Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Hormisdas, bp. of Rome
Hormisdas (8), bp. of Rome after Symmachus from July 26, 514, to Aug. 6, 523, Anastasius and Justin being successively emperors of the East and Theodoric ruling the West as king of Italy. Hormisdas was a native of Frusino in Campania. Pope Silverius (acc. 536) is said to have been his son (Liberat. Breviar. 22). The memorable event of his pontificate was the restoration of communion between Rome and Constantinople, which had been interrupted since 484, in connexion with the Eutychian heresy. [[[../../F/Felix III., bishop of Rome|Felix III.]]; [[../../A/Acacius, patriarch of Constantinople|Acacius]].] The first overtures were made in 515 by the emperor Anastasius, being moved thereto by Vitalian, a Scythian, the commander of the imperial cavalry, who, having taken up the cause of orthodoxy, made himself master of Thrace, Scythia, and Mysia, and marched with an army of Huns and Bulgarians to the gates of Constantinople. Anastasius had to procure peace by assenting to 3 conditions, one being that he should summon a council at Heraclea, the pope being invited and free discussion allowed (Theophan. Chron. ad an. Imp. Anast. 23). In 515 the emperor wrote to Hormisdas, desiring his concurrence in restoring unity to the church by means of such a council; and Hormisdas, after a guarded reply, sent legates to Constantinople with letters to the emperor and Vitalian, and a statement of the necessary conditions for union. These were: (1) The emperor should issue to all bishops of his dominion a written declaration accepting the council of Chalcedon and the letters of pope Leo. (2) A like declaration should be publicly signed by the Eastern bishops, who should also anathematize Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Aelurus, Peter Mongus, Peter the Fuller, and Acacius, with all their followers. (3) Persons exiled for religion should be recalled and their cases reserved for the judgment of the apostolic see. (4) Such exiles as had been in communion with Rome and professed the catholic faith should first be recalled. (5) Bishops accused of having persecuted the orthodox should be sent to Rome to be judged. Thus the emperor proposed a free discussion in council; the pope required the unqualified acceptance of orthodoxy, and submission to himself as head of Christendom, before he would treat at all. He did not reject the idea of a council, but, from his point of view, none was wanted. The Easterns had but to renounce their errors and accept the terms of reconciliation dictated by the apostolic see, and peace would be at once restored.
This attempt failed, as Anastasius, though now professing orthodoxy, demurred to erasing the name of Acacius from the diptychs. But he continued his overtures. In 516 he sent two distinguished laymen to Rome with a letter to Hormisdas. But Hormisdas continued resolute, and the emperor dismissed the bishops already assembled at Heraclea for the intended council. In a letter to Avitus of Vienne (517) the pope, referring to this embassy, complains of the fruitless and perfidious promises of the Greeks, but rejoices at the faithfulness of the churches of Gaul, Thrace, Dardania, and Illyricum, which had stood firm against persecution in the communion of Rome. It appears that 40 bishops of Illyricum and Greece had renounced obedience to their metropolitan of Thessalonica and sent to Hormisdas to seek communion with Rome (Theophan. Chron.).
Hormisdas, building on the emperor's political necessities, sent in 517 a second embassy to the East with increased demands. They were charged with a rule of faith (regula fidei) for the signature of all who desired reconciliation with Rome which was more exacting than any previous document. The signers were to declare that, mindful of the text "Thou art Peter," etc., the truth of which has been proved by the immaculate religion ever maintained by the apostolic see, they profess in all things to follow that see, and to desire communion with it. Accordingly they were to accept the decrees of Chalcedon and the "tome" of pope Leo, and also all letters on religion he had ever written; and not only to anathematize Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Timothy Aelurus, Peter Fullo, and Acacius, with all their followers, but also exclude from their diptychs all who had been "sequestrated from catholic communion," which is explained to mean communion with the apostolic see. Such demands ended the negotiations, and Anastasius peremptorily dismissed the legates, and sent a reply to Hormisdas (July 11, 517) which ended: "We can bear to be injured and set at naught; we will not be commanded" (Hormisd. Epp. post. Ep. xxii. Labbe).
Persecutions were now renewed in the East. The monasteries of the orthodox in Syria Secunda were burnt and ago monks massacred. The survivors sent a deputation to the pope, acknowledging in ample terms the supremacy of "the most holy and blessed patriarch of the whole world," "the successor of the Prince of the Apostles," and "the Head of all." They implore him to exercise his power of binding and loosing in defence of the true faith, and to anathematize all heretics, including Acacius (ib.). To this appeal Hormisdas replied in a letter to all the orthodox in the East, exhorting them to steadfastness in the faith of Chalcedon, and to patience under present straits (in Act. V. Concil. Constantin. Labbe, vol. v. p. 1111).
