August 26 – St Zephyrinus, Pope & Martyr

st-zephyrinus

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 honor of sheltering the Vicars of Christ had been opened thirty years before by the virgin martyr Cæcelia. 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 Cæcilii 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. (Philisophomenas, Book 9)

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, 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.

Victor I was the Pontiff of the Pasch; and thou also, his successor, wast devoured by the zeal of God’s house, to maintain and increase the regularity, the dignity, and the splendor of the divine worship on earth. In heaven the court of the Conqueror of death gained, during thy pontificate, many noble members, such as Irenæus, Perpetua, and the countless martyrs who triumphed in the persecution of Septimus Severus. In the midst of dangerous snares, thou wast the divinely assisted guardian of the truth, whom our Lord had promised to his Church. Thy fidelity was rewarded by the increasing advancement of the Bride of Jesus, and by the definitive establishment of her foothold upon the world which she is to gain over wholly to her Spouse. We shall meet thee again in October, in company with Callixtus, who is now thy deacon, but will then, in his turn, be Vicar of the Man-God. Today give us thy paternal blessing; and make us ever true sons of St. Peter.

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This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

Dom Gueranger

Dom Gueranger

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