ST. SOPHRONIUS, PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM, C.
HE was a native of Damascus, and made such a
progress in learning that he obtained the name of the Sophist. He
lived twenty years near Jerusalem, under the direction of John
Moschus, a holy hermit, without engaging himself in a religious
state. These two great men visited together the monasteries of Egypt,
and were detained by St. John the Almoner, at Alexandria, about the
year 610, and employed by him two years in extirpating the
Eutychians, and in reforming his diocese. John Moschus wrote there
his Spiritual Meadow, which he dedicated to Sophronius. He made a
collection in that book of the edifying examples of virtue which he
had seen or heard of among the monks, and died shortly after at Rome.
Athanasius, patriarch of the Jacobites or Eutychians, in Syria,
acknowledged two distinct natures in Christ, the divine and the
human; but allowed only one will. This Demi-Eutychianism was a
glaring inconsistency; because the will is the property of the
nature. Moreover, Christ sometimes speaks of his human will distinct
from the divine, as in his prayer in his agony in the garden. This
Monothelite heresy seemed an expedient whereby to compound with the
Eutychians. The emperor Heraclius confirmed it by an edict called
Ecthesis, or the Exposition, declaring that there is only one will in
Christ, namely, that of the Divine Word: which was condemned by pope
John IV. Cyrus, bishop of Phasis, a virulent Monothelite, was by
Heraclius preferred to the patriarchate of Alexandria, in 629. St.
Sophronius, falling at his feet, conjured him not to publish his
erroneous articles, but in vain. He therefore left Egypt, and came to
Constantinople, where he found Sergius, the crafty patriarch, sowing
the same error in conjunction with Theodorus of Pharan. Hereupon he
travelled into Syria, where, in 634, he was, against his will,
elected patriarch of Jerusalem.
He was no sooner established in his see, than he
assembled a council of all the bishops of his patriarchate, in 631,
to condemn the Monothelite heresy, and composed a synodal letter to
explain and prove the Catholic faith. This excellent piece was
confirmed in the sixth general council. St. Sophronius sent this
learned epistle to pope Honorius and to Sergius. This latter had, by
a crafty letter and captious expressions, persuaded pope Honorius to
tolerate a silence as to one or two wills in Christ. It is evident
from the most authentic monuments, that Honorius never assented to
that error, but always adhered to the truth.1 However, a silence was
ill-timed, and though not so designed, might be deemed by some a kind
of connivance; for a rising heresy seeks to carry on its work under
ground without noise: it is a fire which spreads itself under cover.
Sophronius, seeing the emperor and almost all the chief prelates of
the East conspire against the truth, thought it his duty to defend it
with the greater zeal. He took Stephen, bishop of Doria, the eldest
of his suffragans, led him to Mount Calvary, and there adjured him by
Him who was crucified on that place, and by the account which he
should I give him at the last day, “to go to the apostolic see,
where are the foundations of the holy doctrine, and not to cease to
pray till the holy persons there should examine and condemn the
novelty.” Stephen did so, and stayed at Rome ten years, till he
saw it condemned by pope Martin I. in the council of Lateran, in 649.
Sophronius was detained at home by the invasion of the Saracens.
Mahomet had broached his impostures at Mecca, in 608, but being
rejected there, fled to Medina, in 622. Aboubeker succeeded him in
634 under the title of Caliph, or vicar of the prophet. He died after
a reign of two years. Omar, his successor, took Damascus in 636, and
after a siege of two years, Jerusalem, in 638. He built a mosque in
the place of Solomon’s temple, and because it fell in the
night, the Jews told him it would not stand unless the cross of
Christ, which stood on Mount Calvary, was taken away: which the
Caliph caused to be done.2 Sophronius, in a sermon on the exaltation
of the cross, mentions the custom of taking the cross out of us case
at Mid-Lent to be venerated.3 Photius takes notice that his works
breathe an affecting piety, but that the Greek is not pure. They
consist of his synodal letter, his letter to pope Honorius, and a
small number of scattered sermons. He deplored the abomination of
desolation set up by the Mahometans in the holy place. God called him
out of those evils to his kingdom on the 11th of March, 639, or, as
Papebroke thinks4 in 644. See the council of Lateran, t. 6, Conc.
Fleury, b. 37, 38, and Le Quien, Oriens Christ. t. 3, p. 264.