The death of Anastasius (July 9, 118) and the accession of the orthodox Justin changed the aspect of affairs. During divine service at Constantinople, while John the Cappadocian (who had lately succeeded Timotheus as patriarch) was officiating, the populace, who had been all along on the orthodox side, seem to have made a riot in the church in the impatience of their orthodox zeal, crying, "Long live the emperor!" "Long live the patriarch!" They would not brook delay. By continued cries, by closing the doors of the church and saying they would not leave it till he had done what they wanted, they compelled him to proclaim the acceptance of the four general councils, including Chalcedon. A synod, attended by some 40 bishops, ratified what the patriarch had done. Letters were sent to various Eastern metropolitans, including those of Jerusalem, Tyre, and Syria Secunda, who forthwith reported to the synod the full acceptance of orthodoxy by their several churches (ib. p. 1131, etc.). Coercive measures were used by Justin. In two edicts he ordered the restoration of the orthodox exiled by Anastasius, the acknowledgment of the council of Chalcedon in the diptychs of all churches, and declared heretics incapable of public offices, civil or military.
The pope insisted upon the erasure of the name of Acacius and the subscription of the rule of faith rejected by Anastasius as the first steps to restoration of communion. In 519 Hormisdas sent a legation to Constantinople, charged with letters to the emperor and patriarch, and also to the empress Euphemia and other persons of distinction, including three influential ladies. Anastasia, Palmatia, and Anicia. They carried with them the libellus described above, to be signed by all who desired reconciliation.
At Constantinople they were met by Vitalian, Justinian, and other senators, and received by the emperor in the presence of the senate and a deputation of four bishops to represent the patriarch. The libellus was read; the bishops had nothing to say against it, and the emperor and senators recommended them to accept it. The patriarch proved unwilling to sign it as it stood; but at length, after much contention, it was agreed that he might embody the libellus unaltered in a letter, with his own preamble. This was done, the names of Acacius and his successors in the see, Fravitas, Euphemius, Macedonius, and Timotheus, and of the emperors Zeno and Anastasius, were erased from the diptychs; the bishops of other cities, and the archimandrites who had been previously reluctant, now came to terms; and the legates wrote to the pope expressing thankfulness that so complete a triumph had been won without sedition, tumult, or shedding of blood. The patriarch's preamble was a protest against the claim of Rome to dictate terms of communion to Constantinople and an assertion of the co-ordinate authority of his own see. He says, "Know therefore, most holy one, that, according to what I have written, agreeing in the truth with thee, I too, loving peace, renounce all the heretics repudiated by thee: for I hold the most holy churches of the elder and of the new Rome to be one; I define that see of the apostle Peter and this of the imperial city to be one see." The same view of the unity of the two sees is expressed in his letter to Hormisdas. Even Justin, in his letter to the pope, guards against implying that the authority of Constantinople was inferior to that of Rome, saying that "John, the prelate of our new Rome, with his clergy, agrees with you," and that "all concur in complying with what is your wish, as well as that of the Constantinopolitan see." Peace being thus concluded at Constantinople, a deputation was sent to Thessalonica, headed by bp. John, the papal legate, to receive the submission of that church. Dorotheus, bp. of Thessalonica, tore the libellus in two before the people, and declared that never would he sign it or assent to such as did. Hormisdas, on hearing of this, wrote to the emperor, requiring that Dorotheus should be deposed. But Dorotheus was summoned to Constantinople to be tried, sent thence to Heraclea while his cause was being heard, and eventually allowed to return to his see. He and his church were now restored to Catholic communion, and he wrote a respectful letter to the pope (a.d. 520) expressing great regard for him personally and for the apostolic see. Hormisdas replied that he was anxious to believe in his innocence, and in his being the author of the peace now concluded, but expressed dissatisfaction that he "delayed even to follow those whom he ought to have led." and hoped he would "repel from himself the odium of so great a crime, and in reconciliation to the faith would at length follow the example of those who had returned." It thus seems clear that Dorotheus, though professing orthodoxy and restored by the emperor to his see, had not so far fully complied, if he ever did, with the pope's terms (Inter Epp. Hormisd. lxii. lxiii. lxxii. lxxiii.).
