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New Year's Day

(St. Silvester's Day; © 2004 Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhu Ben-David)

Celebration of New Year's Eve on Dec. 31—commemoration of Silvester, Bishop of Rome after Miltiades, from Jan. 31 of 314 C.E. to Dec. 31 of 335 C.E.

"Though his time was an important one in church history, we have few genuine records of any personal action of his own. There is, on the other hand, a great store of legend about him to make up for the deficiency…

"It was in the first year of his episcopate that Constantine the Great… summoned the first council of Arles… Certainly Silvester did not preside, nor did any representative in his place. Constantine, in making arrangements for the council, evidently takes no account of him… shows that the see of Rome was not considered by him to have any special prerogative of authority… and felt himself under no obligation to consult or give precedence to the bishop of Rome…" (That is, there was not yet a "pope.")

"There is indeed one document… which, if genuine and unadulterated, would exalt the status of the Roman bishop above what other evidence shows to have been at that time recognized… It may be considered more probable that the whole epistle (on the ground not only of this passage but also of the general anachronism of its tone) is a forgery from beginning to end, concocted with the view of magnifying the Roman see… But the most memorable of the fables about Silvester is that relating to the baptism of Constantine by him…" Constantine, having contracted leprosy, "was advised… to use a bath of infants' blood for cure… but the emperor was so moved by their cries that he was seized with remorse and desisted from his purpose… The part of the story that attributes his conversion and baptism to Silvester is as undoubtedly legendary as the rest…" (Constantine didn't even seek baptism until on his deathbed.)

Silvester died on the 31st of December, 335 C.E. "He is commemorated on the above-mentioned day in the Roman martyrology as a saint, and as having baptized Constantine and confirmed the Nicene council; also in the Greek menology on the 1st of January, as a worker of many miracles, and the converter, healer, and baptizer of Constantine." (William Smith and Henry Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol. IV, N-Z, Kraus Reprint, 1974, p. 673-77).

"Do not do like the practice of the land… in which you dwelled, and do not do like the practice of the land… to which I bring you, and do not walk in their traditions. Do My mi•shᵊpât•im and watchguard My khuq•im to walk in them." (wa-Yi•qᵊr•â 18.3).

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