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My daughter Jilana,
at the turn of the millenium, was a graduate student at Loyola University
of Chicago. A girl of Jewish upbringing, who as an adolescent was
Wiccan by preference, she seemed out of place to some in a good Jesuit
university. From her point of view, her interest in Wicca had grown
into an interest in medieval history--not in the wars or borders but in
how people lived and what people thought. And one major class of source
material for that was old church records, such as the letters priests wrote
back to their bishops. Hence Jilana needed to learn medieval Latin and
the organization of church records. Hence Loyola.
researches into old church documents have turned up some interesting sidelights.
Going well back before the medieval period, she has drawn our attention
to the minutes of the early Council of Nicaea, where the first draft of
the Nicene Creed was being debated. Debate over several points was
rather heated, especially the extent and nature of the humanity of Jesus.
Among the attendees at the Council was a young man named Nicholas of Myra,
who became so worked up that at one point he lost his temper and slugged
a gentleman by the name of Arius, a very influential church leader of the
not endear Nicholas to the Roman authorities. Emperor Constantine, for
example, got along well with Arius. For this and some other misbehaviours
Nicholas spent some time in prison. But later, when the church found
Arius's views to be mistaken, denouncing them as the Arian heresy, Nicholas
was able to resume his ecclesiastical career.
In fact, as I understand
it, he finally grew up to be St. Nicholas, who after passing through some
of the changes that storytelling allows, emerges in the modern United States
as Santa Claus.
But Jilana has
put her finger on the most important moral to be drawn from the story.
She says parents should take heart from the evidence that in his youth,
even Santa Claus was not always well behaved.
Edward Ordman 2000.
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