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.

“Super Aspidem et Basiliscum Ambulabit”: A Sermon for Palm Sunday from the Speculum Ecclesię

Introduction

Peering into Honorius’ Mirror on Palm Sunday morning, we find some scaly scoundrels from the medieval bestiary leering back out at us. Asps, basilisks, lions, dragons—oh my! it seems we have not yet escaped from the lurid hellscape of Drythelm’s vision related in the sermon for Laetare Sunday. On their scaly bodies, Honorius traces the sordid tale of mankind’s fall from grace; their fire, venom, and death, we are told, symbolize the devil and the sins that threaten spiritual death…Yet beyond the death that we contemplate in unredeemed mankind, we look forward very soon to redemption in Christ, who walked upon the asp and the basilisk when he destroyed sin and death by his own death and trampled under foot the lion and the dragon, casting the devil’s body into Hell.

The mystical zoology, drawn out of Rhabanus Maurus and Isidore, and tropological reflections of Honorius’ own making, are suitably occasioned by the versicles Super aspidem, sung during Lent, and De ore leonis of Passiontide.

The rest of the sermon tells the history of Lazarus’ raising as a backdrop to Christ’s royal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Our preacher reads the story successively through an allegorical, tropological, and anagogical reflection on the “three deaths” of the soul—through thought, word, and deed—showing how Christ raises mankind out of the tomb of its sins to life.

The two parts of the sermon are clearly complementary and, once again, carefully crafted to suit a varied audience. The powerful bestiary imagery provides food for the imagination, pleasing simple and even superstitious minds, while the learned exegesis of Christ’s royal advent and the soul’s three deaths channels the exegetical tradition for the edification of learned clergy. Honorius shows his usual interest in the historical origins of feasts, saying Palm Sunday mirrors the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, the Jewish people, in their joyful reception of Christ, function as this sermon’s exemplum.

The optional addendum adds two more mystic figures, whose story has been read at Matins throughout Lent: Abraham’s sending for a wife (Genesis 24), and the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt and wandering in the desert: both types of Christ saving his people.

He ends, as usual, with a moral exhortation that leads into a promise of future glory (anagogy).


British Library Sloane MS 278, f. 2v. Hugh of Fouilloy’s De Avibus

Honorius Augustodunensis’
Sermon for Palm Sunday

Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk, and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.[1] The asp is a species of serpent that flees when it hears a charmer’s songs.[2] When someone sings a charm, it is said to push one of its ears into the ground and block the other with its tail,[3] so as not to hear the voice of the charmer and be forced to obey his words. It poisons springs and trees with its venom, and so kills those who taste them.

The asp is a figure of sin, which blocks the ears of our heart with worldly desires, so that we do not hear the warnings of our God nor obey his words that are unto our salvation. It poisons the fountain of baptism and the tree of the Cross when it pollutes with disgraceful acts those who have been baptized in the faith of Christ’s Passion. It kills those who taste them, because mortal sin slays those who taste the Word of life and the sacraments of Christ’s Body.

In books we read that the basilisk, also called regulus,[4] is a deadly four-footed animal, whose breath instantly kills all who breathe it. Even the birds flying overhead choke and drop dead from the sky, shedding feathers withered as if by some flame. This noxious beast spreads death all about him, and yet when defeated by a small weasel it wastes away and dies. The basilisk signifies death, whose touch cuts off all things from life. Its breath causes birds to fall from the sky because even the righteous, when touched by death, are stripped of life. It walks on four legs, because mankind is dragged into death in four ways, namely by disobeying the primitive commandment, by violating the natural law, by transgressing the written Law, and by despising the Gospel. The small weasel overcomes it because Christ’s flesh slays death by dying.

The lion, most powerful of the beasts, surveys the sylvan woods. It draws on the ground with its tail, and all other beasts fear crossing the line it draws. Then with a roar it charges, rushing into the woods and ripping apart the terrified beasts.

The lion represents Antichrist, whose immense power surpasses that of all kings. And as the lion circles[5] around the forest, so Antichrist encircles the whole globe with his power. He marks a line on the ground with his tail, which the other beasts fear to cross, because he promulgates edicts that all men fear to trespass. He charges into the forest with a roar, falling upon and ripping apart the beasts, because through fear he subjugates all peoples under himself and cruelly tears asunder all who resist him.  

Scripture teaches that the dragon is the greatest of the serpents, and it deals death through its breath, its venom, and the blow of its tail. The force of its venom raises it up into the air as if it were flying, and it stirs up the air. It ambushes the elephant, the most chaste of the animals, and, fettering its feet with its tail, endeavors to suffocate it with its breath, but is crushed by the animal as it falls dead. A precious pigment is extracted from earth which has been soaked with the dragon’s blood.

