University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02433: Augustine of Hippo preaches in Latin a sermon on the feast of the birthday (natale) of *John the Baptist (S00020), condemning sacrilegious customs, still kept on his day, mostly by young people. Sermon 293B, preached probably in AD 401 in Carthage (North Africa).

online resource
posted on 2017-03-01, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 293B

[In natale sancti Iohanni

'On the birthday of St John']

1. Natalem hodie magni hominis celebramus. Nemo, inquit scriptura, surrexit maior inter mulierum natos. Hoc de illo dixit uirginis natus: hoc testimonium perhibuit testi suo: hanc sententiam protulit iudex de praecone suo; sic uoluit uerbum honorare uocem suam, sicut nostis, et audistis hodie etiam in sermone matutino.

'We are celebrating the birthday of a great man today; and do you want to know how great? "Nobody", says scripture, "has arisen greater among those born of women" (Mt 11:11). It was the one born of a virgin who said this about him. This was the witness he bore to his own witness; this was the judgment given to the judge on his own herald; this was the way in which the Word wished to honour his voice, as you know, and as you also heard today in this morning's sermon.'

In what follows Augustine reflects upon the relation between Christ and John the Baptist.

5. Beati ergo Iohannis dominici praecursoris, hominis magni, natalem diem festis coetibus celebrantes, orationum eius auxilia postulemus.quia enim sponsi amicus est, potest etiam et nobis praestare, ut ad sponsum pertinere possimus, ut eius gratiam inuenire mereamur. Sed si uolumus inuenire eius gratiam, non faciamus iniuriam natali eius. Cessent reliquiae sacrilegiorum, cessent studia atque ioca uanitatum; non fiant illa quae fieri solent, non quidem iam in demonum honorem, sed adhuc tamen secundum daemonum morem. Hesterno die post uesperam putentibus flammis ciuitas tota flagrabat; uniuersum aerem fumus obduxerat. Si parum adtenditis religionem, saltim iniuriam cogitate communem. Scimus, fratres, haec a pueris fieri; sed maiores prohibere debuerant. Ait enim quidam: qui non uetat peccare, cum potest, iubet. Equidem, fratres, in nomine Domini proficit ecclesia per annos singulos: ista minuuntur, et utique omnis diminutio tendit ad nihilum; sed nondum ita consumpta sunt, ut securi tacere possimus. Nec tacere poterimus, nisi cum uetustas et nouitas peruenerit ad debitos fines; ut uetus superstitio consummetur, et noua religio perficiatur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, cui est honor et gloria cum Deo Patre omnipotente, et cum Spiritu Sancto in saecula saeculorum.

'So then, as we celebrate with our festive gatherings the birthday of this great man, the Lord's forerunner, the blessed John, let us ask for the help of his prayers. Because he is the friend of the bridegroom, you see, he can also obtain for us that we can belong to the bridegroom, that we may be thought worthy to obtain his grace. But if we wish to obtain his grace, let us not offer an insult to his birthday. Let it be an end to the survivals of sacrilegious rites, and end to vain concerns and silly games. Let the things that are customarily done be done no more; they may not be done any longer for the honour of the demons, but all the same they are still being done according to the custom of the demons. Yesterday, after evening prayers, the whole city was ablaze with stinking flames; the smoke of them covered the whole sky. If you are indifferent to the religion involved, at least think abut the damage to the common good. We know, brothers, these things are done by children; but adults ought to have forbidden them. Someone says, you see, "if you don't forbid a sin when you can, you are commanding it". Indeed, brothers, the Church is making progress in the name of the Lord year by year. These things are diminishing, and of course all diminishment tends toward nothingness. But they haven't yet been totally done away with, so that we can keep quiet about them with a qualm. Nor shall we be able to keep quiet about them until the old and the new have come to the ends due to them both; until the old superstition has been totally abolished, and the new religion brought to completion: through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory with God the Father almighty, and with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.'

Text: Morin 1930, 227 and 231. Translation: Hill 1994, 163 and 165-166. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Carthage Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


This sermon was preached on 24 June during the day – in the first paragraph Augustine refers to another sermon, delivered in the morning, most probably at the end of the vigil. That sermon is tentatively identified with Sermon 288 (E02417). If that is correct, the present sermon was preached in Carthage in AD 401.


Text: Morin, G., Sancti Augustini Sermones post Maurinos reperti (Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 1; Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1930). 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, 1993). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager