Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Septem Dormientes

Ecumenists and interfaith-dialoguers, take note: the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (see my last posting) are an interesting group of saints, inasmuch as they are mentioned in "impious Mahomet's fabulous Alcoran" (Acta Sanctorum Julii, Tom. 6, p. 381)! They feature in Sura 18, "The Cave", verses 9-22, 25-26.

In the Byzantine Rite, they, the Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus – named, following Symeon the Metaphrast, as Maximilian, Exacustodianos, Iamblichus, Martinian, Dionysios, John and Constantine – have an Office all to themselves on the 4th of August (as so beautifully translated by Archimandrite Ephrem, of the UK diocese of the Œcumenical Patriarchate, alongside so much else of interest at his Anastasis website). Apparently they're also hymned on the 22nd of October.

The Roman Rite commemorates these saints on the 27th of July. Reference to that great, unique work, the Bollandists' Acta Sanctorum, available at the website of the National Library of France, albeit in a form I find quite difficult to navigate, turned up the Seven Sleepers in the 6th volume of the A.S. for July, published in 1729, on page 375 (at least they don't have their feast in December – for only the propylæum ["gateway"] for that month has so far been published, back in 1940).

BTW, the site has impeccable manners: instead of an Anglo-Saxon "loading", it tells one, "Votre page est en cours de préparation".

In any case, in agreement with the old Martyrology for this day, they are therein named as Maximian(us), Malchus, Martinian(us), Dionysius (Denis, in English), Joannes (i.e. John), Serapion and Constantinus (i.e. Constantine); the Bollandists go into enormous detail as to the different lists of names given in the sources, Latin, Greek or Syriac, even Ethiopian.

From the Acta, and from checking breviaries via Google Book Search, come three collects (here with my bad translations thereof) in their honour, from the Missale Rothomagense (Rouen Missal) of 1585, the Sarum Breviary of 1499, and the Neo-Gallican Breviarium Constantiense in Neustria (Coutances Breviary) of 1766 (at least it wasn't from the Condom Breviary! yes, it exists!):

Præsta quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut populus tuus ad plenæ devotionis affectum, beatorum Martyrum tuorum Malchi, Maximiani, Martiniani, Dionysii, Johannis, Serapionis et Constantini natalitiis præparetur, et eorum patrocinio promerente, plene capiat securitatis augmentum. Per...

(Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that thy people may be made ready by the birthdays of Thy blessed Martyrs Malchus, Maximian, Martinian, Denys, John, Serapion and Constantine, and by their patronage made deserving, to lay ahold of a full increase of security. Thro'...)

Deus, qui gloriosos resurrectionis æternæ præcones septem Dormientes magnifice coronasti, præsta, quæsumus, ut eorum precibus resurrectionem sanctam, quæ in eis mirabiliter præostensa est, consequamur. Per...

(O God, Who didst magnificently crown the seven Sleepers glorious publick heralds of the everlasting resurrection [to come], grant, we beseech Thee, that by their prayers we too may be brought to [that] holy resurrection, which was marvellously shewn forth in them. Thro')

Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam annua sanctorum tuorum Maximiani, Malchi, et Martiniani sociorumque eorum festivitate lætificas, concede propitius: ut sicut in illorum dormitatione, te mirabilem prædicantes, tua magnalia temporali celebramus officio: sic in cœlesti regione eorum perpetuo mereamur adjuvari consortio. Per...

(O God, who dost rejoice thy Church by the yearly festivity of thy saints Maximian, Malchus, and Martinian, and their companions, grant graciously: that as by their slumber, preaching Thee wondrously, we celebrate by a temporal service thy great works; so in the heavenly region we may be deserving to be aided by their perpetual company. Thro'...)

Here is a nice old blessing invoking them that I found also:

In Monte Celyon requiescent Septem Dormientes, Malchus, Maximus, Constantius, Dionysius, Serapion, Martinianus atque Johannes. Per istorum merita det michi Deus noctem quietam et soporem quietam. Amen.

(On Mount Cœlion [near Ephesus] rested the Seven Sleepers, Malchus, Maximus, Constantius, Senys, Serapion, Martinian and John. By their merits God give me a quiet night and quiet slumber. Amen.)

This, I feel sure, is a prayer used by all true Dormitionists!

I cannot translate as quickly nor as accurately as 'twould permit me to transcribe from the Acta the subtle disquisitions of the Venerable Cardinal Baronius, C.O., as to the exact historicity of the accounts given of the Seven Sleepers – suffice to say that it is an open question. At the least they suffered much for the Faith under Decius, and rested in the Lord.

Since my copy of the editio typica altera of the new Martyrology is at present at the other end of the continent, I cannot confirm if the magnificent Seven have made it into its pages. I hope so.

UPDATE: Having returned to Perth and opened up my 2004 Martyrologium Romanum (editio altera), I can confirm that the Seven Sleepers head up the list of saints on the 27th of July, and therefore any priest of the Roman Rite may celebrate a Votive Mass (and Office) in their honour:

1. Commemoratio sanctorum septem Dormientium Ephesi, qui, ut narratur, martyrio consummato, in pace quiescunt, diem resurrectionis expectantes.

(1. Commemoration of the holy seven Sleepers of Ephesus, who, 'tis said, their martyrdom consummated, slept in peace, awaiting the day of resurrection.)

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