For Today December 6: Nicholas of Myra, Pastor. Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Vey little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From the coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of the people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nichola,” in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.
For Today December 7: Ambrose of Milan, Pastor and Hymnwriter. Born in Trier in AD 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a profilic author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemtor Gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, a style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the provence of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among the Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in AD 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a thirty-four-year-old catechumen, led to his Baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in AD 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician, he upheld the truth of God’s Word.
December 4: John of Damascus, Theologian Hymnwriter. John (ca. AD 675-749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theololgian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around AD 716, he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses, he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in AD 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymnwriter (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches . His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom, which was a massive compendium of truth from previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John’s summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western Churches.