Becoming Strangers

The deacon was in the sanctuary of the Church of Holy Wisdom when he heard the western doors swing open with a bang. He poked his head from behind the iconostasis to see who was so rudely disturbing the silence before Divine Liturgy. A cold sweat broke across his forehead when he recognized the trio fast approaching him with heavy steps. Two of them wore the red zucchettos of cardinals and the third the violet of an archbishop. One of the cardinals carried a plain scroll in his right hand.

The group crossed the three steps leading up to the bema and the deacon rushed out to meet them.

“Cardinal Humbert!” the shaking deacon shouted, “His Holiness is not yet here!”

“I care not where he is!” replied the cardinal in Greek, and slammed the scroll down onto the altar.

The men then abruptly turned and departed as quickly as they had arrived. Before exiting though, Cardinal Humbert stopped at the doors and exaggeratedly stamped his feet several times as if they had been covered in dirt.

“Let God now look and judge!” he thundered and disappeared outside.

The color drained from the deacon’s face as he looked down at the Papal Bull. Instinctively, he snatched it up and ran outside, catching up to the legates across the street.

“Please, you must reconsider!” he begged and the frantic deacon grabbed the cardinal by the elbow and pushed the paper back into his hand.

“Away, heretic!” Cardinal Humbert screamed. He violently shook his arm free, letting the scroll fall into the dirt at his feet.

For years, the divide between East and West had been growing and this invalid excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople on July 16th, 1054, only fostered what would come to be known as the Great Schism.

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