The selection of Luke 10:38-42—the 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 and the Canticle of Canticles 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, 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 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, 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 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, and hence all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge 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. The Son of God coming as a man rested in it, and from it he came out as a bridegroom from his bride chamber.
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.
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.
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, 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 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.
 Luke 10:38-42.
 Canticle of Canticles 1:1-16 is read at Mattins.
 Luke 13:6-9
 Philippians 4:7
 Colossians 2:9.
 Luke 2:19.
 John 14:23.
 Colossians 2:3.
 Ps. 18:6.
 Luke 2:35.
 Rex et sacerdos was the sacral title of the Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors, having its origin in Melchisedech.
 Cf. Ephesians 5:2.