Saint NameMary, Mother of Christ : S00033
Saint Name in SourceΜαρία
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Sermons/Homilies
Evidence not before410
Evidence not after430
Activity not before410
Activity not after430
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcJerusalem
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Jerusalem
Major author/Major anonymous workHesychius of Jerusalem
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
Cult activities - Festivals
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
SourceHesychius lived as a monk and priest in Palestine and Jerusalem in the first half of the 5th century. A member of the clergy of the Holy Sepulchre, he was a leading theologian and author, flourishing from the 410s to perhaps after 451. He was a close associate of Juvenal (bishop of Jerusalem 422-458), and participated in the theological debate against Nestorius, supporting Cyril of Alexandria. The date of his death is uncertain. Theophanes reports that he died in the same year as Melania the Younger (ed. de Boor 92, 20: AM 5926), but he is also reported to have been alive when the Council of Chalcedon took place in 451, and to have opposed it.
His surviving works include commentaries and homilies. He is known to have published an ecclesiastical history, which has not survived. The circulation of his works in the Middle Ages seems to have been geographically limited, since they tend to be found in manuscripts from Jerusalem and southern Italy, but hardly ever in Constantinopolitan ones. His homilies are important testimonies for the early stages of development of the liturgical traditions of the church of Jerusalem, and the appearance of a number of feasts with a strong Marian dimension like the 14 February feast of Hypapante (Candlemas) and 15 August.
Homily 6 is preserved in two manuscripts and an Armenian translation, on which see Aubineau 1978, 189-193, and:
DiscussionThe date of this homily cannot be identified with certainty, but it is thought to be earlier than Homily 5 on the same subject (E05887), with which it is closely related in content. Its Christology is relatively simple, focusing on the identity of Christ with the Word of God, and seems to predate the Nestorian debates concerning the role of Mary and the two natures of Christ. The Marian title θεοτόκος (Mother of God / she that gave birth to God), is not used in the text – as opposed to its five occurrences in Homily 5. This allows dating of the text to the early 420s or earlier.
A notable aspect of this homily is its anti-Jewish polemic, a theme which appears here for the first time in Hesychius’ corpus. The zeal of the gentiles (the Magi venerating Christ) is contrasted with the indifference of the Jews towards the birth of the Messiah. The author also reminds his audience of Jewish hostility to the prophets, and he gives twelve Old Testament citations, associated with the virgin birth of Mary and the divinity of Christ. This polemic might reflect the outbreak of hostility towards the Jews during the regency of Pulcheria (414-416), but strife between the Christian and Jewish communities was certainly not confined to that period.
The occasion and venue of the homily are unknown. Aubineau convincingly suggested that it was preached during a service held at the church of Holy Sion on the fourth day after Epiphany. The feast is mentioned in the Armenian Lectionary of Jerusalem, and its readings, focusing on the Annunciation, to a great extent correspond to the exegesis offered by this homily. This festival was part of the Octave of Epiphany, a week of services celebrating the Incarnation of Christ and all the Evangelical episodes related to it (Annunciation, Visitation, Adoration of the Magi, Flight to Egypt, and Circumcision).
BibliographyText, French translation, and commentary:
Aubineau, M., Les homélies festales d’Hésychius de Jérusalem I: les homélies I-XV (Subsidia Hagiographica 59: Brussels, 1978).