Monday, September 17, 2012

Nicetius of Lyons

Vita Nicetii Episcopi Lugdunensis, ed. B. Krusch, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum III pp. 518-524. 

Translation from Merovingian Episcopal Saints: Text and Portrayal (Unpublished PhD Thesis, Reading, 2001) vol. 2 pp 238-243


1. How many times are the manifest deeds of holy men recalled to memory by the reading of the written word and, through those who have come together and sought the celebration, the worthy honour of the people is fulfilled and, by the devotion of those listening, is provoked to eagerness for a blessing.

2. Thus, the holy Nicetius, bishop of the town of Lyons, the feast of whose death, the faithful populace celebrate together with devotion every year on account of their love for him. From infancy he served the practice of religion no less in sense than when he had received the habit. According to this practice, he grew in the love of virtues as he grew in age with the increase of time. Thus God, the Creator, poured into him the blessing of great sanctity.

3. The most blessed man, Agricola, bishop of the town of Chalon-sur-Saone, advanced Nicetius to the office of priest. Indeed, being furnished with good works, his fame grew and he flourished in that dignity of the priesthood with the splendour of merits. He came to be known by the holy and venerable bishop of Lyons, who was Sacerdos by name and by works, and he was selected to the pastoral position so that, when the bishop completed his full life and passed away, Nicetius might be his successor. Indeed, by divine direction, with time passing, all the people agreed and willingly sought him as successor. Thus with the goodwill of the prince, and according to divine command, he consented with congratulation. He committed himself in all things to the authority of the divine king, neither did he dare to flee that dignity by retreat nor did he wish to match the profit. Being established in that position of importance, he held the cunning of vipers and fulfilled it with the simplicity of a dove.

4. Indeed, as often as men came to his city in all honesty for frequent habitation, he ordered those houses in the vicinity of his apartment to be prepared with assiduous care and, coming away from all the offices, in the most secret hours of night, he came to them and was keen to wash their feet diligently, like the faithful servant so that he might fulfil the apostolic precept and lest, by neglecting minor matters, he should distinguish himself to be able to complete greater divine grace, which he showed continually by his works.

 5. He constituted, with strict law, those things in the institution of the divine offices from the ancient and sacred religion, with fixed terms in the passage of time either night or day, so that he perpetually doubled the study of psalm singing so that the meditation of divine law was never absent from either his mouth or his heart. If, by chance, while he fulfilled his duties some occupation arose on account of those coming together with assiduity, he came forth. so that as if from heaven, the response returned from where it was called back and he continued the office which he acted but within himself. Sometimes he, who had been enflamed with fervour and lived a spiritual life, was thought to be cold-hearted by all those who were ignorant. Indeed he also took care to get up every morning without doubt and with zeal so that he always began the beginning of the office himself. Thus, having given alms richly with a most prompt wish, he was gladdened so that, whatever he had judged himself to have acquired, he conferred to the poor.

6. How many times in the summertime, was there a despair of the fruit through the coming drought? With great compunction and being favoured unanimously by the people, he took care to celebrate litanies so that a richness of rain might hasten to the assistance of that very place.

7. Indeed, when it was winter, the memorable holy bishop distinguished himself likewise as he set out to visit the manors of the holy church in the parts of Province. He came into the villa of a certain illustrious man by the name of Flavius at that time at the mansion at Alacarnus, with the sun declining into evening so that it happened that it conferred the opportunity to come there to rest in the silence of the night. Then, after divine prayer, he had asked for evening refreshment of the sacrament. Into the cathedral before his feet, with great furore, there was carried by his parents, a boy who possessed a demon. We gained the information concerning his story through the most holy men the priests Catafronius and Eustasius, as they said that they had seen the aforesaid demoniac boy there, restrained with a great bridle. This had been done so that, having been punished through the neck with that neck bent back, he was miserably fixed to the spine of his back and his face inclined to sadness.

8. So that he might appease2 the parents who were stretched out before his knees with great wailing, having fulfilled the accustomed seven holy prayers in the oratory, the holy man anointed the boy with a blessing through a sign of the cross of the liquor of holy oil and with the invocation of the name of Christ. In that very place he sent the demon out from the possessed body and with the disabled limbs reformed, he returned him to health so that he might return home with his parents. Also, after an interval of time, with health having been conferred to him, celebrating with his parents, the cured man then returned from Mustarnacus into the field of the holy church of Lyons, devoted to the blessed Nicetius his doctor and at the same time they returned thanks to Christ and the holy pontiff.

9. After the man of merits received the proper passage, with the enemy of humankind lying in wait, it happened that, with flames rising up together, a great part of the town of Lyons was most seriously laid bare by flames of fire. While columns of people were flowing headlong together to that place from every direction, suddenly, a most clear and resounding voice struck the ears of the masses who were running along, saying that holy Nicetius had come bodily into the house of the church and, with the light having been restored to two blind women, it carried that former greeting. Then, in that very place, the sound of the people which announced the coming of the bishop to the tomb, recalled the men. Nor is it amazing that the blessed champion was eager to defend with the virtue of the spirit the place where he was seen to have lived bodily nor did the sanctified one separate his favours from that place where he was also living after death.

