This being a First Saturday, we commenced with an half-hour Low Mass of St Nicholas, and then had a quick quarter-hour Benediction, with Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and Litany of Our Lady coram Sanctissimo. Mike (my passenger) having read Lauds aloud in the car as we drove over to church, it remained for me to knock over Matins while at the Pro.; this being done, we went for coffee. (Once Matins and Lauds are done, the rest of the Office is no hassle.)
As I blogged last year, the Collect of St Nicholas is stark in its petition that God deliver us from hellfire in consideration of his merits and prayers - which got me thinking about the other Nick...
Let us compare St Nicholas with Satan. Nick and Old Nick, Santa Claus and Satanic Claws: both proffer gifts, and wish us to enjoy ourselves; both are active, especially around Christmastime; both are depicted in red; both have many curious tales told of them; both are considered legendary by modern persons...
St Nicholas gave gifts to save people from sin, as when he gave three girls dowries lest, without the wherewithall to marry, they be forced into infamy; Satan ever strives to induce people to fall into sin, as all men know, and, once fallen, to keep them down lest they by repentance elude his fell clutches.
St Nicholas, now rejoicing with God in heaven, wishes us, as once he wished his own flock, to have those innocent Christian enjoyments that are sinless, partaking of love and generosity, and are some reflection of the joys eternal that await the elect; the Devil, eternally miserable in hell, seeks to ensnare us in sinful, vain, empty amusements that prove to be no fun at all in the end, that he may have us again for his slaves, that he may torment us endlessly in the Pit.
While St Nicholas would have us rejoice at this holy season, and after the model of Christ and his own subsidiary example seek ways to help others as a "cheerful giver", Lucifer would that we expend all our substance on evil self-indulgence - "sex, drugs, 'n' rock'n'roll" and all that tat - and drag others down into the depths of depravity with us by means of all the perverted temptations to materialism, drunkenness and sensuality that occur at this time of year.
St Nicholas is portrayed in magnificent episcopal robes, ruddy with the fiery charity inspired by the Holy Ghost; Satan, accursed creature, is drawn in malevolent ugly red to illustrate his damnable pride and wickedness.
St Nicholas certainly has a number of claims to fame, such as his twice-weekly fasting even from infancy, his divestment of his estate to the poor, his holy life as a wise and caring bishop, his suffering for the Faith under Diocletian and Maximian, and his active role at the First Ecumenical Council, compassing the condemnation of insane Arius, and his continued role as intercessor and wonderworker down to our own day; but everyone knows that the stories told of Satan are legion, and many seek far more to hear of him, be the tale ever so deceiving, than to learn the noble histories of the saints of Christ.
Most stupidly of all, not only do so few even allude to the sainted bishop and confessor we feast to-day, they turn him into a confused and merely-jocular figure, as actors dress up in a Coca-Cola-spawned outfit (though at least this is done with a happy enough purpose, to cheer children); while the Devil's best scheme over recent centuries has been to convince us that he doesn't exist at all, and yet playing a devious double game by all the while whispering that he, Old Nick, has had a bad press from those awful intolerant idiotic straitlaced Christian wierdos, and that in reality he's all to willing to be worshipped and adored in exchange for supposed favours. But his votaries had better watch out; while those walking in the ways of St Nicholas know that to be on the side of the Apostles is to be on the winning side (as Newman said).
In summary, the Devil seeks to take all away from us, and in truth gives nothing in return; God, through His saints, such as the holy Pontiff of Myra, seeks to give us the infinite Good that is Himself, and takes away from us only such things as are harmful to us or impede our surer salvation.