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E00851: Anonymous Latin sermon preached at Lérins (southern Gaul) in the 5th c. in commemoration of *Honoratus (founder of Lérins and bishop of Arles, ob. 429/430, S00438) insists that his ability to tame the wild spirits of human beings was worthy of equal veneration to his banishment of snakes from the island of Lérins. Part of the collection of Gallic sermons known as 'Eusebius Gallicanus'.

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posted on 12.11.2015, 00:00 by dlambert
Eusebius Gallicanus, Sermon 72: On the Burial of the Holy Bishop Honoratus (De depositione sancti Honorati episcopi), § 8

Et, sicut legimus quod, ad ingressum beati patris nostri, ex hoc loco serpentes, qui hic soli habitabant, protinus diffugerunt, ad uicina littora transmeantes, quasi conscii terram hanc nobis habitatoribus consecrandam: ita et nos spiritales aspides et basiliscos ex nostris cordibus effugemus, ne hic inuisibiliter reuocemus quos illius merita uisibiliter expulerunt. Et quid mirum, si eius fide uirulentorum animalium uenenum discesserit: cui nouo munere aquarum natura seruiuit?

Mirum forte aliquibus de serpentibus sit; nobis autem alia in illo uiro miranda ac praedicanda sunt: quantas hic spiritales bestias interfecit: in quantorum siluestribus moribus, ursorum luporumque feritatem in nouam mansuetudinem commutauit! In quantis, deuicta ira ac superbia, leonem subegit! In quantis draconem exstincta prostrauit inuidia! – Ita ut, monstris spiritalibus subiugatis, in illo uideatur impletum: super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis.


'And just as we read that on the arrival of our blessed father the serpents, the only creatures that lived here, immediately fled from this place, crossing to the neighbouring shore as if conscious that this land was to be consecrated to us as inhabitants, so too let us drive away the spiritual asps and basilisks from our hearts, in case we invisibly call back those whom his merits visibly expelled. And why is it astonishing if the venom of poisonous animals departed because of his faith: he to whom, by a new gift of waters, nature was a servant?

It may be a marvellous thing to some people about the serpents, but for us there are other things in that man to marvel at and preach about: how many beasts of the spirit he killed; in the untamed character of how many men did he transform the ferocity of bears and wolves into a new gentleness! In how many, by conquering anger and pride, did he subdue the lion! In how many, by extinguishing envy, did he overthrow the dragon! So that, with these monsters of the spirit subjugated, in him may seem to be fulfilled: You will walk upon the asp and the basilisk [Psalm 91 (Vg 90): 13].'

Text: Glorie 1971, 777-778. Translation: David Lambert.

History

Evidence ID

E00851

Saint Name

Honoratus, bishop of Arles and founder of Lérins, ob. 429/30 : 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 - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

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 after 451: 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 426/7, when he became bishop of Arles. He died at Arles in 429/30, and was buried there. In this part of the sermon, the preacher juxtaposes a miracle reported of Honoratus at the time of the founding of the community on Lérins – the expulsion of serpents from the island – with his spiritual influence on members of the community, depicted as victory over spiritual serpents and other wild animals. He refers in passing to another miracle attributed to Honoratus, his bringing forth of a spring of fresh water. These two miracles are described in Hilary's Sermon on the Life of St Honoratus (15, 17; E06073). Hilary particularly emphasises the banishment of the snakes, claiming that before Honoratus the island had been infested with venomous serpents. The preacher acknowledges the fact that knows about these miracles from reading (sicut legimus), and it is evident that Hilary's Vita was his source. (It is worth noting that the miracles are supposed to have taken place at the founding of Lérins in the very early years of the 5th century, when the community had few if any members beyond Honoratus himself, and long before either Hilary or the putative author of this sermon, Faustus of Riez, joined it.) The use of Hilary's text in the sermon, however, is not neutral, but constitutes a pointed and implicitly critical retort. We can be certain that the preacher is alluding to Hilary because of the way he uses a verse from the psalms, quoted by Hilary in his account: Psalm 91:13 (Vulgate 90:13), 'You will walk upon the asp and the basilisk; you will trample upon the lion and the dragon'. In the Vita, Hilary quotes the entire verse to sum up Honoratus' miracle (Sermon on the Life of St Honoratus 15.3), but does not draw any further moral or spiritual point from it. In the sermon, the preacher briefly narrates the physical banishment of the serpents, but then declares that the important thing is to expel 'spiritual asps and basilisks' (spiritales aspides et basiliscos). He dismisses those who value the miracle above Honoratus' spiritual influence: 'It may be a marvellous thing to some people (aliquibus) about the serpents, but for us there are other things in that man to marvel at and preach about'. He goes on to praise Honoratus' ability to slay 'beasts of the spirit' (spiritales bestias) in those to whom he ministered, declaring, 'In how many, by conquering anger and pride, did he subdue the lion! In how many, by extinguishing envy, did he overthrow the dragon!'. These exclamations use the imagery (lion, dragon) of the second half of Psalm 91:13, which is not directly quoted in the sermon, but is quoted by Hilary. The reference to Hilary's text in the sermon is therefore clear, as is its unflattering implication that Hilary valued the relatively minor accomplishments of Honoratus more highly than the important ones. This passage is characteristic of the sermon as a whole in minimising the importance of visible miracles (and physical relics) as against spiritual achievement. For other examples, see E00722 and E00724.

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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