“So, Do You Still Believe In Santa Claus?”: A Dialog

“He’s making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin’ to town”

-“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”
Bing Crosby

    “So, do you still believe in Santa Claus?”

   “Of course I do!”

   “Be serious! And what’s with that smile? I see you’re getting ridiculous again.”

   “Yes, I am and no, I’m not. I not only believe but pray to the Saint.”

   “I see where we are going with this…Wait a minute! You actually pray to this..Saint?”

   “Actually, petition. As a Catholic, I recognize the more older form of the word, “to pray”, as in “to petition”, like in a court. In other Christian circles, the term has been relegated to mean a form of worship only. While I certainly use prayer in worship, I don’t limit it to such.”

   “Ok, I’ve heard you talk before on Saints. But “Santa Claus”? The jolly old man?”

 ”  I remember fondly of the jolly old man taped to my door, framed in silver and red, and bought at a department store. I have great memories of the magic of the season with just looking at that decoration. I also remember the magic of tracks on my snow covered lawn and the sounds of tap-tapping on my roof. But the man in the old Coca-Cola ads (from where such an image first started), refers to a Saint. “Santa” is the Spanish word for a female saint. Really funny, when you think of it that the old man has a feminine title! But “Saint” is the proper title for “Santa Claus”. Do you know another name for him? An even more proper title? Come on now! I know you are not that dim in the matter!”

   “Um…Nick..”

   “Very good! Nicholas. Saint Nicholas, to be exact. Remember the children’s stories as a child? How he was a man of magical abilities?”  

“Yes, Santa Claus was sometimes called, “Saint Nick”, come to think of it. I vaguely remember a song with him as such and how he was able to do the kind of things reserved for comic books. But, I’m not sure what rabbit hole you’re about to go down, but I’ll bite. Tell me.”

   “Saint Nicholas had a nickname: ‘Wonder-worker’ .”

   ” ‘Had a nickname’! You make it sound as if he was some real person.”

   “He was. Actually, he was not only a wonder-worker, but a Bishop.” 

  “Ah, this particular rabbit hole!”

   “Yup. Can’t help getting Catholic on you seeing that Christmas is coming up.  Yes, a Bishop of what was once the ancient city of Myra, which is now Demre, Turkey. You’re about to say something cute?”

   “Not the North Pole?”

   “His Ikons don’t show him as being fat either. So there! You can stop the smirk.”

   “Ok! Ok! But what does all the gifts to children within their homes have to do with a Bishop somewhere other than the cold North Pole?”

   “Everything! You see, during the fourth century of Saint Nicholas’ time, it was not uncommon for parents to sell their children off when they themselves could not provide for them. Many of them were sold off to slavery”

   “Awful. You can’t sell Cokes with that line.”

   “But the image of what he did rings something true, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The next part is something to tickle your poetic sensibilities.

   So here was this poor man who had daughters without a dowry. Because the family was poor, they could not raise the money to support their children. The only option for them at the time was to sell them off.”

   “You’d be fired at the advertising firm!”   “Pipe up! I’m not done with the story. Saint Nicholas heard about their plight, and while the family was sleeping, he threw a bag of money into a window with enough money for the dowry.”

   “Objection, your Honor! Bishops were once  priests, right? So, they would have made a vow of poverty.”

   “You mean “prithee”? Bishops don’t lose their priestly duties, and yes they do. Notice Saint Nicholas giving away his wealth.”

   “Wealth!”

   “There’s every indication that he came from a wealthy family, but was generous in giving away his riches, thus obeying his vows.”

   “There is a sort of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in all you said.”

   “We Catholics use aesthetics as an argument for God, but that’s for another conversation.”

   “‘He’s making a list and checking it twice/Gonna’  find out who’s naughty or nice'”

   “What?”

  “The nice Bing Crosby song.  What do those lines have to do with Saint Nickolas? What kind of a “judge” can he be?”

   “A Father of the Early Church. More importantly, a Heretic-Buster! “

   “Sounds like a Super-Hero.”

   “And I would hyphenate it too like in the comics, if this conversation was written down.”

   “You got the head, cabbage! talk on.”

“Saint Nicholas was one of the Church Fathers who attended the Nicene Council (325: Source for date: Wikipedia) in response to a priest and ascetic Arius ( 250 or 256–336: Source for date: Wikipedia). You might not have heard of the name or the heresy he espoused, but I’m real sure you reject his idea. It has resurfaced as recently as the late 19th century with groups like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding Jesus Christ.”

“Well, these groups reject Jesus Christ as God.”

“Right. And the heresy is called?”

“Arianist?”

“Close enough. Arianism is what it is formally called. I suppose you agree that Christ is God and is co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

“You know I do!”

“Great! See? You agree with a Church Father. I wonder what other surprising admissions you have with the Early Church Fathers. why the sour expression?”

“You baited me into that.”

“Not at all. I didn’t move your mouth when you said you agreed with a Church Father. we can talk ore about the Fathers of the Church at another time. Arius believed that Jesus Christ the Son was not equal in nature to God the Father, therefore He was inferior to the Father. Now, let’s get back to the spirit of the season. “

“Let’s.”

“When he heard the heresy first hand from Arius, he decked him!”

“Hit him?”

“Yes.”

“Deliberately?”

“Yes.”

“Not too Christian of him, you think?”

“He repented of his action against Arius, but not his reaction. Would you have rejected Arius?”

“Of course. Jesus is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

“Then his reaction, his objection, is sound.”

“I suppose so. But this is hardly an image of Santa Claus.”

“Of course! Not in its entirety. Santa Claus is an incomplete picture of the real Saint Nicholas, but not an opposing image either.”

“You’re comfortable with Santa Claus?”

“No less comfortable as Aslan being Lewis’ symbol of sacrificial and saving Grace or of the ring around Frodo’s neck symbolizing the burden of the Cross Jesus bore for our sins (Frodo is an incomplete image also, because he fails in the end. Aslan, the “One ring to rule the all”, and Santa Claus all point to a reality that we experience in mature faith. I know Christ did not suffer on a sacrificial table, though He did give us a sacrifice of the Eucharist at a  table. I know that it was a Cross and not a ring, and that He conquered the burden Frodo could not . I also know that Santa Claus does not travel around the world in a twenty four hour period, but I do believe that as a Saint, I can appeal to Saint Nicholas as an intercessor to prayer. Sometimes one needs arithmetic before the can engage in algebra or statistics. Even Jesus uses parables to illustrate a truth”

“Oh, man! Intercessors…!”

“Which is for another time. I can only say on that right now that as I’ve heard someone else say, “Any friend of God is a friend of mine. Unless you are fond of decapitation.”

“What!?”

“For another time! Hurry up and finish you sandwich.”

“I barely have the appetite now.”

“Sorry! I’ve filled you up in the wrong way. Your ears are too full, I bet.”

“And there’s not an antacid for that, is there?”

“No. But you do have your brain and spirit to digest what I said!”

Note: Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day is celebrated between the 6th of December in the Western calendar and May 9th in parts of the Eastern Christian world.

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