Notwithstanding the general triumph of orthodoxy throughout the East, except at Alexandria, the unbending pertinacity of Hormisdas still caused difficulties. In 520 the emperor Justinian and Epiphanius (who had succeeded John as patriarch) wrote urgent letters to him on the subject. They alleged that, though the condition was complied with in the imperial city, yet no small part of the Orientals, especially in the provinces of Pontus, Asia, and Oriens, would not be compelled by sword, fire, or torments to comply, and they implored the pope not to be more exacting than his predecessors. The pope persisted in his demand, and urged Justin, as a duty, not to shrink from coercion. He authorized Epiphanius to deal at his discretion with various cases (ib. lxxii. Concil. Constant. act. V.. Labbe, vol. v. p. 1119).
A nice question, arising out of the now defined orthodox doctrine of One Person and Two Natures in Christ, came before Hormisdas for settlement. There being but one Personality in the Incarnate Word, and that Divine, it seemed correct to say that this Divine Person suffered, and yet to say this seemed to attribute passibility to the Godhead. It was undoubted Nestorian heresy to deny that lie Whom the Blessed Virgin brought forth was God. But He Who was brought forth was the same with Him Who suffered on the Cross. On the other hand "God was crucified" had been a favourite Monophysite formula, used to emphasize their doctrine of the absorption of the human nature into the divine; and great offence had formerly been given to the orthodox by the addition of "Who wast crucified for us" to the Trisagion by Peter Fullo. The adoption of this addition at Constantinople under Anastasius had caused a popular tumult, and it was probably its abrogation during the reaction under Justin that caused certain Scythian monks to defend the formula, and to maintain that "one of the holy and undivided Trinity" suffered. The question was laid before the legates of Hormisdas, when in Constantinople, a.d. 529. They decided against the Scythian monks, arguing that the faith had been fully and sufficiently defined at Chalcedon and in the letter of pope Leo, and that the formula of the monks was an unauthorized novelty, likely to lead to serious heresy. The monks contended that its adoption was necessary for rendering the definitions of Chalcedon distinct against Nestorianism. Vitalian seems to have supported them. Justin and Justinian begged the pope to settle the question. He wrote to desire that the monks should be kept at Constantinople; but they managed to get to Rome to lay their case before him (Ep. lxxix. Labbe). At length they left Rome, having publicly proclaimed their views there. Hormisdas does not seem to have actually condemned the expression of the monks, though annoyed by their propounding it, but spoke strongly against it as an unnecessary novelty. In the end, however, their view triumphed. For in 533 the emperor Justinian issued an edict asserting that "the sufferings and miracles are of one and the same—for we do not acknowledge God the Word to be one and Christ another, but one and the same: for the Trinity remained even after the Incarnation of the One Word of God, Who was of the Trinity; for the Holy Trinity does not admit of the addition of a fourth person. We anathematize Nestorius the man-worshipper, and those who think with him, who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our God, Incarnate, made man, and crucified, was One of the holy consubstantial Trinity" (Lex Justinian. a.d. 533 Cod. I. i. 6; Joann. Pap. ii. Epp. in Patr. Lat. lxvi. 18 B), and it has since been accounted orthodox to affirm that God suffered in the flesh, though in His assumed human, not in His original divine, nature. (See Pearson On the Creed, art. iv.).
Hormisdas died early in Aug. 523, having held the see 9 years and 11 days. He, as well as all the popes during the schism with the East, except the too conciliatory Anastasius, has had his firmness acknowledged by canonization, his day in the Roman Calendar being Aug. 6. His extant writings consist of letters, 80 being attributed to him, one of which, to St. Remigius (in which he gives him vicariate jurisdiction over the kingdom of Clovis which he had converted, is probably spurious, as it implies that Clovis was still reigning, though he had died in 511, more than two years before the election of Hormisdas. Most of the remaining 70 letters refer to the affairs of the East, several to the metropolitan see of Nicopolis in Epirus (Hormisd. vi.–ix., xvii.–xxii.).
Three letters of Hormisdas (xxiv.–xxvi.), to John, bp. of Tarragona, Sallustius, bp. of Seville, and the bishops of Spain in general, give the two prelates vicariate jurisdiction over E. and W. Spain, exhort against simony and other irregularities, and direct the regular convention of synods. Cf. Thiel, Epp. Pontiff. Rom. i.
Hormisdas had great administrative and diplomatic abilities, was singularly uncompromising and firm of purpose, and one of the most strenuous and successful assertors of the supremacy of the Roman see.