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E02056: John Chrysostom in his homily On *Meletios (bishop of Antioch, S01192), of 386, refers to the saint's popular veneration, which included the naming of children after him, and the multiple production of his images. Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria).

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posted on 2016-11-28, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Chrysostom, On Meletios (CPG 4345, BHG 1244)

Εἰς τὸν ἐν ἁγίοις Πατέρα ἡμῶν Μελέτιον ἀρχιεπίσκοπον Ἀντιοχείας τῆς μεγάλης, καὶ εἰς τὴν σπουδὴν τῶν συνελθόντων.

On our Father among the Saints, Meletios, archbishop of Antioch the Great, and on the enthusiasm of the congregation.

1. It is hard to say who is more blessed: Meletios for the great honours he enjoys after death, or the people of Antioch who demonstrate such an enthusiastic love for their old shepherd. Although five years have passed since his death, their love has not faded.

(…) Οὗτος γὰρ φιλούντων ὁ νόμος καὶ τοιοῦτον τὸ ἔθος, ὡς καὶ ψιλὰ τὰ ὀνόματα περιπτύσσεσθαι τῶν ἐρωμένων, καὶ πρὸς αὐτὰς διαθερμαίνεσθαι τὰς προσηγορίας· ὃ δὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς πεπόνθατε ἐπὶ τοῦ μακαρίου τούτου. Παρὰ γὰρ τὴν ἀρχὴν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν πόλιν εἰσελθόντα δεξάμενοι, τὸ παιδίον ἕκαστος τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς προσηγορίας ἐκαλεῖτε τῆς ἐκείνου, διὰ τῆς προσηγορίας εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ τὸν ἅγιον εἰσάγειν νομίζοντες, καὶ πατέρας, καὶ πάππους, καὶ προγόνους παρατρέχουσαι αἱ μητέρες τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μακαρίου Μελετίου τοῖς τεχθεῖσι παιδίοις ἐπετίθεσαν. Ἐνίκα γὰρ τὴν φύσιν ὁ τῆς εὐλαβείας πόθος, καὶ τὰ τικτόμενα λοιπὸν οὐκ ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ φύσιν φιλοστοργίας μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς πρὸς τὴν προσηγορίαν ἐκείνην διαθέσεως ποθεινὰ τοῖς φυτευσαμένοις ἦν. Τὸ γὰρ ὄνομα αὐτὸ καὶ συγγενείας κόσμον καὶ οἰκίας ἀσφάλειαν, καὶ τοῖς καλουμένοις σωτηρίαν, καὶ τοῦ πόθου παραμυθίαν εἶναι ἐνόμιζον· καὶ καθάπερ ἐν σκότῳ καθήμενοί τινες μιᾶς λαμπάδος ἁφθείσης πολλοὺς ἀνάψαντες λύχνους εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ἕκαστος εἰσάγει τὴν ἑαυτοῦ· οὕτω δὴ καὶ τῆς προσηγορίας ἐκείνης ὥσπερ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἐμπεσούσης, ἕκαστος ὥσπερ λύχνον ἀνάπτων εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν εἰσῆγε τὴν ἑαυτοῦ τὸ τοῦ μακαρίου τότε ἐκείνου ὄνομα, ὥσπερ τινὰ μυρίων ἀγαθῶν θησαυρὸν διὰ τῆς ἐπωνυμίας ἐπισπώμενος· καὶ ἦν εὐλαβείας διδασκαλία τὸ γιγνόμενον. Συνεχῶς γὰρ ἀναγκαζόμενοι τῆς προσηγορίας ἐκείνης μεμνῆσθαι, καὶ τὸν ἅγιον ἐκεῖνον ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς ψυχῆς, παντὸς ἀλόγου πάθους καὶ λογισμοῦ φυγαδευτήριον εἶχον τὸ ὄνομα· καὶ οὕτω πολὺ γέγονε τοῦτο, ὡς πανταχοῦ καὶ ἐν ἀμφόδοις, καὶ ἐν ἀγορᾷ, καὶ ἐν ἀγροῖς, καὶ ἐν ὁδοῖς τούτῳ πάντοθεν περιηχεῖσθαι τῷ ὀνόματι. Οὐ πρὸς τὸ ὄνομα δὲ τοσοῦτον ἐπάθετε μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν τοῦ σώματος τὸν τύπον. Ὅπερ γοῦν ἐν ὀνόμασιν ἐποιήσατε, τοῦτο καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς εἰκόνος ἐπράξατε τῆς ἐκείνου. Καὶ γὰρ καὶ ἐν δακτυλίων σφενδόναις, καὶ ἐν ἐκτυπώμασι, καὶ ἐν φιάλαις, καὶ ἐν θαλάμων τοίχοις, καὶ πανταχοῦ τὴν εἰκόνα τὴν ἁγίαν ἐκείνην διεχάραξαν πολλοὶ, ὡς μὴ μόνον ἀκούειν τῆς ἁγίας προσηγορίας ἐκείνης, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁρᾷν αὐτοῦ πανταχοῦ τοῦ σώματος τὸν τύπον, καὶ διπλῆν τινα τῆς ἀποδημίας ἔχειν παραμυθίαν.

