Reference: CPG 5716
Incipit: Plausus amatores Christi populos his conferre
Date: early 429
Greek Text:  
Latin Text: ACO 1.5:37-39
Other Ancient Versions:  
English Translation: FCC: R. Read

This sermon seems to be a response to the sermon of Proclus (CPG 5800) that had been preached shortly before. Though it is listed among the works of Nestorius as sermon 27, it may be the earliest document of his that has survived and whose context can be determined with some certainty. In it, Nestorius affirms “the singular greatness of the union, but the twofold substance of the natures,” and further makes a clear distinction between the divine Word that dwelt in the body, and the body that contained God (4). As a result, this sermon intensified the emotional atmosphere of the controversy considerably.

The homily survives only in a shortened Latin version incorporated into ACO. The English translation is that of Robert Read for our website.

1. Plausus amatores Christi populos his conferre qui pro beata Maria inpendunt sermonis officium, non est mirandum. Hoc ipsum enim quod templum facta est illius dominicae carnis, excedit omne quod est laude dignissimum. Sed in illud uestra amabilitas debet intendere ne cum plus quam oportet aut decet, circa illius beatae honorem laudemque uersamur, dignitatem dei uerbi confundere uideamur, bis eum faciendo generatum. Et ut simpliciore sermone fungamur, ne auditorum quod dicitur, excedat auditum, utar eloquio omnibus ad capessendum facillimo. 1. It is not surprising that those who love Christ applaud those who offer favor to blessed Mary in their sermons. For, more than anything else, it is worthy of praise that she became the temple for the Lord’s flesh. But pay attention in this matter; otherwise, when we honor and praise that blessed one more than is fitting or proper, we appear to confuse the status of the divine Word by making him twice begotten. And in order to make this sermon simpler so that you understand everything I say, I shall speak in a way that is easiest for everyone to understand.
2. Qui deum simpliciter dicit de Maria natum, primo omnium nobilitatem gentilibus prostituit dogmatis atque, exponens in medium, uituperandum id ridendumque proponit. Statim enim paganus cum reprehensione accipiens quia de Maria deus natus est, infert aduersus Christianum. Necessario enim qui dicit simpliciter de Maria natum deum et non illum coniunctione duarum naturarum, diuinae scilicet et humanae, esse reputauerit, audiet, “Ego natum et mortuum deum et sepultum adorare non queo.” Liquida autem diuisio dogmatis ista est. Qui natus est et per partes incrementorum temporibus eguit et mensibus legitimis portatus in uentre est, hic humanam habet naturam, sed deo sane coniunctam. Aliud est autem dicere quia nato de Maria coniunctus erat deus ille qui est uerbum patris, quod est liquidissimum ac firmum atque inreprehensibile gentilibus, et aliud quia ipsa deitas indiguit natiuitate mensibus decurrente. Verbum enim deus temporum est opifex, non in tempore fabricatus. 2. Anyone who simply says that God was born of Mary first of all has exposed the dignity of the doctrine to dishonor by the pagans. He displays it before them and allows it to be ridiculed and mocked. The pagan scorns the idea that God was born of Mary and immediately makes up his mind against the Christian. In fact, anyone who simply says that God was born of Mary without mentioning the union of the divine and human natures will inevitably hear, “I cannot worship a God who was born and died and was buried.” Moreover, this is clearly an abuse of doctrine. He who was born and needed time to grow part by part and was carried in the womb for the appropriate number of months has a human nature (which is, of course, conjoined to God). But it is one thing to say that the divine Word of the Father was conjoined to him who was born of Mary. This is very clear and immovable and not an object of scorn for pagans. It is another thing to say that the Deity itself needed to be gestated for months. The divine Word is the maker of time; he was not fashioned within time.
