REPOST: Nothing More Befitting, More Apt, More Worthy: Honorius on the Readings of the Assumption

The selection of Luke 10:38-42the story of Martha and Mary—as the Gospel pericope for the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, though ancient and œcumenical, may seem incongruous. Indeed, alas, it fell victim to Pope Pius XII’s hammer in 1950.

Honorius Augustodunensis’ commentary on the readings of the Assumption is one of the earliest Latin attempts to justify the choice of this Gospel. He demonstrates that it is in fact exceedingly well-chosen, however inapposite it might seem to those who lack understanding.

The Seal of Our Lady was one of Honorius’ earlier works, likely written for an English audience soon after his fantastically popular catechism, the Elucidarius. Its treatment of the Epistle and Gospel of the Mass are translated here; he subsequently comments on the traditional Matins readings, taken from the Canticle of Canticles.

Read the English below or

The Seal of Our Lady

The brethren to the solitary.

The disciples’ band, to their master most grand, who art of books a supply: mayest thou in Sion behold God most high

The whole community of brethren gives thanks to thy diligence, which didst unveil so many of the Spirit of Wisdom’s secrets to them in thine Elucidarius. All of us therefore beg thee with one voice again to undergo new travail, and of thy charity disclose to us why the Gospel Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum[1] and the Canticle of Canticles[2] are read on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s feast, when they seem to pertain to her in no wise whatever.

The solitary’s reply.

Since I have resolved, in exchange for the denarius, to bear the burden and heat of the day in our Lord’s vineyard, I do not wish to waste the soil like the barren fig tree, but like the fruitful olive to add something lovely to God’s house,[3] that one day I might merit an abode there. Therefore, since your community warmly received the little book I sent, I will do my best to unlock, with the key of David, the difficulties that give you pause. Let this book be issued to the glory of God’s Son and his Mother, and be given the name The Seal of Our Lady. May he whose wisdom surpasseth all understanding[4] give me clear discernment.

Here beginneth the Seal of Our Lady

You say you marvel that the Gospel Intravit Jesus and the Canticle should be recited on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s feast, when, as it appears to simple minds, neither speaks of her in the least. First, then, regarding the Gospel know that nothing in the whole course of Scripture can be found more befitting, more apt, more worthy to be read on her hallowed solemnity. 

On the Gospel.

And so we read: Jesus entered into a certain borough. In a borough there is a high tower with battlements against the enemy, as well as a wall without, which is the protection of the burghers within. This borough was the chapel of the Holy Ghost, to wit the glorious Virgin Mary Mother of God, who was defended on all sides by a steadfast guard of angels. There is a high tower in her, namely her humility, reaching up to the heights of heaven. Hence it is written: He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid. The external wall, moreover, was her chastity, which supplied an internal fortification for the other virtues. The Lord entered this borough, when he united human nature to himself in the Virgin’s womb.  

And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary Martha represents the active life, and Mary the contemplative life, both of which Mary ever-virgin carefully cultivated in Christ. 

The Active Life.

She performed  all the works of mercy toward him when she served him through the ministries of the active life. When he was exiled from his father’s kingdom for our sake and a stranger in this world, she took him into the inn of her womb, an inn wonderfully adorned with the gemstones of virtue. With her own paps she fed him when he hungered; over her knees she consoled him when he cried. When he was ill she warmed him with baths; when he was naked she wrapped him with swaddling-clothes. When he wailed she bound him with swaddling-bands; she planted sweet kisses upon him when he laughed. She was exceedingly solicitous in much serving as she fled from the face of Herod into Egypt and then returned. She was much troubled about many things, seeking safety in any place whatever in order to hide him, and a refuge to conceal him. When the sister complained that she was left alone to work, it meant this: Mary—seeing Christ seized by the impious, cruelly dragged away, bound, buffeted, beaten, mocked, condemned with felons, ruthlessly crucified on the gibbet of the cross—would have willingly given her life to deliver him, if it were possible. But since she knew that the Godhead inhabited his body,[5] in a way she anxiously complained in her soul that it did not come to his aid, but scorned him like a criminal and exposed him to so many evils as if he were so much rubbish.

The Contemplative Life.

Sitting at the Lord’s feet, she thirsted for his words in heart and ear, for she kept these things to ponder[6] through the work of the contemplative life, and ever meditating on spiritual things she yearned for heavenly things. Verily, the Fount of wisdom and knowledge himself made his abode within her,[7] and hence all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge[8] were hidden within her. Now, Martha’s labour having been taken away, she enjoys that life not in sign, but the true Mary is satisfied with the one thing necessary, the joy of eternal sweetness, wherein ever clasped in her Son’s embraces she feasts forever on the sight of his divinity along with the angels. Today she gloriously crossed over into this glory, where her son exalted her as queen of heaven over all the orders of angels. Today, that best part that she chose in this life she received double from the Lord’s hand. It shall never be taken away from her; rather when the fullness of joy is granted to the saints, it shall be increased a hundredfold.

On the Epistle.

Why we read about the praise of wisdom on her day, the cause we may easily say. Christ is God’s wisdom, whose character speaks here. He, we are to understand, sought rest in all nations, but solely in the inheritance of the Lord, i.e. in the Church, did he find a place to dwell. Rejoicing she adds: He that made me rested in my tabernacle. The Church’s and God’s tabernacle is Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, as is written: He hath set his tabernacle in the sun.[9] The Son of God coming as a man rested in it, and from it he came out as a bridegroom from his bride chamber.[10]

Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. The order of apostles is Jacob, i.e. the overthrower of vices, also called Israel, i.e. “seeing God.” God’s maiden dwelt in this Jacob, and inherited God’s kingdom with this Israel, and in these very elect she put forth her roots of chastity and humility.  

In the Church.

So was I established in Sion. Sion means watchtower and is the Church, in which the Mother of God is established as a column by writings and sermons, upon whose praiseworthy life the entire Church leans for support.

In Heaven.

And in the holy city likewise I rested. The holy city is the heavenly fatherland, enlightened with everlasting brightness. There the perpetual Virgin rests with the angels and saints, outshining all others with her crown crown of glory and honour. Hence it is written: In Jerusalem was my power. Sion is the present Church, and Jerusalem the heavenly fatherland. Mary is called the queen of heaven, and so not without cause is her power declared to be in Jerusalem. And since here she took root, by the example of sanctity, in an honourable people, that is in the people of believers, so her inheritance shall be in the portion of her God, that is, in her Son’s divinity. And this in the full assembly of the saints, that is, she shall receive praise and glory from all when the number of the elect shall be complete.

The Cedar of the Jews.

I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus. Libanus is a mountain in the promised land, wherein are cedars, and from whose foot flows the Jordan. Libanus means “made white,” and is the Jewish people, made white by the worship of God and by Holy Writ. Therein the glorious Virgin was exalted like a cedar, that is, with the odor and ornament of sanctity, surpassing the merits of all, from whose womb he gushed as from Mount Jordan, who consecrated the fount of baptism.

Cypress of Christians.

As a cypress-tree on mount Sion. A cypress-tree once cut does not regrow, and so in ancient times it was carried before funeral processions. Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God was a cypress-tree in Sion, that is, in the true watchtower, namely the Church. Her regard for the world’s delights never regrew once it had dried up with respect to vices and concupiscences, and so in sermons she is held up as an example before all Christians who seek to mortify themselves for Christ.

Rose of Martyrs

As a rose plant in Jericho:. Jericho means moon, i.e. the Church, wherein the rose signifies the martyrs. The Holy Theotokos’s passion so sublimely surpasses their own as a rose excels other flowers in redness. For when she saw God’s Son, that most innocent fruit of her womb, tortured so on the Cross, she experienced a suffering in her soul far exceeding that of all the martyrs. Hence she was more than a martyr, for they suffered in body, but she in soul, as it was said: Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.[11]

Olive-tree of Virgins

As a fair olive tree in the fields. Oil signifies mercy. A field is untilled earth, and refers to virgins, who have not been furrowed by the plowshare of a man’s embrace. Our chaste Christotokos is the most comely among them, like a lovely olive-tree in the plains. The Oil of gladness and mercy flowed from her, healed us of our infirmity, and anointed us for the heavenly realm of glory.

Plane-tree of Spouses

As a plane tree by the water in the streets. The waters are the people strolling through the streets, which is to say in the secular state, namely those who shine in married life. The Renowned Virgin was exalted among them like the plane-tree when in her fertility she bore her noble Offspring.

