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The Origin of the Post-Nativity Commemorations

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Author: Hugo Mendez1
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On a number of fourth and fifth century calendars, a block of feasts commemorating Stephen, James, John, Peter, and Paul immediately follows 25 December. Contemporary studies have lost sight of the rationale for its position. This paper defends a proposal of Hans Lietzmann and suggests that the community that created the block recognized Christmas as the starting point of the sanctoral cycle. This community elected to place the memorials of Christianity’s earliest confessors at the head of this annual order, symbolizing their historical priority over other martyrs. Stephen occupied the first of these dates precisely so his commemoration could precede that of every other confessor on the calendar, a position that illustrates the intensity of his cult in the late fourth-fifth centuries. The study proceeds to develop this insight into a framework capable of explaining similar commemorations on other early Christian calendars.

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