This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6 -- Feast of Pope Saint Hormisdas

Pope Saint Hormisdas
When Hormisdas first sat on Saint Peter's Chair in 514, he inherited a schism between the East and Western Churches.  This was not the Great Schism of 1054, which has continued to this day, but a smaller, reparable rift.  Then again, the Acacian Schism of 484 could be seen as an early tear in fabric which cannot held -- patched, but not really mended and certainly not destined to fix.  Leaders of the Christian Church, having achieved nominal victory as the only official religion within the entire Roman Empire, became at least as interested in the purity of the Doctrine as they were in propagation of the Faith.  Through this drive for purity, the best minds in theology were focused on what divided church leaders rather than what united them.  Political and economic differences between the declining West and the vibrant East became the natural fault line for a schism that was all but inevitable.

So Pope Hormisdas put on his little white thinking cap and tried to think about how to heal the Church.  Fortunately for him, Emperor Justin I and Patriarch John II of Constantinople also wanted the breach closed.  The whole fight was over the nature of Christ -- human, divine, or both?  Without getting too deeply into the difference between Monophysites, Miaphysites, and Dyophysites, let me declare unequivocally my belief that it is probably easier to love your neighbor as yourself if you don't think too much about the mystery of Jesus' human and divine nature(s).  Fifth century Christian leaders thought a lot about it, and they started excommunicating and anathematizing each other all over the Mediterranean.

The formula itself wasn't really an olive branch.  It was actually a fairly imperious reiteration of the West's viewpoint, beginning with the Papacy's claim of Apostolic Succession from Saint Peter, continuing with a list of official heresies, and concluding with a promise to adhere to the orthodoxy of the Apostolic See.  It was not, in short, a tactful document.  I've got to say that John II and Justin I get more credit (here at least) for closing the schism than Hormisdas does.

Nonetheless, he showed great wisdom in dealing with another controversy.  Some Scythian monks were pressing for the inclusion of the following sentence into official Church dogma: "One of the Trinity was crucified."  True, said the Pope, but not helpful.  It's the sort of wedge statement that would lead to reopening the old fights about the nature of the Trinity, e.g. if there's only one indivisible God, were not all Three crucified?  That's a fight that didn't need to be fought again, so true but not dogma (or a truth that obscures the truth, as heard a friend say recently) is a better answer.

Bonus Feasture (sic)
I took this image of Christ in Majesty from the north apse of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington , DC last Friday (8/3/12).  It is a very impressive artwork, though my small camera-phone does not do it justice.  The eyebrows in particular were remarked on by the docent -- his right lowered in forgiveness, his left arched in judgment.  Mabel (the docent) noted that some folks are uncomfortable with his countenance, but as the Creed says, He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead...  There's nothing to connect the mosaic with this post, except of course that there are elements of both Eastern and Western imagery in it.  In particular, the wounds are generally a Western subject but the color and style are more traditionally Byzantine.

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