It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that priests are magicians; especially since a major bone of contention between Protestants and Catholics since the Reformation has been that Catholics are performing magic spells up on the altar. That is, at the moment when the priest holds that thin wafer up in the air, as well as the chalice of wine, it is the Catholic belief (transubstantiation) that those things actually become Christ’s flesh and blood, respectively.
Well, of course. Saints like Nicholas, and Patrick too, depicted with their long white beards, their croziers and miters, they are reminiscent of our stock image of a wizard. They are Catholic versions of Gandalf and Merlin.
It should be further stated that the likes of The Green Man and The Ghost of Christmas Present have their own place in these myths of men who bring gifts and magic, culminating all these stories and manifestations into a love of the one we can simply call, “Father Christmas.”
Now, a word about Father. In my home, Dad is the magic one. Sure, I encourage all manner of spells and manipulation of the fruits of the earth, the seasons, the tides, the colors all around us. But, it is Dad that makes them smile with just the sound of his voice.
Now, look at the face of Father Nicholas. He is no joke and commands respect; for it is only when you have someone’s attention and respect that you can begin to affect their consciousness. The most magic of men are putting spells on us daily with a fancy turn of phrase: pundits, comedians, politicians, snake oil salesmen. My husband does it through impeccable use of language and an intensely sharp wit. A Magic Man controls the room with ease, with his presence, and then proceeds to make us all believe his wonders.
He is ALPHAMALE with brass balls. He flips a switch. Turns them on. Opens their minds.
Saint Nicholas represents the voice of Father when he commands your attention. He tells you to, “Stop. Remember that it is the season. Prepare yourself to receive a most significant gift.”
Now, in her wonderful blog, Streets of Salem, Donna Seger succintly outlines the progression of the myth of Saint Nicholas from his early bishop days to the elf better known as Santa Claus…
But, sigh: Mr Claus, there is something so contradictory about you. The myth of Father Christmas, the myth where you find your roots, is of a commanding figure who protected children and gave to those less fortunate. He was never buffoonish or silly the way we all know you to be.
And yet, even now, we draw on the power of you, Dear Santa, to warn our children, “Someone is watching you.” But, how can we expect respect by using the likes of a Jolly Elf as our primary source of motivation?
Tonight we had an impromptu celebration and three girls each had a job to do. One lit the Red candle. Another dropped colorful Sprinkles on the small pieces of buttered bread. The last unwrapped Saint Nicholas from his green Velvet blanket.
I recall watching the young face as she undid the dear wizard from this sleep and hope it is moment she will always remember.