10. Therefore, a certain man who was set on fire, by the ardour of faith, reverently carried dust which had been collected from Nicetius' tomb for whatever remedies might come to his aid. Indeed often, when the faithful people were thrown down by the approaching assault of a tempest, he showed that the firmness of a hailstorm was melted into water and that the hard stone turned into the lightness of liquid.

11. Indeed another man owed ten solidi to a certain creditor. With the assurance of love intervening, without delay, he undertook that, since he wickedly wished to deny the case at the tomb of the most blessed bishop and say that he had not received them, he was doomed to die. At once all of his limbs were deprived of power so that his heart became dark and thus blindness struck his eyes. Then, at evening, having once been brought in to disorder and then to repentance, the unhappy man, who had thus changed, began to offer prayers with profuse tears, that he might receive sight. Yet the most holy shepherd, who was living by merit and piety, returned the sight of the beseecher with the stiff relic of his body and thus he terrified the dishonest one for the sake of justice and thus he helped the afflicted on account of mercy.

12. In the same way, a certain man, who was filled with an infestation of a mad spirit, came at length to his tomb under heavy custody. While he was driven in Bacchic frenzies with the vexation of so much furore, he was seen to send the spirit away. While a place of burial was prepared for him, he lay that night and day, with all the heat of life departed from him. Having been pressed with the death-bringing sleep of the dying, by divine power he recalled to memory a certain man, from those observing, that he should make the sign of the cross over his face, his mouth and ears with the oil of the candle which was at the tomb of the blessed bishop, being faithful and sensing that the relics were accustomed to work miracles and perhaps might rouse a dead man. In a short while, having been filled with breath by the secret mystery, he revived and at once, with Christ favouring him, he got up.

13. Furthermore, at a certain time, seven men who were imprisoned by blindness by established matter and were no less constricted by the iron bonds which held them and by which they had been held in custody for a long time at the town of Vienne. One of these men merited to see the holy Nicetius in a vision and it was as if he touched the bonds by which they were bound together with his staff and at once the force of the iron was broken and the fastened doors were laid open. They went to the church to seek refuge to be free in that place, as they were freed by holy intercessions.

 14. However, in the basilica where his most sacred body was revered by the devotion of the faithful, a certain guilty man, who was a threat to the public, was bound with iron bonds together with another man by an order of injunction. Yet when they had come to Nicetius' tomb with hindered step, they were freed of their public bonds by secret virtue, which was worked by a mystery at other times in the way.

15. It is said that, before he departed from this world to the celestial kingdom, and this is agreed by us and others as has already been said, he worked many miracles. He also secretly sent out demons from bodies possessed by them. However, after the holy man migrated from the light of this world, then he showed that he was more powerful with increased miracles. Continually and incessantly, with people witnessing, he conferred a remedy of health to all those suffering who were led to his tomb with complete certainty of faith. He conferred going to the lame, vision to the blind, remedy to the possessed and complete vigour to those who were bound.

16. On account of this, all kinds of people are able to narrate many things in praise of him, except it was hardly necessary that the speech of sermons should be scattered everywhere through a manifold number of places where he always showed the operation of spiritual mysteries. Furthermore, as much as the course of time passed, his virtue was strengthened so much by many more works.

17. The most holy speech concerning him was able to take hold so that, just as he fortified this town with the protection of his body so, he conferred salvation of soul and body to everyone. Indeed he, who had laboured with holy eagerness, just as in his life even after death, blossomed with assiduous works and interceded with his prayers for the most blessed Bishop Etherius and unfolded the office of reading. Yet, not without merit but carefully solemnly and with eager love, he tended the memory of him who, following him in that place, he ordered to be his successor since he rejoiced in conversation with him. They say that, after Nicetius' death, in that place, the devotion of the people of Lyons unanimously sought him for the rank of bishop but then, with foresight, the direction of the prince was refused and, with his successor dead, he did not wish to indulge that speech of the sacred bishop, which he set forth while he remained in the body. The Creator God infused the heart of the most clement king, obtaining this, so that it was done so that he who was father of the fatherland would now be father of the church. On account of this matter, God is to be prayed to, so that, venerating him with unanimous devotion, we might eagerly cultivate solemnity and protection and we might always be helped by his prayers or we might be fortified by his suitable help and even if we do not deserve it we might be instructed by examples, with the Lord Jesus Christ reigning with the Father Son and Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen


Anonymous said...

Thank you for reviving your blog. I certainly hope you will post more translations. Those of us with poor Latin are very grateful for your efforts.

HenriHartzenberg said...

This is very beautiful. Merci.