Key to Heaven and the Destruction of Hell: A Sermon from the Speculum Ecclesię on Roodmas

The root of Jesse shall stand for an ensign of the people.[1] Jesse was father to David the king, from whose seed Christ descended. This root of Jesse was Christ according to his divinity;[2] the twig that sprouted from Jesse was Christ born according to his humanity. It standeth for an ensign of the people, because the Holy Cross of Christ’s Passion and our redemption is an ensign for the entire Christian people. This is the ensign gainsaid by Jews and paynim, but it blesses the multitude of the faithful and every creature of the sacraments, and vanquishes all adversity. This Holy Cross is venerated by the angels and adored by men. Verily, by the cross the devil is made captive, the world is liberated, hell is despoiled, paradise is gladdened, and the Christian people around the globe are invited into the heavenly kingdom. 

The idea that Christ was the root might be based on an early version of the Stirps Jesse such as the one shown here from the Vyšehrad Codex, which is the earliest surviving example. It has Christ at the root of the tree, but the later tradition has Jesse at the base.

The heavenly fatherland exults in the triumph of the holy Cross, the Church rejoices, and Jewish perfidy wastes away. The victory of the holy Cross subjugates death and strips it of its dreadful tyranny. The Holy Cross has become for us the key to heaven, the powerful destruction of Hell. Sanctified by Christ’s body and blood, it is most worthy to be honored by all the faithful. It protects sinners, governs the saints, fosters little ones, makes hale those worn down by age, lifts up the fallen, guides the just, reforms the unjust, and lends assistance to all who show it faithful reverence. On account of the wood, our first parent plunged into the open main of this world as it were into a ship-wrecking whirlpool, and the ravenous Leviathan swallowed the whole human race—a cruel death! Then did our Redeemer raise the standard of the Holy Cross and tie up the foe’s scaly maws with the hook of his flesh, so that pierced with the point of the life-giving wood, that vile beast of prey vomited up those he had gulped because of the forbidden wood. This Holy Cross is our lamp of eternal light in the darkness of this life, leading those who follow it into heaven, and granting those who love it angelic joys. 

Heaven has often made known the virtue of his Holy Cross in wondrous ways.

In a town there was a certain Christian who owned a figure of the Holy Cross. When he died, a Jew came into possession of his house. One day he invited his co-religionists to a banquet, not knowing that there was a crucifix in the house. Now when in the midst of feasting they espied the image of the Holy Cross, they arose with a mad shout and seized the crucifix. “We have heard,” they said, “that our fathers flogged Jesus; we too ought to disgrace his image with floggings.” Howling these words, the faithless Jews inflicted beatings upon the crucifix and—wonder of wonders!—their blows drew out drops of blood. Jeering at this wonder in their delirium, they said that Jesus was wounded by their ancestors, so likewise his image should suffer at their hands. And so they stabbed and poked holes in it with their knives, but to Christ’s glory streams of blood flowed out. After word of the affair got out, a throng of cripples rushed to the spot, gathered the dripping blood in vessels, and smeared it on their disabled limbs. O what wondrous miracles of Jesus Christ were worked through images of the Holy Cross! Instantly the blind rejoiced to regain their sight, the deaf celebrated their restored hearing, the mute shouted for joy, the lame jumped for joy, and all the crippled celebrated their wholeness. The Jews shouted Christ’s praises in a loud voice, forthwith became believers and were baptized, and venerated the Holy Cross with the highest honor.

Francisco Rizi, Profanation of a Crucifix, 1647-1651

Once upon a time, a Jew was travelling to Rome.[3] As night overtook him, he retired for repose to an abandoned pagan temple by the road, but was so afraid of that place of horror[4] that he signed himself with the Holy Cross. At about midnight a crowd of demons arrived, one of whom was seated on a high chair like a king. He inquired of the others what villainy each had done that day. As they were telling of their mischief, one leapt into the middle to report that he had induced the bishop Andrew, a man of perfect religion, to fall in love with a nun; he had drawn him so far forth that, late at night as the bishop left her, he had given her a merry spank on the back end. As all present shouted their approval and praised his industry, and urged him to bring to completion the job he had begun, the Prince of Evil ordered them to inquire who had dared presume to take shelter in his house. His wicked retainers hastened to the Jew and squinted intently at him. They wondered, saying, “Look, here is an empty vessel, but yet it is signed!” Hearing this, all the evil spirits vanished because they could not bear the name of the Holy Cross. The Jew rose up and came to the bishop at that very hour and told him all that he had seen. The bishop fell prostrate upon the earth and praised God for keeping him from sin, baptized the believing Jew, and shortly thereafter ordained him a priest. The temple wherein the demons had gathered he made into a church dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. And so both men whom the devil boasted to have in his power were saved by the virtue of the Cross.

But just as the Cross restores the predestined to life, so it throttles the reprobate. Julian the Apostate, for instance, wanted to learn the magic arts while still a boy, and for that purpose dwelled with a sorcerer in a solitary house.[5] When Julian left the house, he began to invoke demons, but seized with terror at their sight he signed himself with the Holy Cross. Seeing this, the demons fled, leaving the frightened wretch alone. The sorcerer came in and asked him if he had seen anything. Julian replied that he had seen hideous Ethiopians, but they disappeared after he made the sign of the Cross. The sorcerer told him the demons were displeased by this sign and hence withdrew from his presence. On this account the unhappy Julian began to loathe the Lord’s Cross with such hate that he started to detest and abhor the entire Christian religion with his whole heart, and once he became emperor he enforced paganism throughout the globe, striving with all his might to erase the Christian name from the earth. Behold how the Cross, which is the source of salvation for all, became for Julian a pit of death. 

