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Friday, December 25, 2009

St. Maximus of Constantinople, on the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

Known as the Theologian and as Maximus Confessor, born at Constantinople about 580; died in exile 13 August, 662. He is considered a saint by the Eastern Orthodox as well as by the Catholic Church. He was one of the most respected eastern theologians and one of the chief defenders of the faith in the 7th century battle against the heresy of Monothelitism.

This is how St. Maximus of Constantinople viewed the jurisdictional primacy of the Roman Pontiff:

How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate .....even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)
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Elsewhere, Maximus writes:

"If the Roman see recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus, anathematizes the see of Rome that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he be in communion with the Roman see and the Church of God.... It is not right that one who has been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic see of the city of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any kind of honour, until he be received by her, having returned to her — nay, to our Lord — by a pious confession and orthodox faith, by which he can receive holiness and the title of holy.... Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman see, for if it is satisfied all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed pope of the most holy Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic see, which from the incarnate Son of God Himself, and also by all holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions, has received universal and supreme dominion, authority and power of binding and loosing over all the holy Churches of God which are in the whole world — for with it the Word who is above the celestial powers binds and looses in heaven also. For if he thinks he must satisfy others, and fails to implore the most blessed Roman pope, he is acting like a man who, when accused of murder or some other crime, does not hasten to prove his innocence to the judge appointed by the law, but only uselessly and without profit does his best to demonstrate his innocence to private individuals, who have no power to acquit him." (St. Maximus, a letter to Marinus, a priest of Cyprus, cited by The Catholic Encyclopdia, "St. Maximus of Contantinople").
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Pyrrhus was the Patriarch of Constantople, but on the accession of the Emperor Constans in 642 he was exiled. In July, 645, a public debate took place between Pyrrhus and St. Maximus, in the presence of the Governor. Pyrrhus defended the Monothelite heresy, but St. Maximus was able to persuade him of his theological errors. Pyrrhus consented to go to Rome, where in fact he condemned his former teaching, and was reconciled to the Church by the pope.

The Emperor Constans promoted another heretical formula, called the Typos, which sought compromise with the Monothelite position. St. Maximus, present at the Lateran council held by St. Martin in 649, wrote the following from Rome:

"The extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers according to what the six inspired and holy councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the incarnate Word amongst us, all the Churches in every part of the world have held that greatest Church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that according to the promise of Christ our Saviour, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it has the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High." (St. Maximus of Constantinople, letter from Rome, cited by The Catholic Encyclopdia, "St. Maximus of Contantinople").
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Because he opposed to the Emporer's heretical position, Pope Martin was dragged from Rome in 653, and died of ill treatment at Inkerman in March, 655.  St. Maximus, also imprisoned, continued to argue for the orthodox faith even from prison.  He was sent to Constantinople at the end of 655, now seventy-five years old. On the day of the first trial a council of clergy was held, and the emperor was persuaded to send St. Maximus to Byzia in Thrace, where he suffered greatly from cold and hunger.

On 24 September, 656, Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea in Bithynia, visited St. Maximus in prison. St. Maximus was able to convince him against his prior Monothelite position, but later Bishop Theodosius refused to publically recant for fear of the emporer.  On 8 September, the abbot was honourably sent to Rhegium, and Bishop Theodosius offered the saint great honour if he would accept the heretical views of the emperor. Maximus solemnly turned to the bishop and reminded him of the day of judgment. The abbot was struck and spat upon. Maximus reiterated the Roman view.  On 19 September St. Maximus was moved to Salembria, and then to Perberis (Perbera). Six years later, in 662, St. Maximus was brought to trial in Constantinople and condemned. The prefect was ordered to beat him, to cut out his tongue and lop off his right hand, to exhibit him mutilated in every quarter of the city, and to send him to perpetual exile and imprisonment.

St. Maximus died in prison, 13 August 662, defending orthodoxy and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.