This holiday season the Missal takes a look at two figures, Saint Nicholas and Jesus, who each represent many vastly different sets of ideals in the current celebration of Christmas. We’ll take a look at only their purer form, the ideals they represent, without the historical, commercial, and political faces put upon them down through the centuries.
Saint Nicholas was born during the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. There is little in the factual accounts of his life, and he left no writings of his own.
One story tells of his love for others and of his humility. A father in the town where Nicholas lived had no money for the dowries for his three daughters, meaning they would not find good husbands, thus, in those times, faced a life of poverty and despair. Nicholas came to their house late at night and left a bag of gold, either by throwing it down the chimney or through a window, where it landed in the stockings before the fire. Returning for two more nights in a row, he secured the girl’s dowries and their futures. When the father found out who had performed these deeds, Nicholas insisted that the thanks be directed to God, not himself. Thus, we have the stories of Santa Claus coming down the chimney, and the gifts he leaves in the stockings.
The Apolytikion (Hymn) of St. Nicholas
An example of the Faith and a life of humility, as a teacher of abstinence you did inspire and lead your flock, and through the truthfulness of your deeds were exalted by greatness, through your humility uplifting all and by poverty gaining wealth. Father and hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Many such stories are told of Nicholas, all showing how he cared for the poor and innocent, and had no desire to take credit or reward for himself.
Little is also known of Jesus, or ‘Jehoshua of Nazareth’. While He may have existed in the sense read in the Gospels, as well as an historical figure, and may have actually spoken some of the many teachings attributed to Him, His real value lies in the ideal He represents, and how this can lead us to the inner Christ. As an inner guide who leads us to the true temple within our heart, where we become one in Holy Marriage to our Soul, and as the sword of discriminating wisdom, which leads us to retreat from the false, thus coming to Truth, He serves as a link between the outer man and the Inner Source. Much as the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sanghat, Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the formula for living and becoming. We become the Path, and thus come to the Father. Though Jesus preached the religious law of the time, including the commandments, he acted in pure spontaneity from His own wisdom, even if it meant breaking the law.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.” – John 14:16
Rather than a figure of sentimental puppy-love, a harsh judge doling out unforgiving punishment, or a lost figure of historical vagueness, the ideal represented by Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that saves us by leading us away from identification with the world and ego, lighting the Path back to the Divine.
“As long as man does not know his own divine self, he will continue to seek in externals that which can only be found inside oneself. When he awakens to the realization of the divine power within himself, he will cease to look for salvation in external persons and things, and instead of seeking for a Christ in history, he will find the true Jesus within himself.”
– Franz Hartmann
Both of these figures are in basis an archetype, an ideal, and though perhaps based on an historical figure, molded by history, passion and greed into their commercial counterparts, this ideal is the energy or power that drives the images even today. To be caught in the spell of any of the various forms is to be identified with an image, trapped in the archetype, and thus lose the meaning and practical use of the underlying truth. Both of these men, and the force behind them, was not one of pride, greed or pious fundamentalism, but one of truth and humble action, though that action be difficult, and the truth lost in the details. The path within does not end in the messenger, i.e. the archetype, but continues into the nameless stillness and silence beyond all images and their activities.
“The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the “ground” that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a “stillpoint”, not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them.” – Bernadette Roberts
For the complete article with commentary, click below, and scroll down to the St. Nicholas and Jehoshua heading: http://www.mysticmissal.org/archive5_m.htm#st__nicholas_and_jehoshua