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E01958: Asterius of Amasea, in his Homily 3, Against Avarice, delivered during a service celebrated on a feast of unnamed martyrs, refers to a crowd of pilgrims gathered for the annual feast, the shrine of the saints, and the edifying importance of their cult. He exhorts his audience to focus on worship rather than on trading at the market. Written in Greek in Amaseia/Amasea (northern Asia Minor), in the late 4th or early 5th c.

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posted on 25.10.2016, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Asterius of Amasea, Homily III, Against Avarice (CPG 3260.1)

1. (1.) Ἄνδρες χριστιανοὶ καὶ κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι ἄνδρες· ὑμεῖς ὁ χωρικὸς δῆμος καὶ πάντες ὅσοι τῶν πόλεων ἐκφοιτήσαντες πρὸς τὴν παροῦσαν συμφώνως ἑορτὴν συνεδράμετε—γενικῷ γὰρ ὑμᾶς πάντας περιλαμβάνω κηρύγματι—ἆρα ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐνεβάλετο τῇ διανοίᾳ φροντίδα, συνεῖδεν δὲ καὶ κατενόησεν ὑπὲρ τίνος ἠθροίσθημεν; ἀνθ’ ὅτου δὲ τιμῶνται μάρτυρες οἴκων περιφανῶν κατασκευαῖς καὶ τοῖς ἐνιαυσίοις τούτοις συλλόγοις, καὶ πρὸς τίνα σκοπὸν βλέποντες οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν ἐνομοθέτησαν τὰ ὁρώμενα καὶ ἰσχυρὸν ἀφῆκαν τὸν νόμον τοῖς μετέπειτα;  (2.)  Ἢ πρόδηλον τῷ καὶ μικρὸν πυκνώσαντι τὴν διάνοιαν, ὡς ζήλῳ ἡμῖν εὐσεβείας ταῦτα διετυπώθη καὶ κοινὰ παιδαγωγεῖα τῶν ψυχῶν αἱ πανηγύρεις συνάγονται, ἵνα μάρτυρας τιμῶντες τὸ τῶν μαρτύρων ὑπὲρ εὐσεβείας καρτερὸν μιμησώμεθα· ἵνα τοῖς συναγομένοις παιδευταῖς ὑποθέντες τὸ οὖς μάθωμεν τι χρηστόν, ὃ πρὸ βραχέος οὐκ ἐγινώσκομεν, ἢ δόγματος ἀσφάλειαν ἢ λύσιν ἀπορουμένης Γραφῆς ἤ τινα λόγον τὴν τῶν ἠθῶν ἐπανορθοῦντα κατάστασιν; (3.) Ὑμεῖς δέ μοι δοκεῖτε τῆς ἀρετῆς ἐπιμέλειαν ἀφέντες καὶ τῆς περὶ τὴν ψυχὴν σπουδῆς ἐκλαθόμενοι ὅλην ἑαυτῶν μετατεθεικέναι τὴν μέριμναν πρὸς τὸν συρφετὸν τοῦ μαμμωνᾶ καὶ τὴν ἀσχολίαν τῶν πρατηρίων· οἱ μὲν αὐτοὶ συναλλάττοντες, οἱ δὲ κεχηνότες εἰς τὰ ἀλλότρια καὶ τοὺς ἐπὶ τοῖς ὠνίοις φιλονεικοῦντας ἱστοροῦντες, ὅπως τὰ ἀλλήλων ἐπευωνίζουσιν. (4.) Ἀλλὰ μετάθετέ μοι τὸν πόθον ἐπὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν· καταλείψατε τὴν φιλαργυρίαν, τὴν ἀγόραιον, τὴν μαινάδα. Ἀποστράφητε αὐτὴν ὡς ἄκοσμον ἑταιρίδα προσγελῶσαν τῷ πλήθει, ταῖς ἀλλοτρίαις ὕλαις καλλωπιζομένην καὶ τοῖς ἄνθεσι τοῦ φαρμακοπώλου. Ἐράσθητε ταύτης τῆς θείας καὶ σώφρονος ἐσταλμένης κοσμίως, σεμνὸν καὶ ἀμετεώριστον βλεπούσης. (5.) Οὕτως γὰρ Σολομὼν ἐν τῇ παροιμιακῇ βίβλῳ φησίν· Μὴ ἐγκαταλείπῃς αὐτὴν καὶ ἀνθέξεται σου. Ἐράσθητι αὐτῆς καὶ τηρήσει σε. Μὴ παρέλθῃς καταφρονήσας μηδὲ τὰ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης ταύτης προκείμενα διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὰ νομίσῃς ἄτιμα, ἐπειδὴ προῖκά σε ἔξεστιν τὴν κτῆσιν περιποιήσασθαι· ἀλλὰ καὶ μᾶλλον ἐπιθύμησον, ὅτι οὐ καθήμεθα κάπηλοι ζυγὸν ἢ τρυτάνην μεταφέροντες· ἓν δὲ κέρδος ζητοῦμεν, τὴν τοῦ μαθητοῦ σωτηρίαν.