3. Diuisionem igitur super hoc praecedentis magistri ualde sum admiratus dicentis quia neque deum oportet dicere nude et utcumque generatum (nemo enim qui se est antiquior, generat), nec iterum humanitatem nudam natam esse profitendum est, sed humanitatem coniunctam deo esse generatam. In illud autem adtractos uos, qui estis intenti examinatores religionis (hanc enim et de uobis quam de Antiochenis habeo opinionem), in illud ergo, ut dicebam, adtractos uos esse : quia deus pontifex factus est, ferre non possum. Si enim deus opifex et pontifex est, cui a pontificibus litatio exhibenda est? 3. Therefore, I very much admired the previous teacher’s distinction on this topic. He said that it is not fitting either to say only that God was born, or to say at all that God was born (for no one begets one older than himself), or even to declare, on the other hand, that only the human nature was born. But one must declare that the human nature united to God was born. Moreover, I want you who are paying close attention to our religious beliefs—for I have the same opinion of you as I do of the Antiochians—but as I was saying, I want you to hold to this opinion: Because God became high priest, I am not able to offer a sacrifice to him. For if God is both workman and high priest, which of the priests can bring him a profitable sacrifice?
4. Haec ad uestram dilectionem sermocinatus sum et dicerem plura, nisi hoc subintrasset animum meum quod ecclesiae doctoribus uideor contraria disputare. Volo igitur uos perspicaces esse in examinando dogmatibus et neque susceptam humanitatem a deo uerbo confundere neque hominem nudum eum qui natus est, dicere, sed nec deum uerbum contemperatum uel conmixtum […] natura propriam amittit essentiam. Propterea etiam discipulis in stupore constitutis tempore quo subleuatur in caelum, et apud se, quantum arbitrandum est, hoc reputantibus, “Putasne resoluta est humana natura? Putasne in caelis in eadem essentia permanet?” Et eis de hac uisione stupentibus, aduenientes angeli dicebant: “Hic Iesus, qui uidetur, hic qui mensum incrementis indiguit, hic qui mortuus est, hic qui crucem pertulit, sic ueniet quemadmodum uidistis eum ascendentem in caelum.” Et iterum beatus Paulus in actibus apostolorum, “In uiro”, inquit, “in quo decreuit deus iudicare orbem terrae, fidem praestans omnibus, suscitans eum a mortuis.” Numquid uerbum deus a mortuis surrexit? Si autem uiuificator mortificatus est, quis erit qui conferat uitam? Nam praeter hoc et Arrianis hinc ualde reprehensibiles sumus. Si enim utcumque qui natus est, deum uerbum et simpliciter nominemus, uide ex hoc quid conficiatur. Dicis simpliciter, “Deus est qui natus est de Maria.” Statim haereticus infert reprehendens, “Ergo quoniam apud uos etiam hoc in confessione est, inquiens uerbum deum esse qui natus est de Maria; audi quae idem deus uerbum de se ipse testatur, ‘Euntes renuntiate fratribus meis, uado ad patrem meum et patrem uestrum, deum meum et deum uestrum.’ Sed cum dixeris quia natus de beata Maria, humanitate quidem nobis consubstantialis erat, in eo autem quod coniunctus deo, a nostra erat longe quasi deus substantia melior,” tunc illorum blasphemia liberaberis et facile ac breuiter sacramentum religionis edices hoc modo: “Alius quidem deus uerbum est qui erat in templo, quod operatus est spiritus, et aliud templum praeter habitantem deum. Templi est morte dissolui; inhabitantis autem templum, id ut resuscitet, proprium est.” Non hic meus est sermo, sed uocem dominicam lego: “Soluite templum,” inquit, “hoc, in triduo suscitabo illud.” Coniunctionis igitur confiteamur dignitatem , naturarum autem substantias duplices; alioquin inuenietur uerbum deus esse sancti spiritus creatura. Quid enim ait euangelista de eo qui in uentre creatus est? Quod in ea natum est, de spiritu sancto est. Quod si uerbum deus nudus ac solus erat qui natus est, dicit euangelista quia spiritus creauit illud templum in beata Maria, et inuenietur deus uerbum sancti spiritus opificium. Fugiamus itaque huius confusionis […] dominum nostrum Christum secundum naturam duplicem, secundum quod est filius, unum. 4. I have discussed these things on your behalf. I would go on if I did not suspect that I would be accused of contradicting doctors of the church. Therefore, I want you to be discerning when you consider doctrines. Do not say either that the human nature mingled with the divine Word which took it up, or that only a human was born, or that the divine Word was