Christ's Faithful People
514 - 523 AD
Gloom and storm marked the pontificates of Anastasius II and Symmachus, but on St. Hormisdas the sun of peace and victory shone with cheerful splendor. St. Hormisdas was born at Frosinone in the Roman Campagna. Married before ordination, he had a son, Silverius, who also became pope. As a deacon, Hormisdas had staunchly backed St. Symmachus in his trouble with the antipope Lawrence and the pro-Byzantine faction. Elected with difficulty, St. Hormisdas began his career of peace with victory by receiving back into the Church the last die-hards of the Laurentian schism.
A greater victory was in the making. Ever since 484 the Church of Constantinople had been in schism. First, Patriarch Acacius had supported the Henoticon and had died excommunicated and in schism. Then even when the patriarchs had returned to orthodoxy, they could not bring themselves to strike the name of Acacius from the liturgical diptychs or tablets. The fact that Emperor Anastasius, who ruled during most of this time, tended to the Monophysite heresy did not help matters. But more and more the orthodox clergy, monks, and laity of the East longed for an end to this schism which weakened their stand against the Monophysites.
In 514 General Vitalian revolted and forced Anastasius to make overtures towards reunion; but since Anastasius was not serious, nothing came of this attempt. A number of Eastern bishops, however, independently made their submission to Rome. When Anastasius died in 517 hopes rose. His successor, the rugged soldier Justin I was orthodox. Popular opinion, the Emperor, and orthodoxy for once all agreeing, the way to reunion was easy. A synod at Constantinople sent a legate to Pope Hormisdas to seek reunion.
The Pope sent back a legation with a formula of faith, and on Holy Thursday, March 28, 519, the papal legates received the Church of Constantinople back to Catholic unity. The ceremony was hailed with tears of joy, for this union was extremely popular.
The formula of Hormisdas which the Pope sent to be signed on this occasion is a masterpiece of clarity. It repeats the condemnation of the heresies condemned by the ecumenical councils and it formally condemns the memory of Acacius who had started this schism. It so clearly stated the primacy and infallibility of the Roman See that from that day to the time of the Vatican Council, it has been a powerful weapon in the arsenal of Catholic orthodoxy. It was subscribed to by the patriarch of Constantinople, it swept the East and in the end was signed by 2,500 bishops.
Another joyous moment for St. Hormisdas came when word was brought from Africa that after the death of the Vandal king Thrasamund, the hardpressed African Church enjoyed a little peace.
Hormisdas forbade the use of the expression "one of the Trinity was crucified," not because it could not be understood in a true sense, but because it was used as a Monophysite catchword. He sent letters to the bishops of Gaul and Spain on disciplinary matters.
When St. Hormisdas died in 523 the Church was, on the whole, peaceful, but black clouds were piling up in the West.