Cinnamon of the Innocent and Penitent

Like cinnamon. Cinnamon means without blemish, and symbolizes the innocent, for whom the Virgin was as the fragrance of cinnamon when she brought forth from her immaculate womb him who would grant us innocence. It is a fragrant, ash-colored tree, and so signifies penitents, for whom, again, the Glorious One was cinnamon when she poured out Christ as the medicine of eternal life.

Balm of Kings and Priests

I gave a sweet smell like aromatical balm. Balm has a sweet fragrance. It is used to anoint the heads of Christians, as well as priests and God’s temples. The Virgin gave a fragrance like unto precious balm when she bore Christ, the sweet fragrance of every soul, into the world: he who anoints us for his kingdom with chrism and, as Priest and King,[12] once we have become his temples, ordains us kings and priests.

Myrrh of those who Renounce the World.

Like the best myrrh. The bodies of the dead were embalmed with myrrh. For all those who renounce the world and die with Christ, the oft-mentioned and ever-more to be mentioned Mary is myrrh, and the best myrrh at that, since she crucified her flesh to the world’s temptations and afflicted herself with fasts and vigils. She inhaled the sweet odor when she bore Christ, odor of the angels, who as the best myrrh of all offered himself in death for us to God the Father[13] as a sweet odor, so that if we make ourselves dead to the vices he shall make us sharers in his divinity. Now, with the help of her of whom we speak, joined with your intercessory prayers, we turn our quill to the Canticles, and shall explain why they are read as referring to her.

Salvador Dalí, Asunción corpuscularia lapislazulina (1952)

[1] Luke 10:38-42.

[2] Canticle of Canticles 1:1-16 is read at Mattins.

[3] Luke 13:6-9

[4] Philippians 4:7

[5] Colossians 2:9.

[6] Luke 2:19.

[7] John 14:23.

[8] Colossians 2:3.

[9] Ps. 18:6.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Luke 2:35.

[12] Rex et sacerdos was the sacral title of the Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors, having its origin in Melchisedech.

[13] Cf. Ephesians 5:2.

Honorius Augustodunensis’ Sermon to All Estates

In addition to the series of sermons for feast days and certain Sundays, Honorius Augustodunensis provides in his Speculum Ecclesiae a sermo generalis (general sermon) which he tells priests to repeat often throughout the year. The sermon exhorts each of the estates of mediæval society, from priests to peasants, and the preacher was to select what was most relevant to his particular congregation. Honorius expertly weaves in pious tales to secure the interest of his audience and to show different categories of men the ideal they should strive after. If each member of his congregation pursues the excellence proper to his estate, he secures both eternal life hereafter as well as harmony within his community on earth.

John Ball
Bernard Fleetwood-Walker, John Ball (1938)

Honorius Augustounensis’
Sermon to All Estates

This sermon you ought to repeat often during the year, and often weave some passage from it into your sermons. 

When giving a sermon, do not hold your arm aloft as if to hurl the words into the people’s faces. Do not stand with your eyes shut and do not stare at the ground or ceiling. Do not move your head about like a madman or contort your features in strange ways. Rather, as the art of rhetoric teaches, deliver your words with seemly gestures, properly and modestly. Deliver sorrowful things in a sad voice, happy things in a glad voice, harsh things in a sharp voice, and humble things in a subdued voice, so that your audience may seem rather to behold the things themselves than to hear you representing them in speech.[1]

Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.[2] My dear brethren, all of you must lend your ears to today’s sermon with especial attention, because today I shall tell how all of you—be ye rich or poor, lords or servants, men or women—may attain eternal bliss.

To priests.

We priests must be your tongue, expounding and interpreting all that is sung or read in the divine offices. Forsooth, our Lord calls us the salt of the earth,[3] for as salt makes meat savory, so it behoves us to make the minds of the faithful savory by adding the salt of wisdom, so that they spit out the perishing things of earth and yearn to savor only things that last. We must preach to monks about religious observance, to lay brethren about holy living, to clergy about moral integrity, and to laity about generosity in almsgiving, while making ourselves an example in all things to all men.[4] And what we teach with our words we must show forth in our deeds as in a mirror. For if we preach the good to you but do evil, we will be like a candle, which is used up as it gives light to others before going out. Our Lord spoke to us saying: Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel.[5]A watchman stands on high that he might see the enemy from afar and thus warn his fellow citizens. The Church’s watchmen are her priests, whose life must be established on the height of the virtues in order to warn Christians of the enemy’s advance, that is, of the onslaught of the demons and the vices. If we preach God’s word to you, therefore, we loose ourselves and bind you. But if we do not proclaim your soul’s salvation to you, and you die in deadly sins, your blood will be required at our hand,[6] as if we had killed you. And so you must look more to our words than to our works,[7] dearly beloved, just as, if the emperor were to send you an imperial mandate, you would focus not so much on the deeds of the messenger as the mandate of the sender, so as to keep his favor. Legates of the High King of all kings are we, and bear to you his mandates, which if you humbly obey, you shall obtain—not from us, but from him—eternal rewards. But if you disregard them, you shall suffer no harm from us, but your God shall inflict a penalty on your souls, condemning you to eternal punishment as rebellious servants. But if we encourage you to do good, and do good ourselves, then our Lord calls us the light of the world, and we are saved along with you in eternal life. But if we should do evil while preaching the good, then we will be like bells that summon the people to church but are worn down and weakened through frequent tolling. Thus while calling the people to joys, we hasten to grief. But if, while doing good, we do not teach you, then to our grief we are called dumb dogs by our Lord.[8] If we neither live well nor teach, then we will be like unto the blind leading the blind.[9] Nay, we darken the faithful’s mind like smoke in a house. We have two laces on our frock, because the power to bind and loose penitents has been entrusted to us from above.[10]

And so, dearly beloved, since you are our Lord’s sheep, and we are your shepherds, we must pour out prayers for your salvation and you for ours, so that what we preach to you we may be able to carry out in our deeds together with you. And that the spirit of priests may be enkindled to do these things, may the lantern of this example shine before them:

Once there was a bishop who used to teach the people entrusted to him with ardent zeal, and showed himself a living example in all things to all men. When he was not burdened with other affairs, he was always instant in prayer.[11] One day, when he was alone in the oratory, a certain religious brother saw the sky above the church open and pour forth an immense light which descended on the oratory, accompanied by a most sweet melody of singing voices. After a long while he saw the same melodious song lift itself up from the church and disappear into the heights of heaven. At once that priest of Christ called together the brethren and predicted his own death, telling them how a multitude of angels had come to him and promised that on the seventh day they would come to lead him into the heavens. It happened as he had foretold: on the seventh day he was carried up to the stars by an immense light and the hymning jubilation of angels. 

O dearly beloved, what a blessed soul, who merited the angels’ fellowship!

To Judges.

Now I address you, judges, whom God the just judge[12] made rulers[13] of his people. You must hear the everlasting Judge’s words not begrudgingly but with a prostrate heart, and obey them in all things with utmost zeal. Then you shall receive riches and glory in this life, and joy and gladness in the next. It behooves you especially to take heed of your title, and deal out just sentences to all; never undermine justice for money or bribes; be lenient to the poor in your courts, for it is written: Judgment will be without mercy to him who has shown no mercy;[14] protect the clergy, churches, and the property attached to churches, widows, orphans, and the poor; expel thieves, robers, and highwaymen from the midst of God’s people; vindicate the innocent in your judgement and acquit him of unjust charges, but impose a just sentence on the guilty and subversive so that others may fear, for it is expedient that one man should die rather than bring ruin to many. You must shun every evil and recall as many as possible from iniquity by your prohibition. If you strive to do this, you shall be crowned by God the just judge. But if you would use your power to oppress God’s people, I fear lest you incur God’s awesome judgement. So that the wind of forgetfulness does not carry off these things from your minds, let them be held fast by the chain of this example:

A widow once came to a king who was hastening to war, and begged him to do justice for her son. He replied that he would do so after the campaign. But she said: “If you should be killed, who shall render judgment on my behalf?” And he: “He that shall rule after me.” She pressed him: “What merit shall you have of it, if someone else does it?” When she continued to pursue him, he swore her an oath and ruled in her favor right there on the spot.

The man later died and, since he was a pagan, was taken to hell.[15] Many years later, Saint Gregory passed by this king’s house, saw his effigy, and recalled the widow’s case. When he thought how this just judge must be suffering everlasting torments in hell, he was moved to pity in the depths of his soul and shed copious tears on his behalf for three days. On the third day an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that God had heard his prayer. 

