Thursday, December 31, 2009

Commemoration of St Sylvester I

"Sylvester was a Roman by birth, and his father's name was Rufinus.  During the fury of the persecutions, he hid himself upon Mount Soracte.  In his thirtieth year he was ordained Priest of the Holy Roman Church.  After the death of Melchiades, he succeeded him on the Papal throne, during the reign of Constantine, who had already by public decree proclaimed peace to the Church of Christ.  Sylvester betook himself so to stir up the Emperor to protect and propagate the religion of Christ that Constantine built many Basilicas, and magnificently adorned them.  Under this Pope was held the first Council of Nice, at which Arius was condemned ; which Council was finally confirmed by Sylvester.  After a life of holiness and tenderness towards the poor, he died in peace and was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla."

-- Biography from the 1911 Breviary (known as the St Pius X Breviary)
* Painting by Maso di Banco

"God’s Son did not disdain to become a baby. Although with the passing of the years he moved from infancy to maturity, and although with the triumph of his passion and resurrection all the actions of humility which he undertook for us were finished, still today’s festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. In adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.
  Every individual that is called has his own place, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time. Nevertheless, just as the entire body of the faithful is born in the font of baptism, crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.
  For this is true of any believer in whatever part of the world, that once he is reborn in Christ he abandons the old paths of his original nature and passes into a new man by being reborn. He is no longer counted as part of his earthly father’s stock but among the seed of the Saviour, who became the Son of man in order that we might have the power to be the sons of God.
  For unless He came down to us in this humiliation, no one could reach his presence by any merits of his own.
  The very greatness of the gift conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. For, as the blessed Apostle teaches, We have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us by God. That Spirit can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering him that which we received from him.
  But in the treasures of the Lord’s bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace which at the Lord’s nativity was first proclaimed by the angel-choir?
  For it is that peace which brings forth the sons of God. That peace is the nurse of love and the mother of unity, the rest of the blessed and our eternal home. That peace has the special task of joining to God those whom it removes from the world.
  So those who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God must offer to the Father the unanimity of peace-loving sons, and all of them, adopted parts of the mystical Body of Christ, must meet in the First-begotten of the new creation. He came to do not his own will but the will of the one who sent him; and so too the Father in his gracious favour has adopted as his heirs not those that are discordant nor those that are unlike him, but those that are one with him in feeling and in affection. Those who are re-modelled after one pattern must have a spirit like the model.
  The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace: for thus says the Apostle, He is our peace, who made both one;because whether we are Jew or Gentile, through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father." 

-- From a sermon by Pope St Leo the Great

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