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E00724: Anonymous Latin sermon preached at Lérins (southern Gaul) in the 5th century in commemoration of *Honoratus (founder of Lérins and bishop of Arles, ob. 429/430, S00438), insists that the possession of his body by the church at Arles is worth less than his spiritual legacy to Lérins. Part of the collection of Gallic sermons known as 'Eusebius Gallicanus'.

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posted on 21.09.2015, 00:00 by dlambert
Eusebius Gallicanus, Sermon 72: On the Burial of the Holy Bishop Honoratus (De depositione sancti Honorati episcopi), § 12

Nec inde aliquid nos minus de eo habere credamus, quod sibi Arelatensis ciuitas pignus sacri corporis uindicauit. Teneant illi tabernaculum beatae animae in cineribus suis, nos ipsam teneamus animam in uirtutibus suis; teneant illi ossa, nos merita; apud illos uidetur remansisse quod terra est, nos studeamus nobis cum habere quod caeli est; amplectantur illi quod sepulcro includitur, nos quod paradiso continetur.

'Nor let us believe ourselves to have any less of him because the city of Arles has gained for itself the surety of his sacred body. Let them possess the container of his blessed soul in his remains; let us possess his soul itself in his virtues; let them possess his bones, us his merits; let what is earth appear to have stayed with them, let us strive to have with us what is of heaven; let them embrace what is enclosed in his tomb, us what is contained in paradise.'

Text: Glorie 1971, 779. Translation: David Lambert.

History

Evidence ID

E00724

Saint Name

Honoratus, bishop of Arles and founder of Lérins : S00438

Saint Name in Source

Honoratus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

434

Evidence not after

460

Activity not before

429

Activity not after

460

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Lérins

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

Lérins Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius Gallicanus

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Source

This sermon was preached to a congregation of monks on the island monastery of Lérins, off the coast of Provence (the present-day island of Saint-Honorat, off Cannes). It commemorates the burial (depositio) of the community's founder, Honoratus. It was preached no earlier than 434, since it dates from after the death of the Lérins monk Caprasius (which is known to have taken place in that year or later), but probably not much later. The sermon is anonymous, but is probably the work of Faustus of Riez, abbot of Lérins from 434 until some point in the 450s: it was almost certainly delivered when Faustus was abbot, and it is the abbot who would normally have delivered such a sermon. There are also parallels of style, use of the Bible, etc., between this sermon and Eusebius Gallicanus 35 (on *Maximus of Riez, $E00756), which contains more substantial evidence of Faustus' authorship. The sermon survives as part of a large collection of anonymous Gallic sermons known as the 'Eusebius Gallicanus' collection. This was compiled in southern Gaul at some point between the late 5th and early 7th centuries, but the precise date and circumstances remain uncertain. For an overview of this sermon as a whole, see $E00781.

Discussion

Honoratus founded the monastic community at Lérins in the early 5th century, probably in the decade 400-410, and served as its abbot until 426/427, when he became bishop of Arles. He died at Arles in 429/430, and was buried there. In this part of the sermon, the preacher confronts the fact that Honoratus was buried not in the monastery he had founded, but at Arles. Although even at the earliest possible date for the preaching of this sermon (434), it was nearly a decade since Honoratus had left Lérins, it is evident that he was still a vivid presence for many members of the congregation, who felt a sense of loss at his departure. The preacher clearly felt that it was necessary to reconcile his audience to the fact that Honoratus was buried elsewhere, which he does by emphasising the value of Honoratus' spiritual legacy to Lérins as against that of the possession of his body by the church at Arles. In effect, he deprecates possession of a saint's physical remains as something of little value compared to his spiritual gifts to those who had known him and been taught by him. While this argument is almost certainly an ad hoc response by the preacher to the circumstances in which he composed the sermon, rather than representing his view of the status of relics in general, it is nonetheless a striking departure from general attitudes towards the value of relics. It is possible that the preacher is also responding to the depiction of Honoratus' death in the Life of Honoratus by Hilary of Arles (E00727), which specifically emphasises the zeal of the people of Arles in seeking relics of Honoratus, and claims that Arles's possession of Honoratus' body will ensure that he acts as their patron in heaven (Life of Honoratus 35).

Bibliography

Edition: Glorie, F., Eusebius 'Gallicanus'. Collectio Homiliarum II (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 101A; Turnhout: Brepols, 1971), 775-779. Further Reading: Bailey, L.K., Christianity's Quiet Success: The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010). Leyser, C., ""This Sainted Isle": Panegyric, Nostalgia, and the Invention of Lerinian Monasticism," in: W.E. Klingshirn and M. Vessey (eds.), The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R. A. Markus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 188-206.

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