On the other hand, by the Cross was Cyprian saved, who had been predestined for eternal life since before all ages. This famous sorcerer, who had driven scores of people mad with his magic arts, performed a multitude of heinous crimes, and riven open a great many pregnant women with spells and sacrificed their babies to demons, came to the way of salvation through the virtue of the Holy Cross in the following manner:

There was a young maid named Justina, beloved of God, whom this sorcerer tried to persuade to consent to his lust. He cast a spirit of fornication into her, but she repulsed it by making the sign of the Holy Cross. When Cyprian questioned the spirit why he had not led the maiden unto him, he said that he had seen a frightful sign and fled from her forthwith. Jeering at him, the sorcerer sent a stronger spirit, whom fear of the Cross likewise put to flight. When Cyprian asked why he had not brought the virgin, he answered that he could not do so on account of some frightful sign. He then undertook to dispatch the prince of demons, who shifted into a woman’s shape, and solicited the maiden with smooth words and fiery darts. As soon as she made the sign of the cross, the evil one vanished like smoke and went back in confusion to the sorcerer, reporting how he had fled from some terrible sign. When Cyprian asked what sign it might be that had undone all their might, the devil replied that Christ’s Cross had sapped all their power and triumphed over all their devilish arts. Hearing this, Cyprian spurned the devil, converted to Christ, and as a perfect example of the Christian religion was raised to be a bishop and noble doctor of the Church, and alongside the same Justina offered himself in the face of divers torments as a living host to God and become a glorious martyr. And thus, with the Cross as their standard, the elect bear home the trophy.[6]

St. Cyprian, demons, and St. Justina, from a French translation of the Legenda aurea (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 245, fol. 109, 15th century)

My brethren, you should know what today’s feast is about. Chosroës, king of the Persians, ravaged Judæa and bore off the Holy Cross from Jerusalem unto his own land.[7] There he built a silver[8] tower as a sort of heaven, installing within images of the sun, moon, and stars. This tower was so contrived that it could be moved, and it made a sound like the rumble of thunder. Water too was pumped up through hidden pipes and then came down again like showers into several caverns inside. He hung the Cross up in the tower at his right hand, for his son; to his left he placed a bronze cock that stood for the Holy Spirit, while he sat on a throne in the middle and ordered himself to be worshiped as God the Father. Heraclius, emperor of the Romans, came against him with an army, and Chosroës’ son hastened to meet him at the Danube with a strong force. The people agreed that the princes should engage in a duel on the bridge, and that all should submit to the victor. So it happened, and Heraclius emerged victorious, and the whole army obeyed him. Once he had subjugated Chosroës’ realm, Heraclius climbed up into Chosroës’ “heaven” with a few others, found the tyrant on his throne, asked him if he wished to be baptized, and when he refused, cut off his head. He ordered his son, still a boy, and his whole army to be baptized. He raised the child from the font himself and put him on his father’s throne, giving him command of the kingdom, and then hastened joyfully back to Jerusalem with the Holy Cross. He rode in from the Mount of Olives under the imperial insignia, riding a caparisoned horse, but the city gate before him was blocked off by an attached wall. And behold the Holy Cross shone in the heavens with a blinding light, held above the gate by an angel of the Lord who said, “When the King of Heaven entered these doors on the way to his Passion, he did not flaunt purple cloth or crowns, and was borne on the back not of a haughty steed, but of an ordinary ass.” Thus spoke angel, and disappeared into heaven. The emperor, therefore, removed his ornaments and took up the Cross, resounding a hymn to the Lord with the entire people. Anon the door opened up for him, and the Holy Cross was venerably exalted in the place prepared for it. On the same day, through the glorious Cross a dead man was restored to life, four men with the palsy recovered their health, ten lepers became well, fifteen blind men gained sight, many were freed from demons, and a great number were cured of various diseases. Moreover, as soon as the Cross was carried away from Chosroës’ temple, an exceedingly sweet smell wafted from that province, suffusing the breasts of everyone in Jerusalem.

Heraclius slays Chosroës as depicted in an MS of Alexander of Bremen’s Expositio in Apocalypsin (Cambridge University Library MS Mm.5.31, fol. 80v, 13th century)

Also today Cornelius, bishop of the Romans, and Cyprian, prelate of the Church of Carthage, shed their blood for their sheep and entered the heavenly realm to receive their crowns.

Now, my beloved, lift high the Holy Cross with your praises and shower your prayers upon these holy men, that he who redeemed you by the Cross and made you co-heirs of the Kingdom by his Blood, may grant you to triumph over the world through the standard of the Holy Cross and exult forever with the saints in the heavenly Jerusalem, where eye hath not seen, &c.

Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (Morgan Library MS M.917/945, ca. 1440)

[1] Isaias 11:10

[2] The Stirps Jesse (“Jesse Tree”) was a new artistic motif when Honorius wrote.

[3] The following exemplum is based on Gregory the Great’s story of Bishop Andrew of Fundi, told in Dialogues 3.7. Gregory’s story makes no mention of the Jew being ordained a priest. 

[4] From the Canticle of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:10.

[5] On the history of this legend, see Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes.

[6] The story of Cyprian and Justina was first told by St. Gregory Nazienzen and Prudentius in the 4th century, when St. Cyprian of Carthage has already been conflated with a Cyprian the Magician, converted by then killed with the maiden Justina in the Diocletian persecution. Usuard has only a short entry on the two on 26th September, and does not conflate them, and Rhabanus Maurus does not tell the extended version.

[7] The story is a summary of the entry for September 14th in Usuard‘s Martyrology (PL 123:356c), itself drawn perhaps from Rhabanus Maurus’ 70th homily, Reversio sanctae atque gloriosissimae crucis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, the earliest evidence for the reception of this legend in the West (Homilia LXX, PL 11:131-134). Neither source mentions the effigy of a dove or makes Chosroës’ blasphemous celestial diorama into a temple of the Trinity; this may be Honorius’s own pen. It later reappears in Sicard of Cremona’s Mitrale and John Beleth’s Summa de ecclesiasticis officiis, as well as in the Legenda aurea. For more on the legend, see A Heritage of Holy Wood: The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image.

[8] Usuard and Rhabanus Maurus read argenteam (“silver”), and most MSS follow them, but Admont, Benediktinerstift, cod. 131 gives ęream (“bronze”), a reading supported by a Kaiserchronik composed in Regensburg ca. 1150, which mentions Chosroës making a “heaven of bronze.”

Radix Ẏesse stabit in signum populorum. Iesse pater Dauid regis erat, de cuius semine xpc processerat. Huius Ẏesse radix erat xpc secundum diuinitatem, natus de uirgula ex eo pullulante secundum humanitatem. Hic stat in signum populorum, quia sancta crux xpi passionis nostrę redemptionis est signum omnium xpianorum. Hoc est signum cui a Iudeis et gentibus contradicitur, sed fidelium multitudo omnisque sacramentorum creatura per illud benedicitur, omnis aduersitas depulsa reuincitur. Hec sancta crux est angelis ueneranda, hominibus adoranda. Per crucem quippe diabolus est captiuatus, mundus liberatus, infernus despoliatus, paradysus iocundatus, omnis per orbem xpianus populus ad celestia regna inuitatus.

