St. Nicholas

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The Secret of Santa

The Story of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia

By Bill Godfrey

performed at "A St Nicholas Celebration," St Nicholas Eve 2001, St Margaret's Church, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

St Nicholas, card
S. Nicholas card
St Michael's Abbey, Hampshire, UK
St Nicholas Center Collection

CHARACTERS

NARRATOR
FINROD
SVEN
NORVIK
SANTA CLAUS
THEOPHANE
NONNA
UNCLE
NICHOLAS
NOBLEMAN
HELEN
MARINA
CRESSIDA
1ST ELDER
2ND ELDER
3RD ELDER
CAPTAIN
1ST SAILOR
2ND SAILOR
3RD SAILOR
GUARD
APILION
URSUS
NEPOTIAN
CONSTANTINE

Empty stage. Table down right in front of pulpit stacked with toys, paint, brushes etc. Three stools and one large chair around table. Three young elves run on from left, laughing and fooling around They stop centre stage.

Finrod
Oi. Stop it you two. We'd better get on before Santa comes back.

Sven
Who started it then? We were only having a bit of fun.

Norvik
Let's get painting.

They go over to the table, sit on the stools and start painting the toys.

Sven
Pass the red.

Finrod
Not red. I think it'd be better green.

Norvik
Green's horrible. Try blue.

All, chanting
Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue. Does it matter, whatever we do?

Enter Santa Claus, left, with empty sack over his shoulder

Santa
Yes it does. You know all those colours have got to be right. Sits in chair.

All
Sorry, Santa.

Santa
I should think so. The children will expect them to be perfect.

All
Yes, Santa.

Norvik
Santa, why are you called Santa Claus?

Santa
Oh, it all started a long time ago with a young boy called Nicholas in the town of Patara in southern Turkey. As he grew up he was always helping people, saying his prayers and trying to live as Jesus taught.

Sven
What did he do, Santa?

Santa
Ho ho! No. It's too late to start long stories now, young Sven.

Finrod
Please, Santa—

All
We're not tired.

Santa
But I am. Bedtime. I'll clear up here.

All
Goodnight Santa
Exeunt

Santa
Slowly clearing up
Saint Nicholas—Hagios Nikolaios—San Nicola—Sinterklaas—Santa Claus. Down through the ages, it seems so long. I can't remember clearly. Maybe in the morning-
Mumbles a little and falls asleep.

Lights dim. Enter Narrator dressed as a monk

Narrator
Don't worry, Santa. About five hundred years after Nicholas lived I wrote down all the stories I had heard about him. I don't know if they're all true but there's no doubt he was a very holy man. His father Theophane was a rich merchant in the city of Patara.

Enter Theophane with his wife Nonna who is carrying a baby in her arms

Theophane
He is a miracle.

Nonna
After all these years. He is a gift from God.

Theopane
It's like Abraham and Sarah.

Nonna
Or Elizabeth and Zechariah. I wonder if he will be great like their sons?

Theophane
What shall we call him?

Nonna
He must be Nicholas. Like his uncle Nicholas. Maybe he will become a priest like him when he grows up. Exeunt

Narrator
Nicholas' parents gave. him a good education and. a happy home until they both died in an epidemic when he was fifteen. His uncle Nicholas, the priest, became his guardian.

Enter Nicholas and his uncle

Uncle
To lose both parents, at your age, Nicholas, is truly a tragedy. I am deeply sorry.

Nicholas
Thank you. But there's grief everywhere. The illness that took my parents killed many others, too.

Uncle
I know it's early days but are you ready to discuss your future?

Nicholas
Yes. I'd like to join your monastery. I have always known I would become a priest one day.

Uncle
That was your parents' greatest hope. You're very young, but I'll arrange it.You certainly can't stay here.

Nicholas
I know. But there's father's business to be sold and I've inherited a lot of money.

Uncle
You can't bring your inheritance with you.

Nicholas
I understand that. But there are many in need in the city after the epidemic.

Uncle
I'm sure that a son of Nonna and Theophane'will find a good use for the money. I must go now but I'll be in touch soon. Exeunt

Narrator
Nicholas had already helped some of the poor and needy. He had also heard that morning, that his next door neighbour, a nobleman, had lost all his money through bad luck and bad judgement.

Enter Nobleman and his three daughters, Helen, Marina and Cressida

Nobleman
So that's it girls. The house is to be repossessed tomorrow; I have no money to pay my debts and certainly nothing for dowries.

Helen
So we're to be sold off like cattle?

Nobleman
Sciron has offered me a good price.

Helen
That robber! He doesn't know the meaning of a good price.

Nobleman
At least you'll all three be together.

Marina
What for? To be nice to a horrible old man?

Cressida
Even if we can't get married at least we could stay and look after you.

Nobleman
I shall just have to manage as best I can.

Cressida
Viciously It's a pity you didn't manage better earlier. To her sisters Come on you two, let's make the best of our last night in this house.
Move away from their father and settle down to sleep. Father settles down separately.

After a short while Nicholas enters in a long hooded cloak and watches the sleepers carefully from a distance. He is carrying three bogs of gold He pulls the hood over his face and creeps up to where the three girls are sleeping, puts down the bags and creeps out.
The girls wake up and mime surprise, happiness and relief.

 Narrator
The girls were all able to make good marriages with their dowries. Nicholas always tried to make his gifts in secret and many people in Patara only knew of their good fortune and nothing of the giver. When Nicholas had sorted out his affairs he went to the monastery to start his training. After several years of hard study he was ordained priest.

Enter Nicholas and his uncle

Uncle
At last you have achieved your ambition. You are now a priest and can start your ministry to God's faithful.

Nicholas
I have one favour to ask before that. I would like to go on a pilgrimage to Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem to see where Our Lord lived and died for us.

