6 December 2016

Meeting old friends

Today we keep S Nicolas; for a couple of decades of my life, at Lancing, a Double of the First Class and a half-holiday when we all sallied forth down to Brighton to do our Christmas shopping or, in the case of the students, to imbibe. I remember browsing happily, one S Nick's Day, in that shop for remaindered books down East Street. I had my back to the window; and I was showing a scholarly interest in a large glossy volume entitled Forbidden Pictures From Ancient Pompei (I didn't buy it). Some cheerful drumming on the window behind me suddenly awakened me to the fact that a fair portion of the V Form approved warmly of my reading matter and shared my views about its academic significance.

The cultus of S Nicolas is one of the most ecumenical and one of the most ancient; he was a saint with as large a portfolio of Patronages as a Renaissance cardinal. He was, at Lancing, co-principal Patron with the Glorious Assumption of our Blessed Lady; on his feast day we used to sing the hymn composed for him by dear Basil Handford: Sancte, Sancte, Nicolas// Tute Patronus noster es// Laus et Deo Gloria// Sancte, pro nobis exor-a. So many of the waterside churches in Sussex, and elsewhere (Byzantine East as well as Latin West), have his Dedication. Wherever one goes, he is the old friend one so often seems to meet up with again. When we go to Gardone for the wonderful Roman Forum colloquium (have you signed up yet for 2017?), we offer our Masses each morning in the superb parish church dedicated Divo Nicolao (what a very 1750s way of writing!) high up the hillside overlooking the lake. Incidentally, one of the baroque ceiling paintings there shows S Nicolas Banishing the Moors. Megatopical?  Sancte, pro nobis exora!

But in the OF he is merely optional.

A point I would like to make is that the historical aspects of his cult mean that his observance is distinctly more significant than many feasts with a loftier 'intrinsic' status; even feasts, for example, of our Lord. S Martin is another saint about whom I would make a similar judgement. I would be far more outraged if either of them disappeared from the Calendar than I would at the disappearance of Christ the King from Excita Sunday, or S Joseph Opifex from May 1. Easy come, easy go, as Auntie used to say.

Does this mean that I lack the true Mind of the Church?


Andreas Meszaros said...

Gaudeo te mentionem fecisse hujus sancti viri et certe non loqueris hic de illo homine cui "pinguis aqualiculus propenso sesquipede extet" (Pers. Sat. I) qui trito vulgi sermone apellatur Santaclaus.

William said...

To your closing question: No, it seems to me rather that it is the Church itself (or, to be precise, the Ecclesia Militans in its present manifestation) which has lost its own Mind, together with its Memory, in a tragically self-willed form of corporate dementia.

(But then I recognise that, as a Separated Brother, I could have got entirely the wrong end of the stick.)

Pastor in Monte said...

The spelling 'Nicolas' strikes me as being peculiar to the area around Lancing College: the devotion to him at the College presumably derives from Woodard's curacy in the parish of St Mary and St Nicolas in Shoreham.
And, of course, Newman's sister Jemima was the Vicar's wife at St Nicolas in Old Shoreham.
If my memory serves me right, the truncated Norman church in Bramber is also dedicated to St Nicolas without an 'h'. But I have never encountered the saint without his 'h' elsewhere.
Anyone know any other examples?

John said...

His collect is so delightfully blunt: ". . . grant that by his merits and prayers we may be delivered from the fires of hell."

Amen, indeed.

Matthew Roth said...

St. Joseph the Worker also hinders a historical feast.