Feast of St. Nicodemus (August 31)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Christ, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NICODEMUS

Disciple of Jesus

Alternative feast day = August 3

One can read of St. Nicodemus in John 3, 7, and 19.

His arc began in John 3:1-21, in which he, a member of the Sanhedrin, met with Jesus privately at night.  Given the philosophical nature of the Johannine Gospel, night was not just literal, but also metaphorical, indicative of separation from God–as in the light shining in the darkness, and the darkness not comprehending/overcoming it.  In that encounter St. Nicodemus committed the error many people have continued to commit–to interpret the term (in Greek, for both “again” and “from above”) simplistically and superficially–as in “born again.”

[Aside:  In Evangelical circles “born again” has become a major point, for it appeals to the understanding of salvation as an event.  There are many Christians (I am one of them.) who cannot claim honestly that they gave their lives to Christ at a particular moment–such as 2:53 p.m. on a particular day.  God, according to my memory, has always been present in my life.  Besides, in the age of the Church, salvation is a process mediated by sacraments.  (How Catholic of me!)  When one focuses on “born from above,” one ponders the source of salvation, not the timing of it.  But, if anyone is looking for dates, whatever they are worth, I have, from 2008, declared my faith publicly via one baptism (in 1979), one confirmation (in 1991), and two reaffirmations (in 2003 and 2008)–each of the last three in the presence of a bishop in Apostolic Succession.]

St. Nicodemus, having heard Jesus out, utilized the due process argument in Christ’s defense in John 7:50-51.  Other members of the Sanhedrin south to have Jesus arrested without a hearing.  St. Nicodemus, consistent with Torah (Exodus 23:1 and Deuteronomy 1:16, actually) and Rabbi Eleazar ben Redath’s midrash of Exodus 21:3 (“Unless a mortal hears the pleas that a man can put forward, he is not able to give judgment.”) stated that the council should give Christ a hearing first.  This was a politically unpopular argument.

The arc of St. Nicodemus concluded in John 19:38-42.  He and St. Joseph of Arimathea, no longer hiding their faith, wrapped the corpse of Jesus with linen, mixed with 100 Roman pounds (about 75 English pounds) of myrrh and aloes.  The custom was Jewish, by the book.  The amount of myrrh and aloes was extravagant–ridiculous and over-the-top, even.  This was, according to most interpretations, a sign of extravagant faith, dedication, and love.

Luke Timothy Johnson, however, has suggested an alternative motivation:  “Stay dead.  Stay really dead.”

I prefer the conventional interpretation in this matter.

Arthur John Gossip, writing in Volume VIII (1952) of The Interpreter’s Bible, was eloquent regarding St. Nicodemus:

As I see him, Nicodemus was a great soul, possessed of enviable qualities, and bursting through difficulties to which most of us would have tamely surrendered.  Bred in the schools, in a stuffy atmosphere in which very largely the conventional was regarded as the God-given, and where anything new had to fight its way to acceptance through instinctive, watchful, unfair suspicion, he had somehow managed to preserve an open-mindedness that flung its windows wide to God’s sunshine and free air.  So that while his colleagues were already muttering their irritated resentment at this impudent intruder into their province, at this ignorant upstart from the north, with his strange ways and very questionable teaching and ugly disregard for authority, Nicodemus for his part felt that there was something here that could not be dismissed as lightly and as easily as they were doing–something in this new teaching august and true, and that might well be God’s own voice.  This thing must be humbly considered.

And there was nothing but gallantry in the loyalty of that last scene.  Peter had denied his Lord in shameful panic; the rest had scattered or crouched more or less in hiding:  for the crucifixion was a frightful death, and Calvary quite frightfully near; all seemed lost; the cause was out.  But Nicodemus openly stood as Christ’s friend still; and dared fearsome possibilities, only too likely to grow facts, in order to pay the last loving rites to the body of an executed man which was regarded as a sheer pollution.  He had admired and reverenced Christ.  Let the world think what it might, he admired and reverenced him still (19:39).  Truly a great man.

–Page 504

With the burial scene in John 19 the Biblical narrative of St. Nicodemus ends.  I wonder what the rest of his life–especially the next few days–held.  I suppose I know what I really need to know:  At the end, amid great peril and fear, St. Nicodemus was open and extravagant in his faith.

Arthur John Gossip was correct; St. Nicodemus was a great man.

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Loving God, who identified with us and became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth,

we thank you for your servant Saint Nicodemus,

who progressed from openness to the possibility of the truth of your message in Christ

and became a courageous disciple of him.

May we, inspired by the example of St. Nicodemus,

grow in our Christian faith and give ourselves wholly to you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 19:38-42

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ENGLISH JOURNALIST AND CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SON, EUSTACE CONDER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS FLORENTINE HAGEN, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HEDDA OF WESSEX, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RALPH MILNER, ROGER DICKINSON, AND LAWRENCE HUMPHREY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1591

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2 responses to “Feast of St. Nicodemus (August 31)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea, Disciple of Jesus (August 1) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of John Leary (August 30) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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