You are here

13 XII // Liturgy as social criticism: St Auxentius of Troparia, papyri hymns, and urban monasticism in fifth-century Constantinople

13 grudnia  wystąpi Arik Avdokhin (Moskowskaia Szkoła Ekonomiki), z referatem Liturgy as social criticism: St Auxentius of Troparia, papyri hymns, and urban monasticism in fifth-century Constantinople.


The earliest version of the Life of St Auxentius (BHG 199) written in the late 5th century is a rare insight into a barely institutionalized ascetic community of the 5thcentury Constantinople with less than conventional founder and leader Auxentius. While Auxentius himself had faced charges of heresy at the Council of Chalcedon, his congregation is described as equally welcoming both elite married females and its male members and pressing the issue of “social responsibility” of the rich. All these features are tantalizingly paralleled in the profile of a presumably non-Chalcedonian monastic movement of the capital, the so-called ‘Macedonians’ (Sozomen HE 9.2).

In this talk, I will look at the role of hymns in this ‘non-orthodox’ community, an aspect not studied before. The detailed account of the hymnic practices which Auxentius established for his congregations is a narrative climax of his Life. In it, the saint is said to introduce ‘sweet and edifying τροπάριαwith a simplest and most discreet sentiment’; then the hagiographer goes on to provide the actual texts of the τροπάρια.The hymns are described as publicly performed by both rich and poor, men and women all together. These were the central social aspects of the “Macedonian heresy” –the equality of sexes and social classes.

However, the hymns themselves can be seen as another facet of the socially aware rhetoric of the text. They are emphatically simple texts of no more than 6 lines each made up of doxologies and litanies with almost no narrative passages or theological formulas. This early evidence of hymnic practices can best be contextualized in the corpus of early Byzantine hymns from papyri, for this is the biggest securely dated early corpus of Christian hymns. Surprisingly enough, a substantial part of papyri hymns are more sophisticated than Auxentius’ τροπάρια featuring extended acrostic composition and an elaborate syntax and vocabulary (cf. e.g. P.Heid.IV294). A large proportion of hymnic texts are concerned with specific liturgical feasts and have  narrative parts as well as a developed composition and style (cf. e.g. P.Berol.8687 with a Nativity hymn or P.Berol.1163 with a Baptism hymn)in stark contrast to Auxentius' hymns. His is aprimitive and most ancient kind of hymn of the type of Φῶςἱλαρὸνor the one found in P.Fay.21 124   (4thcentury AD).

By stressing the importance of the unassuming τροπάριαin the context of other socially provocative aspects of Auxentius' community, the hagiographer must have put to use the stylistic conflict between these simple forms of worship with more elaborate ones. In the wake of the Council of Chalcedon and its regularizing arrangements for the dissident monastic movements, the ‘Macedonian’ community of Auxentius could have built its religious and social identity in part by resorting to the “simple τροπάρια”, which were a stylistically and, thus, a socially marked option in the wider range of hymns available.