Monday, 31 December 2012

31st December 2012 - St Sylvester

The last day of the year in the secular calendar is the seventh day of Christmas for the community of faith. In some parts of Europe it is also known as St Sylvester's Day. He was ordained Bishop of Rome in 314AD and a participant in the great Council of Nicea, dying ten years later in 335AD. He was a key spiritual leader at a time when Christians all over Europe were being intoxicated with enthusiasm for the teachings of Arius, or else driven apart by attitudes taken up for an against the reconciliation of Christians lapsing the face of persecution. He is buried in the Roman catacomb of Priscilla on the via Salaria outside the city, where the  faithful would meet to pray among their dead in good times and in bad, taking inspiration from their heroic life stories.

Sylvester is not known for his writings. His thought contributed to the decision making at Nicea, and his steady hand on the leadership of the Roman Church in such turbulent times meant that it remained true to the Orthodox concensus of faith. So, a guardian of truth and stability is honoured as one year changes into another, one for whom Jesus Christ was truly divine and truly human, the second person of the triune God together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Behind the man Sylvester, these words of faith he stood for and the ideas they represent, is a community of many diverse people, humble before God in prayer, worship, witness, service and proclamation, a community of people learning to live together with their differences and unite around this successor of the Apostles, serving and always pointing to the truth of Christ, the way to life in communion with God.

At the turn of the year we look back and look forwards too, although rarely do we look so far back, unless the name of Sylvester arouses curiosity from someone who has never heard of him and his story as a key member of the body of Christ. But whenever we look forward, no matter what we think the future holds for us, we know that within it, all will be in Christ, and Christ will be in all.

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