The dragon, the greatest of the serpents, is the devil, prince of all evil. He kills with his breath, his venom, and the whip of his tail, because he destroys souls by thought, word, and deed.[6] He poisons our thoughts with the breath of pride, pours the venom of malice into our words, and uses his tail to bind us by the performance of evil deeds. He stirs up the air, because he often disturbs spiritual concord. He ambushes a chaste animal, because he persecuted unto death Christ, source of chastity, born of the chaste Virgin, but in dying Christ crushed him. Yea, a precious red pigment is taken up from the earth, because the Church is made lovely by Christ’s precious Blood.

British Library Sloane MS 278, f. 5??

Therefore the Lord walked upon the asp and the basilisk when he destroyed sin and death by his own death,[7] and subjected all harmful things under the faithful’s feet. He shall trample under foot the lion and the dragon, when he shall overcome Antichrist through his elect and damn the devil with all his members in the last judgement.[8] The devil is also called “dragon” and “lion”: dragon because he ambushes us with hidden temptations; lion because he tries to destroy us through overt persecutions. He was a dragon when he hiddenly tempted the Lord; he was a lion when he set upon the Lord in an overt persecution. But the Lord trampled under foot the lion and the dragon when he endured temptation with humility and persecution with patience. We sing of his temptation thus: Thou shalt trample the dragon under foot; but these days of his passion: Free me from the lion’s mouth.[9]

Dearly beloved, I want briefly to tell your charity how the Lord hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth.[10]

None other than Jerusalem is said to be in the midst of the earth, where the Lord was crucified for the world’s salvation. Although he was rich, he became needy and poor[11] for us, that he might make us sharers in the excellence of his riches.[12] Martha and Maria often received him as a guest in their home, and furnished him with necessities at their own expense. When their brother Lazarus was ailing, they sent to tell Jesus of his friend’s illness. By the time he arrived he found him dead and already four days buried. Now a large crowd of Jews had gathered at Martha and Mary’s, and tried to console them over their brother’s death. But our Lord, seeing the crowd of mourners crying piteously, began to shed tears as well. Previously he had opened the eyes of a man born blind by smearing them with mud, so that the Jews now said: “The one who opened the eyes of a man blind from birth could not also make it that this man should not die?”[13] So he went with the crowd to the tomb, which was covered by a large stone that Jesus ordered to be removed. But by now the dead man stank—consider, he had been buried for four days—, and his hands and feet were tied with bandages. But saying a prayer of thanksgiving to his Father, Christ summoned Lazarus out of the tomb with a loud voice. Forthwith, to everyone’s astonishment, the man who had been dead and bound came forth from the tomb and flooded everyone with great joy.

When the Pharisees, the clergy of the Jews, heard of this unheard of miracle, they gathered a council in Jerusalem at once, and said to each other: “What do we, for we know that this man doth many miraclesIf we let him alone so, the entire world will believe in him. And if the Romans were to consider him a God, they will take away from us our nation and the place where we dwell.”[14] So their high priest brought a sentence against him, saying that it is expedient for one man to die for the people, lest the whole nation perish.[15] Therefore an edict was promulgated by their council, that he should be arrested and put to death. But because there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord,[16] they were not allowed to carry out their wicked counsel until it pleased him.

When it did please him to fulfill the work his Father had enjoined upon him, namely to erase with his blood the bond of sin written against us,[17] he made a stop at Martha’s house in Bethania on his way to Jerusalem. Martha prepared dinner for him and his companions, and Lazarus, whom our Lord had raised from the dead, was one of them that were at table.[18] His sister Mary poured an ointment of great price over our Lord’s head as he reclined at table, but Judas was enraged. And since he was unable to sell the ointment for three hundred pence and embezzle the money, he sold our Lord himself for thirty pence.

