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E02981: A Latin pseudepigraphic sermon wrongly attributed to Peter Chrysologus is preached for the feast of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037), with references to the story of his martyrdom, in which he is associated with *Sixtus II (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00201). Of uncertain date, probably during Late Antiquity starting from the 5th c., perhaps in Africa.

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posted on 13.06.2017, 00:00 by mpignot
(Pseudo-) Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 135, De natale sancti Laurentii ('On the birth of saint Laurence')

§ 1: Hodiernus dies beatissimi martyris Laurentii corona inlustratur, illius merita nulla pars Romani orbis ignorat. Passus est in ipso capite gentium, id est in urbe Romana. Ibi enim diaconus ministravit, et in ipso iuventutis flore decorem iuventutis suae sanguine purpuravit. Passio eius insignis est multumque mirabilis. Hanc breviter domino adiuvante narrabo.

‘This day is renowned because of the martyr Lawrence’s crown. No part of the Roman world is ignorant of the merits of this outstanding martyr. He suffered in the very capital of the nations, that is, in the city of Rome itself. For he ministered there as a deacon, and there in the flower of his youth he purpled his youthful beauty with his blood. His martyrdom is extraordinary and much to be admired. With the Lord’s help, I shall briefly narrate it.’

The sermon continues telling the story of Laurence’s martyrdom: Laurence was archdeacon under bishop Sixtus, who was himself martyred three days earlier. Laurence was sad to be left behind, but Sixtus told him as a prophecy that he would soon follow. This gave joy and hope to Laurence. When arrested, his persecutors, because he was archdeacon, hoped to seize his the wealth he was responsible for, although Laurence himself was poor in goods but rich in virtues. Laurence asked for a delay of three days and then showed the riches of the Church to the persecutor: a crowd of poor people. The persecutor then, angered, ordered him to be killed by the sword and a fire to be prepared. As is famously known, Laurence was grilled, bound fast to a gridiron of torture to roast him, but Laurence then quietly told the torturers to turn him over as one of his sides was already cooked. Faith consoled him, as God gave him the gift to endure punishments. Only God can give the ability to endure martyrdom, the merits of martyrs are gifts of God (quoting Phil. 1:29). Will only follows God’s gifts, but there is charity if there is will. The feast of the martyr should be celebrated by imitating him.

Text: Olivar 1982, 821-823. Translation: Ganss 1953, 222-224. Summary: M. Pignot.

History

Evidence ID

E02981

Saint Name

Laurence, martyr of Rome, ob. 258 : S00037 Xystus II, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 258 : S00201

Saint Name in Source

Laurentius Syxtus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

360

Evidence not after

800

Activity not before

360

Activity not after

800

Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

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

Source

This sermon offers noteworthy evidence about the celebration of Laurence’s feast and about the story of his martyrdom. From the beginning of the sermon it can be assumed that the sermon was preached outside Rome. Olivar 1962, 199-200, despite editing it among the sermons of Peter Chrysologus, argued that it is inauthentic and perhaps composed in Africa by a preacher imitating Augustine. Indeed, the end of the sermon shows clear hints of anti-Pelagian polemics that would well suit such a context, although the Pelagian controversy spanned more widely in the Mediterranean. It has to be noted that the emphasis on martyrdom as a gift of God is also found in Peter’s sermon 152 (E02991). The sermon is also a precious source about Laurence’ martyrdom story, in which he is associated to pope Sixtus. The preacher notably refers to the most famous episode of Laurence’s martyrdom, the grilling, but also states that he died by the sword, demonstrating knowledge of Laurence’s martyrdom story as narrated and circulated by Ambrose of Milan (see under S00037). It should be noted that the earliest version of Laurence’s martyrdom (E02513) and its later rewriting in the Martyrdom of Polychronius, Sixtus, Laurence, Hippolytus and Others (E02504) state that Laurence died on the grill (the earliest version also not mentioning details such as the three days between Sixtus’ and Laurence’s deaths and the turning on the grill, which are found in our sermon). Unfortunately the sermon cannot be precisely dated or localised, but can plausibly be dated to late Antiquity, starting from the 5th century and the development of the Pelagian controversy, perhaps in Africa.

Bibliography

Edition: Olivar, A., Petrus Chrysologus, Sermones (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 24B; Turnhout, 1982), 821-823. Translation: Ganss, G.E., Saint Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, and Saint Valerian, Homilies (Fathers of the Church 17; New York, 1953), 222-224. Further reading: Olivar, A., Los sermones de San Pedro Crisologo: estudio critico (Montserrat, 1962), 199-200.

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