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E01395: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History reports miraculous visions and cures at the Anastasia church of Constantinople, which are ascribed to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

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posted on 2016-05-24, 00:00 authored by erizos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 7.5. 1-2

From Thessalonike, the emperor Theodosius I issues decrees for the establishment of Nicene Orthodoxy as the state religion, and goes to Constantinople.

(1) Ταῦτα νομοθετήσας οὐ πολλῷ ὕστερον ἧκεν εἰς Κωνσταντινούπολιν. ἐκράτουν δὲ τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν ἔτι οἱ τὰ Ἀρείου φρονοῦντες, ὧν ἡγεῖτο Δημόφιλος· Γρηγόριος δὲ ὁ ἐκ Ναζιανζοῦ προΐστατο τῶν ὁμοούσιον τριάδα δοξαζόντων, ἐκκλησίαζε δὲ ἐν οἰκίσκῳ μικρῷ παρ’ ὁμοδόξων αὐτῷ τε καὶ τοῖς ὁμοίως θρησκεύουσιν εἰς εὐκτήριον οἶκον κατασκευασθέντι. (2) μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα περιφανὴς τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει νεὼς γέγονεν οὗτος καὶ ἔστιν, οὐ μόνον οἰκοδομημάτων κάλλει τε καὶ μεγέθει, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐναργῶν θεοφανειῶν ὠφελείαις. προφαινομένη γὰρ ἐνθάδε θεία δύναμις ὕπαρ τε καὶ ἐν ὀνείρασι πολλοῖς πολλάκις νόσοις τε καὶ περιπετείαις πραγμάτων κάμνουσιν ἐπήμυνε· πιστεύεται δὲ ταύτην τὴν Χριστοῦ μητέρα Μαρίαν τὴν ἁγίαν παρθένον εἶναι· τοιαύτη γὰρ ἐπιφαίνεται.

'(1) Not long after he had issued these decrees, he [the emperor Theodosius I] arrived at Constantinople. The followers of the Arian creed, under the leadership of Demophilos, controlled the churches, whereas Gregory of Nazianzus presided over those worshipping the consubstantial Trinity, and he held the gatherings of his congregation in a small hall built by sharers of his faith as a prayer house for him and those believing like him. (2) In a later period, this became, and still is, one of the most famous churches in the city, not only for its beauty and size, but also for the beneficent occurrence of clear divine epiphanies. For a divine power, manifesting itself here, in both dreams and living visions, has several times succoured several people suffering from diseases and unfortunate circumstances. It is believed that this is the mother of Christ, Mary, the holy virgin, for she manifests herself like that.'

Text: Bidez and Hansen 1995. Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E01395

Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

Μαρία ἡ ἁγία παρθένος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

  • Greek

Evidence not before

439

Evidence not after

450

Activity not before

380

Activity not after

450

Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sozomen

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Source

Salamenios Hermeias Sozomenos (known in English as Sozomen) was born in the early 5th c. to a wealthy Christian family, perhaps of Arab origins, in the village of Bethelea near Gaza. He was educated at a local monastic school, studied law probably at Beirut, and settled in Constantinople where he pursued a career as a lawyer. Sozomen published his Ecclesiastical History between 439 and 450, perhaps around 445. It consists of nine books, the last of which is incomplete. In his dedication of the work, Sozomen states that he intended to cover the period from the conversion of Constantine to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius II, that is, 312 to 439, but the narrative of the extant text breaks in about 425. The basis of Sozomen’s work is the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, published a few years earlier, which our author revises and expands. Like Socrates, Sozomen was devoted to Nicene Orthodoxy and the Theodosian dynasty, but his work is marked by stronger hagiographical interests, a richer base of sources, and different sympathies/loyalties. Sozomen probably lacked the classical education of Socrates, but had a broader knowledge of hagiographical and monastic literature and traditions, which makes him a fuller source for the cult of saints. Besides Greek and Latin, Sozomen knew Aramaic, which allowed him to include information about ascetic communities, monastic founders, and martyrs from his native Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, to which Socrates had had no access. Much like the other ecclesiastical historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, Sozomen focuses on the East Roman Empire, only seldom referring to the West and Persia.

Discussion

This is one of the earliest known references to miracles of the Virgin Mary. This passage refers to the Anastasia, a church founded in 379 in order to host the then dissident Nicene community presided over by Gregory of Nazianzus in Constantinople. The Anastasia was revered as a symbol of the revival of orthodoxy in a time when the imperial church and all its houses of worship were controlled by the Homoian (Arian) party. Writing in the 440s, Sozomen reports that the Anastasia, which by this time had already been rebuilt in considerable grandeur, had acquired a reputation for miracles, ascribed to the Virgin Mary. The author reports apparitions and visions experienced by people with diseases and other afflictions. The author seems to imply that the saint was recognised by her appearance rather than any explicit pronouncement: ‘It is believed that this the mother of Christ, Mary, the holy virgin. For she manifests herself like that.’ (πιστεύεται δὲ ταύτην τὴν Χριστοῦ μητέρα Μαρίαν τὴν ἁγίαν παρθένον εἶναι· τοιαύτη γὰρ ἐπιφαίνεται). This may imply the existence of a recognisable iconography for her. It is important that her miraculous interventions are expected by the people. Although writing about a decade after the First Council of Ephesus (431), Sozomen does not use the title Theotokos (‘she who gave birth to God’), which was ascribed to Mary by the Council, but calls her ‘the mother of Christ, Mary, the holy virgin.’ The passage is also important, because it shows that, in the 440s, the Anastasia was not yet associated with the cult of the homonymous Sirmian martyr. The name Anastasia did not express a dedication, but was an abstract title devised by Gregory of Nazianzus to symbolise the resurrection (anastasis) of the orthodox faith and church, which he had seen in a dream vision (Gregory of Nazianzus, Carmina de se ipso, 16). From the late 450s or 460s on, the church became associated with the cult of the martyr *Anastasia of Sirmium (S00602), whose relics were brought and deposited there in the 460s (Janin 1969, 22-26).

Bibliography

Text: Bidez, J., and Hansen, G. C., Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. 2nd rev. ed. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Neue Folge 4; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Grillet, B., Sabbah, G., Festugière A.-J. Sozomène, Histoire ecclésiastique. 4 vols. (Sources chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1983-2008): text, French translation, and introduction. Hansen, G.C. Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica, Kirchengeschichte, 4 vols. (Fontes Christiani 73; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): text, German translation, and introduction. Hartranft, C.D. “The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Comprising a History of the Church from AD 323 to AD 425." In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 179-427. Further reading: Chesnut, G. F. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius (Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986). Cronnier, E. Les inventions de reliques dans l’Empire romain d’Orient (IVe-VIe s.) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). Janin, R. La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin. I 3: Les eglises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople (Paris, 1969). Leppin, H. Von Constantin dem Grossen zu Theodosius II. Das christliche Kaisertum bei den Kirchenhistorikern Socrates, Sozomenus und Theodoret (Hypomnemata 110; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996). Van Nuffelen, P., Un héritage de paix et de piété : Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters, 2004).

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