Now, on account of the feast of Passover, people from all over the globe had flocked to Jerusalem. Hearing that Lazarus had been raised from the dead, they went to Bethania to see Jesus, who had raised him, and Lazarus, who was raised. Whence the Pharisees said: “We prevail nothing. Behold, the whole world is gone after him.[19] They decided therefore to kill Lazarus, but God, who had better things in store for him, kept him for the Church’s benefit. For it is said that later he was bishop of Cyprus for thirty years, and just as our Lord had called him back to life after the death of his body, so he called many back to life with words and examples after the deaths of their souls.[20]

And so our Lord, accompanied by the people, went to mount Olivet and sent two disciples into the city, ordering them to bring to him a tied ass and a colt with her.[21] They went and brought back the ass and the colt, and laying their garments upon them, made him sit thereon. Others spread their garments in the way, and others cut boughs from the olive trees, and strewed them in the way. When word rang out in the city that Jesus was making his entry, sitting on an ass according to the prophecy, a multitude eagerly ran about rendering homage to him with palm boughs, acclaiming him the King of Israel, and crying out “Hosanna” in a loud voice in his praise as they frolicked. It was the custom of these people, following the commandment of the Law, to celebrate solemnities with palm branches.[22]

Jesus, however, wept when he saw the city and foretold its destruction,[23] which afterwards came to pass. For forty years after his passion the Romans besieged Jerusalem during Passover, massacring the people and razing the city to the ground. Now, as Jesus entered[24] the city with the multitude, a crowd of children and all the commoners rushed forth to meet him and welcomed the King of glory with hymns. Surrounded by this retinue he went into the temple, cast out thence with a whip those who bought and sold doves, and foretold that the temple of his body would be destroyed, but rebuilt after three days. And so he performed many miracles in the temple, and daily taught the multitudes about heavenly things. On Wednesday he was betrayed by Judas, on Thursday he consecrated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, on Friday he was crucified for the salvation of all, on Saturday he rested in the sepulcher, and on Sunday he rose from the dead and gave life and joy to all who hoped in him. These are the solemnities of this holy week, which renew for us the deeds of yore, and recall to our memories future joys, several mysteries whereof I shall explain to you.  

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Raising of Lazarus (1310–11), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

The Lord, who shall raise up all the dead on the last day, brought three dead people back to life, through whom he shewed that we are to be restored to life after the three deaths of the soul. For he roused a maid from the  dead in her house as if she had been asleep,[25] and raised up before the people a young man who had been carried outside the city gates,[26] and finally called Lazarus from the grave after he had laid there for four days.[27] 

These three dead people are figures of the soul’s three deaths,[28] by which souls are separated from God, who is life. We move away from God in thinking, speaking, or doing, and make ourselves liable to eternal death. The death of thought kills a soul, when she covets evil through the will. For he who shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.[29] And fornication is the death of the soul. Hence, just as the maid lay dead in her house, so the soul lies dead in conscience. But if she gives herself over to penance, our Lord raises her back to life.

The death of words kills the soul when she speaks evil, for the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul,[30] and railers shall not possess the kingdom of God.[31] Therefore, the soul who malevolently gives evil counsel to others is like the dead young man who was carried outside the gates. But if she has recourse to the tears of penance, she shall rise again from the dead as our Lord rose.

The soul dies the death of works, when, having thought bad thoughts and received worse counsel, it strives, worst of all, to carry them out. Just like Lazarus, she is shut up in a sepulcher when she is plunged into the abyss of sin. She is covered with a stone when she is overwhelmed by bad habits. Her hands and feet are tied up with bandages when her friends and flatterers encourage her evil. Being dead, she stinks withal, because her ill repute harms many. After prayer is made over her, a loud voice cries out and she is raised up, because the Church’s incessant prayers and frequent sermons provoke her, with difficulty, to penance. Now, our Lord did not wish to resurrect a fourth because no one begged him to, and indeed, he stopped someone from burying a body, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead.[32]

Now, our Lord did not wish to resurrect a fourth because no one begged him to, and indeed, he stopped someone from burying a body, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead. This dead body represents those who are glad when they have done evil, and rejoice in most wicked things.[33] The dead who bury them are their accomplices, like unto them in their evil and who cheer them on as they perform their wicked deeds. For when they goad men to commit a crime just for amusement, they heap up earth upon a dead man, as it were. Since these men shall not rise up in the judgement[34] of confession, they shall be buried in Hell and burn alongside Dives.

Lazarus also represents all of mankind, who died in the first man and was shut up in the sepulcher of wicked living, but their Redeemer calls them forth from the grave when he restores them from sin to life. Verily, the four days Lazarus spent in the sepulcher are the four transgressions of the law that led to man’s oppression  under the yoke of death. The first man received the first law in paradise: “Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.”[35] Had man observed this, he and all his progeny would have remained immortal in body and soul. But when he transgressed by eating of it at the devil’s suggestion, he and all his descendants were sentenced to death. Behold: the first day of death. Having been expelled from paradise, man was introduced to the natural law: “What thou wouldst not have done unto thyself, do not do unto others.” Had he kept this, he would have escaped the death of the soul. But since he failed to do this, he brought death into the world. Behold: the second day of death. Next, man was given written law, so that by observing it he might escape the peril of eternal death. But because he was loath to keep this law, he sank down to death under its weight. Behold: the third day of death. Then man received the preaching of the Gospel that grants eternal life. He despised it, and hence was condemned to death. Behold: the fourth day of death.

