Proclus of Constantinople (ps. Chrysostom), On Stephen (CPG 5837 = BHG 1662)
This short sermon extols in a rhetorical manner Stephen’s achievements, especially his role in refuting heresies. A passage of special interest is the following (l. 16-23):
Τότε ἐπὶ τῶν φωνῶν τοῦ σταυροῦ συνηγόρει, καὶ νῦν ὁ Στέφανος Ἐκκλησίας στέφανος· πρῶτος γὰρ τὰ τοῦ θανάτου ἐπάτησε κέντρα· Ἐν βασιλείοις Στέφανος· ἐθαλάμευσε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἡ βασιλὶς καὶ παρθένος· Παρὰ ἄρχουσι Στέφανος· τὸν γὰρ τοῦ ξενοδοχήσαντος παῖδα βασιλέως πεποίηκε πατέρα· Ἐν φιλοπτωχίᾳ Στέφανος· χηρῶν γὰρ καὶ ὀρφανῶν πλούσιος γέγονε καὶ πιστὸς οἰκονόμος· Κατὰ Ἰουδαίων Στέφανος· ἐστηλίτευσε γὰρ τὴν συναγωγὴν μοιχευθεῖσαν εἰδώλοις· Κατὰ αἱρετικῶν Στέφανος· ἐμφράττει γὰρ τῶν θεομάχων τὰ στόματα, βοῶν· Μέγας ὁ Κύριος ἡμῶν.
‘Back then, he defended the words of the Cross, and now Stephen is the Church’s victory crown, for he was the first to trample down the sting of death! Stephen is in the palace, for our empress and virgin has received him in her lodgings! Stephen is with our officials, for he has turned the servant of his host into an emperor’s father! Stephen is in charity, for he has become the rich and trusted steward of widows and orphans! Stephen stands against the Jews, for he has denounced their synagogue which was polluted by idols! Stephen stands against heretics, for he shuts the mouths of God’s adversaries by crying: “Great is our Lord!” (…)’
Text: Aubineau 1989. Translation: E. Rizos.
Saint NameStephen, the First Martyr : S00030
Saint Name in SourceΣτέφανος
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Sermons/Homilies
Evidence not before415
Evidence not after439
Activity not before415
Activity not after439
Place of Evidence - RegionConstantinople and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcConstantinople
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Constantinople
Major author/Major anonymous workProclus of Constantinople
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
Cult activities - Festivals
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiraculous appointment to office
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Monarchs and their family
Cult Activities - RelicsUnspecified relic
Transfer, translation and deposition of relics
SourceThe life and career of Proclus of Constantinople (c. 380-446) are closely tied into the vibrant intellectual life and tumultuous ecclesiastical politics of Constantinople under the Theodosian dynasty. He was born around AD 380 in Constantinople, where he was trained in rhetoric. An associate of John Chrysostom, his clerical career started under bishop Atticus of Constantinople (406-425) whom he served as a secretary and author of his sermons, and by whom he was ordained to the priesthood. He was elected bishop of Cyzicus in 426, but never took up residence at his see, and continued to reside at Constantinople. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the episcopal throne of Constantinople in 426, 427, and 431, till he was appointed to it at the death of bishop Maximian (431-434). Proclus’ main claim to fame was his celebrated sermons on the Virgin Mary, which he delivered during the episcopate of Nestorius, and which became fundamental texts for the Christology and Mariology of the Council of Ephesus (431). Most of his surviving works are homiletic, on the major feast days of the Church of Constantinople, whose liturgical tradition and calendar were then taking their shape. The relatively small corpus of his genuine works has not been fully assembled yet, and there are a number of dubious or spurious works ascribed to him.
This homily, although recorded in one manuscript as a work of John Chrysostom, is now ascribed to Proclus. It is preserved in one manuscript of the 16th/17th century, on which see:
DiscussionA central theme of this homily is Proclus’ emphasis on the importance of Stephen’s story in discourse against heresies. This theme features prominently also in the sermons of Gregory of Nyssa (E01830, E01831) and Asterius of Amasea (E02145) on the subject. The phrase Stephen stands against the Jews, for he denounced the pollution of their synagogue by the idols clearly echoes Stephen’s words in Acts 7:39-43, but may also be associated with the spirit of the anti-Jewish legislation issued during Pulcheria's regency (CTh 16.8.22, AD 415).
This sermon was probably preached during a celebration marking the arrival of Stephen's relics in Constantinople, or its anniversary. This is suggested by the fact that the empress Pulcheria (Augusta 414-450) is alluded to in the phrase our empress and virgin has received him in her lodgings, which is believed to refer to the deposition of the relics of Stephen in a chapel of the palace.