If a pagan judge merited relief from his punishments on account of this just sentence, how much more will Christian judges be rewarded for their justice with an eternal crown by Christ the Judge? 

To the rich.

Now I come to you, you rich: it is our rich Lord’s will for you to be fathers to the poor. Remember that naked you came into this world and naked you shall leave it.[16] And since you shall have to leave your riches to strangers, hasten to send them before you now into the heavenly treasuries through the hands of the poor,[17] so that when worms devour your flesh in the grave, the poor will receive you into the eternal tabernacles. You must grace the churches with books, vestments, and other ornaments; repair them when they fall to ruin or are destroyed; enlarge the prebends of God’s servants[18] and thereby obtain their prayers; construct bridges and roads and thereby pave your way into heaven; provide much-needed housing, food, and clothing for the poor, the destitute, and pilgrims, and thereby purchase yourselves everlasting wealth. My dearly beloved, if you do this, you will not diminish your wealth but realize a hundred-fold return where it cannot be taken away or diminished.

To the poor.

Let the poor bear the weight of their poverty with patience, that with Lazaratus they may acquire unfailing riches. Let them know that they receive men’s sins in the form of alms,[19] and so they should busy themselves with offering prayers for them and distribute the excess alms they might receive to other paupers. Lest these things fade from your mind, let the telling of this exemplum congeal them in your memory: 

A certain hermit desired to know what fate the just and the wicked man suffer after death, and God revealed it to him. As he was going out, he saw a pauper lying in the street drawing his last breath. Lo! a multitude of angels came, joyfully received his soul from the prison of his body, and brought it with hymns into the heavenly court. As he went on further, he saw a crowd of noblemen and ladies flocking to the house of some rich man whom a grave illness was compelling to give the fates their due. Suddenly a gang of hideous-looking demons entered the house, and when the sick man saw them he cried out: “Lord, help me!” And a voice from above said, “Now you remember God? Now the Sun of life darkens over you. Now he does not come to your aid.” Then the demons wrenched his soul cruelly from his body and dragged it down into hell to be tortured. It happened that the pauper’s body was devoured by wild beasts, but his soul rejoiced in heaven. But the rich man’s body was wrapped in silk and put into a tomb with candles and lamps, but his wretched soul was tormented among the demons in hell.

The Church Militant and Church Triumphant, Santa Maria Novella (1365)

To soldiers.

Soldiers, you are the Church’s arm, because you have to defend her against her enemies. You should come to the aid of the oppressed, abstain from rapine and fornication, restrain those who attack the Church with their wicked deeds, and resist those who are rebels against the priests. By such armed service you will obtain splendid benefits from the High King. So that these words do not slip from your heart, let them be impressed on your memory with the seal of this example:

A certain king had a soldier whom a sickness drove to deliver death its dues, and the king urged him to repent and make confession. The soldier said he would do so only if it became likely he could not recover, for if he did so but survived the illness, the other soldiers, so he worried, would taunt his fear of death. The king withdrew, chastising him for his words. Later, he went to visit the sick man again to speak with him about his soul’s salvation. This time, the soldier was distressed and told him: “Before your arrival, two exceedingly fair youths came in and put a paper into my hands. On it I found all the good deeds I have done written in golden letters. After them, untold legions of demons burst in in a great rush and placed a gigantic book before me, in which I discovered all the evil things I had done, said, or thought since my childhood. Their leader asked the youths why they had come to me, since they well knew that I was theirs, and they rose and went out, leaving me in demons’ power. At an order from their leader, the demons fell upon me with flaming, razor-sharp knives and began to tear me to shreds, some beginning from my head, others from my feet.  Since now they have met up in the middle, I die and they drag me down to hell.” Even as he uttered this last word, the wretch died a wretched death and was dragged down to his torments, because he had neglected the salves of penance while he lived. 

My lords and brethren, I have told you these things so that you do not put off your conversion to the good while you still can.

To merchants.

Now I exhort those of you who are merchants not to chase earthly profits to the point that you put your soul up for sale and damn yourselves through fraud, false oaths, and lies. Take care that you do not deceive the simple and ignorant, selling them shoddy wares instead of what they need. You are ministers to all the nations when you bring much-needed goods into market through perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils of journeying, perils in the wilderness.[20] All nations are, therefore, obliged to pay for your travail by prayers.[21] Do not lose this grace, my dear ones, for a trifle. Lest these words be scattered to the wind, let this example set them firmly in your hearts:

A solitary prayed God to show him one whose reward would be equal to his. The divine voice replied that he had not yet reached the measure of the merchant who was then approaching. It was the custom of the merchant in question to convey a variety of rare goods to God’s servants,[22] and at that moment he was coming to visit  the brethren by boat. The solitary went out to meet him and asked why he wandered amidst the waves when God had prepared him a stable dwelling place in heaven. Forthwith he left behind his ship and all his goods[23] and lived a solitary life along with the solitary until the day when his labor was finished and the choir of angels brought him into the bosom of heaven. O what happy returns await him who invests in heavenly things!

To peasants.

And you, my fellows and brethren who till the field, are the Church’s feet, who support her by feeding her. You must be obedient to priests and gladly hearken to them when they teach you about the salvation of your soul, not go beyond the bounds of your fields when you plow or reap, not cut hay or wood save within the bounds laid down by law, and faithfully give a tenth of your goods to God.[24] One who withholds the tithe steals from God’s estate. And if he carries off God’s portion, God will take away the other nine, now through storms; now through drought, hail, blight, and pestilence; now through the violence of judges or soldiers; now through fire or the rapine of thieves and robbers. You can avert all these things, my beloved, if you give alms to the poor and tithes to the clergy. So that my speech takes firm root in your mind, let the stake of this example hold it fast:

There was a husbandman suffering from a long illness. When from time to time his illness abated, he threw himself into the farmwork to feed himself and his wife and children. The man was so taciturn that he was thought to be mute. After a long sickness, he died, and as he died a severe storm arose. Hence everyone wagged his head, declaring that it was a wicked man indeed to whom life had denied health and death burial, and whose stench now kept people from entering. On the third day, as the rain still came pouring down, they threw him out of the house and buried him as they could in the ground. 

This man’s wife was, on the contrary, perfectly sound of body, and such a prater that one would think her every limb was a tongue. What’s more, she was possessed with such lust that scarcely a man of those parts escaped her lechery. She squandered her paltry means with fornicators and sent her offspring out to beg. When God willed to tolerate this no longer, she passed away suddenly, but such a great serenity came over the sky that the air itself seemed to serve the cause of her burial. 

The deceased were survived by a very young daughter who fell to pondering whether she might follow her father’s or her mother’s manner of living. As she turned over her father’s misfortune and her mother’s fortune in her mind, she resolved to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Still thinking on these matters, she fell asleep, and lo! a fiery being stood beside her and asked what she was thinking. As she had forgotten everything she had been thinking, she said with a terrified look that she had no thoughts in her head at all. But he grabbed her by the hand and said, “Come and see them, your mother and father both, and then choose whose footsteps you prefer to follow.” So he led her into a flowery meadow, graced with every charm, suffused with a marvellously sweet smell, and bathed in beautiful light, where there were many thousands of them that rejoice,[25] and in their midst she glimpsed her father, who was wreathed in all beauty.  

Running up to his daughter, he called to her, greeted her affectionately, embraced, and kissed her. Full of joy, she begged to be allowed to stay with him in that place. He told her that it could not be yet, but if she should imitate him, she would come there after a time. Her guide took her hand once more, and led her to see her mother. To her left she saw a fathomless valley filled with every sort of horror, containing a flaming furnace that emitted billows of black and putrid smoke. Her mother was sunk in this furnace up to the neck, and fiery snakes wound about her, slurping up her entrails. Black spirits stood over her, thrusting her with burning pitchforks down into the swirling flames. When she recognized her daughter, she cried out in a loud wail, “Daughter, my darling daughter, help your poor mother. Remember the pangs I suffered at your childbirth. Think how carefully I raised you. I never did you any wrong. I thought fornication and adultery were a harmless pastime, and so these indescribable torments have come upon me. Do not despise the tears of your wretched mother. Give me your hand and pull me out of this pit of misery.”[26]These cries moved her daughter and she burst into tears. All of a sudden her guide left her and she was in bed as before. Because she was not able to help her mother, she lived such a devout life that we can be certain that after death she joined her father.

