Sounds Like Arius Was on the Naughty List


I’ve written before about St. Nicholas, the fourth-century Bishop of Myra who eventually morphed into today’s Santa Claus, and whose feast day is today (well, actually yesterday at this point, thanks to the lines at Walmart). The most famous story of the saint involves his dropping gold into the home of a poor man and his three daughters to serve as a dowry. The donation was supposed to be anonymous, but witnesses were said to have recognized him by his big red cherry nose and laugh that went “ho ho ho.” Seriously, examination of his remains don’t reveal whether he actually had a beard that was long and white, but they do indicate that he was about five and a half feet tall and had a broken nose. Other stories about St. Nick involve him performing a variety of miracles, including calming the seas, bringing people killed by a murderous butcher back to life, multiplying grain, and destroying the Temple of Artemis with his prayers. Even after he died, he was able to save a boy who had been kidnapped by pirates. One story I hadn’t come across until today, however, which you’d think would be more popular because of how insane it is, takes place at the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that he probably wasn’t actually at the council, as he isn’t on lists of attending bishops, but the legend persists. Back in the early centuries of Christianity, there were several ways of looking at Jesus. The idea that prevailed as orthodox was that he had a dual nature, being both fully human and fully divine. There were, however, sects that believed he was only human and not divine at all, or entirely divine and only wearing the semblance of a human body. An elder from Alexandria named Arius, whose followers were thus known as Arians, didn’t actually deny the divinity of Jesus. He did, however, reject the concept of the Trinity in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all one. Instead, he maintained that there was a time when the Son did not exist, hence he was subordinate to the Father. I’m not quite sure how this would have made any practical difference, but most church leaders of the day despised the Arians for holding beliefs very slightly different from their own.

Nicholas was apparently one of the most fervent opponents of Arianism, and the tale has it that he straight-up slapped Arius across the face. Even though most of the bishops agreed with Nick, they thought he went too far, so they stripped him of his bishop’s vestments and threw him in jail. Mary and Jesus then appeared to him, removing his chains and restoring his garments. Upon learning of this miracle, Emperor Constantine returned him to his post. Since the story likely isn’t true, it’s rather odd that the famous gift-giver and patron saint of children would also be remembered as a guy who felt he had to resort to violence to defend his theological position. It’s much worse than coal in your stocking, and not exactly what I would think of as Christlike behavior. I can only hope Arius remembered to turn the other cheek. I guess that Kris Kringle was totally in character during the scene in Miracle on 34th Street when he hit the quack psychiatrist in the head with his cane.

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This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Holidays, Religion, Roman Empire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sounds Like Arius Was on the Naughty List

  1. That picture and caption: LOL!

    As an Arian, I can relate to this post. :)

  2. Pingback: Arius | Earthpages.ca

  3. Pingback: Putting the Crap Back in Christmas | VoVatia

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