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E03607: 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. Inlcudes references to an unnamed local martyr, possibly *Pontius (martyr of Cimiez, S01486).

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posted on 26.08.2017, 00:00 by dlambert
Valerianus of Cimiez, Sermon 16

Valerianus begins by stating that effective teaching needs examples; therefore Christianity could not have spread without the martyrs (§ 1):

Qui adhuc sine dubio iaceret in tenebrosis vinculis, si non inclytis sanctorum illuminaretur exemplis; et circa devia et incerta pugnaret, nisi incredulas hominum mentes diffusa per totum orbem martyrii corona confunderet.

'Without doubt, the world would still lie in darksome fetters if it were not illuminated by the shining examples of the saints. It would be struggling for obscure and uncertain objectives if the crown of martyrdom, shedding its light throughout the world, were not confounding the unbelieving minds of men.'

He cites the local martyr as an example to follow:

Nec enim longe nobis quaerendus quem sequamur. Ecce ante oculos nostros est, qui quotidie exemplis salutaribus provocat, et paterna affectione ad consortium sanctitatis invitat. Facile ergo, si vultis, ea quae sunt coelesti regno digna apprehenditis, cum habeatis quotidie quem possitis sequi, et quem debeatis imitari. Respicite, dilectissimi, ad aliarum regionum studia, quae videmus in amore sanctorum peregrinis latius florere commerciis; et intelligetis quantum nobis Dominus praestiterit, vel quantum circa nos sollicitudinis aut amoris impenderit, qui inter caeteras nationes quas salvandi studio respexit, etiam loca nostra martyrii cruore perfudit.

'We need not look far for one whom we can imitate. Look, here before our eyes is one who daily stimulates us by his salutary examples, and with fatherly affection invites us to share his sanctity. Hence, if you wish, you grasp with ease aids worthy of the kingdom of heaven. For you have someone whom you can follow every day, and whom you ought to imitate. Look about, dearly beloved, at other regions and the devotions of love toward the saints which we see flourishing quite extensively through the traffic of pilgrims. Then you will understand how much the Lord has given us, how much loving solicitude He has exercised upon us. He who has looked on the other nations with concern for their salvation has moistened your region, too, with the blood of martyrdom.'

(§ 2) The rewards which the martyrs receive from God are much greater than what they suffer. The victory of the martyrs is displayed every day in churches when their names overcome demons:

Non autem otiosa res est, dilectissimi, quod videmus frequenter in castigatione immundi spiritus corpora humana vexari, et invocatis sanctorum nominibus actus suos auctorem scelerum confiteri.

'Dearly beloved, the matter is not one to be taken lightly. For, we often observe that in the exorcism of an unclean spirit human bodies are harassed, and, after the names of the saints have been invoked, the activities of these bodies give testimony about the author of their crimes.'

Valerianus argues that this spectacle gives people a vivid understanding of the power of the saints, which could not be conveyed simply by reading about them.

(§ 3) It also allows people to gain a true sense of proportion between their fears or desires in the world and what God grants to the saints. Therefore people should use the saints as examples to follow, and if the occasion arises, should accept martyrdom. The example of the saints will strengthen them.

Sane quo facilius in acie positus securus incedas, ante oculos ponenda sunt semper facta sanctorum. Nam in maximis proeliis non desunt pugnatori solatia, si fortissimorum virorum requirantur exempla.

'Assuredly, that you may more easily advance with security in the battle line, you should keep the deeds of the saints always before your eyes. For in the greatest battles the fighter does not lack solace if he keeps the examples of the bravest men in mind.'

(§ 4) Valerianus then tells his congregation that they do not have to become martyrs to win victories: they can do so by resisting sins and the desires of the flesh. (§ 5) By learning to triumph over small tests, they will gain the ability to face greater ones.

Text: PL 52, 741-744. Translation: Ganss 1953, 403-409. Summary: David Lambert.

History

Evidence ID

E03607

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 - Miracles

Exorcism

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-century scholar Jacques Sirmond on the basis of stylistic similarities with the first (on the attribution, see Quantin 2013, 700-705). Sirmond's identification of Valerianus as the author of these sermons continues to be accepted by scholars.

Discussion

This is one of three closely-related sermons on martyrdom in Valerianus' collection (see also E03604, 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 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 presents the martyrs as examples which dispel disbelief, and particularly admonishes the congregation to pay attention to the example of their local martyr. He refers to the pilgrimages which people make out of devotion to the saints (§ 1) and claims that the power of the martyrs is shown in real life by the way their names overcome demons during exorcisms (§ 2). Valerianus then reiterates the common themes that people should use the martyrs as examples to inspire them, and that they can follow the example of the martyrs in their day-to-day lives by triumphing over sin (§§ 3-5).

Bibliography

Edition: J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina 52, 741-744. 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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