Jan. 11, 2018

January 11, 2018: POPE ST. HYGINUS



“Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, O Lord. And hast placed him over the works of thy hands.”


Prayer (Collect).

Have regard, O Almighty God, to our weakness, and as we sink under the weight of our own doings, let the glorious intercession of blessed Hyginus, thy Martyr and Bishop, be a protection to us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.


The Church makes commemoration, to-day, of the holy Pope and Martyr, Hyginus. He held the Apostolic Chair under the reign of Antoninus, and closed his four-years’ Pontificate by martyrdom… We venerate in him one of the links of that grand chain of Pontiffs, which unites us, by St. Peter, to our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole weight of the government of the Church was upon his shoulders, and he was courageous and faithful in the discharge of his duties; his reign was during the age of Persecution, when to be Pope was to be a victim of tortures and death…

He was placed in the chair of St. Peter after the martyrdom of St. Telesphorus, in the year 139. Eusebius informs us, that he sat four years. The church then enjoyed some sort of calm, under the mild reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius; though several martyrs suffered in his time by the fury of the populace, or the cruelty of certain magistrates. The emperor himself never consented to such proceedings; and when informed of them by the governors of Asia, Athens, Thessalonica, and Larissea, he wrote to them in favor of the Christians, as is recorded by St. Justin and Eusebius.

But the devil had recourse to other arts to disturb the peace of God's church. Cerdo, a wolf in sheep's clothing, in the year 140, came from Syria to Rome, and began to teach the false principles which Marcion adopted afterward with more success. He impiously affirmed that there were two Gods; the one rigorous and severe, the author of the Old Testament; the other merciful and good, the author of the New, and the father of Christ, sent by him to redeem man from the tyranny of the former; and that Christ was not really born of the Virgin Mary, or true man, but such in shadow only and appearance. Our holy pope, by his pastoral vigilance detected that monster, and cut him off from the communion of the church. The heresiarch, imposing upon him by a false repentance, was again received; but the zealous pastor having discovered that he secretly preached his old opinions, excommunicated him a second time.

Another minister of Satan was Valentine, who being a Platonic philosopher, puffed up with the vain opinion of his learning, and full of resentment for another's being preferred to him in an election to a certain bishopric in Egypt, as Tertullian relates, revived the errors of Simon Magus, and added to them many other absurd fictions, as of thirty Ӕônes or ages, a kind of inferior deities, with whimsical histories of their several pedigrees. Having broached these opinions at Alexandria, he left Egypt for Rome. At first he dissembled his heresies, but by degrees his extravagant doctrines came to light. Hyginus, being the mildest of men, endeavored to reclaim him without proceeding to extremities; so that Valentine was not excommunicated before the first year of St. Pius his immediate successor.

St. Hyginus did not sit quite four years, dying in 142. We do not find that he ended his life by martyrdom, yet he is styled a martyr in some ancient calendars, as well as in the present Roman Martyrology; undoubtedly on account of the various persecutions which he suffered, and to which his high station in the church exposed him in those perilous times.


Acts of St. Hyginus.

Saint Hyginus was born at Athens, and was raised to the papacy by the clergy and the people in A.D. 139. He settled the order of priority among the clergy, which has led to the supposition that he was the founder of the College of Cardinals. The custom of having a godfather and a godmother at the baptismal font, which some have attributed to Hyginus, is stated by Novaes, on the authority of Tertullian, to have been in use prior to the reign of that pontiff.

Hyginus excommunicated Cerdon, the author of that heresy which afterwards was known as the Marcionite. This heresy taught that there were two Gods, one good and the other cruel. Cerdon denied that Jesus Christ had ever lived in the flesh, averring that he was only a shadow. This sentence of Hyginus was almost universally approved... Eusebius and Saint Cyprian say that, though he endured much for the sake of the Church, he did not, strictly speaking, suffer martyrdom. He governed the Holy See during three years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days.

Saint Hyginus was buried at the Vatican. We have spoken of the clergy and the people as having elected the pope. The clergy were divided into three classes—priests, heads of the clergy, and the inferior clergy. The priests were the seven suburbicans (afterwards named cardinal-bishops), and the twenty-eight priests who were also called cardinals. The principal clergy, or primates of the Church, were the Primate of the Notaries, or archdeacon, the deputy archdeacon, the treasurer, the Protoscrinarius, the Chief of the Defenders, and the Nomenclator. The rest of the clergy consisted of subdeacons, notaries, and acolytes. The people were divided into three classes—the citizens, the soldiery, and the rest, though they were Christians, were not recognized as either citizens or soldiers.

In the eleventh century, under the reign of Nicholas II, the elective faculty was limited to the principal priests and vicarial bishops of Rome, who were then generally called Metropolitan Cardinals, Cardinal-bishops, and Cardinal-deacons.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903;
The Lives and the Times of the Popes, Imprimatur 1911; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.


Pope St. Hyginus, pray for us