Onufri, The Raising of Lazarus (16th century)

Our Lord raised back to life mankind, hitherto overwhelmed by this fourfold death, when he went up to mount Olivet. Mount Olivet is the height of the faithful people, anointed with the oil of joy. Our Lord came to this mount when he came in the flesh and gathered the faithful in the faith. He sent two disciples into the city when he sent into the world teachers who were perfected in faith and works. He sent two of them because he wanted the two Testaments to teach the two peoples, namely the Jews and the gentiles. He sent two of them because he established that those in the active and contemplative lives should observe the two commandments of love. These two brought him an ass and a colt because they converted the circumcision and the uncircumcision to the faith, for the ass denotes Jewry, bound by the yoke of the Law, while the unbroken colt was the gentile people, constrained by no law. They laid their vestments over them when they displayed to them their good examples. They made our Lord sit thereon when they imprinted Christ on their hearts by faith. They spread their garments in the way when they offered them examples to follow. They cut boughs from olive trees when they taught them the words and deeds of the prophets, for olives designate the prophets, who were anointed with oil. They strewed palm boughs when they explained how the battles and victories of their kings against the gentiles represented the spiritual combat against the vices, for palms symbolize the victories of their kings, since the palm signifies victory. The multitudes that ran up to receive our Lord with palms are the gentiles who took to the faith and fulfilled Christ’s commandment with righteous deeds. The children who welcomed our Lord with palms are the martyrs who went to meet Christ with the palm of victory. The rest of the commoners who met our Lord represent those who vanquish the vices and rush up in the triumph of victory to meet our Lord in judgement. Our Lord predicted the razing of the city because he taught that this world would be destroyed. The multitudes cry out “Hosanna” as they joyfully enter the city with our Lord, because when he shall introduce his bride, the Church, from the present Babylon into his Father’s city, he shall command those who praise him to enter with him to the marriage feast. He cast out those who were buying and selling doves in the Temple, because he expels from the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem all those who buy or sell churches, orders, or any other spiritual gift.

This day is called Palm Sunday, because the universal Church celebrates it with palms and flowers following the example of the Jewish people. And so, dearly beloved, praise our Redeemer with a loud voice and beseech him with ceaseless prayers that just as the Hebrew people rushed to meet him on his way to his Passion with palms and flowers and in a way fore-sang of his triumph over death, so we might be able to rush to meet him when he comes in judgement with the palm of victory over the world and the vices and with the flowers of good works, and that we might be made worthy triumphantly to enter the heavenly Jerusalem with him to attend the wedding banquet.

End here, if you wish.

Ezekiel panel, detail of Section A (Yale Univ. Art Gallery), Synagogue of Dura Europos

All of these things came before as figures of yore, and pointed out our age as if with a finger. Abraham ordered his servant to swear on his circumcised member[36]—out of which he foreknew that Christ would descend in the flesh—that he would go to Mesopotamia and bring back thence a wife for his son. Bound by this oath, the servant went to Chaldea, found Rebecca next to a font, and brought her, adorned with gold and jewels, back to Isaac. Thus God sent the order of doctors into the world bound by Christ’s incarnation. They came upon the Church next to the font of baptism, and led her to the true Isaac, who is Christ, bedecked with the gold of charity and the jewels of good works.

Cutting from an Antiphonary: Initial A[spiciens a longe]: The Tree of Jesse, circa 1115-1125. (Photo by Heritage Arts/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Pharaoh afflicts the Jewish people in Egypt to suffer and Moses is sent to free them. When he performs many miracles, the magicians resist him. The same Moyses commanded that a lamb without blemish be confined on the tenth day of the first month and immolated four days later in the evening. He further enjoined them to sign the doors of their houses with its blood in the form of a cross, putting it in four places, to wit, on the lower and upper door posts and on both side posts, and to roast the lamb and eat it in their houses. When the destroying angel saw this sign, he passed through striking every firstborn of Egypt, and the Lord led his people out exulting and rejoicing in possession of the Egyptians’ gold and silver. He went before them at night in a pillar of fire, and he covered them with a pillar of cloud during the day. He divided the Red Sea, through which the people passed with dry steps. But the waters covered their pursuing enemies, and the Lord rescued his people so that they feared no more. They were glad as he led them to seventy palm trees and twelve fountains of water, and then fed them with bread from heaven. He drew water for them from a rock twice struck, which  accompanied them ever gushing unto the promised land.[37] Some of them ungratefully murmured against all these favors and were killed by fiery serpents.[38] Wherefore the people cried out and Moses prayed to the Lord, who commanded that he hang up a brazen serpent. When those bitten by the serpents looked upon it, they were spared death.  

