San Silvestre and the end of the year

Pope Saint Sylvester never imagined that he would be the one to give his name to the last day of the calendar year in several countries around the world. This date is a great opportunity to remember the figure of this holy pope.

Stefan M. Dąbrowski-December 31, 2022-Reading time: 2 minutes
saint sylvester

New Year is also known as "Silvester", remembering Pope Saint Sylvester (Unsplash / Thomas Bormans).

It probably never crossed the mind of the thirty-third bishop of Rome that his person would be perpetuated through the centuries with lavish celebrations around the globe. In many countries, New Year's Day is simply called Silvester. Paradoxically, Sylvester was a very quiet priest. His zealous service to God earned him universal respect and in 314 he was elected pope.

He held office for twenty years. His pontificate coincided with the promulgation of the Edict of Milan, which guaranteed Christians religious freedom. The sources tell us that he ordered that on the day of the Roman sun (dies solis) was celebrated as the Lord's Day, and Constantine the Great declared Sunday free of work by decree in 321.

He performed the solemn consecration of the basilicas of St. Peter's in the Vatican (326 A.D.) and St. John Lateran (324 A.D.), both built by the Emperor, thus beginning the tradition of solemn consecrations of similar buildings.

During this period, the bishop of Rome could not compare in importance with the bishops of the Eastern Churches nor with the eminent personalities who exercised a decisive influence on Constantine, the emperor protector of the Church.

During the pontificate of Sylvester, the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) took place, which established the Nicene Creed. The scarce participation of the Pope in this first of the ecumenical councils, perhaps because of his distance from the scene of the conflict or because of his respect for the autonomy of the Eastern Churches, was received with some criticism.

Probably because Sylvester's episcopacy occurred at a crucial moment in the history of the Church, his successors and the increasingly important Christian community of Rome were not content with the secondary role he played alongside the first Christian emperor. In this context, especially when the emperors no longer resided in the city, legends emerged that painted an idealized portrait of Sylvester.

New Year's Eve celebrations

In most parts of the world, New Year's Eve is associated with the last night of the calendar year. How it is celebrated depends on the local culture, although globalization is increasingly eroding all local differences and customs. Loud music and fireworks often accompany the festivities on this night. Probably the most widespread custom is to toast at midnight.

The last day of the year is a great opportunity to remember the figure of this holy pope. It is good to perpetuate this reference in the minds of our friends. This saint each year can remind us of the two papal basilicas, the celebration of Sunday and the profession of faith in the Creed. This allows us to take the right direction for the new year that begins.

The authorStefan M. Dąbrowski

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