The Beloved Disciple had just received the long-promised visit of our Lord inviting him to heaven when the Church, under Evaristus, completed the drawing up of the itinerary for her long pilgrimage to the end of time. The blessed period of the apostolic times was definitively closed, but the eternal City continued to augment her treasure of glory. Under this pontificate the virgin Domitilla, by her martyrdom, cemented the foundations of the new Jerusalem with the old. Then Ignatius of Antioch brought to the “Church that presides in charity” the testimony of his death; he was the wheat of Christ, and the teeth of the wild beasts in the Coliseum satisfied his desire of becoming a most pure bread.
Evaristus Græcus ex Judæo patre, Trajano imperatore, pontificatum gessit. Qui ecclesiarum titulos orbis Romæ presbyteris divisit, et ordinavit, ut septem diaconi episcopum custodirent, dum evangelicæ prædicationis officio fungeretur. Idem constituit ex traditione apostolica, ut matrimonium publice celebretur, et sacerdotis benedictio adhibeatur. Præfuit Ecclesiæ annos novem, menses tres, presbyteris decem et septem, diaconis ducbus, episcopis quindecim, quater mense decembri ordinatis. Martyrio coronatus, prope sepulchrum Principis Apostolorum in Vaticano sepultus est, septimo calendas novembris.
Evaristus was born in Greece, of a Jewish father, and was Sovereign Pontiff during the reign of Trajan. He divided the titles of the churches of Rome among the priests, and ordained that seven deacons should attend the bishop when preaching. He also decreed that, according to the tradition of the Apostles, matrimony should be celebrated publicly and blessed by a priest. He governed the Church nine years and three months. He held ordinations four times in the month of December, and ordained seventeen priests, two deacons and fifteen bishops. He was crowned with martyrdom, and buried near the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles on the seventh of the Kalends of November.
Thou art the first Pontiff to whom the Church was entrusted after the departure of all those who had seen the Lord. The world could then say in all strictness: If we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we know him so no longer. The Church was now more truly an exile; at that period, which was not without perils and anxieties, her Spouse gave to thee the charge of teaching her to pursue alone her path of faith and hope and love. And thou didst not betray the confidence of our Lord. Earth owes thee, on this account, a special gratitude, O Evaristus; and a special reward is doubtless thine. Watch still over Rome and the Church. Teach us that we must be ready not only to fast here on earth, but to be resigned to the absence of the Bridegroom when he hides himself; and not the less to serve him and love him with our whole heart and mind and soul and strength, as long as the world endures, and he is pleased to leave us therein.
From The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger
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