Friday, December 31, 2010

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas . . . The Feast Of St. Sylvester

Today is New Year's Eve, the seventh day of the twelve days of Christmas.

Today is celebrated the Feast of St. Sylvester. Surprisingly little is known about this Saint. What is known is that he was the son of a Roman soldier and that he became Pope at a critical period in history. In the 150 years preceeding Sylvester's Papacy, Christians had been brutally persecuted by Rome's Emporers from Nero to Diocletian. Indeed, the Diocletianic Persecution, from 303 A.D. to 311 A.D., was Rome's largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity. But then Constantine became the Emporer of Rome in 306 A.D. Constantine publicly converted to Christianity in 312 A.D. and ended the Christian persecutions by the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. The next year, Sylvester was elected Pope. For the next 21 years, he oversaw the Papacy while Constantine, who would outlive St. Sylvester by two years, spread Christianity throughout the Roman world.

It was during Sylvester's pontificate were built many of the great Churches, including the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Peter's Basilica, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. Saint Sylvester did not himself attend the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he was represented by two legates and he approved the council's decision.

One of the traditions associated with St. Sylvester, at least in Germany, is St. Sylvester's punch:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
750 ml bottle of dry white wine
750 ml bottle of dry red wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup dark Jamaican rum


1.Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large pot, while stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
2.Add the wines and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the rum and lemon juice.
3.Ladle the punch into cups and serve warm.


The 12 Days Of Christmas

The first eight days of Christmastide are known as the Octave

The 1st Day - Celebrating The Birth Of Christ
The 2nd Day - Feast of St. Stephen, The First Martyr of the Church
The 3rd Day - Feast of St. John the Evangelist & The Blessing Of The Wine
The 4th Day - Feast of the Holy Innocents
The 5th Day - Feast of St. Thomas a' Becket
The 6th Day - Feast of the Holy Family*
The 7th Day - Feast of St. Sylvester
The 8th Day – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Feast of the Circumsision - no longer celebrated) (& The Feast Of Fools - no longer celebrated)
The 9th Day – Feast of the Holy Name (1st Sunday of the New Year, unless that day falls on the 1st, 6th or 7th of January, in which case it falls on the 2nd of January)
10th Day of Christmas - Open
11th Day of Christmas – Open
12th Night

13 January – Baptism of Jesus

14 January - Feast Of The Asses - no longer celebrated

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