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E02261: John Chrysostom, in a homily On *Ignatios (bishop of Antioch and martyr of Rome, S00649) delivered during a festival at the saint’s shrine at Antioch, shortly after the feast of *Pelagia (martyr of Antioch S01093), recounts the story of the martyr, and encourages the people to venerate his relics which were brought from Rome to Antioch. Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria), 386/397.

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posted on 2017-01-18, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Chrysostom, On Ignatios (CPG 4351, BHG 816)


1. Like a generous host offering frequent banquets, God treats the Christians with frequent celebrations of martyrs. The festival of Ignatios follows shortly after the feast of Pelagia. Although the figures are different, the subject of the festivals is the same, for, in the struggles for the Christian faith, there is no distinction between the two sexes. The praise of Ignatios is not an easy subject. He was a bishop of Antioch, embodying the ideal of the episcopate in its perfection, as he was a good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). He was a companion of the Apostles, and a brave martyr in a time of persecution. In his person, he combines the honours of an apostle, bishop, and martyr.

2. Ignatios was a bishop, a great office, and he was ordained by the Apostles who set the ideal standards required for the episcopate, through the words of Paul (Titus 1; 1 Timothy 3:1).

3. He became a bishop in a time full of dangers for the Church, external persecutions and internal weaknesses. The bishops of the early days deserve much greater admiration for their work.

4. Ignatios was entrusted with the demanding bishopric of Antioch, a city of 200,000 people. The importance and difficulty of managing a community like this is demonstrated by the fact that God ordered Peter, the head of the Apostles, to spend a long period of time there. Ignatios was chosen to succeed so great a person. A persecution breaks out, and Christians are arrested at every place, starting with the leaders of the Churches. Ignatios is taken to Rome and, during his journey, Christians from various places that he passes come to meet him. His example and cheerful journey to martyrdom is an example for the Churches. Having helped everyone on his way, he ends up in Rome, a city which was in need of examples, in a time of impiety, hence it was chosen to host the martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and, after them, Ignatios. The willingness of the martyrs to die is a proof of Christ’s resurrection.

5. Ignatios suffers his martyrdom very publicly, at the theatre of Rome. He is condemned to be devoured by beasts, and receives his sentence with joy. After his martyrdom, his relics were brought back to Antioch, and the city once again was honoured by his presence. As Ignatios’ relics were transferred from Rome, they were received in a triumphant way by all the cities they passed through. Ignatios is a lasting treasure in Antioch, filling with blessings and courage all those who visit him. Both the remains and the coffins of the saints are full of their grace. Therefore, it is worth visiting the shrine regularly, because the saint can help those afflicted by problems to be delivered, and those prospering to keep their blessings.

The text closes as follows:

