Homily of St. John Chrysostom on the Holy Relics of the Martyrs
The following is an amateur translation of a homily by St. John Chrysostom (+407) that must have been delivered on the feast of a greatly celebrated Saint in Constantinople, whose Holy Relics were processed throughout the streets, and worked many miracles for the people. I have yet to find any more specifics about this homily, and am very much interested if anyone has any more historical context.
This is an interesting sermon for a number of reasons. First of all, we get a glimpse into the life of everyday people in the Constantinople of the 5th century, and into their devotion and love towards Christ and His Saints. Very importantly, we see how much the Divine Chrysostom, one of the greatest Fathers of the Church, honors the Holy Relics of the Saints. The veneration of the Relics of the Saints was reinforced numerous times throughout the history of the Church (especially by the 7th Ecumenical Council, which finally upheld the relative veneration of the Holy Icons and Relics of the Saints as repositories of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and as a type of our reverance for the Person being entreated). Thus we can see that even from the earliest years of Christianity, the Church has honored the Holy Martyrs and Righteous Servants of Christ, and after their passing, she has continued to preserve, honor and gather grace and healing from their Sacred Relics. Finally, we see St. John give a very short proof for the importance of Holy Relics based on the Scriptures. He uses beautiful examples to illustrate his point. May Christ have mercy on us all and save us, through the prayers of our Holy Fathers!
When during the night in the Queen of Cities [Constantinople], the people hastened to the great church [Hagia Sophia], from which the relics of the martyrs were processed throughout the market to Drypias, as a witness to all within the city, the following homily was given, before all of the city and before the rulers.
I fly and dance and am in the clouds and am as drunk by this spiritual pleasure.
What can I say, and of what should I speak?
Of the strength of the martyrs?
Of the readiness of the city?
Of the zeal of the Queen of Cities?
Of the gathering of the rulers?
Of the shaming of the devil?
Of the defeat of the demons?
Of the goodness of the Church?
Of the strength of the Cross?
Of the miracles of the Crucified One?
Of the glory of the Father?
Of the grace of the Spirit?
Of the pleasure of the people?
Of the skipping of the city?
Of the gathering of the monastics?
Of the choirs of the virgins?
Of the tone of the everyday men: of servants, of free men, of rulers, of those ruled, of poor, of rich, of strangers, of citizens?
It is a good time to speak to all.
Who can speak of Your greatness, O Lord?
Do you hear those who offer all praise to You?
Wives leave their chambers, and soften wax, the many homes are abandoned, the strongest men work together to prepare the great road for an event like no other.
Not only young people, but the elderly take part.
And neither the weakness of nature, nor effeminate [ἁβροδίαιτον] upbringing, nor the murkiness of pride should become a hindrance to the readiness.
Once again, rulers abandon their thrones and staff-bearers and entourages which they travel with.
And what could a woman or a ruler say, though they be crowned with diadems and arrayed with porphyry, along the road where the relics are processed, for healing follows the saints for those who touch even [the Saints'] clothes, and the murkiness of mankind is trampled upon, in the midst of a crowd as great as that of the theater, which one couldn't even see in the royal courts.
But the fervor of the martyrs and the tyranny and flame of love anoints all of the faces of those present, and even those naked of preparation show zeal towards the holy martyrs.
And therefore we remember the blessed David, who though arrayed with royal robes and crowned with a diadem, and possessing the scepter of the Hebrew people, because the Ark [of the Covenant] approached, was seen by all to skip and dance and leap up high like a dancer, and with his jumping showed his pleasure to those with him.
And though through the shadow of this fore type can be discerned fervor, much more so is grace and truth.
For this ark is much greater than that of David.
For not stone tablets, but spiritual and grace-blossoming tablets which shine forth gifts, are these bones, that illumine with rays much brighter than flashes of lightening.
For beholding these sun-like rays, the demons cannot suffer it, for they cannot bear the light emanating from them, and they are blinded and struck down, and flee from the area.
This great power from the ashes of the saints does not remain in the relics alone, but much more so pours forth and drives away the unclean spirits, and greatly sanctified those who approach with great faith.
For this reason this Christ-loving crowd approaches the relics, continually bound by them, and struck by the blessing, and becomes a teacher to all others of what a good and spiritual endeavor this has been, and teaches all to draw from this spring, which is ever drawn from without being emptied.
For as the waters of a spring that pour forth, and are not held back by its bank, but overflow and overcome, thus it is with the grace of the Spirit that resides and inhabits the bones of the saints who hearkened unto Him, and proceeds from their bodies to their clothes, and from their clothes to their shoes, and from their shoes to their shadow.
As a result, not just did the bodies of the holy apostles work wonders, but even their napkins and aprons, and not only the napkins and aprons, but even the shadows of Peter worked wonders stronger than life.
The same occurred with the cloak upon the body of Elisha, who was imparted a dual portion of grace by it.
And not only the body of Elisha, but even that cloak was filled with grace.
Because of this, with the three children [in the furnace], not only were their bodies delivered from the fire, but even their shoes.
And with Elisha who did not perish, he dissolved death when another dead man was thrown on the grave of the prophet.
Behold the same occurred today, for the relics that are brought forth are the roasting of demons, want and ignorance of all kinds are removed [ὀλολυγαὶ καὶ κωκυτοὶ πανταχόθεν ᾔροντο] by the shining rays of the bones, and the ranks of the opposing powers are utterly burned.
(Note: hosted by a non-Orthodox site: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0345-0407__Iohannes_Chrysostomus__Homilia_dicta_postquam_reliquiae_martyrum__MGR.pdf.html)