Beloved, I know you do not like long sermons and I fear to cause you boredom. But it must not annoy you to hear talk about our fatherland of paradise and the heavenly court of the angels. If a jester was out there in the marketplace unctuously cooing some popular ditty, perhaps one of you would gladly harken, and that to the ruin of his soul. It is much more fitting that you should earnestly listen to the words of life, because they help you attain the joys of the angels.

To the married.

Let husbands love their wives with all sweetness of affection, keep their troth with them at all times, and abstain from them on holy nights and fasting nights, and when women suffer their natural weakness. Let them raise their children in discipline and the fear of God, turning them away from every evil, especially from unchastity, lest judgment befall them, like Heli and his sons.

Likewise, let women love their husbands with all their heart, fear them, and keep their troth with them with pure mind. Let them, like a pair of eyes, see as one in every good thing. Let children obey their parents in all things, for that is the best way to prolong their lives.[27]  Let servants and hirelings serve their masters faithfully without defrauding them. Let masters give their servants food and clothing and pay hirelings their promised wages, or else hereafter they shall lose the eternal rewards granted by the just Master.

All of you must do what I am about to tell you now if you wish to reign with Christ. When you rise in the morning, you must first sign yourselves with the holy Cross, commend your soul and body to God’s grace and, before you do anything else, hasten to church. Bring alms with you or have your servant carry them and to any poor man who comes to you or waits for you give it cheerfully with your own hands: the rich man a penny, the middling a halfpenny, here bread, there an old garment, and whatever else makes the pauper glad. For this deed you shall be compensated by him who shall say at the Judgment: What you did to the poor, you did to me.[28]

Then when you come into church, you must first give thanks to God for all his benefits: for he has created you, regenerated you in baptism, freed you from death by the blood of his Son, and invited you to the joy of the angels. Next you must prostrate yourselves on the ground  and confess your sins, pouring forth tears and prayers for yourselves,for the whole Christian people, and for all the faithful departed. Ask God to help you turn aside from evil with your whole heart and love the good, and end your life in the Christian religion. Then beg the intercession of all the saints so that you may merit to be freed from enemies of mind and body. For just as the enemies of the body wish to take your life and steal your goods, so the enemies of the soul work cunningly to murder your souls and reward your works with torments. Pride is a fierce foe that separates men from God and the angels, makes him a companion of demons, drags him down from the heights of heaven, and plunges him into the depths of hell. Lust is a cruel enemy that besmirches bodies which baptism has sanctified and envelops them in sulphurous fire. Wrath is a cruel enemy that tortures the mind, a hate or discord that eats away at harmony and utterly routs it. If you are on your guard against these enemies, then you will prevail over the enemies of the body in all things.  

If the divine service is being celebrated in the church, you must stand there reverently until it is finished. Then, once you have received the blessing, go see to the body’s needs. When it comes time to sit at table, you must not begin at once like the pagans who know not God, or like brute beasts, but first say a Pater noster or bless your food with some holy prayer, and then take some alms from each of the dishes put before you and distribute it later to the poor, because there is no better way to redeem your sins and acquire eternal riches than through the poor. For as water quenches fire, so alms quench sin.[29] Then God shall lessen your faults and increase your possessions. When you go to sleep, you must sign yourselves again, commend yourselves and all you have to God, and pray to be freed from a sudden and unforeseen death and that you may be found amidst good works at the final hour. 

You must properly observe the fasts of Lent, Embertide, and all vigils, unless prevented by sickness; give what food or drink you do not consume to the poor; observe Sundays and solemnities properly by forbearing from servile labor; frequent churches; occupy your spare time with holy readings or stories about just men; learn and teach the good; shun and prevent evil; welcome the poor and pilgrims with hospitality; give the naked and the destitute what is needful for them; and bring things for the care of  the sick, consoling and alleviating their pain. You must not commit murder in deed or wit, for he who kills a man made in God’s image shall share the lot of the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning.[30] You must detest and flee from fornications and all bodily pollution, especially adultery, knowing that these sins in particular will estrange you from God. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.[31] Verily, your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost,[32] dedicated to him in baptism. He therefore who violates God’s temple, God shall condemn and destroy. Even the example of the birds shows how abominable incontinence is. 

The eagle dangles its chicks against a beam of sunlight with its claw. The chick that stares fixedly at the sun’s light without recoiling she takes care to feed as her own offspring. But whichever turns its gaze away from the sun she treats as the spawn of another eagle, denies it food, and pushes it out of the nest as a stranger. Just so Christ does not give the food of his body and expels from the nest of paradise he who dirties himself with the uncleanliness of lust.

You must not forswear or bear false witness, for whoever forswears rejects God, and Christ will condemn him in the Judgement, denying him before the Father and the angels.[33] Whoever bears false witness shall fall victim to that pronouncement: God shalldestroy all that speak a lie.[34] You must not commit robbery or theft, because nor thieves, nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God.[35] You must especially avoid ravenousness and excessive drinking, because drunkards cannot possess the kingdom of God.[36] You must not curse, because those who curse are excluded from that blessing, Come, ye blessed, and are punished by the curse, Depart from me, you cursed.[37]

You must not have communion with the excommunicated, that is to say, you must not greet them, nor pray with them, nor eat with them.. Whomever communes with an excommunicate the Church condemns as an excommunicate himself. And whoever lends them aid in arms, money, or counsel is regarded as a criminal. For just as no unguents or medicine can save a member cut off from the body, so none of the Church’s sacraments or prayers benefit one excommunicated from the Church.

For there was once a very rich man who died an excommunicate. Nine years later, when his wife was on the point of death, she asked her children to bury her beside her husband. When they opened his tomb, they found father’s body fresh and whole. Moreover, the sarcophagus was boiling over with bubbling water that gave off a fetid odor. Since their minds were greatly troubled at this, the clergy pointed out that he was an excommunicate. Nine years before, he had made a sedition in a certain city, and for this a sentence of excommunication had been laid against him by the local priest. The saddened children went to this priest and begged him to absolve their father. And lo and behold! As soon as he was absolved by this priest in that distant place, the dead man’s body dissolved into ash. 

So, my beloved, stay away from all that I have told you to avoid, and make sure to do everything I have said you must do, so that when Christ comes to repay each one the wages of his labors, you may see the God of gods in Sion,[38] where there are things which eye hath not seen, etc.[39]

[1] This instruction is placed here for good reason, since the priests are about to tell the laity that they must be a good example in all things. On the occasion of such a sermon, they would have to look the part! 

[2] Psalm 33:12

[3] Matthew 5:13

[4] Cf. Titus 2:7, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Philippians 2:5.

[5] See Ezekiel 3:17. Gregory makes use of this and the next biblical passage in his discussion of a pastor’s burden in Letter 34 (PL 77:488).

[6] See Ezekiel 3:18.

[7] Cf. Matthew 23:3.

[8]  Isaiah 56

[9] See Matthew 15:14.

[10] Matthew 18:18. Cf. Gemma animae 1.234. These two laces might have been used to close the sleeves of the garment. 

[11] See Romans 12:12.

[12] Psalm 7:12.

[13] Psalm 104:21

[14] See James 2:13.

[15] The tale that St. Gregory “baptized” the Emperor Trajan with the tears he shed out of pity for the emperor’s pious deed to a poor widow first appears in St. John Damascene’s sermon De his qui in fide dormierunt (PG 95:264), and then in many medieval lives of St. Gregory. Here Honorius removes the reference to Trajan, modifying the story so that Gregory recalls the king when seeing his imago rather than when perambulating through Trajan’s forum. 

[16] Cf. Job 1:21.

[17] See the antiphon Beatus Laurentius, CAO 1642.

[18] i.e., priests.

[19] Theology here?

[20] See 2 Corinthians 11:26.

[21] See Romans 1:14. 

[22] I.e., to the clergy or monastics.

[23] The wording recalls the fishermen’s response to Christ’s call in Matthew 4:22 and Luke 5:11.

[24] The tithe, land tax, or dîme was levied on all noble and non-noble lands within the bounds of a parish for the upkeep of the clergy and church. Mosaic Law had required ten-percent tithes, and this was carried over into canon law.

[25] Psalm 67:18.

[26] Psalm 39:3.

[27] Exodus 20:12

[28] Cf. Matthew 25:40.

[29] Ecclesiasticus 3:33, as given in several Fathers.

[30] John 8:44.

[31] Hebrews 13:4.

[32] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[33] Luke 12:9, Matthew 10:33

[34] Psalm 5:7

[35] 1 Corinthians 6:10

[36] See 1 Corinthians 6:10.

