Maximus of Turin

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Maximus of Turin (c.380 – c.465) is the first known Christian bishop of Turin.  He was a disciple of Ambrose of Milan and Eusebius of Vercelli. Gennadius of Massilia described Maximus as a profound student of scripture and a learned preacher.  During his tenure, Turin was threatened with barbarian incursions; the city was filled with soldiers and refugees seeking safety behind its walls. He chided the landowners, who had fine houses in the city and estates in the country, for hiding their wealth away rather than using it relieve the suffering of those in need. He reprimanded those who would seek to profit from the unrest, and invited them instead to use their resources to redeem prisoners of war.  There are about ninety of his sermons extant. His writings illustrate the customs and living conditions of the Lombard population at the time of the Gothic invasions; one homily contains the description of the destruction of Milan by Attila the Hun.  Maximus authored numerous discourses, first edited by Bruno Bruni, and published in 1784. These consist of one hundred and eighteen homilies, one hundred and sixteen sermons, and six treatises (tractatus).  Among the many facts of liturgy and history touched on in the discourses are: abstinence during Lent (hom. 44), no fasting or kneeling at prayers during paschal time (hom. 61), fasting on the Vigil of Pentecost (hom. 62), the synod of Milan in 389 at which Jovinianus was condemned (hom. 9), the impending barbarian invasion (hom. 86–92), the destruction of the Church of Milan by the barbarians (hom. 94), various pagan superstitions still prevalent at his time (hom. 16, 100–02), and the supremacy of St. Peter (hom. 54, 70, 72, serm. 114).


  • 118 Homilies
  • 116 Sermons
  • 6 Treatises

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Quotes and Excerpts:

Sermon VII: On the Day of the Holy Epiphany
By St. Maximus of Turin (c. 380 – c. 423)

Source: Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne, Tomus LVII (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862)

Today, the true sun dawned on the world; today, into the world’s darkness, the light emerged: God became man, so that man would become God; the Lord took the form of a servant, so that the servant would turn into the Lord. Both inhabitant and creator of the heavens dwelt upon earth, so that man, a tiller of earth, would migrate to the heavens. O day more lucid than any sun! O time sought from all ages! What the angels await, what the cherubim and seraphim and mysteries of the heavens do not know, this is revealed in our time. What they saw through a mirror, and through an image, we discern in truth. He Who spoke to the Israelite people through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets, now speaks to us through the Son. See what sits between the Old Testament and the New. In that, He spoke through a cloud; to us, He speaks through a clear sky. There God was seen in the bush; here, God is born of a virgin. There, He was fire, consuming the people’s sins; here, He is man, remitting the people’s sins; rather, God, forgiving His servants. For no one can remit sins, except God alone. Either the Lord Jesus was born today, or today He was baptized: for a diverse opinion is borne in the world, and, through the variety of traditions, our thought is that this stands fluid, that, today He was either born of the Virgin, or reborn in baptism, Whose nativity profits both our flesh and spirit. Either is my mystery; either is my utility. God’s Son had no need that He be born, that He be baptized, for He did not commit sin which is remitted Him in baptism; but His humility is our sublimity. His cross is our victory; His gibbet is our triumph. Rejoicing, let us lift this sign upon our shoulders, let us bear the banners of victories, let us bear the immortal labarum [1] on our foreheads. When the devil will look upon this sign on our posts, he will tremble; and they who do not fear the golden Capitols, [2] fear the Cross; they who condemn regal scepters, and the purples of Caesars, and the feasts, are terrified by Christ’s filth and fasts. Therefore, in Ezekiel the prophet, when all to whom the angel was sent were slain, and began to be killed by the saints, in a like manner, those were saved on whom the letter Tau, that is, the picture of the Cross, was signed (cf. Ez 9). Let us exult, therefore, beloved brethren, and let us raise holy hands to the similitude of the Cross, to heaven. So when armed demons see us, they are oppressed. When Moses had erect hands, Amalek was defeated; if he conceded a little, he prevailed. The antennae of ships and the horns of sails fly under the figure of our cross. Even the birds themselves, when they are taken into the heights, and hang in the air, with extended wings, imitate the Cross. But both trophies and victories of triumphs are adorned with the Cross, which, not only on our foreheads, but in our souls, we ought also to have, so that, when we are thus armed, we will tread upon asp and basilisk in Christ Jesus (cf. Ps 91:13), Whose is the glory, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Sermon IV: On the Nativity of the Lord II
By St. Maximus of Turin (c. 380 – c. 423)
Source: Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne, Tomus LVII (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862)

