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E00775: Basil of Caesarea, in his Homily on Psalm 114 of the 370s, mentions his visitation at a church dedicated to a martyr, probably on its feast day. He had previously attended the festival at another church, perhaps of the same dedication. The congregation sings psalms during the service. Written in Greek in Cappadocia (central Asia Minor).

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posted on 2015-10-13, 00:00 authored by erizos
Basil of Caesarea, Homily on Psalm 114 (CPG 2836.114)


Πάλαι προκαταλαβόντες τὸν ἱερὸν τοῦτον τῶν μαρτύρων σηκὸν, ἐκ μέσης νυκτὸς τὸν Θεὸν τῶν μαρτύρων διὰ τῶν ὕμνων ἐξιλεούμενοι, διεκαρτερήσατε μέχρι τῆς μεσημβρίας ταύτης, τὴν ἡμετέραν ἄφιξιν ἀναμένοντες. Ὑμῖν μὲν οὖν καὶ ὕπνου καὶ ἀναπαύσεως τὴν εἰς τοὺς μάρτυρας τιμὴν καὶ τὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ λατρείαν προτιμῶσιν, ἕτοιμος ὁ μισθός. Εἰ δὲ δεῖ καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν αὐτῶν ἀπολογήσασθαι, τῆς διατριβῆς ἕνεκεν καὶ τῆς ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἀπολείψεως ὑμῶν, ἐροῦμεν τὴν αἰτίαν, ὅτι ἄλλην ὁμότιμον ταύτῃ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐκκλησίαν οἰκονομοῦντες, οὐκ ὀλίγῳ πρὸς ὑμᾶς διειργομένην τῷ διαστήματι, τὸν χρόνον τοῦτον τῆς ἡμέρας καταναλώσαμεν. Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἔδωκεν ὁ Κύριος κἀκείνοις πληρῶσαι τὴν λειτουργίαν, καὶ μὴ διαμαρτεῖν τῆς ὑμετέρας ἀγάπης, ἀπόδοτε μεθ’ ἡμῶν τὴν εὐχαριστίαν τῷ εὐεργέτῃ, τῷ τὴν ὁρωμένην ταύτην τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν ἀσθένειαν τῇ ἀοράτῳ αὐτοῦ δυνάμει χειραγωγοῦντι. Ὡς ἂν δὲ μὴ ἐπὶ πλεῖον παρακατέχοντες ὑμᾶς ἀνιῶμεν, βραχέα ἐξ οὗ κατελάβομεν ᾀδομένου ὑμῖν ψαλμοῦ διαλεχθέντες, καὶ τῷ λόγῳ τῆς παρακλήσεως κατὰ τὴν προσοῦσαν ἡμῖν δύναμιν τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν θρέψαντες, ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἐπιμέλειαν ἕκαστον διαφήσομεν. Τί τοίνυν ἦν τὸ ᾀδόμενον; Ἠγάπησα, φησὶν, ὅτι εἰσακούσεται Κύριος τῆς φωνῆς τῆς δεήσεώς μου.

‘Homily on Psalm 114 (=116)

Having arrived so long in advance at this holy shrine of the martyrs, you have persevered till this midday, waiting for our arrival, propitiating the God of the martyrs with your hymns since midnight. So, since you prefer the veneration of the martyrs and the worship of God to sleep and rest, your reward is at hand. Now, if we have to apologise for ourselves about our delay and, to a great extent, desertion of you, we shall tell the cause: we spent the earlier part of this day administering another church of God, of the same dedication as this (ὁμότιμον ταύτῃ), which is separated from you by no mean distance. But, since the Lord has granted us to both accomplish our ministry to that community and not to disappoint your love, join us in giving thanks to the Benefactor who leads by his invisible power this visible weakness of our body. But, in order that we may not grieve you by keeping you even longer, let us speak briefly about the psalm we just found you singing, and, having nourished your souls by our edifying words, as much as our strength allows, we shall dismiss everyone, in order to take care of their bodily needs. Now, what was it that you were singing? ‘I have loved,' he says, 'because the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer. (….)’

Text: Migne 1857.
Translation E. Rizos (using A. C. Way 1963, 341)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia

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

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Basil of Caesarea

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds


Born around 330 to an aristocratic Christian family of Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea of Pontus Polemoniacus (Anatolia), Basil was educated in Kaisareia/Caesarea, Antioch, and Athens. After his studies, he spent time in the monasteries in Egypt, before returning to Pontus, where he organised an ascetic community on his family estate in Pontus. In the 360s, Basil was ordained in Kaisareia/Caesarea, and, on 14 June 370, he was consecrated bishop there. He died on 1 January 379. Basil was a prolific writer, composing homilies, theological, ascetical, and liturgical works. On the manuscript tradition, editions and translations of this text, see: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. II,2 (Corpus Christianorum; Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), 1037-1039.


This is an interesting example of a homily which was given seemingly impromptu during Basil’s visitation to the feast of an unnamed martyr in a village near Kaisareia/Caesarea. The bishop arrives around noon, long delayed, and finds the people gathered in the church since midnight, patiently waiting for him. His late arrival must have caused a delay in the festivities of the day, conceivably including a festal meal and public celebration. He therefore apologises and gives a brief edifying homily before dismissing his tired congregation. The centrality of the sermon in the service and in the bishop’s role is remarkable, as is also the fact that the text contains no reference whatsoever to the saints and their story. Basil excuses himself by saying that he had to celebrate a service for another community on the same day, which was far from the village of his audience. He refers to the other community as ὁμότιμον ταύτῃ, which may mean either ‘of the same dignity as this’ or ‘of the same dedication as this’ (i.e. honouring the same martyr). If the former is the case, the bishop may be attempting to prevent the villagers from being offended by his preference for another community. If it is the latter, it is an interesting attestation of different rural communities dedicating their churches to the same martyrs.


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae cursus completus: series graeca 29 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857), 484. Translation: Way, A.C., Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies (Fathers of the Church 46; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 351-359. Further reading: Bernardi, J., La prédication des pères Cappadociens (Université de Paris, Sorbonne, 1968). Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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