Updated: Jan 8
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” ~Mark 12:30-31
Why in the world would anyone name a church after Santa Claus? if that thought crossed your mind as you stumbled across our Church website, congratulations, that’s a great question. However, the jolly, gift giver we commonly know as Santa Claus, which originated in the 19th century, bears very little resemblance to the Saint Nicholas of the 3rd century. Yes, the legend of can be traced back hundreds of years to a Saint, named Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best-known St. Nicholas stories is the time he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.
What the popular cultural stories leave out may be even more epic in the telling. You see, Nicholas was also a profound lover of Christ, Jesus, and a staunch defender of the Orthodox faith. This venerable bishop was actually one of the participants at the First Council of the whole Church at Nicaea, where set about defining the very nature of our lord Jesus, as encompassing both fully human and fully divine natures.
So, we as a particular Catholic Church have actually chosen Saint Nicholas as our patron for the two reasons outlined in Mark 12: 30-31. That is because Saint Nicholas, in our opinion, exemplifies the admonition of a person who loved both God and his neighbors to the fullest.
The very nature and heart of God is eternal LOVE and this sublime attribute permeates all His other superlative qualities. This greatest of all commands to LOVE the Lord our God, embraces and intertwines with every other facet of His beautiful, eternal character.
Love is the alpha and headspring of the fruit of the spirit. Love is the superlative and pre-eminent affection of the soul. Love is the peak and pinnacle of a life that is hid with Christ in God. And when all is brought to completion there remains these three: Faith and Hope and Love - but the greatest of all is LOVE.
God desires that we love HIM to the very heart and core of our being, so that the deepest affection of our souls is securely centered with love on Him. God also desires that we love Him with every fibre of our intellect and understanding, so that our moment-by-moment thoughts and cognitive ponderings turn in love to His beautiful Person, with an undivided mind.
Jesus identifies this as the greatest of all the commandments given to Israel through Moses, "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." But Jesus goes even further, for as well as loving the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength, He adds that we are to love the Lord our God with all our whole mind and intellect as well.
To love, "the Lord with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength," is the first commandment. It is the greatest of all commands, for it means to love the Lord and seek Him with a passion for Who He is and not for any other motives. It is to find our sole satisfaction in Him alone and to strive with every fibre of our being to love Him more and more.
To fulfill the first commandment given to Israel and to attain to the greatest command that Christ gave the Church, "to love as He loves us," brings us to the brink of despair, for it requires God's fallen creatures to attain to the impossible. It is a command we will inevitably fail. But it also lays the groundwork of understanding God's love for us and His grace towards us, "that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
It is also designed to bring us to an understanding that without Christ we can do nothing, but in Him we can do all things.. including to love as Christ loved us by allowing Him to live and work through us, so that as His love shines through our life, He would be glorified through it.
It is out of His deep and everlasting love for us that He commands this level of affection from His children - for it is only as our love is centered upon Him, that our lives will be transformed into His image and likeness. Only then will His perfect love flow through us to others.
Loving the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength is a progressive love that builds and develops in our Christian walk, for as we grow in grace and in a knowledge of our Lord and Savior, so we grow in love for the Lord our God and are enabled to have that love translated into the good works that God has prepared for us to do.
Only as our thoughts and desires are focussed on HIM will we grow in grace and in a knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only as we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength, will our love be centered on Him, and our lives transformed into the image of the likeness of the only begotten Son of His Love.
May we learn to consciously love the Lord with our heart - to love Him with every fibre of our being. May we seek to love the Lord with all our soul - to love Him our will and our emotions. May we be determined to love the Lord with all our mind - our intellect and undivided attention and may we endeavor to love the Lord with all our strength - to love Him with every part of ourself... spirit, soul, and body.
May our love for the Lord reflect the command in this challenging verse, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first and greatest commandment."
So, though we reverence the example of Nicholas's life of faith, it is his Christ-like example that we as a Church seek to emulate.