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E00071: John Chrysostom composes his Greek homily On *Philogonios (bishop of Antioch, ob. 324, S01197), which he delivers during the saint’s festival on 20 December. He refers to aspects of the saint’s life. Written and preached in Antioch on the Orontes (Syria) in 386/397.

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posted on 06.10.2014, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
John Chrysostom, On Philogonios (CPG 4319, BHG 1532)

§ 1. The author intended to finish an earlier sermon concerning the heretics, but the festival of Philogonios compels him to change his subject. The praise of the saints is particularly beneficial. The saint is blessed, for he has left this life and city for the heavenly ones, joining the eternal celebration.

§ 2. No words can do justice to the worth of Philogonios, but the saint will, nonetheless, accept this modest offering of praise, and will generously repay the people with his blessing. Chrysostom begins his praise from the saint’s office. He was a bishop chosen by God, which is proven by the fact that he was installed onto his throne, having been seized from his business in the marketplace. He was previously a judge, had a wife and daughter, but his way of living was so excellent that he was chosen to be bishop. The bishop is required only to love Christ and His sheep, and to care for the salvation of the people.

§ 3. These things need to be kept in mind especially by the monks living in the mountains. They should always stay by the side of their bishop and support him by their prayers. The proof of Philogonios’ greatness as a bishop is the progress of his church, visible in the present congregation. He became bishop in a difficult time, right after the persecution, when the heresy of Arianism first appeared. Chrysostom states that he wishes to let bishop Flavianos continue the story, because he knows it better:

Διὰ τοῦτο τῷ κοινῷ πατρὶ καὶ ζηλωτῇ τοῦ μακαρίου Φιλογονίου ταῦτα καταλιπόντες εἰπεῖν, ἅτε ἀκριβέστερον ἡμῶν εἰδότι τὰ ἀρχαῖα πάντα, πρὸς ἑτέραν δημηγορίας ὁδὸν βαδιούμεθα.

‘For this reason, we shall leave these matters to be recounted by our common father, who is also a zealous admirer of the blessed Philogonios, since, after all, he knows all the old stories in greater detail than we do, and we shall pursue another path in our discourse.’

Chrysostom continues his sermon by talking about the imminent feast of Christmas. It is the greatest of festivals, since all other festivals derive from the incarnation of Christ, yet many Christians neglect to go to church on the day. As the Magi venerated the newly-born Christ, Christians can see Him in the Eucharist.

§ 4. It is not an excuse for abstaining from Holy Communion to say that one has too many sins. The five days remaining to Christmas are enough for prayer and penance. Similarly, no one should participate in the Eucharist, just because it is a feast day, unless they have prepared their souls and partake of it worthily.

Text: Migne, PG 48, 747-756. Summary and translation: Efthymios Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E00071

Saint Name

Philogonios, bishop of Antioch, ob. 324 : S01197

Saint Name in Source

Φιλογόνιος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

386

Evidence not after

397

Activity not before

386

Activity not after

397

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Antioch on the Orontes

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Chrysostom

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

John 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 currently no critical edition of this text. On the manuscript tradition, see: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/2141/

Discussion

Chrysostom’s sermon on Philogonios is the only surviving source of this bishop’s hagiography. It tells us very little is known about Philogonios, who was bishop of Antioch between 313 and 324, dying a few months before the Council of Nicaea (325). Our text reveals that the saint’s feast was five days before Christmas, on 20 December. The venue of this sermon is unknown. Although it seems likely that Philogonios was buried at one of the Christian cemeteries of Antioch, nothing is mentioned about his tomb by our author. Like Chrysostom’s homily on *Babylas, this text shows that more than one preacher could give sermons on the commemoration of a saint, since Chrysostom leaves it for bishop Flavianos to talk in detail about the saint’s life. This might suggest that up to that point, there was no written account about the life of Philogonios, and that his story was preserved only in oral tradition, recounted by the elder members of the church. The purpose of Chrysostom’s sermon is praise and edification rather than information, thus being closer to the literal meaning of the word encomium: a eulogy praising the deceased person’s achievements. Alongside the author’s homilies on *Eustathios, *Meletios, and *Babylas, the homily on Philogonios reflects the centrality of the commemoration of bishops in the tradition of the church of Antioch, regardless of whether they had been martyred or not. This may have been the result of a policy followed by bishop Flavianos (381-404) and his predecessor, Meletios (360-381), in their effort to consolidate their position as legitimate bishops, against the claims of rival Christian groups, especially the community of the rival Nicene bishop, Paulinos. The political importance of the cult of deceased bishops is also visible in our text’s allusion to difficulties in the relationship between the bishop of Antioch and the monastic communities of the surrounding mountains (§ 3).

Bibliography

Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857-1866), vol. 48, 747-756. English translation and commentary: Mayer, W., and Allen, P., John Chrysostom (London: Routledge, 2000), 184-195. Further reading: Downey, G., Ancient Antioch (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 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).

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