‘(……) For this is the custom of those who love, and such is their habit, to embrace even the bare names of their loved ones, and get heated up even at their simple mention, which is precisely what happened also to you with regard to this blessed man. For you welcomed him from the beginning, when he arrived at the city, and each one of you called their own child after his name, believing that, by this name-giving, they introduced the saint into their homes. Thus, bypassing fathers, grandfathers, and ancestors, mothers gave the name of the blessed Meletios to the children they gave birth to. For, indeed, the fervour of piety prevailed over the bond of nature, and the parents cherished their offspring not only by their natural parental love, but also by their affection for that name. For they regarded this name as a title of honour for their relation, a guarantee for their house, a means of protection for those bearing it, and a source of consolation in their regret. It was like people sitting in the dark, who, once a candle is lit, light several lamps, and each person takes their lamp into their house. It was precisely like this that, when that name burst into the city like a light, each man, as if lighting up a lamp, brought into their house the name of that blessed man, as if obtaining by this name-giving a treasure of a myriad of blessings. And this practice became a means of education in piety. For, since they were compelled to constantly keep that name on their mind, and keep that holy man at their heart, they had this name as a repellent of every irrational emotion and thought. And it became so frequent, that the name echoed everywhere, from all directions, in side-streets, and in the marketplace, and in the fields, and on the roads. And what you did with the names you also did the same with his image: for many people inscribed that hallowed image on ring-heads, on stamps, on plates, on the walls of rooms, and everywhere, so that it was not only possible to hear that holy name, but also to see everywhere the figure of his body, and have a double means of consolation for his absence (......).’

From the very beginning of his episcopate, Meletios faced the hostility of the heretics who stirred the emperor of the time to exile him.

2. During Meletios’ departure from the city, a mob attacks the Praetorian Prefect while driving a chariot and carrying Meletios out of Antioch. The bishop protects the prefect from the stones hurled at him, by covering his head with his cloak, and thus provides an example of love for one’s enemies. Despite Meletios’ absences, the orthodox community is stable and flourishes. During his exile in Armenia, Meletios keeps his Antiochene flock at his heart. He is then allowed to return. Meletios’ exile is a test for the faith of the Antiochenes, which is eventually rewarded, since, after his first exile, they are allowed to enjoy his inspiring presence for a very long period of time. His return from his second exile is a true triumph.

3. When God decides to take him, He summons Meletios to the Council of Constantinople, so that this holy may be known also in Cilicia, Cappadocia, Galatia, Bithynia, and Thrace. Once the bishops of the world receive his example, Meletios is summoned to heaven. His death in Constantinople is in itself a work of divine providence, protecting Antioch from the great distress of witnessing the death of its beloved shepherd. God continues to show His favour to Antioch by the appointment of a worthy successor for Meletios (the current bishop Flavianos). The love of the Antiochenes for Meletios grows constantly, even among the younger generation that has not met him. The author invites the whole city, officials and commoners, women and men, free and slaves, to join him in prayer, invoking Meletios.