De triumpho sanctę crucis celestis exultat patria, gaudet Ęcclesia, Iudaica tabescit perfidia. Mors subiugatur sanctę crucis uictoria, expoliatur tyrannide nequissima. Sancta crux facta est nobis clauis celi, fortis destructio inferni. Quę enim corpore et sanguine Christi sanctificatur, dignissime ab omnibus fidelibus honoratur. Quę peccatores munit, sanctos regit, fouet paruulos, corroborat senio confectos, lapsos erigit, iustos dirigit, iniustos corrigit, omnibus cultoribus suis protectionis auxilia porrigit. Postquam primus parens per lignum in pelagus huius seculi quasi in uorticem naufragii corruit, atque auidus Leuiathan seua morte totum genus humanum absorbuit, placuit Redemptori nostro uexillum sanctę crucis erigere, et hamo carnis suę squamea hostis guttura constringere, ut cuspide uitalis ligni perfossus euomeret, quos per uetitum lignum improbus predo deuorasset. Hec sancta crux est nobis lampas lucis eternę in huius uitę caligine, quae suos sequaces ducit ad celestia, suis amatoribus gaudia confert angelica.

Huius sanctę crucis uirtus sepe notificata est diuinitus.   

In quadam ciuitate quidam xpianus formulam sanctę crucis habebat, cuius mortui domum quidam Iudeus possederat. Hic contribules suos inuitauit ad conuiuium, ignorans in domo esse sanctę crucis signaculum. Inter epulas uero cum sanctę crucis signum conspiciunt, cum insano clamore surgentes formam arripiunt: «Patres nostri, inquiunt, feruntur ihm flagellasse et nos oportet formam illius flagellis dehonestare.» Hec perfidi conclamantes flagellis formulam inficiunt et, quod dictu mirum est, guttas sanguinis plagis eliciunt. Hoc insani deridentes prodigium, aiunt ihm a suis prioribus esse uulneratum, eiusque signum ab eis similia patiendum. Itaque lanceis punctim transforant, sed ad xpi gloriam riui sanguinis manant. Postquam hec fama diuulgat, turba debilium conuolat, uasculis stillantem cruorem excipiunt, membra sua debilia perungunt. O mira ihu Christi miracula, quę operatur per sanctę crucis signacula! Mox ceci uisu iocundantur, surdi auditu gratulantur, muti uoce letantur, claudi gressu exultant, quique debiles sospitate tripudiant, Iudei laudem xpi magna uoce iubilant. Qui protinus credentes baptizantur, sanctam crucem summo honore uenerantur.

Quodam etiam tempore quidam Iudeus Romam pergebat, qui nocte imminente in quodam antiquo templo ydolorum iuxta uiam quiescebat. Sed quia locum horroris expauit, signo sanctę crucis se signauit. Et media fere nocte multitudo demonum aduenit, inter quos quidam ut rex in sublimi consedit, ab aliis inquirit, quid quisque mali egerit. Illis suas nequicias referentibus unus in medium prosilit, se Andream episcopum, summę religionis uirum, in amorem cuiusdam monialis perduxisse retulit, hocque negotium eo perductum ut nocte sero cum de ea discesserit, alapam ei in posteriora blandiens dederit. In cuius laudem dum omnes conclamant, industriamque omnes collaudant, simulque cohortantur ut ceptum opus perficiat, princeps malicię iubet inquirere quisnam presumpserit in eius domo delitescere. Maligni autem satellites accurrunt, Iudeum diligenter inspiciunt, admirantesque: «Ecce, inquiunt, uas uacuum et tamen signatum.» Hoc audito maligni spiritus ut fumus disparuerunt, quia nomen sanctę crucis ferre non ualuerunt. Iudeus autem surgens eadem hora ad episcopum uenit, cunctaque quę uiderat retulit. Episcopus uero humi prostratus Deum laudat, quod eum a peccato custodierat, Iudeum credentem baptizat, non multo post presbyterum ordinat, templum in quo demones conuenerant, in honore sancti Andreę apostoli dedicat. Sic uterque per uirtutem crucis saluatur, quos diabolus in sua potestate habere gloriabatur. 

Sed sicut per crucem predestinati ad uitam reparantur, sic reprobi per eam strangulantur. Nam Iulianus apostata adhuc puer magicam artem discere uolebat, quem magus in deserta domo includebat. Ipse autem egressus cepit demones inuocare, de quorum uisione perterritus Iulianus cepit se signo sanctę crucis signare. Hoc uiso demones aufugerunt, et miserum pauefactum solum reliquerunt. Magus ingressus inquirit, si quid uiderit. At ille dixit se horridos Ęthyopes uidisse, sed signo crucis a se edito subito non comparuisse. Ille uero affirmat eos de hoc signo indignatos fuisse, et ideo presentiam sui subtraxisse. Vnde ipse infelix tanto odio cepit Dominicam crucem execrari, quod omnem xpianam religionem cepit toto corde abhominando detestari, atque imperator factus paganismum per orbem exercere, ac xpianum nomen in quantum potuit conatus est sub celo delere. Ecce crux quę omnibus est causa salutis, extitit huic fouea mortis.

E contra per hanc saluatus est Cyprianus, ad uitam ante secula predestinatus. Hic famosus magus cum plurimos magicis artibus dementasset, multa horribilia flagicia perpetrasset, plures mulieres pregnantes carminibus diuisisset, paruulos earum demonibus immolauisset, per uirtutem sanctę crucis tali modo uenit ad uiam salutis:

Erat quędam Iustina uirgo Deo amabilis, quem hic magus conabatur inclinare ad consensum suę libidinis. Spiritum itaque fornicationis ei immittit, quem illa facto signo crucis a se repulit. A quo dum Cyprianus requisisset, cur uirginem non adduxisset, dixit se signum uidisse terribile et mox ab ea fugisse. Quem ille deridens fortiorem misit, qui similiter per crucis signum aufugit. Sciscitantique Cypriano cur uirginem non adduxerit, ob quoddam terribile signum se non potuisse respondit. Tunc principem demoniorum mittere curauit, qui se in mulierem transfigurauit, uirginem blandis uerbis et igneis telis sollicitauit. Quę mox ut signum crucis edidit, ille malignus ut fumus euanuit, confususque ad magum rediit, se quoddam tremendum signum fugisse retulit. Interroganti autem Cypriano quod illud signum esset quod omnem fortitudinem eorum soluisset, respondit diabolus xpi crucem omnes uires eorum subneruare, omnesque diabolicas artes crucem triumphare. Hoc audiens Cyprianus, diabolum respuens, ad xpm convertitur et in omni xpiana religione perfecte pollens, episcopus et nobilis doctor Ęcclesię preficitur, atque cum eadem Iustina ad diuersa supplicia se hostiam uiuam Deo offerens gloriosus martyr efficitur. Sic per crucis uexillum, referunt electi tropheum. 

