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Nicetas of Remesiana


Bishop and distinguished ecclesiastical writer; b. place and date unknown; d. after a.d. 414. Remesiana has been identified with the site of the modern Yugoslavian village of Bēla Palanka, east of Nish (the ancient Naissus). Although of Greek origin according to his name (the Latinized form of Νικητής), he was entirely Western in outlook and temperament and wrote excellent Latin. In 398 and 402 he visited his friend paulinus of nola, and the latter's Propempticon (Carmen 17), written on the occasion of his departure following the first visit, is the chief source for his life. According to a reference preserved in St. Hilary (Frg. hist. 15) he was already a bishop in 366367, and the mention of his name in the letter of Pope Innocent I to the bishops of Macedonia (Innocent I, Epist. 22) dated Dec. 13, 414, indicates that he was still living at that time. Gennadius (De viris illustribus 21) furnishes valuable data on his writings, although his account is very brief.

Nicetas's chief work, the Competentibus ad baptismum instructionis libelli sex, a manual of instructions for baptismal candidates, is preserved only in fragments, but, fortunately, the sections covering De ratione fidei, De potentia Spiritus Sancti, and De symbolo are rather long. Basing himself solidly on the teachings of the Council of nicaea and making full use of the Catecheses of St. cyril of jerusalem, he defended the consubstantiality of the Son against the arians and the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit against the macedonians. His commentary on the Creed employs the term communio sanctorum for the first time, and it has an important place in the history and exposition of the symbol.

The sermons, De vigiliis servorum Dei and De psalmodiae bono (or De utilitate hymnorum ), were already recognized as genuine by the Maurist Luc D'Achéry in 1659. The first deals with the celebration of the vigils of Saturdays and Sundays, and the second stresses the importance of the singing of psalms or hymns at these vigils. In the second work, the Magnificat is assigned to St. Elizabeth (9, 11).

Nicetas is probably the author of the little treatise De diversis appellationibus Christi, but the arguments adduced to identify the Ad lapsam virginem libellus, assigned to him by Gennadius, with the pseudo-Ambrosian De lapsu virginis consecratae are not convincing. Paulinus of Nola praised Nicetas as a writer of hymns and said that he taught the barbarian Bessi and Scythians to glorify Christ in song, but no hymn has survived with his name. Despite the advocacy of Dom G. Morin and A. E. Burn, there is no solid evidence for making him the author of the te deum.

Bibliography: De vigiliis, ed. c. h. turner, Journal of Theological Studies 22 (192021) 306320; De utilitate, ed. c. h. turner, ibid. 24 (192223) 225252. a. e. burn, Niceta of Remesiana: His Life and Works (Cambridge, Eng. 1905). Clavis Patrum latinorum, ed. e. dekkers (Streenbrugge 1961) 646652. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 953954, with bibliog. p. t. camelot, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 7:974975, with bibliog. b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef (New York 1960) 458459. o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur, 5 v. (Freiburg 191332) 3:598605. u. moricca, Storia della letteratura latina cristiana, 3 v. in 5 (Turin 192834) 2.2:114863.

[m. r. p. mc guire]

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