Μὴ τοίνυν σήμερον μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ καθ’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν πρὸς αὐτὸν βαδίζωμεν, πνευματικοὺς ἐξ αὐτοῦ δρεπόμενοι καρπούς. Ἔστι γὰρ, ἔστι τὸν μετὰ πίστεως ἐνταῦθα παραγινόμενον μεγάλα καρπώσασθαι ἀγαθά· οὐδὲ γὰρ τὰ σώματα μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐταὶ αἱ θῆκαι τῶν ἁγίων πνευματικῆς εἰσι πεπληρωμέναι χάριτος. Εἰ γὰρ ἐπὶ Ἐλισσαίου τοῦτο συνέβαινε, καὶ θήκης νεκρὸς ἁψάμενος τοῦ θανάτου τὰ δεσμὰ διέῤῥηξε, καὶ πρὸς ζωὴν ἐπανῆλθε πάλιν, πολλῷ μᾶλλον νῦν, ὅτε δαψιλεστέρα ἡ χάρις, ὅτε πλείων ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐνέργεια, ἔστι καὶ θήκης μετὰ πίστεως ἁψάμενον πολλὴν ἐκεῖθεν ἐπισπάσασθαι δύναμιν. Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ τὰ λείψανα τῶν ἁγίων εἴασεν ἡμῖν ὁ Θεὸς, βουλόμενος ἡμᾶς πρὸς τὸν αὐτὸν ἐκείνοις χειραγωγῆσαι ζῆλον, καὶ λιμένα τινὰ παρασχεῖν καὶ παραμύθιον ἀσφαλὲς τῶν ἀεὶ καταλαμβανόντων ἡμᾶς κακῶν. Διὸ παρακαλῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς, εἴτε ἐν ἀθυμίᾳ τίς ἐστιν, εἴτε ἐν νόσοις, εἴτε ἐν ἐπηρείαις, εἴτε ἐν ἄλλῃ τινὶ βιωτικῇ περιστάσει, εἴτε ἐν ἁμαρτιῶν βάθει, μετὰ πίστεως ἐνταῦθα παραγινέσθω, καὶ πάντα ἐκεῖνα ἀποθήσεται, καὶ μετὰ πολλῆς ἐπανήξει τῆς ἡδονῆς, κουφότερον τὸ συνειδὸς ἐργασάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς θεωρίας μόνης· μᾶλλον δὲ οὐ τοὺς ἐν δεινοῖς ὄντας μόνον ἀναγκαῖον ἐνταῦθα παραγίνεσθαι, ἀλλὰ κἂν ἐν εὐθυμίᾳ τις ᾖ, κἂν ἐν δόξῃ, κἂν ἐν δυναστείᾳ, κἂν ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ πολλῇ τῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν, μηδὲ οὗτος καταφρονείτω τῆς ὠφελείας. Ἐλθὼν γὰρ ἐνταῦθα καὶ τὸν ἅγιον ἰδὼν τοῦτον, ἀκίνητα ἕξει τὰ καλὰ, τῇ μνήμῃ τῶν τούτου κατορθωμάτων μετριάζειν τὴν αὐτοῦ ψυχὴν ἀναπείσας, καὶ οὐκ ἀφιεὶς τὸ συνειδὸς ὑπὸ τῶν κατορθωμάτων πρὸς ὄγκον ἐπαρθῆναί τινα. Οὐ μικρὸν δὲ τοῖς ἐν εὐπραγίαις τὸ μὴ φυσᾶσθαι ἐπὶ ταῖς εὐημερίαις, ἀλλ’ εἰδέναι μετρίως φέρειν τὰς εὐπραγίας. Ὥστε ἅπασι χρήσιμος ὁ θησαυρὸς, ἐπιτήδειον τὸ καταγώγιον, τοῖς μὲν ἐπταικόσιν, ἵνα ἀπαλλαγῶσι τῶν πειρασμῶν, τοῖς δὲ εὐημεροῦσιν, ἵνα βέβαια αὐτοῖς μείνῃ τὰ καλά· τοῖς μὲν ἐν ἀῤῥωστίᾳ, ἵνα πρὸς ὑγίειαν ἐπανέλθωσι, τοῖς δὲ ὑγιαίνουσιν, ἵνα μὴ πρὸς ἀῤῥωστίαν καταπέσωσιν. Ἐλθὼν γὰρ ἐνταῦθα καὶ τὸν ἅγιον ἰδὼν τοῦτον, ἀκίνητα ἕξει τὰ καλὰ, τῇ μνήμῃ τῶν τούτου κατορθωμάτων μετριάζειν τὴν αὐτοῦ ψυχὴν ἀναπείσας, καὶ οὐκ ἀφιεὶς τὸ συνειδὸς ὑπὸ τῶν κατορθωμάτων πρὸς ὄγκον ἐπαρθῆναί τινα. Οὐ μικρὸν δὲ τοῖς ἐν εὐπραγίαις τὸ μὴ φυσᾶσθαι ἐπὶ ταῖς εὐημερίαις, ἀλλ’ εἰδέναι μετρίως φέρειν τὰς εὐπραγίας. Ὥστε ἅπασι χρήσιμος ὁ θησαυρὸς, ἐπιτήδειον τὸ καταγώγιον, τοῖς μὲν ἐπταικόσιν, ἵνα ἀπαλλαγῶσι τῶν πειρασμῶν, τοῖς δὲ εὐημεροῦσιν, ἵνα βέβαια αὐτοῖς μείνῃ τὰ καλά· τοῖς μὲν ἐν ἀῤῥωστίᾳ, ἵνα πρὸς ὑγίειαν ἐπανέλθωσι, τοῖς δὲ ὑγιαίνουσιν, ἵνα μὴ πρὸς ἀῤῥωστίαν καταπέσωσιν. Ἅπερ ἅπαντα λογιζόμενοι, πάσης τέρψεως, πάσης ἡδονῆς τὴν ἐνταῦθα προτιμῶμεν διατριβὴν, ἵν’ ὁμοῦ καὶ εὐφραινόμενοι καὶ κερδαίνοντες, καὶ ἐκεῖ σύσκηνοι τοῖς ἁγίοις τούτοις καὶ ὁμοδίαιτοι γενέσθαι δυνηθῶμεν εὐχαῖς αὐτῶν τῶν ἁγίων, χάριτι καὶ φιλανθρωπίᾳ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, μεθ’ οὗ τῷ Πατρὶ ἡ δόξα, ἅμα τῷ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι, νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ, καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