Quę autem sit hodierna festiuitas, scire debet uestra fraternitas. Cosdras rex Persarum Iudeam depopulauit, crucem sanctam ab Ierosolimis in terram suam asportauit, ibique turrim pro celo construxit, in qua similitudinem solis et lunę stellarumque finxit. Quę turris quodam artificio mouebatur, et mugitum tonitruorum imitabatur. Aqua quoque per fistulas occultas ascendebat, per quasdam cavernas pro pluuia descendebat. In qua turri crucem a dextris suis pro filio suo fixerat, a sinistris autem gallum aureum pro Spiritu sancto posuerat, in medio ipse in throno residens se ut Deum Patrem coli iusserat. Ad quem Eraclius Romanorum imperator cum exercitu uenit, eique filius Cosdrę cum manu ualida ad Danubium occurrit. Placuit itaque populo ut principes singuli duellum in ponte inirent, uincentique omnes obedirent. Quo facto Eraclius uictoriam obtinuit, omnisque exercitus ei paruit. Qui regnum Cosdrę sibi subiugans in celum ipsius cum paucis ascendit, tyrannum in solio reperit, si uelit baptizari interrogat, renuenti caput amputat. Filium eius adhuc puerum omnemque exercitum baptizari imperat, quem ipse de fonte eleuat, tradito sibi regno in solio patris collocat, ablata cruce cum gaudio Ierosolimam properat. Qui de monte Oliueti imperialibus insignibus falerato equo uehitur, sed porta ciuitatis ante eum coniuncto muro obstruitur. Et ecce sancta crux nimio fulgore in cęlis resplenduit, quam angelus Domini super portam stans manu tenuit: «Quando, inquit, rex cęlorum per has portas passurus est ingressus, non purpura nec diademate nitens equo superbo, sed uilis aselli dorso, est inuectus.» His dictis, angelus recipitur celis. Imperator autem depositis ornamentis crucem manu baiulat, ymnum Domino cum omni populo iubilat. Cui mox porta reseratur, cruxque sancta in loco sibi preparato uenerabiliter exaltatur. Eodem die per crucem gloriosam recepit mortuus uitam, iiiior paralitici adepti sunt sanitatem, x leprosi sospitatem, xv ceci luminis claritatem, plurimi a demonibus liberati, quamplures a uariis languoribus curati. Mox etiam ut crux de fano Cosdrę baiulatur, suauissimus odor de illa prouincia uolitans omnium in Ierosolimis pectoribus infundebatur.

Hodie etiam Cornelius Romanorum episcopus atque Cyprianus Carthaginensis ęcclesię prelatus sanguinem suum pro ouibus sibi creditis effuderunt, atque regna cęlestia coronandi intrauerunt.

Nunc, karissimi, sanctam crucem laudibus exaltate, hos sanctos precibus pulsate, ut qui uos cruce redemit, sanguine suo regni coheredes fecit, concedat uobis per uexillum sanctę crucis de mundo triumphare, et cum sanctis in cęlesti Ierusalem perenniter exultare. Vbi oculus non, &c.

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.

“I Shall Keep Inviolate the Discipline and Ritual of the Church”: The Early Mediæval Papal Oath

The recent promulgation of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes by the Most Holy Lord Francis has sparked renewed interest in the question of the limits of papal power, especially as it relates to liturgical tradition.[1]

Any such discussions must take into account the Indiculum Pontificis (“The Pontiff’s Attestation”), an oath that popes seem to have sworn between the 7th and 11th centuries. In it, the pontiff-elect solemnly vows to St. Peter that he shall preserve inviolate the doctrinal and liturgical tradition handed down to him by his predecessors and by the holy œcumenical councils and that he will act as a remora against the introduction of any novelties.

This papal oath is preserved in the Liber Diurnus Pontificum Romanum, a collection of formulæ used by the pontifical chancellery which survives today in three MSS.: Vatican City, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Misc. Arm. XI.19; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana I.2 sup.; and the Codex Claramontanus now kept in the Abbey of Egmond-Binnen. A modern edition was published by the Jesuit Jean Garnier in 1680, reprinted in the Patrologia Latina (vol. 105, cols. 21-118). In 1869, Marie Louis Thomas Eugène de Rozière published an improved edition, followed by Theodor E. von Sickel’s critical edition in 1889. Finally, in 1958 Hans Foerster published diplomatic editions of all three MSS. The Indiculum Pontificis appears as formula 83 in the Vatican MS., 59 in the Ambrosian, and 64 in the Codex Claramontanus.  

Sickel concluded that the texts of the Liber Diurnus developed over time and that the MSS. that survive to-day represent its state during the reign of the Most Holy Lord Hadrian I, between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th centuries. Some have argued, withal, that some of its formulæ date back as early as the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great. Gottfried Buschbell argued in 1896 that it stopped being used after 787, in his 1948 book on the Photian schism Francis Dvornik makes an excellent case for its continued use in the 11th century, when Cardinal Deusdedit wrote a compilation of canon law and included the papal oath therein. It is tempting to connect its fall into desuetude with the expansive views of papal power adopted by St. Gregory VII and his reformist successors. 

What is known is that in 1352 the cardinals forced the Lord Innocent VI to swear an oath, but it is entirely different from the one in the Liber Diurnus and only concerned with tithes and administrative procedures. Sometime in the 14th century, an oath based on the one in the Liber Diurnus was forged with the addition of a statement precluding the possibility of papal abdication, and it was used by the Lord Boniface VIII’s enemies to argue that his predecessor’s abdication had been null and void. 

In the early 15th century, another papal oath was forged, again based on the authentic oath from the Liber Diurnus, and falsely presented as the text sworn by the Lord Boniface VIII at his coronation. The reformist party in the Council of Constance used this forged oath to compose a new oath for popes to swear during their coronation (session 39), but this legislation does not seem to have received papal approval. 

