Sunday, August 06, 2017

The epitaph of Pope Saint Hormisdas, written by his son, Pope Saint Silverius

Pope St. Hormisdas, from an antique engraving.
August 6 is the Feast Day of Pope Saint Hormisdas who reigned from AD 514 to 523. This was a difficult time for the Church when Italy was under the domination of the Arian Ostrogothic King, Theodoric, and the Eastern Roman Emperor, Anastasius, was a monophysite heretic. 

During Hormisdas's reign, in an attempt to end the Acacian Schism which had separated the eastern and western Churches, Hormisdas caused secret letters to be circulated in the east explaining the Catholic faith and proposing that the monophysites should be reconciled and do penance. According to the Liber Pontificalis, his efforts were in vain as long as Anastasius remained emperor in Constantinople. Indeed, Anastasius's response to the proposed penance was to say angrily: "We wish to command you not to lay commands upon us." Shortly thereafter, Anastasius died, "struck by the divine thunderbolt" as the author of the Liber relates.

A detailed description of Hormisdas's reign may be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia

Though his name is Persian in origin, the Liber Pontificalis says that Hormisdas was "by nationality a Campanian, son of Justus, from the town of Frisino"—modern day Frosinone about 30 miles south of Rome. He was a Pope and a saint as well as the father of a Pope and a saint. His son, Pope Saint Silverius wrote the following epitaph in verse on his tomb in the catacombs under Old Saint Peters in Rome:
Although my verses, father,
are unworthy of your sepulcher
and though your celebrated faith
has no need for eulogy,
accept, however, these praises,
to be read by a pilgrim
who for the love of Peter,
will be coming here from the ends of the world. 
You healed the body of your native country
lacerated by schism,
and restored the torn-off limbs
to their proper places.
Greece, defeated by holy power,
submitted herself to you,
happy in having regained her lost faith.
Africa, captive for many years,
rejoices over the bishops
she owes to your prayers. 
I, Silverius, have recorded this,
though it causes me sorrow,
in order that, engraved on a tombstone,
it may defy age
(Translation taken from Reardon: The Deaths of the Popes
Sadly, the original inscription was lost when Old Saint Peters was demolished to make way for the present monumental basilica of Saint Peter at the Vatican in the 17th century.

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