tempered or mingled together, [for in this way] the nature loses its proper essence. Therefore, also when he was raised up into heaven before them, the disciples stood in wonder and had to consider it so much. They thought, “Do you think his human nature has been released? Do you think it endures with the same essence in heaven?” And while they were stunned because of this sight, angels drew near and said to them, “This Jesus, whom you see, who needed to grow for months, who died, who endured the cross, will come just as you have seen him ascending into heaven” [Acts 1:11]. And blessed Paul in turn says in the Acts of the Apostles, “God has resolved to judge the world in this man, offering proof to everyone by raising him from the dead” [Acts 17:31]. Hasn’t the divine Word risen from the dead? If moreover the maker of life was killed, who will bestow life? For because of this we are objects of great scorn for the Arians as well. If we simply (or in any way whatsoever) call him who was born the divine Word, see what happens as a result. You simply say, “He who was born of Mary is God.” Immediately the heretic advances and rebukes you, “You also confess that he who was born of Mary is the divine Word. I have heard what the same divine Word testifies about himself, ‘Go proclaim to my brothers, I am going to my Father and your Father, my God and your God’ [John 20:17]. But since you have said that he was born of blessed Mary, he was indeed of the same substance as to his human nature. Moreover, because he was conjoined to God, he was far from our substance, just as God was superior in substance.” Then you will be set free from their blasphemy and explain the mystery of the religion easily and quickly like so: “Indeed, the divine Word who was in the temple1 which the Spirit produced is one thing, and the temple another thing apart from God who dwells in it. It is specific to the temple to be destroyed by death, but specific to the one dwelling in the temple to raise it up again.” This is not my own manner of speaking. I speak as the Lord does: “Destroy this temple,” he says, “and I will raise it up in three days” [John 2:19]. Therefore, we confess the singular greatness of the union, but the twofold substance of the natures. Otherwise it will be discovered that the divine Word is a creation of the Holy Spirit. For what does the evangelist say about him who was created in the womb? “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 1:20]. The evangelist says that the Spirit created that temple in blessed Mary. If he who was born was merely and only the divine Word, it will be discovered that the divine Word is a work of the Holy Spirit. Let us flee, therefore, [the impiety] of this confusion [and confess] our Lord Christ, twofold as to his nature, one as to the fact that he is a son.
5. Ego autem, quibusdam mihi et illud renuntiantibus, cum laetitia saepius risi, quoniam, inquit, episcopus quae Fotini sunt, sapit, “Nescientes neque quae loquuntur neque de quibus adfirmant.” Hoc enim quod a me dicitur, Fotini dogmatis euersio inuenitur. Fotini enim sensus a partu Mariae uerbo dat deo principium; me autem dicente deum uerbum praeexistere ante saecula, ad illos mihi quidem prouerbialis sermo sufficiat: “Noli respondere inprudenti secundum inprudentiam eius.” Vos autem uolo perspicaces examinatores dogmatum neque plausibus utcumque adtrahi sermonis inlecebra neque dogmatum aliquid examinatamque rationem nouitatis praesumptionem putare, sed ueritatis eam magis gloriam iudicare. 5. Moreover, I have often laughed with joy at certain people. They protest against me that, it is said, the bishop is inspired by Photinus, although “they know neither what they are saying nor what they affirm” [1 Timothy 1:7]. What I say overthrows the doctrine of Photinus. Photinus thinks that the divine Word came into being with his birth of Mary, but I say that the divine Word existed before the ages. I think the language of the Proverbs is indeed an adequate response to them, “Do not answer an imprudent man according to his imprudence” [Proverbs 26:4]. But I want you to be perceptive examiners of doctrine. I do not want you to agree with a sermon because of applause nor to consider it presumptuous to weigh any doctrine and new reasoning, but rather to regard it as the praise of truth.
  1. Nestorius uses “temple” here to mean “human body,” in view of Christ’s divine nature.

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