Sunday, April 10, 2011
April 13 -- Feast of Pope Saint Martin I
Martin deserves the nod because he is the last martyred pope. I wonder, if Mehmet Ali Ağca had succeeded in killing His Holiness John Paul II, would he have been considered a martyr? It doesn't add up to quite the same thing; being shot by an agent thrice removed (at least) from official government leaders is a little different from being condemned by your Emperor. But if you're lying on your back with four bullet wounds leaking out three-quarters of your blood, it might be hard to discern the substance of the differences. But back to Martin.
There was a popular heterodoxy at the time known as Monothelitism. It held that Jesus had two natures (human and divine) but only one will (divine). Doesn't sound like it's a distinction worth killing anyone over, but I'm in a peaceful mood this morning.
Pope Martin found this heterodoxy heretical. Emperor Constans II found it compelling. Some mutual condemnations followed, and following that, an extraordinary rendition to Naxos for a little Abu Ghraib action. The Patriarch of Constantinople expressed some distress that his brother bishop was being tortured, so the Emperor relented and allowed the Pope to be carried into exile. One might think of the northern Black Sea as a resort area now, or perhaps an industrial and commercial center, but back in the day it was the end of the earth. Iphigenia was carried there by Artemis to be the priestess of a barbarous, murderous people. The poet Ovid was sentenced to be exiled there, and despite lots of begging for return, died there. Martin starved to death in 655, six years after becoming Pope.
Posted by Tom Major at 8:57 AM