Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon — an online mystery

At the Trevin Wax blog today I read the following, Hell was in turmoil:

Let no one lament persistent failings, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free.

The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered Heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.

This was attributed to Chrysostom, “An Easter sermon”, as translated by Andre Lavergne at  The full version is here, and references a translation by  Frank Dobbs.

I think most of us are somewhat wary of unreferenced material of this nature, splendid and true though the statements are.  A PG reference would be so much nicer!

I find in Quasten (III, p.455) a reference to two Easter sermons, PG 50, cols.433-442, Contra ebriosos et de resurrectione, and PG 52, 765-772, described as “of doubtful origin”.

But surely Chrysostom must have preached more than 2 sermons at Easter?  In the CPG, vol. 2, p.573, I find a number of entries:

  • 4605, Sermo catecheticus in pascha, PG 59, 721-724.
  • 4606, In sanctum pascha sermo 1, PG 59, 723-726; followed by 6 more sermons of the same kind, all published by P. Nautin in Sources Chretiennes 36, SC27 and SC48.

Hmm.  Let’s look these up.  And we find … yes, the first item is the source.

It’s very short fragment of only a couple of pages, plainly mutilated.  Both the Lavergne and Dobbs translations translate the whole of Migne’s text.  It is placed by Migne, the PG editor, among the spuria, and the other sermons likewise.

A PDF of the Greek text, probably from the TLG, can be found here.  A manuscript of the text is online, BL Add. 14066, on f.4.

Let’s see what Nautin has to say about these items.

In SC 36, he discusses sermones 1-3 (CPG 4606-8).  All this material is transmitted under the name of Chrysostom.  But both Henry Savile and Bernard Montfaucon rejected this authorship.[1]  And Nautin states that the 7 homilies are not by the same author.  Homily 6 is attributed to a pseudo-Hippolytus; but there are several authors in the collection.  He does feel that the works must date from the late 4th – early 5th century.  Unfortunately he does not discuss our text.

  1. [1]SC36, p.26.

9 thoughts on “Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon — an online mystery

  1. In fact, though John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople, may not be its author, this sermon is the most known sermon of Chrysostom, as it is read every year in every orthodox church during the night service of the Resurrection of Christ. So, even if scholars say it to be spurious (and it may be so), for orthodox christians, it is indeed the Chrysostom’s “Paschal homily”…

  2. Also, the quote from Isaiah mentioned above (viz., “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the netherworld”) seems to be a somewhat garbled version — perhaps, taken from memory — of Isa 14:9 in the Septuagint.

    N. B. Migne gives the quotation INCORRECTLY as having come from Isa 19:9! Instead, it is Isa 14:9.

  3. Thank you very much for verifying and correcting the reference!

    It’s good to make sure these stray fragments that wander around the web have references attached.

  4. I believe there is an earlier western saint to whom a form of this sermon is also attributed. But I can’t recall which one. Can anyone help me on that?

  5. The attribution of this sermon to Chrysostom seems to be over a millennium old; I just found it quoted in an oration by St. Theodore the Studite and attributed to Chrysostom. (See Theodore’s Oration IV.2, PG 99:709D-712C.) Assuming this oration was actually by Theodore, that would mean the paschal sermon was attributed to Chrysostom by at least the early 9th century.

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