Holy Hierarch St. Sylvester, Pope of Rome

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2 / 15 January

St. Sylvester, Pope of Rome (314 - 335) was born in Rome to two Christians, Rufinus and Justa. Soon after the child’s birth, his father reposed, and the Saint was left in his mother’s care. Sylvester’s teacher, the presbyter Quirinius, imparted to him a good education and raised him to be a true Christian. On reaching adulthood Sylvester began to fulfill the Lord’s Commandment to serve his neighbor. He took particular care to afford hospitality to travelers, offering them shelter and rest in his own home. During periods of persecution of Christians, Sylvester was not afraid to take in the Holy Confessor Bishop Timothy, who lived in his house for over a year and with his preaching brought many to Christ. After Timothy’s martyrdom, Sylvester secretly retrieved the Saint’s body and with due honor committed it to the earth. When that fact became known to Tarquinius, prefect of the city, the Saint was seized and brought before the Court. Menacing Sylvester with torments and death, Tarquinius strove to coerce him into renouncing Christ. However, not frightened by such threats, St. Sylvester remained firm in confessing the Faith, and was then cast into prison. When Tarquinius suddenly died shortly after the conclusion of the trial, the Saint was given his freedom, and fearlessly began to proclaim the Gospel to the pagans, and converted many to Christianity. At the age of 30, St. Sylvester was received into the clergy of the Roman Church. He was ordained a deacon, and then a presbyter, by Pope Marcellinus (296 - 304). After the death of Pope Melchiades (311 - 314) St. Sylvester was chosen Bishop of Rome. He zealously took care to see that his flock led a chaste way of life, made sure that the presbyters strictly carried out their service, without being burdened with secular matters.

Holy Hierarch St. Sylvester was known for his great knowledge of Sacred Scriptures, and for being an unshakeable defender of the Christian Faith. During the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great, after the time of persecution against the Church had ended, the Jews held a debate about the True Faith. Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine, his mother the Empress St. Sophia, and their large retinue attended the debate. Pope Sylvester represented the Christian side, and a multitude of learned rabbis led by Zambres, a student of the black arts and a wizard, represented the Jews. St. Sylvester used the books of the Old Testament to convincingly prove that all of the prophets had prophesied Jesus Christ’s Nativity, of a Virgin — a maiden who had known no man — as well as his voluntary Passion and death for the redemption of the fallen human race, and His glorious Resurrection. The Holy Hierarch was declared the winner of this oral competition. Then Zambres tried to resort to sorcery, but the Saint opposed the evil by calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Zambres and the rest of the Jews then believed on Christ, and asked to undergo Holy Baptism. The Holy Pope St. Sylvester directed the Roman Church for over 20 years, and was held in great respect by the Christians. Attaining a very old age, he peacefully reposed in the year 335.

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