The cult of the saints - martyrs being the most notable among them - was an important feature of the daily life of Early Christian communities. The supernatural powers believed to reside in the saints' relics attracted many visitors to their sanctuaries, and inspired a variety of devotional practices. The homily on the martyr was a culmination of the yearly feast - day in and around each sanctuary. This book presents fresh, lively translations of fourteen such homilies, the majority for the first time in English. The homilies were delivered in some of the main cities of the Greek East of the later Roman Empire, by well-known figures such as Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom, as well as the equally gifted preachers, Asterius of Amasea and Hesychius of Jerusalem. Each author receives a separate introduction, and each homily also has its own introduction and notes. The main introduction gives useful background information on the cult of the martyrs in Roman Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria, and on the martyr homily as a literary genre, while also presenting possible methodological approaches to the texts.
Let Us Die That We May Live offers an approacha surprising, and not always reverent insight into the life of the Early Church. It reveals the full importance of the martyr homily in terms of style, treatment of its subject, and social and liturgical issues, in a way that will be useful across disciplines such as theology, classical studies and religion.
Johann Leemans is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Wendy Mayer is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University.
Pauline Allen is Director of the Centre for Early Christian Studies and General Secretary of the International Association for Patristic Studies.
Boudewijn Dehandschutter is Professor of Patrology and Ancient Church History at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.