I’d always wondered why Germans call New Year’s Eve Silvester until I started looking up potential prompts for this series on Saints.SQPN.com. Lo and behold, December 31 is the feast day of St. Sylvester, who was pope during the reign of Constantine. According to his bio in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, Sylvester sent legates to the Council of Nicea and probably had some say in the selection of the term homoousion (in the phrase of the Nicene Creed usually translated “of one being with the Father”–the Arians insisted on homoiousion, “of like being,” which led to Constantine grouching about the bishops wrangling so fiercely over one iota). His pontificate also saw the foundation of a number of major churches in Rome, including St. John Lateran, and the development of standardized liturgy as well as the recording of martyrologies. There’s some question as to exactly how close he and Constantine were, but centuries later, the forged Donation of Constantine was addressed to him. And his feast day was recorded as December 31 on a list compiled just a year after his death.
You learn something new every day….
St. Nicholas, incidentally, was bishop of Myra during Sylvester’s pontificate.
Stay safe this night, dear readers, and here’s to a happier and healthier 2014!