Mary Cunningham

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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The homily (homilia) is a discourse often delivered within a liturgical context in church, either extempore or in the form of a prepared text, by bishops or priests. Nine types of homily can be identified: exegetical homilies, catechetical and mystagogic homilies, occasional homilies, socio-ethical homilies, polemical homilies, festal homilies, panegyrics and enkomia, monastic catecheses, and theological homilies. Homilies have many different functions that typically influence their structure, level of style, and use of rhetoric, and in Byzantium were preached in many different liturgical contexts, ranging from eucharistic celebrations to morning and evening offices, and vigils. Aside from apostolic authority, other prerequisites for preaching in the church include piety and the ability to deliver a high-style rhetorical oration. This article describes homilies in the Byzantine Empire, the origins of the Christian homily, the development of the homiletic tradition, how Byzantine homilies are transmitted, and the importance of homiletics.

Keywords: homily; Byzantium; panegyrics; homilectics; rhetoric; monastic catecheses; festal homilies; exegetical homilies

Article.  4166 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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