John Chrysostom, in his Homily on Martyrs, delivered during a festival, probably at Antioch, advises his audience to abstain from taverns and drinking after the service, and invites them to pray at the tomb and the relics, and to anoint themselves with holy oil. Written in Greek, probably at Antioch (Syria), 386/397.
Literary - Sermons/Homilies
John Chrysostom, Homily on Martyrs (CPG 4359; BHG 1187)
The feasts of martyrs are not celebrated only on the designated feast days, but in the life-style of the faithful. Living a pure life is like celebrating the martyrs every day.
(663.13-35) Ὥστε ὁ ῥύπου καὶ κηλῖδος καθαρὰν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ διατηρῶν ζωὴν, καθ’ ἡμέραν ἑορτάζει, πανηγυρίζων ἀεὶ, κἂν μὴ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ, μηδὲ ἐν σηκοῖς μαρτύρων, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἴκοι καθήμενος. Ἔστι γὰρ καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτὸν ἑορτὴν μαρτύρων ἐπιτελεῖν. Καὶ ταῦτα λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα μὴ παραγινώμεθα πρὸς τοὺς τάφους τῶν μαρτύρων, ἀλλ’ ἵνα παραγενόμενοι μετὰ τῆς προσηκούσης ἀπαντῶμεν προθυμίας, καὶ μὴ μόνον ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτων χωρὶς, τὴν αὐτὴν εὐλάβειαν παρεχώμεθα. Τίς γὰρ οὐκ ἂν ἀγάσαιτο σήμερον ἡμῶν τὸν σύλλογον, τὸ λαμπρὸν τοῦτο θέατρον, τὴν ζέουσαν ἀγάπην, τὴν θερμὴν διάθεσιν, τὸν ἀκατάσχετον ἔρωτα; Ὡς πᾶσα μὲν σχεδὸν ἡ πόλις ἐνταῦθα μεθώρμισται, καὶ οὔτε οἰκέτην δεσπότου φόβος κατέσχεν, οὔτε πένητα ἡ τῆς πτωχείας ἀνάγκη, οὔτε γηραιὸν τῆς ἡλικίας ἡ ἀσθένεια, οὔτε γυναῖκα τὸ τῆς φύσεως ἁπαλὸν, οὔτε πλούσιον τῆς περιουσίας ὁ τῦφος, οὐ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας ἡ ἀπόνοια· ἀλλ’ ὁ τῶν μαρτύρων πόθος πᾶσαν ταύτην τὴν ἀνωμαλίαν ἐκβαλὼν, καὶ φύσεως ἀσθένειαν καὶ πενίας ἀνάγκην, μιᾷ ἁλύσει πλῆθος τοσοῦτον ἐνταῦθα εἵλκυσε […………]
(663.43-52) Ἀλλ’ ὅπως μὴ νῦν μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ διηνεκῶς, καὶ τοῦ θεάτρου λυθέντος τοῦ πνευματικοῦ τούτου, ταύτην διατηρῶμεν τὴν φλόγα, καὶ μετὰ τῆς αὐτῆς εὐλαβείας οἴκαδε ἀναχωρῶμεν, μὴ εἰς καπηλεῖα καὶ πορνεῖα, καὶ μέθην, καὶ κώμοις ἑαυτοὺς ἀφιέντες. Ἐποιήσατε τὴν νύκτα ἡμέραν διὰ τῶν παννυχίδων τῶν ἱερῶν· μὴ ποιήσατε πάλιν τὴν ἡμέραν νύκτα διὰ τῆς μέθης καὶ τῆς κραιπάλης, καὶ τῶν ᾀσμάτων τῶν πορνικῶν. […………]
(664.8-12) Ἐννόησον ἡλίκος γέλως, μετὰ τοιαύτην σύνοδον, μετὰ παννυχίδας, μετὰ Γραφῶν ἁγίων ἀκρόασιν, μετὰ μυστηρίων θείων κοινωνίαν, καὶ μετὰ πνευματικὴν χορηγίαν, ἄνδρα ἢ γυναῖκα ἐν καπηλείῳ φαίνεσθαι διημερεύοντας. [………]
‘Thus the person who keeps their life free of filth and blemish celebrates a festival every day, constantly holding a feast, even if it is not on the day or at the shrines of martyrs, but while sitting at home. For it is possible to celebrate a festival of martyrs on one’s own too. And I am saying these things, not in order that we may stop visiting the tombs of the martyrs, but so that, when we do visit them, we may encounter them with the appropriate zeal, and show the same reverence not just on their days, but also apart from these. For who would not admire our gathering today, this splendid theatre, this fervent love, the warm disposition, the unrestrained desire? Almost the entire city has hastened to come out here, and the fear of his master has not kept the slave, nor the need of his poverty the poor man, nor the infirmity of their old age the elder person, nor the delicateness of her nature the woman, nor the delusion of his property the rich man, nor the madness of his power the magistrate. Nay, the yearning for the martyrs has removed all this inequality, and the infirmity of nature and need of poverty, and has dragged her, with one single chain, as it were, such a great crowd [………]
But, so that we may keep this flame not only now, but also always, and after this spiritual theatre is dismissed, let us return home with the same reverence, not discharging ourselves to taverns and brothels, and drunkenness, and revels. You have turned the night into day by your holy vigils. Do not turn the day into night by your drunkenness and debauchery, and your obscene songs.