[37] Matthew 25:41.

[38] See Psalm 83:8.

[39] See I Corinthians 2:9.

Honorii Augustodunensis
Sermo Generalis

Hunc sermonem debes in anno sepe repetere, sepe aliquod membrum de eo tuis sermonibus intexere. 

Cum autem sermonem facis non debes protenta manu quasi uerba in faciem populi iactare; nec clausis oculis uel in terram fixis, aut supino uultu stare; neque caput ut insanus mouere uel os in diuersa contorquere; sicut rethorica instruit, decenti gestu pronunciare; uerba composite et humiliter formare; tristia tristi uoce, leta hylari uoce, dura acri uoce, humilia suppressa uoce proferre; ut magis auditoribus uidentur se ipsas res spectare quam te audire uerbis eas representare.

Venite, filii, audite me, timorem Domini docebo uos. Hodiernum sermonem, dilectissimi, debetis omnes intentissima aure percipere, quia hodie dicturus sum uobis quomodo diuites uel pauperes, domini uel serui, uiri uel mulieres, ad gaudia ęterna possitis pertingere.

Ad sacerdotes.

Nos sacerdotes debemus linguam uestram esse, et cuncta quę in diuinis officiis canuntur uel leguntur uobis interpretando exponere. A Domino enim uocamur sal terrę, quia sicut sal escam facit sapere, ita nos conuenit mentes fidelium sale sapientię sapidas efficere, ut caduca respuant, sola mansura sapiant. Monachis de religione, conuersis de sancta conuersatione, clericis de uitę honestate, laicis de elemosinarum largitate oportet nos predicere, et nos ipsos per omnia omnibus exemplum prebere. Quę autem uerbis docemus, speculum nos factis exhibere debemus. Si enim uobis bonum dicimus, et nos malum facimus, similes candelę erimus quę aliis lumen prebet et ipsa liquescendo a lumine deficiet. Nobis dicitur a Domino: Fili hominis, speculatorem te constitui domui Israel. Speculator solet in alto stare, ut preuisos hostes possit ciuibus nuntiare. Ęcclesię speculatores sunt sacerdotes, quorum uita in alto uirtutum debet locari, ut hostium aduentus, id est demonum uel uiciorum impetus possit xpianis prenunciari. Si igitur uerbum Dei uobis predicamus, nos quidem absoluimus, et uos fortiter obligamus. Si autem salutem animę uestrę uobis non annunciauerimus, et uos moriemini in criminibus, sanguis autem uester de manu nostra requiritur, quasi uos occiderimus. Ideo magis ad uerba nostra quam ad opera nostra, karissimi, respicere debetis; sicuti si imperator mandatum vobis dirigeret, non magnopere acta referentis, sed mandata dirigentis attenderitis, quo eius gratiam seruare possetis. 

Legati summi Regis omnium regum sumus, eius mandata uobis referimus. Quibus si humiliter obedietis, nichil a nobis, ab illo autem ęterna premia capietis. Quę si contempseritis, nullum dampnum a nobis, sed a Domino uestro ut rebelles serui ęterno supplicio subacti detrimentum animę feretis. Quod si uos ad bonum cohortamur, et nos ipsi bonum operamur, tunc lux mundi a Domino uocamur, et uobiscum in ęterna uita saluamur. Si autem bonum predicantes malum fecerimus, tunc similes campanę erimus per quam populus ad ęcclesiam conuocatur, et ipsa crebro pulsu attrita adtenuatur. Ita nos populum ad gaudia uocamus, et nos ipsi ad luctum properamus. Si uero bonum facientes uos non docemus, canes mutos a Domino nos appellatos dolemus. Si nec bene uiuimus, nec docemus, ceci duces cecorum erimus, immo ut in domo fumus, fidelium mentes obscuramus. In ueste nostra duę linguę formantur, quia potestas peccantes ligandi et potestas penitentes soluendi nobis diuinitus commendatur. 

Igitur, karissimi, cum sitis uos Domini oues, et nos uestri pastores, nos pro uestra salute et uos pro nostra saluatione debetis preces fundere, quatinus ea quę uobis predicamus, factis uobiscum implere ualeamus. Et ut animus sacerdotum ad hęc agenda inardescat, lucerna huius exempli ante eos splendescat.

Presul quidam feruenti studio plebem sibi commissam docebat, et seipsum uiuum exemplum in omnibus exhibebat. Vbi ab aliis rebus uacabat, semper orationi instabat. Quadam die, dum solus in oratorio fuit, quidam religiosus celum super ęcclesiam aperiri uidit, atque inde immensam lucem effusam splendescere, et cum suauissima canentium melodia in eundem locum descendere, post longam uero moram eandem armoniam cum cantu se de ęcclesia leuare et celi alta penetrare. Protinus sacerdos xpi conuocatis fratribus obitum suum prenunciauit, multitudinem angelorum ad se uenisse et vii die uenturos ad se ducendum ad celestia promisisse indicauit. Quam rem effectus sequitur, nam vii die cum maxima luce et cum ymniloga angelorum iubilatione ad sydera uehitur. 

O karissimi, quam beata anima, quę meruit angelorum consortia!

Ad iudices.

Nunc uos alloquor, iudices, quos Deus iustus iudex constituit populi sui principes. Verba ęterni iudicis non debetis moleste ferre, sed prono corde audire, tota auiditate eis in omnibus obedire. Tunc et hic diuitias et gloriam, et in futuro obtinebitis gaudium et leticiam. In primis decet uos uocabulum uestrum adtendere, iustum iudicium cunctis impendere, numquam propter pecuniam uel munera iudicium subuertere, pauperibus uero in iudicio parcere, quia scriptum est: Iudicium sine misericordia ei qui non fecit misericordiam; clerum, ęcclesias, resque ad ęcclesias pertinentes, uiduas, pupillos, pauperes defensare; fures, latrones, predones de populo Dei exterminare; innoxium in iudicio iustificare, ab iniusta accusatione liberare; noxios uero et pestilentes ut cęteri timeant iustę uindictę subiugare. “Expedit enim ut unus pereat quam ipse multos perdat.” Ipsi debetis omne malum declinare, et omnes quos potestis ab iniusticia prohibendo reuocare. Si hoc facere nitimini, a iusto iudice Deo coronabimini. Si autem per potentiam populum Dei uultis opprimere, timeo uos tremendum Dei iudicium incidere. Ne autem uento obliuionis hęc a memoria uestra tollantur, uinculo huius exempli fixa teneantur:

Cum quendam regem ad bellum properantem uidua quędam interpellaret, ut filium eius uindicaret, ille peracto bello hoc se facturum respondit. Sed illa dixit: “Si tu occisus fueris, quis michi iudicabit?” Et ille: “Qui post me, inquit, regnabit.” Illa intulit: “Quę gratia tibi inde erit, quod alius fecerit?” Ille uerum prosecutam eam firmauit, et in eodem loco ibi iudicauit.

Qui postea dum moritur, quia paganus erat, ad infernum ducitur. Euolutis uero multis annis, sanctus Gregorius, eiusdem regis domum preteriens, imaginem eius conspexit, ac uiduę iudicium in memoriam reduxit. Qui ex intimo animo condolens tam iustum iudicem in inferno perpetuo cruciari, cepit pro eo triduo uberrime lacrimari. Tercio die angelus Domini ei astitit, se exauditum a Deo retulit. 

Si paganus iudex ob iustum iudicium meruit de penis refrigerari, quanto magis Christiani iudices merebuntur ob iusticiam a xpo iudice perenniter laureari?

Ad diuites.

Nunc moneo uos, diuites, quos diues Dominus uoluit esse pauperum patres. Mementote quod nudi in hunc mundum uenistis, et quod nudi hinc exituri estis. Et cum necesse sit uos alienis diuitias uestras relinquere, festinate nunc eas per manus pauperum in celestes thesauros premittere, ut cum uermes carnes uestras in sepulchro deuorant, ipsi uos in ęterna tabernacula recipiant. Ęcclesias debetis libris, paliis, aliis ornamentis, decorare; lapsas uel destructas restaurare; prebendas Deo seruientium ampliare, per hoc orationes eorum comparare; pontes, plateas edificare, per hoc uobis uiam ad celum parare; pauperibus et egenis et peregrinis hospitia, uictus et uestitus necessaria prebere, per hoc uobis eternas diuitias emere. Si hoc, karissimi, facitis, diuitias non minuetis, sed centupliciter ubi non possunt auferri uel minui inuenietis.

