Nicene Creed and North Pole

processione san nicola
Procession with St. Nicholas’ relics in Bari, Italy

One year ago today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave us a new bishop, Barry Knestout. May God be praised.

1,675 years ago today, another bishop died.

We know Old St. Nick as “Father Christmas.” But first he served as one of the fathers of the Council of Nicaea. He participated in the great work done there. Namely, the preservation of true doctrine regarding Jesus Christ, true God and true man, eternally begotten of the Father and born of the Virgin.

In today’s gospel reading at Holy Mass, we hear the Incarnate Word exhort us: Build your spiritual houses on solid rock. Our spiritual lives have one obvious foundation. Our baptismal promises.

Lost in the BarrensWe rejected Satan and all his works and all his empty show. We embraced the faith. God Almighty. His only-begotten Son, Jesus. His Holy Spirit. Our baptismal creed. St. Nicholas risked death to profess it.

They say that St. Nick still lives. Up at the North Pole.

You know that I have been on a kick of watching Alaska adventure movies lately. I watched one set not technically in Alaska, but in far-northern Canada, in what they call The Barrens, or the Barren Grounds. These days they actually call it the province of Nunavut.

Maybe St. Nick lives there? The average daily high temperature in the capital of the province of Nunavut:

In July, 43 degrees. This time of year? -29.

We know St. Nick is tough. But maybe “the North Pole” is actually a metaphor for where he lives? A metaphor for… heaven?

Whether or not St. Nick will bring us little gifts for Christmas—I leave that up to parents to determine.

But, for sure, St. Nick can pray for us. Dear St. Nicholas, up there in “the North Pole,” pray for us!

The Shepherd

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitThe Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23)

Feels good to have a bishop. We find ourselves at a good moment to reflect a little bit on the great mystery of Holy Church. Apparently, Bishop Knestout wanted to follow me from the Archdiocese of Washington to the diocese of Richmond.

But seriously. Our church is a small place where we can try to know and love each other, an intimate little band of pilgrim souls. And our Church grandly extends all over the earth and back through 2,000 years of history.

The Church belongs to no one but Her Lord, Jesus Christ. He shepherds His Church on earth unfailingly. He does this through mystical, interior works—through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and all the holy inspirations we receive within. And He shepherds His Church by reaching us through the unchanging constants of our life together—the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Scriptures, the sacraments, etc. And He shepherds us through the on-going pastoral government of the institution.

St. Nicholas died 1674 years ago today. He participated in the on-going pastoral government of the Holy Church. St. Nick served as a bishop and participated in the ecumenical council at Nicaea. Where would we be without those bishops, who gave us our Creed? Seventeen centuries have passed since then, and it took place on the other side of the world. Yet the Creed of Nicaea means everything to us, right here and now, in southwest Virginia.

st nick

So we don’t want to go it alone. We can’t manage it, if we’re isolated and on our own. We never want to find ourselves separated from the living Body, the unique organization that has all these attributes of Christ’s loving pastoral touch. The Church.

Christ the Good Shepherd of our souls: He is perfect. He does everything perfectly. We human shepherds—He chose us and put us in our places. But we do not do everything perfectly; we could hardly claim that we do. Pope Francis does not claim to be the perfect pope. Bishop Knestout makes no claims at being a perfect bishop or priest. (I’ve known him a long time—20 years. He has no delusions of perfection.) And God knows that the pastor in Rocky Mount/Martinsville is, well…hardly perfect.

But we imperfect men have been chosen to take our places in the great family–and to try and shepherd the flock as Christ would have us do. Pope Francis isn’t the perfect pope, but he is the pope—and thank God we have one. And now Bishop Knestout is our bishop, and thank God we have one.

Because we sheep want nothing more than to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd Jesus and to feel the loving touch of His crook. We can be sure that Christ does indeed shepherd us, when we stay united to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, founded on St. Peter and governed by His successors and by all the bishops in communion with him, spread across the globe.

Santa Claus Day

santa-clausWe say, of course, that every day belongs to Jesus.

Today, December 6, however, actually does belong to Santa Claus.

Very few holiday shoppers realize that Santa Claus risked his life to defend the Catholic faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The stylish and mellifluous Arius of Alexandria had gained worldwide fame for his brilliant compromise between the Christian religion and the sophisticated Greek and Roman people. Jesus should be esteemed as an excellent man, worthy of the highest admiration, but…

Santa Claus attended the first-ever world-wide council of bishops, held in Nicaea, in Asia Minor, now Turkey. As we well know, the Council declared that Jesus is not just extremely cool and worth going shopping in honor of, He is also consubstantial with the Father. He is God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.

What’s even worse than falling off the fiscal cliff? Having a spiritual house built on sand. Winds blow. Rains fall. Floods come.

In his day, Arius had as much cache as Bono and Bill O’Reilly put together. There were a lot more Arian churches than Catholic churches back in those days.

redskins-ravensBut it wasn’t true. Arius’ teaching was less than true. Christ is no angel-man. Christ is the God-man. Santa Claus went to the mat for that precise truth. Santa Claus built his spiritual house in the north pole on the rock of the true faith.

Because, as every child knows, “North Pole” is a code-phrase for: Heaven.

Happy feast day, Santa!

Now, we know you won’t mind, Santa, that we will spend the next nineteen days focusing exclusively on Jesus Christ, since that is what you spent every day of your earthly life doing.

PS. The Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins face-off in the regular season every four years.

Four years ago, the hallowed tradition of St.-Nicholas-Day(ish) contests for Beltway bragging rights began. That was not a happy afternnon, December 7, 2008. It was painful.

Will this Sunday afternoon prove otherwise? Will the RGIIIeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!! train keep rolling? Santa could make us very happy this year, with one little W at FedEx. Everything is riding on it, Santa!

Zephyrs, Beltway Battles, and Old St. Nick

Gimmicks with the uniform are never a good idea
Gimmicks with the uniform are never a good idea

Things had gotten so bad (3-13 record) that the Wizards decided to come in disguise to play the Lakers at the Verizon Center last night.

Then, amazingly, they almost beat my man Kobe and Co.!

Almost. The Wizards/Zephyrs are now 3-14. Kobe saved the game for the Lakers after a “valiant effort” in the fourth-quarter by the Wiz, as Phil Chenier put it.

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