Feast of Sts. Martin I and Maximus the Confessor (April 13)   2 comments

Above:  Agony in the Garden, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT MARTIN I (DIED SEPTEMBER 16, 655)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr, 655

Alternative feast days = April 14 and November 12

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SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR (CIRCA 580-AUGUST 13, 662)

Monk, Abbot, and Martyr, 662

His feast transferred from January 21 and August 13

Christian doctrines developed over centuries, through much debate and a series of synods and ecumenical councils.  Some of the Church Fathers, such as St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, were orthodox, by the standards of their time, but have become heretics post mortem and ex post facto.

The separation of church and state would have spared the lives of St. Martin I and St. Maximus the Confessor.

The heresy du jour was monothelitism, which taught that Jesus had only one will–divine.  Emperor Constans II (reigned 641-668), seeking to preserve the Roman (Byzantine) Empire against rising Arab/Islamic threats, did not content himself with sending military personnel to fight invaders.  In 648, he issued a decree banning the discussion of monothelitism.  Theology was political.

Think about monothelitism this way, O reader:  Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Did he act as if he had only a divine will?

St. Martin I, a native of Todi, Tuscany, had been a deacon and a papal legate in Constantinople.  After Pope Theodore I (in office November 24, 642-May 14, 649) died, our saint won election to succeed him.

The newly-minted pope never received imperial approval.  Constans II always treated him an errant deacon.  St. Martin I immediately convened the Lateran synod of 649, in defiance of the imperial gag order, to condemn monothelitism as a heresy.  Then St. Martin I excommunicated Bishop Paul of Thessalonica for rejecting the decision of the Lateran synod.  The pope also sent a copy of the Lateran synod’s decision to Constans II and invited him to denounce monothelism.

St. Maximus the Confessor attended the Lateran synod of 649.  He, born circa 580, had been a public servant before entering monastic life at Phillippicus, across from Constantinople, in Asia Minor.  He had risen to the rank of abbot.  The Persian conquest of Anatolia had forced St. Maximus to flee to Carthage, where he studied under St. Sophronius (died circa 638), later the Patriarch of Jerusalem.  St. Maximus traveled widely.  He also wrote and spoke at length about theology and spirituality.  Monothelitism became one of his targets.

Constans II chose to order the arrest of St. Martin I, not to denounce monothelitism.  Olympius, the new exarch, carried orders to apprehend the pope then to send him to Constantinople.  The exarch became St. Martin I’s ally instead.  The pope and Olympius rebelled against the emperor; they felt pushed into committing insurrection.

The freedom of Sts. Martin I and Maximus the Confessor ended in the summer of 653.  Imperial forces arrested them in Rome on June 17.  Both men spent the rest of their lives as prisoners.

St. Martin I, accused of treason, received a death sentence in December 653.  Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople, near death, persuaded Constans II to reduce the sentence to exile.  St. Martin I’s health had been failing prior to his arrest.  It had deteriorated further in prison.  The combination of starvation and the cold weather in Crimea caused his death on September 16, 655.

St. Eugene I (in office August 10, 654-June 2, 657; feast day = June 2) was a conciliatory man who, for reasons I do not need to explain, did not want to alienate Constans II.  The new pope was ready to accept a vague statement that implied that Jesus had three wills, all for the purpose of conciliation.  On Pentecost 655, at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, outraged clergy and lay people prevented St. Eugene I from completing the Mass until he had promised to reject the compromise.  This angered Constans II, who threatened to treat St. Eugene I the same way he had treated St. Martin I.  However, border conflicts kept the emperor too busy to act on that threat before St. Eugene I died of natural causes.

The next pope, St. Vitalian (in office July 30, 657-January 27, 672), eventually found a diplomatic and political opening to insist that Jesus had only two wills and to get away with doing so.

St. Maximus spent 653-658 in prison and 658-662 in exile.  He insisted on his innocence on the charge of treason (insurrection) at his three trials (654, 658, and 662).  Our saint insisted that he played no part in the Islamic conquest of northern Africa.  He died in what is now Georgia in 662.  Constans II had ordered his tongue cut out and his right hand amputated so that the troublesome monk could no longer speak and write.

The situation improved in 668.  That year, after the murder of Constans II in Sicily, his son succeeded him as Constantine IV (reigned 668-685).  The new emperor permitted discussion of monothelitism.  The Third Council of Constantinople (681) declared monothelitism a heresy and proclaimed that Jesus had two wills.

National or imperial security does not justify treating people so badly over theological differences. One may rebut, however, that when St. Martin I came to trial, the formal charge was treason (insurrection), not any matter concerning doctrine.  I reply that Constans II had ordered the pope’s arrest before St. Martin I felt pushed into committing insurrection.  I insist that the emperor’s order to arrest the pope pushed St. Martin I into insurrection.  I accuse Constans II of having made the situation worse by issuing then trying to enforce the gag order.

Besides, insurrection against some potentates has been justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, SAINT NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX VARELA, CUBAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND PATRIOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

THE FEAST OF KARL FRIEDRICH LOCHNER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, RENEWER OF THE FEMALE DIACONATE; AND ELIZABETH FEDDE, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN DEACONESS

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs

Saint Martin I of Rome and Saint Maximus the Confessor

triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with them the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiaticus 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 74

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