The third century saw the rise of Pope Zephyrinus, a steadfast defender of the Christian faith during times of theological chaos. Here’s a look at his challenges, triumphs, and legacy:
A native Roman, Zephyrinus was born to Habundius. As per the “Liber Pontificalis,” he decreed that ordinations – be it priests, deacons, or clerics – should be conducted in the presence of both the clergy and the laity.
Pope Zephyrinus’s tenure was marked by two significant heresies. Firstly, Theodotus the Tanner, despite being excommunicated by Pope St. Victor, continued to advocate that Christ wasn’t the true Son of God. Meanwhile, Praxeas challenged the Church’s belief in the Trinity, suggesting that there weren’t three distinct Persons but merely three modes of one essence.
While Zephyrinus wasn’t a philosopher, he remained unwavering in upholding the teachings passed down from the Apostles. Throughout this turmoil, he also found a reliable counsel in Calixtus, who later succeeded him as Pope.
Eusebius’s “Ecclesiastical History” recounts an engaging story from this era. Despite his excommunication, Theodotus the Tanner created his own church, supported by another Theodotus (a banker) and Asclepediotus. They appointed Natalius, a former confessor and victim of torture for his faith, as their bishop. Lured by a stipend and the allure of the title, Natalius initially ignored divine visions warning him against this path. However, a stern nocturnal intervention by angels made him rethink. Repenting, he sought forgiveness from Pope Zephyrinus, adorned in sackcloth and ashes.
Apart from heresy, Zephyrinus also grappled with external threats. Emperor Septimius Severus, initially amiable, grew hostile, eventually prohibiting conversions to Christianity.
Pope Zephyrinus, remembered as a martyr, was laid to rest on August 26 in his own cemetery. To honor his dedication and faith, the Church celebrates his feast on the same day.