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E03604: Sermon by Valerianus, bishop of Cimiez (southern Gaul), in praise of martyrdom and of the intercessory power of the saints, written in Latin at Cimiez in the mid 5th century. Delivered on the occasion of the feast of an unnamed martyr, possibly *Pontius (martyr of Cimiez, S01486).

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posted on 24.08.2017, 00:00 by dlambert
Valerianus of Cimiez, Sermon 15

(§§ 1-2) Valerianus says that he knows the congregation will approve of his theme because of their love for the martyr being commemorated. He praises the courage of those who give up their lives for God, but notes that by doing so they gain a place in heaven, which is a greater gain than anything that is possible in this world. He illustrates this point by evoking the fruits of victory that the martyr enjoys even in the form of the celebration of his feast:

Videtis quantos fructus humanis fides suppliciis probata contulerit, vel in quo loco sit posita contemptu corporis acquisita victoria. Quis autem posset de hac quam commemoravimus mercede dubitare, cum videat ecce in amore sanctorum totius orbis studia convenire, et passim undique ad devotionem annuae solemnitatis occurrere? Facile profecto intelligimus quis illis in caelesti sede locus paretur, quorum memoriam tanta officiorum cura prosequitur.

'You see how great are the fruits which faith tried by human tortures has produced! And how exalted is that victory gained by the contempt of the body! Who could doubt about the reward we have mentioned when he observes, lo, that the devotions of all men converge in loving the saints? And that men come from every direction, far and near, to celebrate the annual festival? We easily understand what a place is prepared in the heavenly abode for those whose memory is celebrated by such great and devout attentions.'

He calls on the congregation to think about the transience of all earthly things, and the much greater rewards of heaven. (§ 3) Because they may have stored up only a little grace in their lives, they must earn mercy for themselves by being merciful to others, by giving alms. This may earn the intercession of the martyr:

Si quis itaque vestrum, dilectissimi, studiose Christi consolationem requirit, alienos dolores eleemosynis resecet, ac studiose lacrymas suas huic, in cuius honore convenimus, patrono commendet; ac se frequentibus patrociniis insinuet, quo facilius possit impetrare quaecumque Domino pro sua utilitate suggesserit.

'Therefore, dearly beloved, if any one of you diligently seeks the consolation of Christ, let him reduce another's sorrow by alms. Let him devoutly commend his own tears to this patron in whose honour we have assembled. Let him get himself into this saint's frequent prayers of intercession; he can thus obtain more easily whatever the saint suggests to the Lord in his favor. ...'

(§ 4) Valerianus suggests people should seek the support of the saints in the same way that someone who wants a favour from a powerful man first tries to get the support of his friends, or an accused person needs a patron to intercede with an earthly judge:

Magna enim securitatis est portio, in rebus asperis de domo regis habuisse suffragium. Nam decrescit quodammodo invidia criminis, ubi reus ad amicitias regalis familiae coeperit pertinere. Ita sine periculo homo vitam transigit, si sit qui apud Dominum negligentiam peccatoris excuset. Nemo autem est cui non opus sit potentioris etiam in maxima securitate suffragium. Nam quamvis aliquantos in hoc numero fides probata sanctificet, opus tamen est ut sit qui ipsam fidem Domino supplici intercessione commendet. Nec enim tam fortem invenias, ut non egeat auxilium fortioris. Sicut bene sub scuto militatur, ita tuto testibus sub patrono res agitur; ubi quamvis immineat poena, si sit qui intercedat, non dubie obnoxia legibus donatur iniuria. Quis autem modus esse potest mortis, si cum iudex sententia feriat, non sit qui reo supplici intercessione subveniat.

'A great part of security consists in having, during adversity, an intercessory power in the King's house. The odium of a crime somehow decreases when the one accused begins to share in friendship of the royal family. Similarly, a man passes his life without danger if he has someone to excuse his negligence as a sinner before the Lord. There is no one who has no need of an intercessory power more powerful than himself—even in his greatest security. For although their tested faith sanctifies some in this number of secure persons, they still have need of someone to commend their very faith to the Lord by his suppliant intercession. You will not find anyone so strong that he does not need the help of one stronger. Just as military fighting is carried on well under the shield, so is any project carried on safely for the witnesses when it is under a patron. Although some penalty is imminent in a case, if there is an intercessor an insult covered by the laws is forgiven. But, what limit could be put upon death, if there should be no one to intercede suppliantly and help the defendant when the judge is striking him with his sentence?'