We reproduce below the text of the Indiculum from the Vatican MS. as it appears in Foerster’s edition, together with the first full English translation thereof. 

The Pontiff’s Attestation [of Faith]

In the name of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so forth, on (such) indiction, (such) month, (such) day. 

I, (name), by the mercy of God deacon, elect and future bishop, by the grace of God, of this Apostolic See, swear to you, blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles—to whom the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator and Redeemer of all, gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose in heaven and on earth saying, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven”—and to your Holy Church, which today I have taken up to rule under your protection, that I shall guard with all my strength, even unto giving up the ghost or shedding my blood, the right and true faith which, having been handed down by Christ its author and transmitted by your successors and disciples unto my smallness, I found in your Holy Church; and with your help I shall patiently bear the difficulties of the times; I shall preserve the the mystery of the holy and individual Trinity which is one God, as well as the dispensation according to the flesh of the only-begotten Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the other dogmas of God’s Church, just as they are deposited by the universal councils and constitutions of the apostolic pontiffs and the writings of the most approved doctors of the Church, that is, all that concerns the rightness of your and our orthodox faith handed down by you; I, too, shall guard unaltered even by a tittle the holy and universal councils—of Nicæa, of Constantinople, the first of Ephesus, of Chalcedon, and the second of Constantinople which was celebrated in the time of the prince Justinian of happy memory—and together with them I shall fully and entirely keep with equal honour and veneration the holy sixth council which recently assembled under prince Constantine of happy memory and the apostolic lord Agatho my predecessor, and I shall preach whatsoever they preached and condemn in heart and word whatsoever they condemned; I shall moreover diligently and heartily confirm and safeguard undiminished all the decrees of the apostolic pontiffs my predecessors, and whatever they promulgated and confirmed in synod and individually, and maintain them in unwavering vigor just as my predecessors established them, and condemn with a sentence of equal authority whatever things and persons they condemned and rejected; I shall keep inviolate the discipline and ritual of the Church just as I found and received it handed down by my predecessors, and I shall preserve the Church’s property undiminished and take care it is kept undiminished; I shall neither subtract nor change anything from the tradition my most esteemed predecessors have safeguarded and I have received, nor shall I admit any novelty, but shall fervently keep and venerate with all my strength all that I find handed down as, forsooth, my predecessors’ disciple and follower; but if anything should come about contrary to canonical discipline, I shall correct it, and guard the sacred canons and constitutions of our pontiffs as divine and heavenly mandates, knowing that at the divine Judgment I shall  render a strict account of all that I profess to you whose place I occupy by divine condescension and whose role I fulfill by the aid of your intercession. If I should presume or allow anyone else to presume to do anything that exceeds these, then on that terrible day of God’s judgment be propitius to me in my sincere attempt to guard them and lend your aid, I pray, to me who am set in this corruptible life, that I might appear blameless before the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge of all, when he shall come fearfully to judge our sins, that he might make me to stand on the Father’s right hand among his faithful disciples and successors. I have signed this my profession with my own hand, as contained above—put into writing by (name), notary and secretary, at my command—and with a pure mind and devout conscience I have sincerely offered it to you, blessed Peter, apostle and prince of all the apostles, by this bodily oath.

I, the aforestated (name), unworthy deacon and by the grace of God bishop-elect of this apostolic see of the Roman Church, made this my profession, as contained above, presented this bodily oath, and offered it to you, blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, with a pure mind and conscience.

Indiculum Pontificis.

In nomine Domini Dei Saluatoris nostri Iesu Christi et cetera, indictione ill. mense ill. die ill.

Ill. misericordia Dei diaconus et electus futurusque per Dei gratiam huius apostolicae sedis antistis tibi profiteor, beate Petre apostolorum princeps, cui claues regni caelorum ad ligandum atque soluendum in caelo et in terra creator atque redemptor omnium Dominus Iesus Christus tradidit, inquiens: «Quaecumque ligaueris super terram, erunt ligata et in caelo, et quaecumque solueris super terram, erunt soluta et in caelis», sanctaeque tue Ecclesiae quam hodie tuo praesidio regendam suscepi, quod uere fidei rectitudine, Christo auctore tradente, per successores tuos atque discipulos usque ad exiguitatem meam perlatam in tua sancta Ecclesia repperi, totis conatibus meis usque ad animam et sanguinem custodire; temporumque difficultate cum tuo adiutorio tolleranter sufferre; tam de sanctae et indiuidue Trinitatis misterio quae unus est Deus, quamque de dispensatione quae secundum carnem facta est unigeniti Filii Dei Domini nostri Iesu Christi et de ceteris Ecclesiae Dei dogmatibus, sicut uniuersalibus conciliis et constitutis apostolicorum pontificum probatissimorumque doctorum Ecclesiae scriptis sunt commendata, id est queque ad rectitudinem uestrae nostraeque orthodoxe fidei a te traditionem[2]  respiciunt, conseruare; sancta quoque uniuersalia concilia: Nicenum, Constantinopolitanum, Efesenum primum, Calcedonensem et secundum Constantinopolitanum quod Iustiniani piae memoriae principis temporibus celebratum est, usque ad unum apicem inmutilata seruare, et unam cum eis pari honore et ueneratione sanctum sextum concilium quod nuper sub Constantino piae memoriae principe et Agathone apostolico praecessore meo conuenit, medullitus et plenius conseruare, quaeque uero praedicauerunt, praedicare, queque condemnauerunt, ore et corde condemnare; diligentius autem et uiuacius omnia decreta predecessorum apostolicorum nostrorum pontificum, queque uel synodaliter uel specialiter statuerunt et probata sunt, confirmare et indiminute seruare, et sicut ab eis statuta sunt, in sua uigoris stabilitate custodire, quaeque uel quosque condemnauerunt uel abdicauerunt, simili auctoritatis sententia condemnare; disciplinam et ritum Ecclesiae, sicut inueni et a sanctis predecessoribus meis traditum repperi, inlibatum custodire, et indiminutas res Ecclesiae conseruare et ut indiminute custodiantur operam dare; nihil de traditione quae a probatissimis praedecessoribus meis seruatum repperi, diminuere uel mutare aut aliquam nouitatem admittere, sed feruenter, ut uere eorum discipulus et sequipeda, totis meae[3] conatibus quae tradita comperio, conseruare ac uenerare; si qua uero emerserint contra disciplinam canonicam, emendare, sacrosque canones et constituta pontificum nostrorum ut diuina et celestia mandata custodire, utpote tibi redditurum me sciens de omnibus quae profiteor districtam in diuino iudicio rationem, cuius locum diuina dignatione perago et uicem intercessionibus tuis adiutus impleo. Si preter haec aliquod agere presumpsero uel ut presumatur permisero, eris autem mihi in illa terribili die diuina iudicii Dei, propitius haec conanti et diligenter seruare curanti adiutorium quoque ut prebeas obsecro in hac uita corruptibili constituto, ut inreprehensibilis appaream ante conspectum iudicis omnium Domini nostri Iesu Christi, dum tertibiliter de commissis aduenerit iudicare, ut faciat me dextre partis compotem et inter fideles discipulos ac successores esse consortem. Quam professionem meam, ut supra continet, per ill. notarium et scriniarium me mandante conscriptam propria manu subscripsi et tibi, beate Petre apostole et apostolorum omnium princeps, pura mente et conscientia deuota corporali iureiurando sinceriter optuli.

