An extract from Severian of Gabala “On Epiphany”

While working on the bibliography of Severian of Gabala, I came across a 1952 paper by A. Wenger in which he publishes, with French translation, a portion of Severian’s homily on Epiphany.[1]  I thought that it might be good to give this here in English.

So great is the light, so great is the beauty that makes the Church shine!   And so shines also, in the same way, the perfect crown of empire, worthy of the crown of the empire, which God has given to the world, the good offspring, the flower on a good tree.

In speaking thus, I mean both the brothers and the harmony of the empire, which verifies the words, ” The brother who helps his brother is like a strong city, and as a fortified palace” and “These are the two anointed sons of that blessing which brought near the Lord all the earth,” flowers of piety, supporting the Truth, the ramparts of the Church, since Christ took over the empire.

I see the offspring with the root, I see the blessed emperor bright among his children. Because his glory is not dead.  It is among the righteous.  For the just, says the Scripture, leave a memory (eternal).

I see him shine through (his) living image . I consider what came before and I tremble: how everywhere the spectre of war is dissipated by the faith of the great emperor .

This faith of the father is the rampart of the children of the empire. God who has watched over the emperor, watch over the fruit of this noble root!

Pray, brethren, that the flames of faith are preserved, the bulwark of the Church!

Let no-one think that this is a speech of flattery.  This is the truth.  Yes, God uses men as a bulwark of the Church.  Absolutely.  Do not you know that after having given great things to men, God asks little things of us?

He gave the manna in the desert, and he asks the priests for bread, saying: “You shall set out a table in my presence.”  He gave a pillar of fire and he said: “Place a lamp before me.”

You make so great a source of light, and you ask for a lamp, so that, by the blessings that I receive, I pay tribute to your generosity, and so you, by the gifts that you offer, fill up your desire for recognition.  May we, brethren, fully enlightened, give glory to God most holy . To him be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

— St. Severian , on Epiphany.

This seems clearly to address Arcadius, soon after the death of Theodosius I.

The reference at the end to divine blessings has rather the sound of a man hoping for a handout from the emperor, doesn’t it?!

  1. [1]Online here.

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