Two transfers of relics of Stephen to Constantinople are recorded by the sources, and both involve Pulcheria:
- Marcellinus Comes reports that relics were brought from Jerusalem by the empress Eudocia in 439, and deposited for veneration at the shrine of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) (E03601) which was a foundation of Pulcheria (E03598).
- The Chronicle of Theophanes (AM 5919) records the translation of Stephen's right hand under the influence of Pulcheria in the mid to late 420s (the chronicler's chronological data are inconsistent, but tend to favour the years 425/8). Theophanes states that the relics were acquired after Theodosius II sent a golden cross to Jerusalem, and that they were deposited at a splendid church in the imperial palace. This shrine is thought to have been the chapel of Stephen in the part of the palace called Daphne (Janin 1969, 473-474).
Leroy associated our sermon with the second of these stories. He plausibly suggested that Proclus’ paschal Homily 12, On the Resurrection, was also preached at Pulcheria’s palace church of Stephen (Leroy 1967, 158). His view was rejected by Mango (2004, 33) who expressed doubts about the historicity of the relic translation recorded by Theophanes. An important passage with regard to this question is the following phrase in the text:
Παρὰ ἄρχουσι Στέφανος· τὸν γὰρ τοῦ ξενοδοχήσαντος παῖδα βασιλέως πεποίηκε πατέρα
Aubinau (1989, 8) translates it as: Près des archontes, voici Etienne: il a rendu le fils du fondateur d’un hospice père d’un empereur. Mango (2004, 32) translates: Stephen is among magistrates, for he has made the emperor’s father the son of a man who has shown hospitality to strangers.
The phrase, however, can be understood in a different manner, if we interpret παῖς as ‘servant’ rather than ‘child/son’. We have translated it as ‘Stephen is with our officials, for he has turned the servant of his host into an emperor’s father.’
Mango (2004, 33) plausibly recognised in this phrase an allusion to the influential eunuch Antiochus. Antiochus was a servant of the imperial chamber (cubicularius) who became the tutor and guardian of young Theodosius II, both before and after the death of Arcadius in 408. He was later promoted to imperial chamberlain (praepositus sacri cubiculi), until Theodosius II dismissed him, confiscated his property, and had him ordained as priest. The phrase he has turned the servant of his host into an emperor’s father could refer to Antiochus’ promotion from cubicularius to imperial tutor or praepositus (we should understand the emperor as Stephen’s ‘host’).
The chronology of Antiochus’ career is very uncertain: PLRE II dates his promotion to c. 420, and his fall to 421, (PLRE II, 101 'Antiochus 5'; Malalas 361), but Bardill suggests that he may have remained a praepositus until 439 (Greatrex and Bardill 1996). If the text indeed refers to Antiochus and his promotion, we should probably exclude the transfer of Stephen's relics by Eudocia in 438, since that would be either after, or very close to, Antiochus’ fall. The silence of the author about Eudocia further corroborates this view, and might even point to a period prior to her marriage with Theodosius II in 421. It seems that our text reflects an earlier event, the one recorded by Theophanes. It is possible that this story was also recounted in the now lost concluding section of Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History which associates the discovery of the relics of Stephen with Pulcheria’s regency (414-416) and the youth of Theodosius II (E04059). Holum also dated the transfer of Stephen’s relics to c. 421, and associated it with preparations for war with Persia, after the persecution of Christians by Yazdegerd I in 419/420 (Holum 1982, 102-111).
BibliographyText and French Translation:
Aubineau, M., "Ps.-Chrysostome, in S. Stephanum (PG 63, 933-934). Proclus de Constantinople, l'impérartice Pulchérie et saint Étienne," in C.H. Kneepkens, A.A.R. Bastiaensen, and A. Hilhorst (eds), Fructus Centesimus. Mélanges offerts à Gerard J.M. Bartelink à l'occasion de son soixante-cinquième anniversaire 1989 (Instrumenta Patristica 19; Steenbrugge, 1989), 1-16.
Angelidi, C., Pulcheria, la castità al potere (Milan, 1996).
Constas, N.P., Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Homilies 1-5, Texts and Translations (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 66; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003).
Greatrex, G., and Bardill, J., “Antiochus the Praepositus: a Persian Eunuch at the Court of Theodosius II.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 50, 1996, 171-198.
Holum, K.G., Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, 1982).
Leroy, F.J., L'homilétique de Proclus de Constantinople (Studi e Testi 247; Città Vaticano, 1967).
Mango, C., "A fake inscription of the empress Eudocia and Pulcheria," Nea Rhome 1 (2004), 23-34.