Ego qui supra ill. indignus diaconus et Dei gratia electus huius apostolicae sedis Romane Ecclesiae hanc professionem meam, sicut supra continet, faciens et iusiurandum corporaliter offerens tibi, beate Petre apostolorum princeps, pura mente et conscientia optuli. 

[1] Cf. John Monaco, “Was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy?”, Catholic World Report; Martin Mosebach, “Mass and Memory,” First Things; Peter Kwasnewski, “The Pope’s Boundedness to Tradition as Legislative Limit: Replying to Ultramontanist Apologetics” (upcoming)  

[2] The reading of the MS is here corrupt. Sickel suggests traditae for traditionem.

[3] Sickel suggests adding mentis.

REPOST: Mysterium Mysteriorum: How the Ambrosian Rite Survived Charlemagne

The frontispiece for an edition of the Ambrosian Missal published in 1640.

We have previously seen how hardily if unsuccessfully the Castilians of Burgos defended their traditional Mozarabic rite against the efforts of King Alphonse VI, backed by Pope St Gregory VII, to impose the Roman rite. It is particularly interesting that the chronicles report that God’s judgement on the Mozarabic and Roman missals was invoked by subjecting them to a trial by fire, from which the former emerged unscathed whilst the latter burned. As we saw a fortnight ago in M. Henri de Villiers’ article on the Ambrosian rite, a similar event took place in 9th-century Milan, as recounted by Landulf in his Historia Mediolanensis.

Continuing the policy begun by his father Pippin, the Blessed Charlemagne attempted to establish liturgical unity in his kingdoms by imposing the Roman rite throughout, to the detriment of the Gallican and Ambrosian rites. The Gallican rite was indeed suppressed (although several of its elements merged into the Roman rite), but the people of Milan successfully defended their indigenous rite, and it has survived till the present day.

Landulf asserts that the survival of the Ambrosian rite was due to a test the conflicting missals were made to undergo, whence the Ambrosian book emerged with divine approbation. Later writers, such as Durandus, repeat his account.

Landulf’s history was written around 1080, when Milan was racked by the often violent conflict between the reformist pataria, backed by the papacy, and its opponents, who saw themselves as the defenders of the traditions bequeathed to Milan by St Ambrose. Landulf himself was a married priest who claimed clerical marriage was one of these ancient Milanese customs. In terms of the liturgy, the reformist popes who backed the pataria, such as Nicholas II, were also those who most forcefully attempted to impose the Roman rite on all the West, and the anti-patarini obviously became the great advocates of the Ambrosian rite. Since Landulf’s objective in writing his Historia is largely to defend what he considered to be Ambrosian traditions against Roman claims, some have cast doubt upon the veracity of his account of the events described here. Ludovico Antonio Muratori, in his Antiquitates italicæ, accuses Landulf of being prone to writing fables (pronus in fabulas) and specifically questions the story about how the Ambrosian rite survived Charlemagne’s persecution, although he grants it must have some grounds in truth, given Charlemagne’s known efforts to create liturgical uniformity in the Empire. Anton Baumstark suggests the story was circulated by Landulf in response to the efforts by Nicholas II to impose the Roman rite on Milan in 1060.

Nevertheless, as M. de Villiers points out in his article, the fact remains that no records of the Ambrosian rite before the age of Charlemagne survive (except for the remains of a 7th century Ambrosian libellus missarum preserved in a palimpsest from the monastery of St Gall), and Landulf’s account furnishes an explanation thereof which, although dramatic in expression, is not lacking in overall verisimilitude:

ecc81ginhard_vita_caroli_magni_imperatoris-lettrine_v_historiecc81e_charlemagne_assisDURING the first years of Charles’s reign, when he was in Rome surrounded by magnificent and innumerable army of knights of the Empire, and Hadrian sat as pope, an immense synod was held with many bishops from all parts of the globe. During it, when they had discussed many and sundry matters, they unwisely set themselves against the holy rite (
mysterium) of God and the blessed doctor and confessor Ambrose, scarcely or not at all recalling with what reverence and what love the blessed Gregory was once united by affection to the Ambrosian church. And so, as if blinded and demented, and bereft of any judgement, they sought to mar, as it were, and to darken, and, what’s more, to altogether destroy what was illustrious and for a long time stable and hallowed.

Charles, therefore, having informed by a number of bishops, set out throughout the whole Latin land to entirely destroy whatever he might come upon that was different from the Roman use in chant or the divine ministry, and bring it to unity with the Roman rite (mysterium). And so it was done: the Emperor went to Milan and laid waste to Pavia, which he loathed with unquenchable wrath on account of his enemy the Emperor Desiderius, whom the knights of Pavia had manfully defended against Charles with arms and wit. Then all the books marked with the Ambrosian label which he could grab ahold of by purchase or gift or force he either burned or took with him across the mountains as if into exile. But pious men, seeing so many such books, piously preserved them. Yet God, who sees and knows all things, and foreknows to investigate the hidden things of men’s hearts and open up souls and foresees the intentions of all, did not suffer what He had recognized as ordained by the Holy Ghost and drawn up by the bishop Saint Ambrose to the praise and honour of His name to be violated and torn apart by evil men.

