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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Proclus of Constantinople composes his Homily 5, On *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), which focuses on the theology of the Incarnation of Christ, and is thought to be related to a new feast of Mary, established at Constantinople in that period. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 420s or 430s.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Major author/Major anonymous work

Proclus of Constantinople

Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 5, On the Holy Virgin and Mother of God Mary (CPG 5804 = BHG 1134)


The feast of Mary the Theotokos surpasses all the feasts of Old Testament figures and prophets, because what they prophesied or prefigured in their lives, namely the incarnation of God, she bore in her own body. There is no wonder in the whole world which can compare to Mary. Thanks to Mary, the female sex is no longer associated with various negative figures of the Old and New Testaments (Eve, Delilah, Jezebel, Herodias), but is adorned only by the virtues of positive ones (Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Deborah, and Elizabeth).

Summary: E. Rizos

Liturgical Activities



Saint’s feast

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Theorising on Sanctity

Considerations about the hierarchy of saints


The life and career of Proclus of Constantinople (c. 380-446) are closely tied into the vibrant intellectual life and tumultuous ecclesiastical politics of Constantinople under the Theodosian dynasty. He was born around AD 380 in Constantinople, where he was trained in rhetoric. An associate of John Chrysostom, his clerical career started under bishop Atticus of Constantinople (406-425) whom he served as a secretary and author of his sermons, and by whom he was ordained to the priesthood. He was elected bishop of Cyzicus in 426, but never took up residence at his see, and continued to reside at Constantinople. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the episcopal throne of Constantinople in 426, 427, and 431, till he was appointed to it at the death of bishop Maximian (431-434). Proclus’ main claim to fame was his celebrated sermons on the Virgin Mary, which he delivered during the episcopate of Nestorius, and which became fundamental texts for the Christology and Mariology of the Council of Ephesus (431). Most of his surviving works are homiletic, on the major feast days of the Church of Constantinople, whose liturgical tradition and calendar were then taking their shape. The relatively small corpus of his genuine works has not been fully assembled yet, and there are a number of dubious or spurious works ascribed to him.

On the manuscript tradition of the text, see Constas 2006, 248 ff., and:


The editor of the text, N. Constas, favours assigning Homily 5 to an early period of Proclus’ career, during the episcopate of Atticus of Constantinople (406-425), around the time of the inception of a new Marian feast in Constantinople, which was probably celebrated on December 26. In later Byzantine tradition, it was known as the Synaxis (Assembly) of the Theotokos. The text contains extensive references to the birth of Christ and the Annunciation, which were probably major themes in this early ‘Mary Festival’. Late witnesses of our text assign this homily to the ‘Sunday before the Nativity,’ which was a Byzantine feast of the ‘fathers and forefathers’ of Christ, many of whom are memorialised in the sermon. For an excellent edition, translation, and discussion of the homily, see: Constas 2006.


Text, translation, and commentary:
Constas, N.P., Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Homilies 1-5, Texts and Translations (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 66; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003).

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain

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