‘Let us, then, keep walking to him, not only today, but also every day, reaping spiritual fruit from him. For it is possible, absolutely possible, for the person who visits this place with faith to harvest great blessings. Indeed, not just the bodies, but also the very coffins of the saints are full of spiritual grace. For, if this happened in the case of Elisha, when the dead person broke the bonds of death and returned back to life, when it touched his grave, it is even more possible now that the Grace is more copious, that the energy of the Spirit abounds more, that a person touching a coffin may draw a great power from it. For this reason, God has granted us the relics of the saints, wishing to guide us towards the same zeal as theirs, and to provide a kind of harbour and safe consolation for the evils which constantly befall us. Therefore, I beseech all of you, whether one is suffering distress or illness or abuse, or any other trouble of this life, or is in deep sin, let them visit this place and they will be rid of all these and will return with great joy, having relieved their conscience even by the mere sighting of the place. But it is necessary that not only those in trouble visit this place, but also if one is joy or in glory or in power or if they have great courage of speech before God, let also this person not disdain the benefit to be gained. For, by coming here and seeing this saint, they will keep their blessings secure, having convinced their soul, by remembering his achievements, to be moderate, without allowing their conscience to be aroused to swollen-headedness on account of their own achievements. It is no small thing that those doing well should not be puffed up by their own prosperity, but experience their happiness with moderation. Consequently, this treasure is useful for all, and this store is appropriate both for those that have stumbled, so that they may be rid of their trials, and for those prospering, so that their blessings may stay secure; for those in sickness, so that they may return to health, and for the healthy, so that they may not fall ill. Keeping all these things in mind, let us hold our visits to this place in higher preference to all kinds of pleasure, all kinds of enjoyment, so that, enjoying ourselves and profiting at the same time, we may be able to join these saints in their dwellings and life, by the prayers of the saints themselves, and the grace and love for mankind of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with Whom be glory to the Father with Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.’

Text: Migne, PG 50, p. 595.9-596.27. Summary and translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, martyred in Rome ob. 98/117 : S00649 Pelagia, martyr in Antioch : S01093

Saint Name in Source

Ἰγνάτιος Πελαγία

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom 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

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Reliquary – institutionally owned Touching and kissing relics


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 the text (48 manuscripts): (accessed 06/05/2017)


This homily refers to the feast of the most famous martyr of Antioch, Ignatios, often called Theophoros, who died as a martyr in Rome in c. AD 108. It seems that John gave this homily during a service held at the resting place of Ignatios’ relics which were, as Chrysostom reports, returned from Rome to Antioch. The site of Ignatios’ burial was most probably Antioch’s ancient Christian cemetery, the Koimeterion, where his remains were kept beside those of several other martyrs. In the closing paragraph of this text, Chrysostom addresses a general exhortation for his audience to visit the place frequently, in order to enjoy the spiritual benefits of their contact with the saints. Chrysostom refers to the Old Testament episode of the dead man who rose when thrown into the grave of Elisha (II Kings 13, 20-21), in support of the view that the bodies of the righteous possess posthumous power and grace. The same passage is also quoted by Asterius of Amasea in his Homily X, On the Holy Martyrs (par. 12; see E02140). This homily is interesting from a literary point of view, because it remains close to the spirit of an encomium proper, i.e. a eulogy. The author does not recount the story of his hero, but rather focuses on a number of points which document the departed person’s claim to virtue. Ignatios was one of the chief martyrs of Antioch, and his veneration was probably prominent. A few decades after Chrysostom’s homily, the remains of the saint were transferred to a church which replaced the Tychaion, the temple of the genius of the city (E00). This was a highly symbolic act, probably expressing the replacement of the tutelary deity by the Christian martyr, as the patron of the city. In this homily, however, there is no evidence for such a perception of the saint. Chrysostom’s homilies on the other, more recent, saintly bishops of Antioch (*Babylas, *Eustathios, *Philogonios, and *Meletios), provide evidence to assume that their cult was linked into the troubles of ecclesiastical politics of the author’s time. Chrysostom alludes to the succession links between them and the current bishop, Flavianos, whose legitimacy on the throne of Antioch was disputed. Remarkably, this theme is absent in this homily on Antioch's earliest and perhaps most famous martyr, Ignatios.


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologia Graeca 50 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862), 587-586. 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), 101-117. Further reading: Downey, G., Ancient Antioch (Princeton, 1961). 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 University Press, 1995).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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