August 26, 2020: POPE ST. ZEPHYRINUS
August 26, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. ZEPHYRINUS, POPE, MARTYR
The Lord settled with him a covenant of peace, and made him a Chief, that he may have the honor of Priesthood for ever.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we rejoice in the merits of blessed Zephyrinus, thy Martyr and Bishop, we may receive benefit from his example. 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.
Zephyrinus was the first Pontiff to be buried in the celebrated crypt where the Popes of the third century came after their combat to sleep their last sleep. The catacomb which thus succeeded the Vatican cemetery in the honour of sheltering the vicars of Christ, had been opened thirty years before by the virgin martyr Cӕcilia. As, when at the point of death, she had consecrated her palace into a church, so now from her tomb she caused her family burial place to pass into the hands of the Church. This gift of the Cӕcilii was the inauguration, in the very face of the pagan government, of common Church property officially recognized by the State. Zephyrinus entrusted the administration of the new cemetery to the person who ranked next to himself in the Roman Church, viz: the archdeacon Callixtus. The holy Pontiff witnessed the growth of heresy concerning the Unity of God and the Trinity of the divine Persons; without the help of the special vocabulary, which was later on to fix even the very terms of theological teaching, he knew how to silence both the Sabellians to whom the Trinity was but a name, and the precursors of Arius, who revenged themselves by reviling him.
Zephyrinus, a Roman by birth, was chosen to govern the Church during the reign of the emperor Severus. He ordained that, according to custom, Holy Orders should be conferred on candidates at a fitting time and in presence of many both clergy and laity; and also that learned and worthy men should be chosen for that dignity. Moreover he decreed that when the bishop was offering the holy Sacrifice, he should be assisted by all the priests. He also ordained that neither patriarch, nor primate, nor metropolitan might condemn a bishop without the authority of the apostolic See. His pontificate lasted eighteen years and eighteen days. In four ordinations which he held in the month of December, he ordained thirteen priests, seven deacons, and thirteen bishops for divers places. He was crowned by martyrdom under the emperor Antoninus, and was buried on the Appian Way, near the cemetery of Callixtus, on the seventh of the Calends of September.
Another account of Pope St. Zephyrinus
St. Zephyirinus, a native of Rome, succeeded Victor in the pontificate, in the year 202, in which Severus raised the fifth most bloody persecution against the church, which continued, not for two years only, as Dodwell imagined, but to the death of that emperor, in 211, as Ruinart, Berti, and others, prove from Sulpicius Severus, and other authorities. Under this furious storm, this holy pastor was the support and comfort of the distressed flock of Christ, and he suffered by charity and compassion what every confessor underwent. The triumphs of the martyrs were indeed his joy, but his heart received many deep wounds from the fall of apostates and heretics. Neither did this latter affliction cease by the peace which Caracalla restored to the church, and which was not disturbed by Macrinus, by whose contrivance Caracalla was murdered in Mesopotamia, in 217, nor by the successor and murderer of this latter, the impure Heliogabalus, who reigned to the year 221. The chief among these heretics were Marcion, Praxeas, Valentine, and the Montanists; for St. Optatus testifies, that all these were vanquished by Zephyrinus, Bishop of Rome.
Our saint had also the affliction to see the full of Tertullian, which seems to have been owing partly to his pride, and partly to one Proclus, or Proculus, an eloquent Montanist, whom Tertullian highly extolled, after he was become an abettor of that heresy. This Proculus was publicly put to confusion at Rome by Caius, a most learned priest of that church, under St. Zephyrinus, who was afterwards ordained a regionary bishop, that is, with a commission to preach the gospel without being fixed in any particular see, as Photius assures us. Eusebius, St. Jerom, and Photius, much commended the dialogue of Caius with Proculus, a work which has not reached our times. Photius tells us, that Caius also composed a treatise against Artemon, who believed that Jesus Christ was only a mere man, and several other learned works, from which Eusebius took the account he has given us of the penance of Natalis. This man lived at Rome, and having confessed the faith before the persecutors, underwent torments in defence of it; but afterwards was seduced into heresy by Asclepiodotus, and Theodotus the banker, who were both disciples of Theodotus the tanner, whom Victor, Bishop, of Rome, had excommunicated for reviving the heresy of Ebion, affirming that Christ was no more than a mere man, though a prophet. These two heretics had persuaded Natalis to suffer them to ordain him a bishop of their sect, promising that he should be furnished monthly with one hundred and fifty silver denarii, upwards of three pounds sterling; but God having compassion on his confessor, warned him by several visions to abandon these heretics, among whom he was detained only by interest and vanity. At length, he was whipped a whole night by an angel. The day following, he covered himself with sackcloth and ashes, and shedding abundance of tears, went and threw himself at the feet of Zephyrinus; he prostrated himself also before both the clergy and the laity in a manner with which the whole assembly was much affected. However, though he entreated very earnestly, and showed the marks of the stripes he had received, it was with much difficulty that St. Zephyrinus readmitted him to the communion of the church, granting him, in recompense of his great compunction, an indulgence or relaxation of the severity of the discipline, which required a penitential delay and trial. Eusebius tells us, in the same place, that this holy pope exerted his zeal so strenuously against the blasphemies of the two Theodotus's, that those heretics treated him in the most contumelious manner; but it was his glory that they called him the principal defender of Christ's divinity. St. Zephyrinus [died] in 219. He was buried in his own cemetery (comprised in that of Calixtus, as Aringhi shows) on the 26th of August, on which most Martyrologies commemorate him; though those of Vandelbert and Rabanus, with the old martyrology, under the name of St. Jerom, published by Florentinus, mark his festival on the 20th of December, probably on account of some translation, or the day of his ordination, says Berti. He is, in some Martyrologies, styled a martyr, which title he might deserve by what he suffered in the persecution, though he, perhaps, did not die by the executioner.
God has always raised up holy pastors, zealous to maintain the sacred deposit of the faith of his church inviolable, and to watch over the purity of its morals, and the sanctity of its discipline. How many conflicts did they sustain! with what constancy, watchfulness, and courage, did they stand their ground against idolatry, heresy, and the corruption of the world. We enjoy the greatest advantages of the divine grace through their labours; and we owe to God a tribute of perpetual thanksgiving and immortal praise for all those mercies which he has afforded his church on earth. We are bound also to recommend most earnestly to him his own work, praying that ho exalt the glory of his divine name, by propagating his holy faith on earth; that he continually raise up in his church shining examples of all virtue, pastors filled with his spirit, and a people disposed to captivate their understandings to his revealed truths, and subject their hearts to the sweet yoke of his holy love and divine law; watchful to abhor and oppose every profane innovation of doctrine, and all assaults and artifices of vice.
Taken from: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and
Other Principal Saints, Vol. II;
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Zephyrinus, pray for us.