a publication of The Fellowship of St. Voski dedicated to teaching the Armenian Orthodox Church’s faith to the faithful in English. To read the entire magazine, go to: http://www.stvoski.org/embed-v2-n1.html.