‘1. (1.) Oh Christian men – men sharing in a heavenly calling! You people from this village, and all those who have set off from the cities and unanimously hastened to join the present celebration – for I include you all in a general calling: I wonder, has each one of you troubled your mind about, are you aware of, and have you realised for which reason we have gathered together? On account of what are the martyrs honoured by the construction of splendid halls, and by these yearly gatherings? And having which purpose in their minds did our fathers establish the things which we see here, and left this as a powerful custom for posterity? (2.) Isn’t it obvious even for a person giving it just a little thought, that all these things have been established in order to promote our zeal for piety, and that the festivals are convened as common schools for the souls, so that, by means of honouring the martyrs, we may imitate their valour in the cause of piety? So that we may turn an attentive ear to the teachers gathered together [= bishops] and learn something useful that we didn’t know before, or hear some safe explication of dogma, or an explanation of a difficult scriptural piece, or some word correcting our moral state? (3.) Yet you seem to me to have given up your care for virtue, to have forgotten all about providing for your souls, and to have shifted all of your care to the riffraff of Mammon and the business of sales stalls. Some of you participate yourselves in the transactions, while others gape at other people’s business, observing those quarrelling about the purchases and how they bargain with each other. (4.) But, please, learn to cherish worship: give up the mad avarice of the marketplace – turn away from it as from an ugly little harlot laughing towards the crowd, beautifying herself with foreign stuff and with the flowers of the drug-seller! Love this [wisdom] which is godly, decent, and orderly, and its gaze is dignified and steady. (5.) For thus says Solomon in the book of Proverbs: Don’t abandon her [wisdom], and she will guard you; Love her, and she will protect you [Proverbs 4:6]. Do not turn away nor regard the things we have on this stall as worthless, just because you are allowed to acquire our wares for free. But for that very reason, you should desire them even more, for we are not sitting here as sellers carrying a pair of scales, but pursue one kind of profit alone: the salvation of our disciple.’

2. During the service there have been readings from Acts 25:8, Zachariah 3:2 and 4:2, and many other rich scriptural readings. The author would have liked to talk about all of them, but wishes to focus on the theme of avarice, as he has promised in a sermon he has given one day earlier. The rest of the sermon is dedicated to the theme of avarice, based on several scriptural examples.

Text: Datema 1970, 27.
Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E01958

Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

380

Evidence not after

430

Activity not before

380

Activity not after

430

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Amasea

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

Amasea Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Asterius of Amasea

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

  • Fair

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Condemnation of other activity associated with cult

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds

Source

Asterius was bishop of Amasea in Pontus (north Anatolia) between the 380s and 420s, perhaps having been a rhetorician before joining the clergy. He is only known from his homilies (16 preserved intact), which provide us with pretty much all we know about Asterius’ life, since he not mentioned by other sources from Late Antiquity. His work attracted much attention during Iconoclasm and in the Byzantine period, when his homilies were widely appreciated as models of Christian rhetoric. His Ekphrasis on Euphemia of Chalcedon (E00477) was among the texts quoted in the Second Council of Nicaea (787), in support of the use of images in Christian worship (sessions IV and VI; Mansi XIII, pp. 16-18, 308-309). Ten of Asterius' homilies are quoted in the Bibliotheca of Photius (cod. 271). This homily is preserved in four manuscripts, on which see: Datema 1970, 3-5 http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/313/

Discussion

This sermon was given during a festival held at a shrine of martyrs in a village, very probably in the company of other bishops. Sadly neither the village nor the name of the saints in question are named in the text. In paragraph 2, the author reveals that there has been a second service one day earlier, and that his sermon continues a theme he then promised to talk about. The introductory paragraph addresses the crowd of the faithful many of whom were apparently more interested in shopping at the fair set up for the festival, than in attending the service and listening to the sermons of the presiding bishops. Asterius calls on them to remember that this is the only purpose of the festival.

Bibliography

Text: Datema, C., Asterius of Amasea, Homilies I-XIV: Text, Introduction and Notes (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970), 26-37. Further reading: Baldwin, B. "Asterios of Amaseia," in: A.P. Kazhdan, A.-M. Talbot, and A. Cutler (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 213. Dehandschutter, B., "Asterius of Amasea," in: J. Leemans (ed.), 'Let Us Die That We May Live' : Greek Homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria, (c. AD 350-AD 450) (London: Routledge, 2003), 162-193. Speyer, W. "Asterios von Amaseia," in: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1980), 626-639.

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