Ad pauperes.

Pauperes autem paupertatis onus patienter ferant, ut cum Lazaro indeficientes diuitias accipiant. Sciant se peccata hominum in elemosinis accipere, et ideo satagant pro eis orationem reddere, et quod eis superauerit aliis pauperibus distribuere. Ne hęc a pectore uestro euanescant, per enarrationem huius exempli memorię coalescant:

Cuidam heremitę hoc desideranti reuelauit Deus de fine boni hominis et mali. Qui egrediens uidit pauperculum in platea iacentem et extremum iam spiritum trahentem. Et ecce multitudo angelorum uenit, animam eius cum gaudio de carcere corporis excepit, et ad celeste palatium cum ymnis perduxit. Inde progressus, conspicit turbam utriusque sexus nobilium ad domum cuiusdam diuitis confluere, qui graui infirmitate cogebatur ultimi fati iura persoluere. Et ecce repente caterua demonum horribili aspectu domum intrauit, quos eger uidens ex clamauit: « Domine, adiuua me. » Et uox desuper: « Nunc, inquit, in primis Dei recordaris? Nunc sol uitę tibi obscuratur, nunc ipse tibi non auxiliatur. » Demones uero crudeliter animam eius extorserunt et ad tartara cruciandam pertraxerunt. Et pauperis quidem cadauer forsitan a feris deuorabatur, sed anima eius in celis inter angelos letabatur; diuitis autem corpus serico inuolutum cum cęreis et lampadibus sepulturę tradebatur, sed misera anima eius in inferno inter demones cruciatur.

Ad milites.

Vos milites estis brachium Ęcclesię, quia debetis eam ab hostibus defendere. Oppressis conuenit uos subuenire, a rapina et fornicatione uosmetipsos custodire, hos qui malis actibus Ęcclesiam impugnant reprimere, his qui sacerdotibus rebelles sunt resistere. Tali militia obtinebitis a summo rege preclara beneficia. Ne hęc a corde uestro elabantur, signaculo huius exempli memorię uestrę inprimantur:

Militem cuiusdam regis infirmitas morti debita soluere cogebat. Quem rex ad pęnitentiam et confessionem monebat. Ille hoc se facturum dixit, si melius habere non possit, quia si hoc ad presens faceret, et postea infirmitatem euaderet, derideri se a militibus timeret, quasi mortem paueret. Cuius uerba rex improbans recessit; postea uero egrum uisitans, iterum de salute animę cum eo gessit. Ille uero anxius dixit: « Ante tuum ingressum duo speciosissimi iuuenes intrauerunt, cartam michi in manus tradiderunt, in qua aureis litteris scriptum repperi, quicquid unquam boni feci. Post quos innumerabiles demones cum magno impetu irruerunt, librum permaximum coram me posuerunt, in quo scriptum cognoui, quicquid ab infantia mali uel feci, aut dixi, uel cogitaui. Cumque princeps illorum diceret, cur illi iuuenes michi assiderent, cum me suum esse scirent, surgentes exierunt, et me potestati eorum reliquerunt. Tunc uero demones iussu sui principis cum acutissimis igneis cultris in me irruerunt, et unus a capite alius a pedibus incipiens me euiscerare ceperunt. Et cum nunc simul conuenerint morior, et ad inferna ab eis rapior. » In hac uoce miser miserabiliter moriens trahitur ad tormenta, qui uiuens neglexit penitentię medicamenta. 

Hęc ideo uobis retuli, fratres et domini mei, ne dum bene possitis differatis ad bonum conuerti.

Ad mercatores.

Vos nunc hortor qui mercatores estis, ne in tantum terrenis lucris inhietis, ut animam uestram uenalem faciatis, et eam fraudibus periuriis mendaciis perdatis. Cauete ne simplices et ignaros decipiatis, ut eis inutile pro utili uendatis. Omnium nationum ministri estis, dum eis periculis fluminum, periculis latronum, periculis in itinere, periculis in solitudine, quęque necessaria defertis. Itaque omnes gentes debitores sunt uestro labori orationes reddere, quam gratiam, karissimi, non debetis uili re amittere. Ne hęc uerba uento dentur, hoc exemplo in cordibus uestris solidentur:

Quidam solitarius petiit a Deo sibi reuelari, cui in premio deberet coequari. Cui diuina uox retulit, quod nondum ad mensuram mercatoris nunc ad se uenientis peruenerit. Huius mos erat, quod quęlibet rara Deo seruientibus deferebat, et tunc uisitare fratres nauigio ueniebat. Cui solitarius occurrens dixit cur in fluctibus uagaretur, cui firma mansio in celis a Deo prepararetur. Statim naui cum omnibus relicta, solitario ipse solitarius cohabitauit, usque dum chorus angelorum labore finito eum in cęlesti gremio collocauit. O quam feliciter negotiatur, qui sibi celestia mercatur!

Ad rusticos.

Vos quoque, fratres et socii mei, qui agrum colitis, pedes Ęcclesię estis, qui eam pascendo portatis. Sacerdotibus debetis obedire, de salute animę uestrę monentes libenter audire, terminos agrorum non arando uel metendo excedere, non fenum, non ligna nisi in statutis terminis succidere, decimam omnium rerum uestrarum Deo fideliter reddere. Qui enim decimam retinuerit, predam de rebus Dei facit. Et si Deo partem suam rapiet, Deus ei nouem auferet, nunc per tempestatem, nunc per siccitatem, nunc per grandinem, nunc per uredinem, nunc per pestilentiam, nunc per iudicum uel militum uiolentiam, nunc per ignis inuasionem, nunc per furum uel latronum direptionem. Hęc omnia, karissimi, a uobis auertitis, si elemosinam pauperibus et decimam Deo seruientibus iuste redditis. Vt hic sermo menti uestrę firmiter radicem infigat, palus huius exempli eum fortiter imprimat:

Quidam agricola diuturno languore laborabat. Si quando alleuiabatur, agrili operi instabat, quo se et coniugem et paruulos pascere curabat. Hic erat tam tacitus, ut putaretur mutus. Post longam infirmitatem moritur, et eo moriente maxima tempestas oritur. Vnde omnes capita mouentes et hunc pessimum dicentes, cui uita sanitatem mors sepulturam denegaret, ac fetor eius homines nunc ingredi uetaret. Tercia die adhuc pluuia inpendente de domo eiicitur, utcunque terrę infoditur. 

Econtra erat uxor eius corpore sanissima; ita garrula, ut cuncta membra eius uiderentur esse lingua. Porro tanta libidine insaniebat, quod uix aliquis de uicinis eius luxuriam euadebat. Substantiolam quam habuit, cum fornicatoribus consumpsit, natos mendicatum ire permisit. Postquam hoc Deus noluit diutius pati, repentina morte defungitur, sed tanta serenitas celi mundo infunditur, ut ipse aer ei ad sepulturam famulari uideretur. 

Ambobus ita defunctis, filia admodum paruula superfuit, cuius mentem talis cogitatio incidit, utrum patris an matris uitam imitari possit. Cumque patris infortunium, matrisque fortunam mente reuolueret, placuit sibi ut in matris uestigia uiuendi pedem poneret. Hęc meditans obdormit, et ecce quidam igneo aspectu astitit, quid meditetur inquirit. Illa eius aspectu perterrita, omnium quę cogitauit oblita, dixit sibi nulla inesse meditamina. At ille per manum eam arripiens: « Veni, inquit, et utrosque, patrem scilicet et matrem, uide, et cuius tunc magis placet uestigia sequere. » Duxitque eam in campum floridum, omni amenitate conspicuum, mira suauitate odoriferum, preclara luce splendidum, in quo erant multa milia letantium, inter quos cernit patrem suum omni decore circumdatum. 

Qui ei etiam occurrens, filiam uocat, dulciter salutat, amplexatur, osculatur. Illa gaudio repleta rogat, ut ei secum ibi manere liceat. Qui hoc tunc fieri posse negat, si autem eum imitari uelit, post illuc ueniat. Porro ductor manum eius tenuit, et eam ad uidendam matrem perduxit. Quę ad leuam conspexit uallem profundissimam omni horrore plenissimam, in qua erat fornax succensa, emittens tetri ac putridi fumi uolumina. In hac erat mater eius usque ad collum dimersa, et ignei serpentes eam circumplexi suxerunt eius precordia. Tetri spiritus desuper stabant, et eam cum furcis ferreis in flammę uerticem trudebant. Quę suspiciens filiam cognouit, et magno eiulatu uociferauit: « Filia, filia dulcissima, nunc miseram matrem tuam adiuua. Recordare doloris quem habui, quando te genui. Memento quali cura te nutriui. Numquam tibi malum exhibui. Pro ludo duxi fornicationes et adulteria, nunc pro his inuenerunt me tormenta ineffabilia. Ne despicias lacrimas matris tuę miserę, sed extende manum et educ me de hoc lacu miserię. » Illa autem clamore illius permota, in fletum est soluta. Quę mox a ductore relinquitur, et in lecto ubi prius inuenitur. Quia uero matri subuenire non potuit, tam religiose uixit, quod non est dubium quin post obitum ad patrem suum uenerit.

