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E03499: Augustine of Hippo delivers a Latin sermon on the feast of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030), in which he explains why the Church celebrates only the day of a martyrs' death. Sermon 314, preached at an unknown date between 397 and 430, probably in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 2017-07-25, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 314

[In natali Stephani martyris

'On the birthday of the martyr Stephen']

1. Natalem Domini hesterna die celebrauimus; serui hodie natalem celebramus: sed natalem Domini celebrauimus, quo nasci dignatus est; natalem serui celebramus, quo coronatus est.

'Yesterday we celebrated the Lord's birthday; today, we are celebrating the birthday of his servant. But the birthday of the Lord which we celebrated was the one on which he was pleased to be born; the birthday we are celebrating of his servant is the one on which he was was crowned.'

In what follows Augustine explains why the Church celebrates both the birthday and death of Christ, whereas the birthday of martyrs in the flesh is not commemorated. It is so because, in the case of Christ both events were salvific, while the bodily birth of the future martyrs in itself did not bring any good. In paragraph 2 the preacher encourages his audience to follow Stephen's example and love one's enemies. The sermon ends with a formula which starts the celebration of the Eucharist.

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1425. Translation: Hill 1994, 426. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

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

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius 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


The dating of this sermon is impossible to determine. Augustine does not refer to the discovery of the relics of Stephen in 415, or the subsequent transfer of relics to Hippo, which can be used to date some other sermons on Stephen. Since this sermon was preached the day after Christmas and on an important occasion, and Augustine does not suggest that he is a guest preacher, it was probably delivered in Hippo, his episcopal see.


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 9. Sermons 306-340A for 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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