“Well, in a way, does the common man call this holy day of the Lord’s nativity “the new sun,” [1] and He confirms such things by His authority, so that the Jews as well as the Gentiles consent in this name. Which is to be freely expanded by us, since, the Savior dawning, not only the salvation of the human race, but also the clarity of the sun itself is renewed. [2] As the Apostle says: So that all would be renewed through Him, either those which are in heaven, or those on earth (Eph 1:10). For if the sun is obscured when Christ suffers, it is necessary that it shine with a most splendid light when He is born. And if darkness pours out on the Jews working death, why does it not show clarity at Mary’s giving birth to life? Or do we not believe that, Christ being born, the sun came to a more lucid compliance, when the clearer star preceded, with the magi, as a sign? And if the star performed the office of day in a strange time, why do we not believe, that the sun also plucked a little of the night hours by a more mature coming? From this, therefore, I think it a fact, that night would decrease, when the sun, hastened by compliance to the Lord’s nativity, brings light before the world, instead of the night consummating its course in its time. No, I do not say that night would be more powerful, nor have any obscurity, in which the shepherds keep vigil, the angels exult, the stars serve. We ought not to wonder that, in the nativity of Christ, all things are made new, when it was new itself, that a virgin gave birth. But if the nativity exists beyond custom, and, beyond custom, compliances are removed, therefore, the Lord dawning, shepherds keep vigil, angels exult, the sun obeys, the stars serve. And since the angels or shepherds accompany with joy by their voice or sermons; yet the elements protest their own joys by office, since they cannot by voice. Therefore, the sun, beyond custom, shone at morning on this festivity; nothing miraculous: for if, at the prayer of Jesus, son of Nun, [3] it stood fixed in the day (cf. Jos 10), why, in Jesus Christ’s nativity, does it not, hastening, advance in the night? Therefore, the common man calls this day “the new sun,” and, when he says “new,” he thereby also demonstrates it to be old.

But I would call the sun of this world “old,” which suffers defection, which is excluded by walls, which is obscured by clouds. I would call the sun “old,” which is subjected to vanity, which fears corruption, which is terrified by judgment. For it is written: The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20). I say, I would call “old” that which is amidst men’s wicked deeds, does not flee adultery, does not decline from homicide, and, when it does not want to be in the midst of the whole human race, when any crime is admitted, this sun stands amid all the deeds. Therefore, since it is clear this is old, let us find a new which is nothing but Christ the Lord, of Whom it is written: The sun of justice will dawn upon you (Mal 4:2); of Whom also the prophet speaks, in the person of sinners: The sun did not dawn on us, and the light of justice did not lighten us (Wis 5:6). For this sun, when the whole world was oppressed by the devil’s darkness, and a fog full of crimes possessed the age, deigned, in the last time, that is, the now incumbent night, to pour forth the dawn of His nativity. Since first, before the light, that is, before the Son of justice illuminated, or at morning, one of the prophets sent an oracle: I will send my prophets before the light (Jer 25:4); [4] afterwards, truly, He with His rays, that is, with the radiance of the apostles, shone forth, and dispersed the world’s fog by the truth’s light, so that no one would stumble in the devil’s darkness. He is, therefore, the new sun Who penetrates the closed, unlocks the depths, tears open hearts. He is the new sun Who, by His spirit, vivifies the dead, repairs the corrupt, arises those already dead; or Who, by His heat, purges the sordid, dries up the moist, boils away faults. He, I say, is He Who, in all our acts, looks at all our deeds, and He not so much condemns crimes as emends them. He, plainly, is the just and wise sun which, not without discretion, like this world’s sun, circles the good and evil, but that shines with the holy judgment of truth, slays sinners. But that sun is amid both, since it is the minister of corruption, but this is the Lord of eternity: since that one is around the earth, this one the Creator: yet before this sun dawns in the world, while yet before the light, according to the necessary use of men, the lamp ought to precede. But Christ the sun also has His lamp, which precedes His advent: as the Prophet says: I prepared a lamp for my Christ (Ps 131:17). But who this lamp is, the Lord shows us, saying of John the Baptist: He was a burning lamp (Jn 5:35). But the same John, as the paltry light of a lamp preceding, says: Behold, He comes after me, of Whom I am not worthy to loose the thong of His sandals: He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire (Jn 1:27; Mt 3:11). At the same time, also understanding his light to be obfuscated by the sun’s rays, he preaches before Him: It behooves Him to grow, but me to diminish (Jn 3:30). For as the clarity of the lamp is destroyed by the sun’s advent, so also John’s baptism of penitence is emptied by the coming of Christ’s grace.

Therefore, we see here, from which font our new sun is born. As, it is true, He dawns from God, the author. Therefore, He is Son of divinity; of divinity, I say, incorrupt, integral, complete. I plainly understand a mystery; for, therefore, the nativity is fruitful through the immaculate Mary, since, before, He was constituted complete through divinity: Whose first nativity stood glorious, His second will not be reproachful. That is, as, in some way, the virgin divinity gave Him forth, so also the virgin Mary generated Him. It is even written that He has a father among men; as we read in the Gospel, the Pharisees saying: Is this not the son of Joseph the carpenter, and His mother Mary? (Mt 13:55) In this, also, look to the mystery. Christ’s father is said to be a carpenter. And, clearly, God the Father is a carpenter, Who built the whole world’s works; He is clearly a craftsman, but He Who ordered Noah to build an ark during the flood. [5] A carpenter, I say, is He Who ordained Moses’ tabernacle, instituted the ark of the testament, erected the temple of Solomon; I would call Him a carpenter, Who smooths rigid minds, pares down proud thoughts, raises humble deeds. Indeed, this carpenter uses curved iron tools around trees, as we read in the Gospel, John saying: Now the axe is placed at the root of the trees. Every tree not bearing good fruit will be cut down, and thrown into the fire (Mt 3:10; Lk 3:9); as tool of the heavenly carpenter builds trees for the future, but the fire of flames consumes the unfruitful, plucked out by the root.”

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