Scio, karissimi, quod uos prolixus sermo grauat, et timeo ne uobis fastidium ingerat. Sed non debetis moleste ferre uerba de paradysi patria, et superna angelorum curia, quia si scurra in foro nenias concinnis uerbis funderet, aliquis uestrum forsitan intenta aure auscultaret, quod animę perditio esset. Multo magis oportet uos sollicita mente uerba uitę percipere, per quę potestis ad gaudia angelorum pertingere.

Ad coniugatos.

Viri uxores cum omni dulcedinis affectione diligant; fidem eis per omnia custodiant; sacris noctibus et noctibus ieiuniorum, et eo tempore quo feminę naturalem infirmitatem patiuntur ab eis abstineant; filios suos in disciplina et timore Domini nutriant; ab omni malo, maxime ab impudicitia corrigant, ne sicut Hely et filii eius in iudicium corruant.

Mulieres similiter uiros suos intime diligant, timeant, fidem sincero corde custodiant, ad omne bonum, ut duo oculi, sibi inuicem consentiant. Filii parentibus in omnibus obediant, quia in hoc maxime uitam suam prolongant. Serui et mercennarii dominis suis fideliter seruiant, nullam fraudem eis faciant. Domini seruis uictum et uestitum, mercennariis autem promissam mercedem tribuant, ne post hoc sempiterna premia a iusto Domino amittant.

Quę nunc dicturus sum debetis omnes seruare si uultis cum xpo regnare. Cum mane surgitis, debetis uos in primis signo sanctę Crucis signare, animam et corpus uestrum gratię Dei commendare, et antequam aliud quid agatis, ad ęcclesiam festinare, elemosinam uobiscum portare aut mancipium uestrum facere portare, pauperi uobis occurrenti aut uos expectanti propriis manibus hylariter dare: diues nummum, mediocris obolum, alius panem, alius ueterem uestem, et quodcunque illud est unde pauper letificatur. Hoc uobis a xpo remuneratur, qui dicet in iudicio: Quod pauperibus fecistis, michi fecistis. 

Deinde, cum in ęcclesiam ueneritis, in primis Deo gratias pro omnibus beneficiis suis referre debetis: quod uos creauit, baptismo regenerauit, sanguine Filii sui a morte liberauit, ad gaudia angelorum uocauit. Post hęc peccata uestra confitentes terrę procumbere, lacrimas et preces pro uobis et pro omni populo xpiano, et pro omnibus fidelibus defunctis effundere, Deum rogare ut toto corde a malo declinare et bonum possitis amare, et in xpiana religione uitam consummare; deinde omnium sanctorum suffragia deprecari, quatinus ab hostibus animę et corporis mereamini liberari. Vt enim hostes corporis cupiunt uobis uitam adimere, bona uestra diripere, sic hostes animę satagunt animas uestras trucidare, opera uestra in pęnis recompensare. Seuus hostis est superbia, quę homines a Deo et ab angelis separat, demonibus associat, ab altis celorum retrahit, in ima inferni demergit. Crudelis hostis est luxuria, quę corpora in baptismate sanctificata polluit et sulphureo igni inuoluit. Magnus hostis ira quę mentem lacerat, odium uel discordia quę corrodens concordiam dissipat. Si ab his hostibus tuti fueritis, tunc hostibus corporis in omnibus preualetis.  

Si seruicium Dei in ecclesia agitur, debetis cum reuerentia ibi astare usque dum perficiatur. Deinde accepta benedictione, corporis necessaria prouidete. Cum uero ad mensam uentum fuerit, non debetis, ut pagani qui ignorant Deum, aut ut bruta animalia ad prandium accedere, sed Pater noster prius dicere, aut per aliquod sanctum uerbum cibum uestrum benedicere; deinde de singulis uobis appositis elemosinam incidere, pauperibus mox distribuere, quia in nullo melius quam in pauperibus potestis peccata uestra redimere, et eternas diuitias acquirere. Sicut enim aqua ignem, ita elemosina extinguit peccatum. Tunc minuet uobis Deus culpam, et auget substantiam. Cum itis dormitum, debetis uos iterum signare, uos et omnia uestra Deo commendare, a subitanea et inprouisa morte liberari, et ut in bonis actibus inueniamini deprecari.

Quadragesimam, iiiior Tempora, et omnes uigilias, nisi infirmitas interueniat, debetis bene ieiunare; quod in cibo et potu uobis superfuerit, egenis erogare; Dominicas et sollempnitates sanctorum a seruili opere bene seruare; ecclesias frequentare; sanctis lectionibus atque iustorum relationibus uacare; bonum discere et docere; malum non facere et prohibere; pauperes et peregrinos in hospitium recipere; nudis et egenis necessaria impendere; infirmos cum rebus uestris uisitare, consolando alleuare. Homicidium nec facto nec consilio debetis perpetrare, quia qui hominem ad imaginem Dei creatum occiderit, cum diabolo qui homicida erat ab inicio particeps erit. Fornicationes et omnes corporis pollutiones et maxime adulteria debetis fugiendo execrare, scientes uos per hęc maxime a Deo alienari. Fornicatores enim et adulteros iudicabit Deus. Corpora namque uestra sunt Spiritus sancti templa, in baptismate dedicata. Qui ergo templum Dei uiolat, hunc Deus disperdens dampnat. Quale nefas sit stuprum per aues etiam demonstratur.

Aquila pullos suos contra radium solis ungue suspendit. Qui irreuerberato uisu iubar solis intendit, huic curam pastus ut proprio partui inpendit. Qui uero uisum a sole deflectit, hunc de adulterio alterius aquilę conceptum deprehendit, pastum ei subtrahit, de nido ut alienum eicit. Ita xpc pastum sui corporis illi non impendit, de nido paradysi repellit, qui inmundicia luxurię sordescit. 

Non debetis periurare, nec falsum testimonium dicere. Qui enim periurat, Deum abnegat, et hunc xpc in iudicio coram Patre et angelis negans dampnat. Qui autem falsum fert testimonium, incidet illud elogium: Perdet Deus omnes qui loquuntur mendacium. Non debetis predari, nec furari, quia neque fures, neque rapaces regnum Dei possidebunt. A uoracitate et nimia potatione debetis quam maxime abstinere, quia ebriosi non possunt regnum Dei possidere. Non debetis maledicere, quia maledici ab illa benedictione: Venite, benedicti, excluduntur, et illa maledictione: Discedite a me, maledicti multabuntur.

Cum excommunicatis non debetis communicare, scilicet non salutare, non cum eis orare, nec manducare. Nam qui excommunicato communicat, ut excommunicatum Ęcclesia reprobat. Qui autem uel armis, uel pecunia, uel consilio eis fert auxilium, habendus est ut patrator scelerum. Sicut enim membro a corpore preciso non ualent unguenta et uniuersa medicamina, ita excommunicato ab Ecclesia non prosunt cuncta Ęcclesię sacramenta aut oramina. 

Nam quidam prediues, dum excommunicatus moreretur, post nouem annos uxor eius moriens filios petit ut iuxta uirum suum sepeliretur. A quibus, dum sepulchrum aperitur, corpus patris crudum et integrum inuenitur. Insuper sarcofagum plenum bullienti aqua feruebat, de qua putridus fetor ascendebat. Quorum mens dum inde confusa turbatur, a clero excommunicatus indicatur. Ante nouem annos namque seditionem in quadam ciuitate fecit, et ob hoc a sacerdote eiusdem loci sententiam excommunicationis excepit. Quem filii mesti adierunt, patrem suum absolui petierunt. Mira res! Vbi a sacerdote longe in alio loco absoluitur, corpus defuncti in cinerem resoluitur. 