Uncle
It will not be easy but I feel that you must go. God bless your travels. Exeunt

Narrator
So Nicholas sailed from Patara to the Holy Land and after several months was on a ship sailing back to Patara when a storm arose. For two days and nights the sailors strove against the wind and waves which threatened to overcome the ship. Nicholas did the only thing that he could, he prayed and the whole ship's company joined him in his prayers and on the third morning the storm abated. They had been blown badly off course and the battered ship limped into port at Myra where, during Nicholas' absence the bishop had died and the local church could not agree on who the new bishop should be.
Enter three elders

1st Elder
We've been arguing and praying, for nearly three months since the bishop died and we're no nearer coming to a decision.

2nd Elder
How can we be sure we'll pick the right man to succeed him?

3rd Elder
I've had a dream. Last night I had a visit from an angel and he told me how we would know who was to be the next bishop of Myra. We are to go to the church and wait just inside the doorway. At dawn a man named Nicholas will be the first to enter the church and he will be worthy of the office of bishop.
They retire into the chancel and close the reredos gates. Enter Nicholas with the ship's crew

Captain
I told you I didn't like the look of it.

1st Sailor
Roughest one I've ever been in.

2nd Sailor
But we've survived.

3rd Sailor
It wasn't down to. us, it was down to him. Thumbs at Nicholas

Nicholas
It was down to faith that God would save us. Now we're going to church to thank him properly. Here we are.
Pushes open the gates and steps back as the elders come forward

3rd Elder
Good morning. Please could you tell us your name?

Nicholas
Looking slightly bewildered
I am Nicholas, priest of the monastery at Patara

The three elders look at each other, smiling and nodding their heads

1st Elder
Then welcome, Father Nicholas. You have, been chosen to be the new bishop of Myra.

Nicholas
But I'm only a young priest. I was only ordained six months ago.

2nd Elder
We have been undecided for two months since Bishop Iconius died, but last night Brother Lawrence had a vision that the new bishop of Myra would come through these doors at dawn today and his name would be Nicholas.

Nicholas
Looks heavenwards and down again
So it seems to be the will of God.

All
Amen.
Turn and exeunt up the chancel

Narrator
For several years Nicholas worked quietly in Myra, leading the church until the Emperor Diocletian persecuted the church and had him imprisoned for five years. After this the Emperor Constantine became Roman Emperor and also became a Christian and Nicholas was able to continue his work as bishop of Myra. There he met and befriended many important people, including three Roman generals who had sailed into Myra to avoid a storm at sea. These three, Ursus, Apilion and Nepotian then returned to Rome, where they were thrown into prison without trial
Enter the three generals chained and guarded

Guard
You won't have to stay here long. The execution's tomorrow. Exit

Apilion
So. who's behind this do you think?

Ursus
I'm pretty certain it's Caius and his friends. They've been plotting ever since Constantine promoted us and they've made the most of their time while we've been fighting out East.

Nepotian
Well, it looks as though we've had it. There's to be no trial, Constantine won't even see us and they're going to take us out and execute us tomorrow. I wish that bishop we met in Myra, what was his name. . . .

Ursus
Nicholas. How could you forget his name?

Nepotian
Of course.

Apilion
I wish he were here now to save us as he saved those three innocent men's lives.

Ursus
The way he snatched the sword from the executioner's hands and then stormed in to sort out that evil consul-

Nepotian
Let's pray. Let's pray that somehow Nicholas can help us here.

Narrator
So they prayed all night until early in the morning; the guard came back.

Guard
On your feet.

Apilion
This looks like the end, my friends.

Guard
Stand up straight for the Emperor.

Enter Constantine

Constantine
I've been dreaming about you three. What powers do you have to make me have visions?

Nepotian
Sir, we are not magicians. Nor have we done anything wrong to deserve death without trial.

Constantine
What do you know of a man, a bishop, named Nicholas?

Ursus
We met him when we had to stop over in Myra. A very upright and holy man; he saved some men there from execution who had been falsely accused.

Constantine
It seems he makes a habit of trying to right injustice. He appeared to me and my administrator in dreams last night and ordered us- ordered me, the Emperor, to set you free or live to regret it.

Apilion
He is a very powerful man of God.

Constantine
Go and thank God who has saved you through this Nicholas. And go to Myra with gifts from me to this bishop and ask him to pray for me.
Exit followed by generals and the guard

Narrator
So they went to Myra and told Nicholas the whole story. He asked them to sit down and began to tell them of God's tremendous love and power. There are many more stories of Nicholas' goodness and kindness while here on earth, and finally, on December 6th in the year 343, he passed into the next life. Since then the power of his spiritual intervention has been credited with many, miracles. He was made a saint nearly a thousand years ago because he was a very holy person and lived what the Gospel asks of us. Because some of his acts were done mysteriously he has become our saint of surprises and his spirit is within each of us whenever we do a good deed in secret. But now it's time for me to go. Just before he went to sleep did you hear Santa saying some of the names that Saint Nicholas has been called in different languages. In Holland he was known as Sinterklaas and when some Dutch people emigrated to America four hundred years ago they took the story of the saint and his feast day with them. Now I will leave you with the children of the world as they celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas. Wake up Santa

Santa
Coming awake as children in various national costumes enter with the elves
Oh, oh, goodness. Gracious me. I've had such a dream- The children and elves dance round the workshop calling out the name that the saint is known by in their own language Whoa! Stand still a minute. Here we are-and not very secret.
Goes round handing out sweets to the cast and audience as the principals enter to take a final bow


By Bill Godfrey, performed at "A St Nicholas Celebration," St Nicholas Eve 2001, St Margaret's Church, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Used by permission.

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