Elected pope in 314, Saint Sylvester served the Church at a time when the Arian heresy and the Donatist schism had provoked great discord. After the peace of Constantine, he contributed greatly to the work of evangelization throughout the Roman world. The saintly pope died in 355. Some other thoughts on today's saint
Saints: December 2008 Archives
Almighty God, You granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice. By his prayers make us willing to renounce for Christ our life in this world so that we may find it in heaven.
A few words on Becket.
Father in heaven, creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life, and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man.
In history's moment when all was ready You sent your Son to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world.
Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life forever.
Saint John, Saint John was Christ's disciple,
and Evangelist also;
He for the sake of Jesus Christ
Much pains did undergo,
Because he loved our Saviour Christ,
As Holy Scriptures say,
And was belov'd of him also,
And in his bosom lay.
Saint John for love of our Saviour
Did undergo much pain
And never ceased during life
To preach Christ Jesus' name.
Saint John, he at Jerusalem
And for the same the spiteful pagans
They did him cruel scourge.
Then did he for the same rejoice,
That he was counted worthy
To suffer for the sake of Christ,
And would him not deny.
To Patmos banish'd was Saint John,
As Scripture doth record,
For the testimony of Christ,
And his most holy word.
And as he was in the Spirit
On the Lord's blessed day,
Our Saviour by an Angel spake,
and unto him did say,
I am Alpha and Omega,
Which was and is to come;
And what thou seest write in a book
Thus said he to Saint John
And send it to the Churches then,
Which are in Asia seven.
And said the Angel to Saint John,
Which came to him from Heaven.
Yesterday, with exultation,
Join'd the world in celebration
Of her promised Saviour's birth;
Yesterday the Angel-nation
Pour'd the strains of jubilation
O'er the Monarch born on earth;
But today o'er death victorious,
By his faith and actions glorious,
by his miracles renown'd,
See the Deacon triumph gaining,
'Midst the faithless faith sustaining,
First of holy Martyrs found.
Onward, champion, falter never,
Sure of sure reward for ever,
Holy Stephen, persevere;
Perjured witnesses confounding,
Satan's synagogue astounding
By thy doctrine true and clear.
Thine own Witness is in Heaven,
True and faithful, to thee given,
Witness of thy blamelessness:
By thy name a crown implying,
Meet it is thou shouldst be dying
For the crown of righteousness.
For the crown that fadeth never
Bear the torturer's brief endeavour;
Victory waits to end the strife:
Death shall be thy life's beginning,
And life's losing be the winning
Of the true and better life.
Fill'd with God's most Holy Spirit,
See the Heav'n thou shalt inherit,
Stephen, gaze into the skies:
There God's glory steadfast viewing,
Thence thy victor-strength renewing,
Pant for thy eternal prize.
See, as Jewish foes invade thee,
See how Jesus stands to aid thee,
Stands at God's right hand on high:
Tell how open'd Heav'n is shown thee,
Tell how Jesus waits to own thee,
Tell it with thy latest cry.
As the dying martyr kneeleth,
For his murderers he appealeth,
For their madness griefing sore;
Then in Christ he sleepeth sweetly,
And with Christ he reigneth meetly,
Martyr first-fruits, evermore.
Words: "Heri mundus exultavit," Adam of S. Victor (d. 1192). Translation by John Mason Neale; Music: "Heri Mundus Exultavit," by Walter Macfarren; Meter: 887 887. Hymns Ancient and Modern. London: William Clowes and Sons, Ltd., 1922, #64, p. 64-5.
A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day
by John Donne
'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.
But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.
John Donne. Poems of John Donne. Vol. I. E. K. Chambers, ed. London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 45-46.
Eternal Shepherd, graciously guard Thy flock, and through blessed Damasus, Thy Supreme Pontiff, whom Thou did appoint pastor of the universal Church, keep it under Thy continual protection.
Answering the question: who is Jesus Christ, we would say...
Pope Damasus I (366-384) in a letter to the bishops of the East dated around 374, pointed out and at the same time rejected the errors of both Arius and of Apollinaris, "These (i.e., the Arians) posit in the Son of God an imperfect divinity, while the others (i.e., the Apollinarists) falsely affirm that the humanity of the Son of Man is incomplete. If the Son of God did not become fully man, then God's work is imperfect and our salvation is imperfect, because the whole man has not been saved! We, who know that we have been saved in the fullness of the human being, profess according to the faith of the Catholic Church that God in the fullness of his being has assumed human nature in its fullness."