pope_adrian_i_illustrationHowever, Eugenius of glorious memory, a bishop over the mountains, a lover and as it were the father of the Ambrosian rite [mysterium] as well as its protector, and Charles’s spiritual father, set out to Rome, and found that the Apostolic Lord Hadrian, who was the first to give the rings and staves to Charles for episcopal investiture, had already been holding council for three days. He investigated all that had been done diligently and in order, for he was a sensible man, judicious in prudence and wisdom, mild of soul, serene of countenance, affable in teaching and words; and, as his dignity demanded, kinder than all, what seemed to him worthy of praise, he duly ratified. In the end, he wrenched out of them as if by force in what way or manner the synod had adjuged the Ambrosian rite (mysterium). When Eugenius heard their account, much frightened and grieved, calling himself a wretch with a tearful voice, with tears flowing from his eyes like water, he said:

“O woe is me, what will I do? The world and its judge have died: the all the world’s teaching, all that hinders the vanities of this life has passed away! The beauty of the entire Church, Latin as well as Greek, is darkened! The good, the just, and the holy are cast away! The column of the Church, the foundation of the faith, the champion of justice, the lover of the word of God is brought low! A brilliant doctor, renowned for his experience in all the arts, has been crushed! A most excellent rite [mysterium mysteriorum] has perished, on which Gregory, as the Lord and Most Reverend Pope, never dared to lay a finger, and from which Gregory, as teacher and doctor, devotedly drew so many wonderful and brilliant flowers and added them to the Roman rite [mysterio], where they remain to this very day.” 

He recovered his spirit and energy, and then, backed by a papal order and the wishes of the majority of the Roman nobility and people, he recalled all the bishops, archbishops, abbots, religious, laymen and clergy who had been at the council to the court of the Supreme Pontiff, though they had departed Rome already three days before. When they had been assembled, the holy bishop Eugenius advocated at length in favor of the Ambrosian rite [mysterio], to which they had given such short shrift. Having heard him out, the foreign clergy recognized that he was an upright man and lover of justice, and began to wonder and feel ashamed. Need I say more? The Apostolic Lord, all the bishops, the whole clergy and the entire Roman people clamoured and insisted that both the Ambrosian book and the book of blessed Gregory should be placed upon the altar of blessed Peter by the religious, clearly sealed with the apostolic signet. Then all the doors of the Church should also be firmly sealed, and a three-day fast proclaimed, during which all from the youngest to the oldest should fast with fervent devotion. Then whichever book they should find open and unsealed by God’s grace they would hold fast to with unshaken devotion; and whichever they found unmoved and sealed they would burn, having been given the clearest possible permission.

And so it was done: after all the bishops and the entire clergy and people of Rome had observed the fast, on the third day, on Tuesday of that week on which the Ambrosians devoutly sing Misericordia Domini plena est terra [The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord] even to this day1, when all had come together for the unseen and unheard of miracle, in the presence of the Apostolic Lord the doors of the church were unsealed and opened of their own accord. When everyone had entered, they found both books as they had left them, sealed and altogether intact. Having seen this, whilst everyone marvelled and was astounded and groaned exceedingly, the books, breaking their ties by themselves, gave forth a great and frightful noise in the hearing of all, and opening themselves up by God’s finger, they were both opened so that one could not find a further page in one part more than the other.

Immediately everyone felt a great joy and burst out in tears. Meanwhile, having seen how both books appeared opened, all cried out as if with one voice, saying: “Let the Gregorian and Ambrosian rites [mysterium] be praised by the universal Church, confirmed and preserved entirely.” For they said, “It is determined that the will of almighty God and blessed Peter the Apostle is that these rites [mysteria] may be praised and steadfastly maintained by all the bishops of the globe.” Although to some these words seemed to be good, to others however they were difficult and very hard. Finally, it was highly commended by the Lord Pope and the other wise and discerning men that the Ambrosian see remain content with that rite [mysterio] alone by which she was ordered and exalted by blessed Ambrose, and that the rest of the globe that resounds with the Latin tongue should strive to keep the Gregorian rite diligently and carefully, to the exclusion of any other.

After all these things were over and done, Eugenius, exulting with great joy, reached Milan as if going to see his own children. In that city, a few days earlier, the Emperor, by order of the council that took place in Rome, wishing to wipe out the Ambrosian rite entirely from the face of the earth, had butchered many clerics in minor and major orders and eliminated all the Ambrosian books, which had been established according to Ambrose with respect to passages of the New and Old Testament as well as to the musical arts. Nothing indeed remained except for a missal, which a certain good and faithful priest had hidden and faithfully preserved for six weeks in the caverns of the mountains. Afterwards, however, with the aid of the most faithful bishop Eugenius, those wise priests and clerics who remembered much of the rite came together and, with God’s help, handed over to posterity what they had once come upon entire.

According to Milanese tradition, the Gaulish bishop St Eugenius (his see is unknown) tarried in Milan after ensuring the survival of the Ambrosian rite and died there. His body was eventually transferred to the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, where it remains to-day. His feast is commemorated in the Ambrosian rite on 30 December. This mediæval statue, now in the basilica’s museum, was originally next to the altar where his remains rest. An 18th century inscription referring to this statue calls St Eugenius rituum Ecclesiæ Mediolanensis mirificus propugnator.

Karuli primi tempore, cum idem apud Romam imperii magnifice et inenarrabili militum exercitu stipatus frueretur, et papa resideret Adrianus, synodus inmensa multis diversarum terrarum episcopis congregatis celebrata est, in qua cum de multis atque diversis tractassent negotiis, indiscrete erga mysterium Dei et beati doctoris et confessoris Ambrosii sese intulerunt, parum aut nichil quantae reverentiae quantique amoris beatus Gregorius olim ecclesiae Ambrosianae per affectum contulisset, reminiscentes; propterea quasi caecati et ementati, et absque ullo iudicio, quod inclytum et per multa tempora firmum atque sancitum, quodammodo decolorare et obnubilare, et plus dicam, omnino delere aggressi sunt.

