Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Nicholas and the Immaculate Conception

I love Advent.

By all means, do have yourself a merry little Christmas, but please, don't overlook the great moments and feasts of Advent! There are two great ones on this first week:

Saint Nicholas, December 6

Background: This fourth century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor is honored for his generous charity by both the Eastern and Western churches. The best known story about Nicholas involves his charity toward a poor father who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters. Rather than see the young women forced into prostitution, the bishop secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, enabling the daughters to be married. This story evolved over the centuries into the custom of gift-giving on Nicholas’ feast day.
  • How about tonight, on the eve of St. Nicholas, you have everyone in your family set a shoe outside their bedroom so that the generous bishop can leave a surprise? 

Background: The feast of the Conception of Mary was celebrated as early as the seventh century in the Eastern Church, although it was in 1854 that it became a feast of the universal church when Pope Pius IX declared: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved from all stain of original sin.”
  • I received my first communion on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which was the name of the all-girls Catholic school that I attended in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Perhaps nothing brings the question of Advent--WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?--as does this feast. We are waiting for the Son of God, born of Mary of Nazareth, a unique and special vessel preserved from original sin.