Text: PG 50, 515-520.
Summary and translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Meletios, bishop of Antioch, ob. 381 : S01192

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Chrysostom

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Explicit naming a child, or oneself, after a saint

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Children Officials Slaves/ servants Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


John of Antioch, bishop of Constantinople, who came to be known as Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth), was born in 344/354 in Antioch on the Orontes where he studied under Libanius. He joined the Nicene Christian community of Antioch, led by bishop Meletios of Antioch, and was ordained priest by Meletios’ successor, Flavianos in 386. Acquiring a great reputation as a preacher, John was appointed as bishop of Constantinople in 397. Clashing with the bishop of Alexandria Theophilos and the empress Eudoxia in 403/404, Chrysostom was deposed and banished to Cucusus in Cappadocia and died in Comana of Pontus in 407. On the manuscript tradition of this text (42 manuscripts), see: (accessed 06/05/2017)


Written and delivered in 386 (Chrysostom states that five years have passed since Meletios' death in 381), this sermon is one of the earliest homiletic works of Chrysostom, dating from the first months after his ordination to the priesthood (February 386). It provides an interesting attestation of the early development of the posthumous cult of Meletios, the Nicene bishop of Antioch, who died, while presiding over the Council of Constantinople in 381. His remains were brought back to Antioch, and were buried at a shrine Meletios had built for the martyr *Babylas, next to the remains of the martyr himself (E00095, E02283). It is probable that the venue of this sermon was precisely that shrine of Babylas and Meletios. The figure of Meletios was closely connected with the divisions of the Antiochene Christian community in the 4th century. In the late 320s, the Nicene bishop of Antioch, Eustathios, was deposed by the Arians and exiled to Thrace. Between 330 and 360, two dissident Nicene congregations were organized in the city, one of which was led by two lay scholars, Diodoros of Tarsus and Flavianos (later to become bishop). In 360, the see of Antioch fell vacant and the dominant Arian faction elected Meletios, hitherto bishop of Sebaste in Armenia. Despite relying on the vote of the heretics, Meletios expressed his Nicene sympathies almost immediately after his election. The community of Diodoros and Flavianos recognized him as their legitimate bishop, and he ordained the two scholars as priests. The other Nicene congregation, however, refused to accept Meletios and elected another bishop, Paulinos. Thus a state of schism emerged, with Paulinos being recognized as the canonical bishop of Antioch by Athanasius of Alexandria and Damasus of Rome, and Meletios being accepted by Nicene bishops in Anatolia. Meletios spent most of his episcopate in exile in Armenia, but was allowed to return and take up his see in 378. When he died in 381, he was succeeded by Flavianos. The schism, however, continued as Paulinos kept his position until his death in 383, and was succeeded by Euagrios who died in 393, without being replaced, and thus the division was ended. In his claim to being the legitimate orthodox bishop of Antioch and successor of both Meletios and Eustathios, Flavianos keenly promoted the veneration of both figures (on Eustathios, see E02259), and of all the bishops of Antioch, including *Philogonios (E00071) and, above all, the martyr *Babylas (E00095). One of the most interesting aspects of this homily is Chrysostom’s reference to the practice of giving the name of the saint to children, and of using his images in private life (drawing them on walls and private objects). From the context, it seems likelier that this refers to enthusiastic expressions of devotion and loyalty to the exiled bishop while he was alive, rather than to the posthumous cult of Meletios. Whatever the case, this is the first explicit reference to naming children after Christian holy figures. Chrysostom implies that the normal custom was to have one’s children named after their grandparents or other relatives, and that this was disregarded by the Christians by adopting the name of the saint.


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologia Graeca 50 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862), 515-520. Translation: Mayer, W., St John Chrysostom, The Cult of the Saints: Select Homilies and Letters Introduced, Translated, and Annotated (Popular Patristics Series; New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2006), 39-48. Further reading: Cavallera, F., Le schisme d’Antioche (Paris, 1905). Downey, G., A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 350-353, 410-419. Drobner, H.R., The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 327-337. Kelly, J.N.D., Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom. Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press), 1995.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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