Advent through the centuries: the tenth century

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The tenth century of the Church

Psalms 43:3-5

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Symeon the Metaphrast, The Life of Nicholas, c. 10th century

At about the hour of Matins our estimable Nicholas, impelled by the Holy Spirit, came to the church. In its vestibule the man deemed worthy of the vision received him. “What do people call you, my son?” he earnestly inquired. “Nicholas the sinner,” he simply and unaffectedly answered, “and I am the servant of Your Sanctity.”

At these humble and courteous words of our exemplary man, to be sure partly because of the name of Nicholas which had been foretold when it appeared, but partly also because of the extraordinary, unmistakable modesty [for the holy man knew the saying, “Whom does God look to here below, except the meek and the peaceable?”], he knew that this was the man whom God was signifying.

At that, joy suffused him, just as if he had stumbled on some precious treasure. He thought of this disclosure as pure wealth. “Follow me, son,” he directed. Taking him by the hand, he led him to the bishops, who recognized at once what had already been foretold to them by their colleague. They, too, filled with holy joy, recognized that the virtue of the man was in accord with the will of God.

Then they immediately conducted the saint to the sanctuary of the temple. When news of this affair had spread about [for it is natural for news to circulate in such important matters and to employ swift wings], uncounted masses poured in the church. In a loud voice the bishops proclaimed: “Accept, our sons, this man as your shepherd, whom the Holy Spirit has anointed for you and to whom he has submitted your souls for guidance and instruction. He has been made our leader not by human but by divine determination. He whom we have been longing for we have: whom we were seeking for, now we receive. As long as we may truly be shepherded and protected by him, we need not lack hope that in the day of the Coming and the Revelation we may stand firm as a people beloved of God.”

To these words the people added their own expression of gratitude, and addressed God those jubilees which cannot be expressed in words. Then the holy synod of bishops together with the clergy, at once invested him with what belonged to the office by law and what by custom. They appointed him Pontiff, though he was slow and hesitant to accept that pontifical honor. Because of a truly praiseworthy sense of constraint, he could hardly ascend the bishop’s throne to assume the prefecture and presidency of Myra, the proper dissemination of the Word of Truth and Piety adherence to orthodoxy, and the right teaching of it.

Symeon was a Hagiographer – he recorded the lives of saints. Here he writes about St. Nicholas, who would, over time, eventually be connected with Christmas in the form of Santa Claus. This is an excerpt; you can read more here.

Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.
Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.


Hymn 25, from Symeon the New Theologian

But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what movements of fire!
Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one that I am,
coming from You and Your glory!
The glory I know it and I say it is your Holy Spirit,
who has the same nature with You, and the same honor, O word;
He is of the same race, the same glory,
of the same essence, He alone with your Father,
and with you, O Christ, O God of the universe!
I fall down in adoration before You.
I thank You that You have made me worthy to know, however little it may be,
the power of Your divinity.


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