St. Hyginus - An Early Organizer

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Mosaic of St. HyginusSt. Hyginus was a Greek. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" he had been a philosopher, but modern scholars are inclined to think that he is confused with a Latin author of the same name.

During the pontificate of St. Hyginus the heretics Valentinus and Cerdo came to Rome. Cerdo, as Eusebius tells us in his Ecclesiastical History, was in and out of the Church a number of times. He would teach error, repent, and then fall back into error again.

Since this is the first mention of heresy in these lives, it might be helpful to explain just what is meant by heresy and heretic. Heresy is a diluted or perverted Christianity. The English word comes from the Greek word which means a choosing. A heretic is one who chooses what he will believe of Christ's teaching.

The particular heresy taught by Valentinus and Cerdo was Gnosticism. Valentinus, indeed, was an outstanding teacher of Gnosticism. He taught that Jesus is a higher being who, though not God, is gradually being purified, and will lead the elect with Him into the pleroma or "fullness." Gnosticism seems to have been a hodgepodge of lofty philosophic speculation about God and nature, a Manichean fear of matter, and in its later phases, some downright crude superstitions.

St. Hyginus did some organizing of the clergy.

According to tradition he died a martyr, but the ancient writers are silent on this point. His feast is kept on January 11.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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