(§ 5) Valerianus then turns to the local martyr being commemorated:

Si cogitaremus, dilectissimi, quantum nobis civis martyris virtus praestitit, a laudibus Dei nostri numquam linguae studium, numquam oris cessaret officium. Respicite ad illorum studia qui peregrinas aquas bibunt, et fontes longe positos sitientes inquirunt, et videtis quantum gratiae habeat suis aquis inundata possessio. Aestimari autem non potest quantum patrimonio utilitatis accrescat, si quando quod alibi ambitiose quaeritur, in propria possessione nascatur.

'Dearly beloved, if we should reflect how much the virtue of our martyr fellow citizen has brought us, neither the activity of our tongue nor the service of our mouth would ever cease from praising God. Look at the devotions of those who drink the waters of pilgrimage, and seek with thirst the distant springs, and you see how much grace their possession of this water brings them. Now, no one can estimate how much profit accrues to our own possessions if that which is so eagerly sought elsewhere becomes present in our own holding.'

Valerianus concludes by admonishing the congregation to copy the martyr by renouncing sin and being willing to face martyrdom, bearing in mind the reward they will receive.

Text: PL 52, 738-741. Translation: Ganss 1953, 397-403. Summary: David Lambert.

History

Evidence ID

E03604

Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Pontius, martyr of Cimiez (southern Gaul) : S01486

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

430

Evidence not after

460

Activity not before

430

Activity not after

460

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Cimiez

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

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

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Pilgrimage

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

Valerianus was bishop of Cemelium in Provence (Cimiez, now part of Nice) in the mid 5th century: his name appears several times in episcopal letters and the records of church councils between 439 and 455. Only the first of the twenty sermons now attributed to Valerianus of Cimiez was actually transmitted under his name (although in most manuscripts it is attributed to Augustine). The others survive in a single, anonymous manuscript (now BnF Lat. 13387) and were attributed to Valerianus by the 17th c. scholar Jacques Sirmond on the basis of stylistic similarities with the first (on the attribution, see Quantin 2013, 700-705). Sirmond's identification of the author of these sermons as Valerianus continues to be accepted by scholars.

Discussion

This is one of three closely-related sermons on martyrdom in Valerianus' collection (see also E03607, E03608). Each seems to have been delivered on the feast of a martyr and stresses the congregation's link to the martyr and the presence of his body. However, the sermons as transmitted do not mention the martyr's name. It has generally been assumed that the martyr is Pontius, whose cult was celebrated at Cimiez in later times, but is not directly attested before the 9th century; however, some have expressed scepticism about this (e.g. Duval 1986, 79). It is likely that the martyr was mentioned by name when the sermon was delivered, but his name and any details specific to his martyrdom were edited out to make it easier for the sermon to reused by others. In this sermon Valerianus expresses a number of common themes in preaching on the martyrs: that they are an example of the benefits to be gained by the renunciation of transient earthly things (§§ 1-2); and that they can act as intercessors for ordinary believers, something that Valerianus suggests needs to be earned by such activities as giving alms (§ 3), accompanied by a very direct comparison between the intercession of a martyr with God and the patronage of a powerful figure in secular life (§ 4). He ends by asking the congregation to consider the fact that people travel great distances as pilgrims to holy sites and how thankful they should therefore be to possess a martyr in their own city (§ 5).

Bibliography

Edition: J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina 52, 738-741. Translation: Ganss, G.E., Saint Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, and Saint Valerian, Homilies (Fathers of the Church 17; New York, 1953). Further reading: Duval, Y., "Nice-Cimiez," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 2: Provinces ecclésiastiques d'Aix et d'Embrun (Narbonensis Secunda et Alpes Maritimae) (Paris, 1986), 77-88. Quantin, J.-L., "Philologie et querelle de la grâce au XVIIe siècle: Sirmond, Valérien de Cimiez et le Saint-Office," in: J. Elfassi, C. Lanéry, and A.-M. Turcan-Verkerk (eds.), Amicorum Societas. Mélanges offerts à François Dolbeau pour son 65e anniversaire (Florence, 2013), 700-739.

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