Pre-Christmas Feasts

Our Holy Father Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia - December 6
Jump to Conception of St. Anna Dec 9th

St. Nicholas

Our Holy Father Nicholas was born (c. 270) in the region of Lycia (southern Asia Minor), in the city of Patara. His parents, Theophanes and Nonna, were both pious Christians, and being childless until his arrival, consecrated Nicholas to God at his birth (the name Nicholas meaning “Conqueror of nations”). Nicholas would always remember his parents’ love and devotion to God, and in his later years promised to come to the aid of those who remembered them in their prayers. As a young man, he desired to espouse the solitary life. He made a pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem, where he found a place to withdraw to devote himself to prayer. It was made known to him, however, that this was not the will of God for him, but that he should return to his homeland to be a cause of salvation for many. He returned to Myra, and was ordained Bishop.

As a Good Shepherd, Saint Nicholas dedicated himself to the care of his people and made great efforts to feed his people during times of famine. He became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused. Because of these acts of charity and his observed holiness, Nicholas was revered as a Saint even before his death. At the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, the holy Archbishop of Myra Nicholas defended the true nature of Christ against the Arian heresy and helped write the Nicene Creed.

After a life of work in the vineyard of the Lord, Saint Nicholas died on December 6th. The year he died is uncertain (c.340-343). He was a most revered Saint of the early Church and Justinian honored St. Nicholas by making December 6th a celebration of his feast day. The relics of St. Nicholas were transferred from the cathedral in Myra to Bari, Italy in the eleventh century. His body exudes even to this day an ointment called myron, which was used to anoint the sick which led to many miracles. This exuding of oil is called “manna of St. Nicholas”. Till this day our Holy Father Nicholas is venerated as the patron saint of children and travelers.

The Conception by Righteous Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos - December 9

Celebrated for many centuries under a variety of titles, the Feast widely known in the Eastern Church as the Feast of the Conception by St. Anna is celebrated in the Roman Church as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This Feast commemorates Saint Anna’s conception of Mary, the Mother of God. The writings of the early Church tell us that Mary’s parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, prayed earnestly for a child. Joachim was of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of the priest Matthan. Anna’s sister, Zoia, was the mother of Elizabeth (who became the mother of forerunner of Christ John the Baptist). Anna however, was childless.
Anna and Joachim had lived devoutly in marriage for fifty years. They gave a third of their income to the poor and a third to the Temple in Jerusalem. Still, they were scorned for being without offspring. With heavy hearts, they prayed that God would bless them with a child to comfort them in their old age. The Almighty God answered their prayers by allowing Anna to conceive a child who would be the Mother of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ.

Against all hope, the bonds of barrenness are loosed today. For, God has hearkened unto Joachim and Anna clearly promising that they would bear a godly maiden. He who commanded the angel to cry out to her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you,” will be born of her, the infinite One Himself, becoming man.

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