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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


John Moschus, in his Spiritual Meadow (180), recounts a story about Abba John the Anchorite who lived in a cave 20 miles from Jerusalem. John had an icon of *Mary (Mother of Christ; S00033) in his cave. He used to travel to visit martyr shrines, even very distant ones, including those of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) at Ephesus (western Asia Minor), *Theodore (soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) at Euchaita (northern Asia Minor), *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092) at Seleucia (southern Asia Minor), and *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) at Rusafa/Sergiopolis (north-east Syria). Whenever Abba John was about to set off on a journey, he lit a lamp and prayed to Mary asking her to keep it from going out. When he returned from a journey, he always found the lamp alight. Written in Greek, probably in Rome, in the 620s or 630s.

Evidence ID

E05336

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Moschus

John Moschus, The Spiritual Meadow, 180

In this chapter Moschus retells what he heard from Dionysios, priest and sacristan of the church of Askalon, about Abba John the Anchorite. Abba John lived in a cave in the district of the Socho estate, twenty miles from Jerusalem.

εἰκόνα δὲ εἶχεν ὁ γέρων ἐν τῷ σπηλαίῳ αὐτοῦ τῆς παναγίας ἀχράντου Δεσποίνης ἡμῶν Θεοτόκου καὶ Ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας, ἐν ἀγκάλαις φέρουσαν τὸν Θεὸν ἡμῶν.

'In the cave he had an icon of our all-holy and spotless Lady, the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, holding our God in her arms.'

Sometimes he decided to set off on a journey, either into the wilderness, or to Jerusalem, or to pray at Mount Sinai. He especially liked visiting martyr shrines, which were often located a great distance from Jerusalem, such as the shrine of John at Ephesus, or that of Theodore at Euchaita, or of Thekla the Isaurian at Seleucia, or Sergios at Saphas [corruption of Rusafa]. Whenever he was about to set out, he used to light a lamp and pray to Mary Mother of God and ask her to keep the light from going out. When he returned from a journey, even from one as long as six months, he found the lamp alight.

Text: Migne 1865 (PG 87.3). Translation: Wortley 1992. Summary: J. Doroszewska.

Cult Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)
Holy cave

Use of Images

Praying before an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Saint as patron - of a community
Visiting graves and shrines

Miracles

Miracle after death
Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)
Power over objects
Miraculous behaviour of relics/images

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles

Source

John Moschus (c. 540/550634) was a monk and spiritual writer. He lived successively with the monks of the monastery of St. Theodosios, south-east of Jerusalem, among the hermits of the Jordan Valley, and at the Lavra of Pharan in the Judaean Desert, where he spent ten years. About the year 578 he went to Egypt with Sophronius, his close friend to whom he was to dedicate the Spiritual Meadow. After 583 he perhaps came to Mount Sinai where he spent about ten years. In around 604 he went to Antioch but returned to Egypt later in the same decade. In around 614-619 he went to Cyprus, then to North Africa, and then to Rome, where he died before ‘the beginning of the eighth indiction’ (i.e. September 634). He wrote the Spiritual Meadow and co-authored with Sophronius a Life of John the Almoner.

The
Spiritual Meadow (Gr. Leimōn pneumatikos; Lat. Pratum spirituale) was written in the 620s or 30s, very probably in Rome. The work narrates Moschus' personal experiences with many of the ascetics whom he met during his extensive travels, mainly through Palestine, Sinai and Egypt, but also Cilicia and Syria, and recounts the edifying stories and sayings that he received from them. The title of the work is explained as an analogy between picking flowers in a springtime meadow and picking edifying stories and sayings from the lives of holy men and women. The number of chapters varies depending on the manuscript.


Bibliography

Edition:
Migne, J.P, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 87.3 (Paris, 1865), 2851-3116.

Translations:
Maisano, R., Giovanni Mosco, Il prato (Naples, 2002).

Rouët de Journel, M.-J.,
Jean Moschus, Le Pré Spirituel (Sources chrétiennes 12; Paris, 1946, repr. 2006).

Wortley, J.,
John Moschos, The Spiritual Meadow (Cistercian Studies Series 139; Kalamazoo, 1992).

Further reading:
Baynes, N.H., "The
Pratum spirituale," Orientalia Christiana Periodica 13 (1947), 404-414; repr. in Baynes, Byzantine Studies and Other Essays (London, 1955), 261-270.

Binggeli, A. “Collections of Edifying Stories,” in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.),
The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography II: Genres and Contexts (Farnham, 2014), 143-160, esp. 146-147.

Chadwick, H.J., "John Moschus and his friend Sophroonios the Sophist," Journal of Theological Studies 25 (1974), 41-74.

Follieri, E., "Dove e quando mori Giovanni Mosco?,"
Rivista di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici 25 (1988), 3-39.

Mioni, E., "Il Pratum Spirituale di Giovanni Mosco: gli episodi inediti del Cod. Marciano greco II.21,"
Orientalia Christiana Periodica (1951), 61-94.

Mioni, E., "Jean Moschus, Moine,"
Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 7 (1973), cols. 632-640.

Nissen, T., "Unbekannte Erzählungen aus dem Pratum Spirituale,"
Byzantinische Zeitschrift 38 (1938), 351-376.

Pattenden, P., "The text of the Pratum Spirituale,"
Journal of Theological Studies 26 (1975), 38-54.


Record Created By

Julia Doroszewska

Date Last Modified

05/02/2021

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00023Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa ΣέργιοςCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΘεοτόκος ἀειπαρθένος ΜαρίαCertain
S00042John, the Apostle and Evangelist ἸωάννηςCertain
S00092Thekla, follower of the Apostle PaulΘέκλαCertain
S00480Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita ΘεόδωροςCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Julia Doroszewska, Cult of Saints, E05336 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E05336