[………] Consider how laughable it is, if, after such a festival, after vigils, after listing to the Holy Scriptures, after partaking of the Divine Mysteries, and after spiritual edification, a man or woman is seen spending their day at a tavern.’
(664.45-665.6) Ἀλλὰ βούλει τρυφᾷν; παράμενε τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ μάρτυρος, ἔκχεε πηγὰς δακρύων ἐκεῖ, σύντριψον τὴν διάνοιαν, ἆρον εὐλογίαν ἀπὸ τοῦ τάφου· λαβὼν αὐτὴν συνήγορον ἐν ταῖς εὐχαῖς, ἐνδιάτριβε ἀεὶ τοῖς διηγήμασι τῶν παλαισμάτων ἐκείνου· περιπλάκηθι τὴν σορὸν, προσηλώθητι τῇ λάρνακι· οὐχὶ τὰ ὀστᾶ μόνον τῶν μαρτύρων, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ τάφοι αὐτῶν, καὶ αἱ λάρνακες πολλὴν βρύουσιν εὐλογίαν. Λάβε ἔλαιον ἅγιον, καὶ κατάχρισόν σου ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, τὴν γλῶτταν, τὰ χείλη, τὸν τράχηλον, τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς, καὶ οὐδέποτε ἐμπεσῇ εἰς τὸ ναυάγιον τῆς μέθης. Τὸ γὰρ ἔλαιον διὰ τῆς εὐωδίας ἀναμιμνήσκει σε τῶν ἄθλων τῶν μαρτύρων, καὶ πᾶσαν ἀκολασίαν χαλινοῖ, καὶ κατέχει (665.) ἐν πολλῇ καρτερίᾳ, καὶ περιγίνεται τῶν τῆς ψυχῆς νοσημάτων. Ἀλλὰ κήποις ἐνδιατρίψαι βούλει, καὶ λειμῶσι καὶ παραδείσοις; Μὴ νῦν, ὅτε δῆμος τοσοῦτος, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἑτέρᾳ ἡμέρᾳ· σήμερον γὰρ παλαισμάτων καιρὸς, σήμερον θεωρία ἀγωνισμάτων, οὐ τρυφῆς, οὐδὲ ἀνέσεως.
‘But do you wish to indulge? Stay by the tomb of the martyr and pour out the fountains of your tears there, mortify your mind, draw a blessing from the tomb. Take it as an advocate in your prayers, and immerse yourself perpetually in the accounts of that man’s fights. Embrace the coffin (soros), attach yourself onto the sarcophagus (larnax). Not only the bones of the martyrs, but also their sarcophagi brim with plenty of blessing. Take holy oil and anoint your entire body, your tongue, lips, neck, eyes, and you will never fall into the wreck of drunkenness. For the oil, by its fragrance, reminds you of the feats of the martyrs, and it bridles all wantonness, and confines it within plenty of perseverance, and it overcomes the maladies of the soul. But do you wish to spend time in orchards and meadows and gardens? Not now, with such a great crowd around, but on another day. For today is a time for fights, today is the time of viewing contests, not one of indulgence or comfort.’
The purpose of attending the martyrs’ feasts is to learn how to struggle, by the observation of the martyrs struggles. It is necessary to return from the festivities with decency.
Text: Migne, PG 50, 661-666.
Translation and summary: E. Rizos
Service for the saintFestivals
Eucharist associated with cult
Saint’s feastCult Places
Cult building - unspecifiedActivities accompanying Cult
Burial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin
Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)Rejection, Condemnation, Sceptisism
Condemnation of other activity associated with cultNon Liturgical Activity
Visiting graves and shrines
Bodily relic - bones and teeth Protagonists in Cult and Narratives
Contact relic - oil
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
SourceJohn of Antioch, bishop of Constantinople, who came to be known as Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth), was born in 344/354 in Antioch on the Orontes where he studied under Libanius. He joined the Nicene Christian community of Antioch, led by bishop Meletios of Antioch, and was ordained priest by Meletios’ successor, Flavianos in 386. Acquiring a great reputation as a preacher, John was appointed as bishop of Constantinople in 397. Clashing with the bishop of Alexandria Theophilos and the empress Eudoxia in 403/404, Chrysostom was deposed and banished to Cucusus in Cappadocia and died in Comana of Pontus in 407.
There is no critical edition of this text, which survives in 21 Manuscripts:
DiscussionThe date and occasion of this homily are unknown, but the themes dominating the text suggest that it belongs to the Antiochene period of Chrysostom. It seems that one of the main shrines of that city, most probably the Koimeterion, was surrounded by taverns, and people tended to stop for drinks when visiting the church, especially during festivals. Of special interest are Chrysostom’s explicit references to embracing and kissing the sarcophagus of the saints and to the use of holy oil. Finally, his references to the acts of worship of the feast seem to include a Eucharist.
Migne, J.-P., Patrologia Graeca 50 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862), 661-666.
Mayer, W., and Allen, P., John Chrysostom (The Early Church Fathers Series; London: Routledge, 2000), 93-97.
Downey, G., Ancient Antioch (Princeton, 1961).
Drobner, H.R., The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 327-337.
Kelly, J.N.D., Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom. Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995).
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00060||Martyrs, unnamed or name lost||Certain|
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