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E02345: Augustine of Hippo preaches in Latin a sermon on the feast of the birthday (nativitas) of *John the Baptist (S00020). He emphasises that it is the only birthday of a man other than Christ which is celebrated by the Church and explains why it falls on the summer solstice, 24 June. Sermon 287, preached in the later 420s, probably in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 08.02.2017, 00:00 by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 287

1. Prolixa narratio, sed compensatur labor auditoris dulcedine ueritatis. Illustrem natiuitatem beatissimi Ioannis preconis et praecursoris Christi, cum sanctum euangelium legeretur, audiuimus. Hic attendat charitas uestra, quam magni hominis natiuitas facta sit. Natalis dies carnis nulli prophetarum, nulli patriarcharum, nemini apostolorum celebrauit ecclesia: solos duos natales celebrat, huius et Christi.

'It was a long drawn story, but the hard work of listening is compensated for by the sweetness of the truth. When the holy gospel was read, we heard about the illustrious birth of the most blessed John, the herald and the forerunner of Christ. From this your graces should observe how really great a man he was, whose birth was so brought about. The Church has never celebrated the birthday in the flesh of any of the prophets, any of the patriarchs, any of the apostles. It only celebrates two birthdays, this man's and Christ's.'


Denique quia humiliandus erat omnis homo Christo, ac per hoc et Ioannes; et quod exaltandus erat Deus homo Christus, demonstrauit et dies natalis, et genera passionum. Natus est Ioannes hodie : ab hodierno minuuntur dies. Natus est Christus octauo calendas ianuarias: ab illo die crescunt dies.

'Finally, that every human being should be humbled before Christ, and thus John also; and that Christ, the God-man, was to be exalted, was demonstrated both by their birthdays and by the ways in which they suffered. John was born today. From today on, the days diminish. Christ was born on the sixth day before the Kalends of January [25 December]; from that day the days grow longer.'

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1301-1302. Translation: Hill 1994, 107-108 (lightly altered). Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Iohannes Baptista

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The sermon is tentatively dated to the years 425-430 on the basis of intertextual references and its place in the collection of Augustine's sermons.


The story of the conception and birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth of the Baptist features prominently in the first chapter of Luke's gospel, which is why his Nativity became a feast of the Church. It is interesting to remark that Augustine is looking for a rationale for the dates of the Nativities of Christ and the Baptist occurring respectively on the winter and summer solstices, though he considers both as their actual birthdays.


Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 8, Sermons 273-305A on the Saints (New York: New City Press, 1994). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

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