This letter of Damasus, written fifty years after Nicaea, was directed principally against the Apollinarists (cf. DS 146). A few years later the First Council of Constantinople (381) condemned all the heresies of the time, including Arianism and Apollinarism. It thereby confirmed what Pope Damasus I had declared about Christ's humanity, which has by nature a real human soul (and therefore a real human intellect and free will) (cf. DS 146, 149, 151). (from the Conciliar Definitions of Christ, 9 March 1988)
Lord God, through Saint Juan Diego you made known the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe toward your people. Grant by his intercession that we who follow the counsel of Mary, our Mother, may strive continually to do your will.
The information about him that has reached [the Church] praises his Christian virtues: his simple faith, nourished by catechesis and open to the mysteries; his hope and trust in God and in the Virgin; his love, his moral coherence, his unselfishness and evangelical poverty. Living the life of a hermit here near Tepeyac, he was a model of humility. The Virgin chose him from among the most humble as the one to receive that loving and gracious manifestation of hers which is the Guadalupe apparition. Her maternal face and her Saint image which she left us as a priceless gift is a permanent remembrance of this. In this manner she wanted to remain among you as a sign of the communion and unity of all those who were to live together in this land. (Pope John Paul II, Beatification homily 6 May 1990)
O God, Who did give Thy people blessed Ambrose as a minister of eternal salvation, we beseech Thee; grant that we may deserve to have him as an intercessor in heaven, whom we had as a teacher of life on earth. Pope Benedict reminds us that "Bishop Ambrose - who never tired of saying: 'Omnia Christus est nobis! To us Christ is all!' - continues to be a genuine witness of the Lord.' Read the Pope's brilliant address on Ambrose. Say a prayer for the Archdiocese of Milan, converts, theologians, bee keepers, domestic animals and learning.
O God, Who did give Thy people blessed Ambrose as a minister of eternal salvation, we beseech Thee; grant that we may deserve to have him as an intercessor in heaven, whom we had as a teacher of life on earth.
Pope Benedict reminds us that "Bishop Ambrose - who never tired of saying: 'Omnia Christus est nobis! To us Christ is all!' - continues to be a genuine witness of the Lord.' Read the Pope's brilliant address on Ambrose.
Say a prayer for the Archdiocese of Milan, converts, theologians, bee keepers, domestic animals and learning.
The Lord led the just in the right path; and showed him the kingdom of God.
O God, Who did adorn the holy Bishop Nicholas with innumerable miracles; grant, we beseech Thee, that by his merits and prayers we may be delivered from the flames of hell.
Saint Nicholas is now known as Santa Claus the hagiography tells us that he was a man of great compassion for the weak and poor. He attended to his calling to proclaim the Gospel, teach the faith and to act justly to those in need.
Also on this feast I recall hearing that pious legend of Saint Nicholas that was feeling rather angered by Arius at the Council of Nicea that he got up and kicked Arius' butt, or perhaps he just slapped Arius and hard. I am trying to imagine the scene...Santa Claus had a backbone or was really a thug: theologian meets heretic. And I am trying to think how annoying Arius was to the Council Fathers and to Nicholas and if there is a Vatican II analog.
Saint Nicholas' relics are in Bari, Italy and he is honored by both the Eastern and Western Churches.
The just man will flourish like the palm tree. Planted in the courts of God's house, he will grow great like the cedars of Lebanon. (Psalm 91:13-14).
Lord our God, in your providence you raised up blessed Saba to foster the monastic life and to defend and uphold the truth of the faith. May we always live that truth in love and serve only you until we attain everlasting joy and glory.
A hagiographical note:
There are several "Saint Saba (Sava)," among the liturgical calendars. This man, Saint Saba the abbot (439-532) whom we honor today, is a Cappadocian monk and priest.
Saint Saba is of particular importance for several reasons, three that are key for us: 1.) his attention to Christian maturity; 2.) his attention to correct teaching about Jesus; and 3.) his composing of a monastic rule, known as the "Jerusalem Typikon" for liturgical rites used in the Palestinian Churches (used till the 19th century).
Saint Saba is revered by monks of the East and West because he was an example of anchorite living, that is monks living in hermitages and coming together periodically for communal activities. Saba is the founder of monasteries. In a manner of speaking, Saba was influential in other monastic rules that are in exist today.
He is invoked for rain, healings and relief of temptations by Satan.
Like a tree planted by streams of water,' Ps. 1:3 the soul is irrigated by the Bible and acquires vigor, produces tasty fruit, namely, true faith, and is beautified with a thousand green leaves, namely, actions that please God. (The Damascene)
Almighty and eternal God, Who did imbue blessed John with heavenly doctrine and wonderful fortitude of heart for defending the veneration of sacred images; grant that through his intercession and example we may imitate the virtues, and experience the protection of those whose we venerate.
Saint John Damascene was an 8th century Syrian monk, a polymath, hymn writer, author and Doctor of the Assumption. He's known to be the last of the Greek Fathers.