Igitur, karissimi, cuncta quę dixi deuitanda declinate, omnia uero quę dixi facienda facere curate, ut, cum uenerit xpc cunctis reddere premia laborum, uideatis in Syon Deum deorum, ubi sunt quę oculus non vidit, et cetera.

REPOST: Ad Mariæ Gloriam: A Trope for Our Lady

Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Spiritus et alme orphanorum Paraclite. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Primogenitus Mariæ Virginis matris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecatiónem nostram, ad Mariæ gloriam. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis. Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, Mariam sanctificans. Tu solus Dominus, Mariam gubernans. Tu solus Altissimus, Mariam coronans, Jesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen. Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We glorify Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son. O Spirit and kind comforter of orphans. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. First-born of the Virgin Mother Mary. Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer, to the glory of Mary. Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only are holy, sanctifying Mary. Thou only art the Lord, ruling Mary. Thou only art most high, crowning Mary, O Jesus Christ. Together with the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

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Click here to download the sheet music for the Gloria with the Sanctus et alme trope.

As we mentioned in our introductory post on tropes, these were never explicitly banned by any decision taken by the Council of Trent or appearing in the liturgical books produced in its wake, with one exception: the 1570 Roman Missal includes a rubric insisting that the Gloria in excelsis must always be said as written in the Missal, even in Masses of Our Lady. This was a reaction to one of the most enduringly popular of all liturgical farcings, viz. the Spiritus et alme trope, which adorns the Gloria with sundry acclamations praising the marvels God has wrought in Our Lady.

Our exploration of the rich world of tropes has been heretofore confined to tropes on the Kyrie and, as we have seen, these are almost always melogene tropes: i.e. additional text has been added to the preëxisting melody. The melismatic character of the Kyrie obviously favours this sort of farcing, but tropes on most other parts of the Mass are generally logogene: new verses—comprising both text and melody—have been interspersed between the phrases of the original chant, a practice that makes the nature of tropes as sung commentaries especially manifest.

This is the case for tropes on the Gloria in excelsis. The earliest recorded Gloria tropes date back to the 9th century, and through the course of the following centuries over a hundred examples thereof have been catalogued; it constitutes one of the largest trope repertoires after the Kyrie and Introit tropes. They were, howbeit, obsolescent by the 13th century, with one notable exception: the Spiritus et alme trope.

This set of verses grafted onto the Angelic Hymn is a relatively late composition, being first attested in Rouen MS. 1386 (U. 158), from Jumièges in Normandy, which dates to around 1100. These verses were associated with the melody of Gloria IX in the Vatican edition from the very beginning; indeed, this melody rarely appears in the earliest sources without the trope, which might indicate that it was originally composed for the Gloria thus farced. Indeed, this would explain why this particular melody has always been associated with Our Lady. Most Gloria trope verses were prone to melodic promiscuity, withal, and there are a few instances of the Spiritus et alme verses attached to other melodies, including Gloria IV, XIV, and XV.

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Part of the Spiritus et alme trope in the Codex Sangallensis 546 (f. 15r).

From its birthplace in northern France, the Spiritus et alme trope spread to Aquitaine, England, and Italy, where it is attested in 12th century sources. In the following century, even as other Gloria tropes were falling into general disfavour, the Spiritus et alme verses continued to propagate relentlessly throughout Christendom, showing up in manuscripts from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Bohemia, Scandinavia, and Yugoslavia, where it even entered into the Old Slavonic use. The trope also appears in the liturgical books of various religious orders, including, fascinatingly enough, in ten Cistercian sources. The Order of Cîteaux’s approach to liturgy, as in other matters, was marked by an austere simplicity—one might even say by a certain Puritanism—wholly noxious to the flights of exuberant fancy that gave rise to tropes. Nevertheless, as Joaquim Bragança notes in his study of one of these sources, mediæval devotion to Our Lady—what Henry Adams called the “highest creative energy ever known to man”—was so powerful it could even vanquish the dour Cistercian hostility towards liturgical ornamentation.

Missale Tornacense (Tournai), 1498

Missale Salisburgense (Salzburg), 1507.

Missale Viennense (Vienne), 1519.

The Gloria farced with the Spiritus et alme verses was the subject of polyphonic settings as well, including one for three voices with the Gloria IX melody as a tenor in the 12th-century Las Huelgas Codex (another Cistercian source, despite attempts by the Order to prohibit polyphony in its monasteries), two by Johannes Ciconia, and one by Guillaume Dufay. The composers of these works delighted in musically highlighting the Marian tropes, to the greater exaltation of Our Lady.

By the 15th century, then, the Spiritus et alme trope had become an established part of the Gloria in Masses on feasts and Saturdays of Our Lady nearly everywhere in Europe, featuring also in the pre-Tridentine printed editions of the Missale Romanum.

Missale Romanum, 1543

Alas, however, the Spiritus et alme trope fell afoul of the reforming humanist spirit that arose during this age, with its “tendency towards rationalism and desire for sobriety in Catholic worship” [1], and this would lead to its outright prohibition. On 20 July 1562, during the 22nd Session of the Council of Trent, a commission of seven prelates was appointed to examine the question of liturgical abuses. Among the Postulata nonnullorum patrum circa varios abusus in missis subinductos (Petitions by certain Fathers about various abuses introduced into Mass), one finds the following: “Let those additions Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans be removed from the hymn Gloria in excelsis; they seem an unbefitting insertion” [2]. The members of the commission agreed that farcing the Gloria to extol Our Lady was unbefitting, and the memoir they presented to the papal legate Hercules Cardinal Gonzaga on 8 August 1562, under the heading Abusus, qui circa venerandum Missæ sacrificium evenire solent, partim a Patribus deputatis animadversi; partim ex multorum Prælatorum dictis, et scriptis excerpti (Abuses, which often occur during the venerable sacrifice of the Mass, in part noted by the delegated Fathers, in part taken from the sayings and writings of many Prelates), lists the “added words about the Blessed Virgin” as one of the abuses that had crept into the celebration of the Mass [3]. The commission called for the production of reformed missals purged of such putatively abusive accretions [4].

As a result, the Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope St Pius V in 1570 included a rubric forbidding the farcing of the Gloria, even in Masses of Our Lady [5]. The Spiritus et alme trope was therefore abandoned in all dioceses that adopted the Tridentine missal, and, having been smirched as an abuse, it also soon disappeared in those dioceses that kept their local uses as they reformed their books following the Tridentine model. The Parisian Missal ad formam Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini emendatum, for example, expunged the farced Marian Gloria and added the rubric Sic semper dicitur Gloria in excelsis.

The trope survived for a while in the extremely conservative Lyonese use, until its missal was reformed by Archbishop de Rochebonne in 1737 to bring it closer to the Tridentine model. It also remained in the use of Braga. In 1779, Archbishop Gaspar de Bragança, seeking to bring the Bragan use closer to the Roman, proposed, inter alia, the suppression of the Gloria de Domina, but was rebuffed by the chapter. The canons did deign to discuss the elimination of the Marian Gloria on 7 April 1780, but they finally decided to inform the subcantor and master of ceremonies that the Gloria was to be sung “according to the use of Braga”, thus preserving the trope. But finally, in 1924, a new edition of the Bragan Missal, approved by Pius XI, was promulgated which no longer included the farced Gloria, and thus disappeared its last vestige.

Missale Lugdunense (Lyons), 1620

The Spiritus et alme trope represents a fascinating instance where the use of a trope was so popular and universal it nearly became an established part of the Roman rite. It raises intriguing questions about what ought to be considered a legitimate and organic development of the liturgy, and what constitutes an illegitimate accretion and abuse. Whatever the terse declarations of the Tridentine liturgical commission, it is hardly obvious that the Marian Gloria is a case of the latter, and one might be excused for considering its disappearance a matter for regret.


[1] Chadwick, Anthony J. “The Roman Missal of the Council of Trent” in T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy, ed. Alcuin Reid, 2016, p. 107.

[2] Ab hymno: Gloria in excelsis, tollantur illa additamenta: Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans: quæ videntur inepte inculcari. 

[3] Item forte essent animadvertenda in hymno Angelorum verba illa addita de Beata Virgine, Mariam gubernans, Mariam coronans ec.; videntur enim illa omnia inepte inculcari. 

[4] Missalia secundum usum et veteram consuetudinem S. R. E. reformentur, omnibus iis, quæ clanculum irrepserunt, repurgatis, ut omni ex parte eadem pura, nitida et integra proponantur.

[5] Sic dicitur Gloria in excelsis etiam in missis beatę Marię. This rubric was dropped in the editio typica of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.