Edoctus itaque Karolus imperator a quampluribus episcopis, ut per totam linguam proficisceretur Latinam, et quicquid diversum in cantu et ministerio divino inveniret a Romano, totum deleret, et ad unitatem mysterii Romani uniret. Unde factum est, veniens imperator Mediolanum, devastata Papia quam ipse ira inextinguibili ob imperatorem Desiderium suum haemulum oderat, quem milites Papiae contra Carlonis imperium viriliter armis et ingenio tutaverant, omnes libros Ambrosiano titulo sigillatos, quos vel pretio vel dono vel vi habere potuit, alios comburens, alios trans montes quasi in exilio secum detulit. Sed religiosi viri tales et tantos libros videntes, religiose tenuerunt. At Deus qui omnia videt cunctaque cognoscit, et cordium occulta investigare et aperire praenovit animos et intentionem cunctorum praevidens, quod ad laudem et honorem nominis sui per Spiritum sanctum sancto Ambrosio episcopo dictante ordinatum noverat, violari aut a malis dilacerari non passus est.

Proficiscens autem gloriosae memoriae Eugenius transmontanus episcopus, amator et quasi pater Ambrosiani mysterii nec non et protector, pater spiritualis Karlonis, causa concilii Romam, invenit apostolicum Adrianum, qui primus annulos et virgas ad investiendum episcopatus Karloni donavit, iam per tres dies celebrasse concilium. Qui studiose omnia, ut gesta erant, per ordinem inquirens, prout erat vir discretus, conscilio ac sapientia providus, animo placidus, vultu serenus, doctrina et verbis affabilis, atque ut eius dignitas exposcebat, ultra omnes benignus, quod dignum laude esse sibi videbatur, competenter affirmabat: tandem qualiter aut quomodo super mysterium Ambrosianum sese synodus habuisset, quasi vi ab illis extorsit. Quod ubi Eugenius audivit, plurimum expavescens condoluit, et voce lacrimabili miserum se vocans, lacrimis velut aqua ab oculis decurrentibus inquit:

« O miser, quid agam? mundus et eius iudex periit; orbis doctrina, cuncta huius vitae quae vanitates sunt obfuscans, elabitur. Decus totius ecclesiae tam Latinae quam Graecae obnubilatur, bonum, iustum, sanctum eliminatur. Columpna ecclesiae, fundamentum fidei, assertor iusticiae, verbi Dei amator deprimitur. Doctor egregius omnium artium peritia imbutus disternitur, mysterium perit mysteriorum, de quo domnus et reverentissimus papa Gregorius aliquid sinistrum proferre timuit, de quo quanta et quam magna quasi lucidissimos flores beatus magister et doctor Gregorius curiose attrahens Romanoque mysterio interserens usque hodie adiunxit. »

Spiritu demum animoque resumpto, iussu papae et magna nobilium parte Romanorum cum plebis simul voluntate laudante, omnes episcopos, archiepiscopos, abbates, quoscunque religiosos, laicos et clericos, quos concilio interfuisse cognovit, quamvis per tres dies recessissent a Roma, ad curiam summi pontificis revocavit. Quibus congregatis beatus Eugenius episcopus de mysterio Ambrosiano voce benigna, unde incomposite tractaverant, multum conquestus est. Quo audito, extranei clerici cognoscentes virum valde probum iustitiaeque amatorem, partim satis mirari ac verecundari coeperunt. Quid multa? Ab apostolico et universis episcopis et a toto clero ab universoque populo Romano conclamatum et conlaudatum est ut librum Ambrosianum et beati Gregorii librum ambos super beati Petri altare optime sigillatos, videlicet evidentissime apostolico sigillo signatos, viri religiosi supponerent; quin etiam omnibus hostiis ecclesiae apertissime sigillatis, indito ieiunio per tres dies cuncti a minimo usque ad maximum devote ieiunarent; et sic Deo propitio, quemcunque apertum et reseratum invenirent, illum summa cum devotione et indubitanter tenerent; et quemcunque immotum ac sigillatum reperissent, illum evidentissima dispensatione comburerent.

Quod factum est, ieiunio ab episcopis omnibus et universo clero et populo Romano celebrato, in tertia die tertiae feriae illius hebdomadae, in qua Ambrosiani « Misericordia Domini plena est terra » usque hodie devote cantant, in unum universis convenientibus ad invisum et inauditum miraculum, ecclesiae ianuae stante apostolico reseratae et ultro apertae sunt. Quibus introgressis, ambos libros ut dimiserant sigillatos et omnino intactos invenerunt. Quo viso cunctis mirantibus valdeque obstupescentibus nimiumque congemescentibus, libri ligaturas per se rumpentes, sonum magnum atque terribilem audientibus universis, dederunt, et sese digito Dei aperientes, ita ambo aperti sunt, ut aliquis unam illorum foliam non inveniret plus in unam partem quam in alteram.

Itaque ingens gaudium omnes abruptis lacrimis illico invasit. Interea libris ambobus visis, qualiter aperti apparuerunt, omnes quasi una voce proclamabant dicentes: « Gregorianum et Ambrosianum misterium ab universa ecclesia laudetur confirmetur simulque ex toto teneatur. » Dicebant enim: « Ut haec mysteria laudentur firmiterque ab universis totius orbis episcopis teneantur, Dei omnipotentis et beati Petri apostoli cernitur esse voluntas. » At quibusdam hoc verbum videbatur fore bonum, quibusdam vero difficile atque durissimum. Tandem domini papae et aliorum sapientium atque discretorum virorum collaudatum est ut sedes Ambrosiana, in quo mysterio ordinata et a beato Ambrosio exaltata est, illo solo contenta permaneat, nec non cetera pars orbis, quae linguae Latinae vocibus resonare videtur, omnibus aliis praetermissis, Gregorianum studiose et curiose tenere studeat.

His omnibus rebus factis, finitis et terminatis, Eugenius gaudio magno tripudians, quasi ad proprios filios tendens Mediolanum pervenit. De qua urbe paucis antea transactis diebus imperator iussu concilii quo Romae interfuit, omne mysterium Ambrosianum desuper faciem terrae omnino delere desiderans, trucidatis multis clericis minorum et maiorum ordinum, omnes Ambrosianos libros, tam in sententiis novi quam veteris testamenti quam in musica arte secundum Ambrosium descriptos, abrasit. Nichil enim praeter missale remansit, quod quidam bonus atque fidelis sacerdos absconsus in cavernis montium per sex ebdomadas fideliter reservavit. Manualem autem postea astante Eugenio episcop[o] fidelissim[o], sapientes tam sacerdotum quam clericorum, qui multa memoriter tenebant, convenientes in unum, Deo opitulante, ut antea integer fuit invenientes, in posteris tradiderunt.


1. I.e. on the Tuesday following the Second Sunday after Easter.