St. Hyginus, Pope and Martyr

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St. Hyginus, Pope and Martyr

HE was placed in the chair of St. Peter after the martyrdom of St. Telesphorus, in the year 139. Eusebius informs us, 1 that he sat four years. The church then enjoyed some sort of calm, under the mild reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius; though several martyrs suffered in his time by the fury of the populace, or the cruelty of certain magistrates. The emperor himself never consented to such proceedings; and when informed of them by the governors of Asia, Athens, Thessalonica, and Larissea, he wrote to them in favour of the Christians, as is recorded by St. Justin and Eusebius. 2 1

But the devil had recourse to other arts to disturb the peace of God’s church. Cerdo, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in the year 140, came from Syria to Rome, and began to teach the false principles which Marcion adopted afterwards with more success. He impiously affirmed that there were two Gods; the one rigorous and severe, the author of the Old Testament; the other merciful and good, the author of the New, and the father of Christ, sent by him to redeem man from the tyranny of the former; and that Christ was not really born of the Virgin Mary, or true man, but such in shadow only and appearance. Our holy pope, by his pastoral vigilance, detected that monster, and cut him off from the communion of the church. The heresiarch, imposing upon him by a false repentance, was again received; but the zealous pastor having discovered that he secretly preached his old opinions, excommunicated him a second time. 3 2

Another minister of Satan was Valentine, who being a Platonic philosopher, puffed up with the vain opinion of his learning, and full of resentment for another’s being preferred to him in an election to a certain bishopric in Egypt, as Tertullian relates, 4 revived the errors of Simon Magus, and added to them many other absurd fictions, as of thirty Æônes or ages, a kind of inferior deities, with whimsical histories of their several pedigrees. Having broached these opinions at Alexandria, he left Egypt for Rome. At first he dissembled his heresies, but by degrees his extravagant doctrines came to light. Hyginus, being the mildest of men, endeavoured to reclaim him without proceeding to extremities; so that Valentine was not excommunicated before the first year of St. Pius, his immediate successor. 3

St. Hyginus did not sit quite four years, dying in 142. We do not find that he ended his life by martyrdom, yet he is styled a martyr in some ancient calendars, as well as in the present Roman Martyrology; undoubtedly on account of the various persecutions which he suffered, and to which his high station in the church exposed him in those perilous times. See Tillemont, T. 2. p. 252. 4

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Within the Octave of the Epiphany
The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Fulgentius Bishop

The same God who in the Old Testament had commanded the first-fruits to be offered to himself, being born as Man, himself consecrated to his own worship the first fruits of the nations. The Shepherds were the first fruits of the Jews, as were the Wise Men of the Gentiles. The first came from near at hand, the second from afar. Where is he, say they, that is born King of the Jews? To Herod, King of the Jews, sons had already been born. Archelaus was born in a palace, Christ at an inn; Archelaus was laid in a silver cradle, Christ in a manger. And yet the Wise Men sought not Archelaus, but Christ; they did not even name him that was born in a palace, but when they found him that lay in a manger, they fell down and worshipped him.

Who is this King of the Jews? He is both poor and rich, lowly and exalted. Who is this King of the Jews? He who, being carried at the breast, is adored as the Eternal; he who liveth tiny in the manger, and is he whom the heavens cannot contain; he who is meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes, and is more glorious than all the stars. Why art thou troubled, O Herod? This new-born King cometh not to conquer other kings by earthly warfare, but by his own death to subdue them to himself. He is not born to succeed to thy throne, O Herod, but that the world may faithfully believe in him. He cometh not that living he might fight, but that dying he might triumph.

The little Child, whom the Wise Men called the King of the Jews, is the Maker and Lord of Angels. If thou fearest him at his birth, O Herod, thou hast more reason to fear him as the Almighty Judge. Fear him, not as a pretender to thy kingdom, but fear him as the righteous punisher of thine infidelity. Go, said Herod, and bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. We know thy cunning deceit, thy godless unbelief, thine iniquitous treachery. The blood of the Innocents which thou didst cruelly shed, is witness to us of what thou wouldst have done to this Child.
 
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