As they approached the land, they sent twelve spies ahead, who reconnoitered the whole land and brought back some fruit to the main body as proof of the land’s great fertility.[39] They cut a cluster of grapes that two men carried on a pole and brought bread in a basket. When they reached the Jordan, the river ceased to flow, and the people passed over unharmed. At the blowing of the priests’ trumpets Jericho fell, and once their foes had been vanquished by Josue, also called Jesus, the people occupied the land flowing with milk and honey. The whole narrative is explained in the following manner.

The devil oppresses the people in this world, and the Father sends Christ to free them. When he performs many miracles, the malice of the Pharisees resists him. He himself was the lamb without blemish, since he never sinned, and of him it is said: Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.[40] He died as a sheep led to the slaughter[41] when he, the good shepherd, put down his life for his sheep.[42] He went to Jerusalem on the tenth day of the first month, which is today. The Jews confined him and on the fourteenth day, that is on Wednesday, his body was betrayed. The doors are marked in four places with his blood when our bodies are consecrated in the shape of the cross by baptism in faith in Christ’s passion. The lamb is roasted and eaten in the house when after Christ’s Passion the faithful people feed on his flesh in the Catholic Church. The firstborn of Egypt are struck when the Lamb’s blood destroys the everlasting pains of death, for Egypt, which means “darkness,” is the sins which lead evildoers into the exterior darkness. The angel of great counsel[43] strikes their firstborn when he destroys by his death the pains produced by sin. The joyful people are led out with gold and silver, because for the great price of the spotless lamb they are released from the tyrant. Moreover, the light of the eternal Sun shines upon those who were held in the darkness of hell, and they who were rescued from the prison of death are placed in the palace of life.

A pillar of fire goes before the people at night, because the light of Holy Writ offers us a path through the gloom of this life to the fatherland. A pillar of cloud protects them from the heat during the day, because on Doomsday Christ’s humanity shall defend them from the heat of eternal fire. For just as the sun is hidden behind the clouds, so the Sun of justice is hidden behind human flesh. The Red Sea is baptism, incarnadine with Christ’s blood, in which our enemy, sin, is plunged, while the faithful are rescued from fear of punishment. The seventy palm trees are the seventy books of Holy Writ, by which the seventy disciples taught the people to go from vice to the palm of victory. The twelve springs are the twelve apostles, from whom the streams of Scripture flowed across the globe. The people led out of Egypt came to these when, having been redeemed by the Lord, they placed themselves under the yoke of faith through the apostles and began to study Holy Writ. They ate the bread of angels when they merited to feed on Christ’s body. In this bread they enjoyed all that is delicious[44] and all the flavor of sweetness, since those who receive Christ’s bread worthily shall secure total bliss and all sweetness. A rock twice struck yields water, because the teaching of the Gospel is drawn from Christ stretched on the two beams of the Cross. This water had a honeyed and oily taste, because the Gospel promises us the sweetness of eternal life through Christ’s mercy. The ungrateful who murmur against these favors are killed by serpents, because those who live in wickedness after receiving the divine sacraments shall be slain by demons.

The people were saved from the serpents’ bite by gazing upon the hanging brazen serpent, which is Christ extended on the Cross, by faith in which the people are freed from the wound of sin. The brazen serpent has no venom, just as Christ has no sin. The twelve spies who reconnoitered the land are the twelve apostles who preached eternal life in the world. The cluster of grapes  carried on a pole is Christ who hung upon the Cross. Two men carry this pole, because the orders of prophets and of apostles make Christ’s Passion known to the world. They also brought bread in a basket, because they announced that the bread of angels had come in the flesh and become the bread of men. After the people crossed the river, the priests demolished Jericho with the sound of their trumpets, because after the last persecution this world shall be destroyed with the sound of the angel’s trumpets. After the enemies’ death, Jesus[45] divides the land flowing with milk and money among the victorious people, because after God’s enemies shall be damned in just judgement, the true Jesus shall bestow the land of the living, flowing with streams of joy, upon the people, victorious over the vices.

And so, my beloved, since Christ has freed you by his blood from the devil’s oppression and opened the way to the heavenly fatherland, hasten to meet him by the way of his commandments,[46] so that you may be pleasing to him in the land of the living,[47] where he shall share with you joys that eye hath not seen, &c.

Unknown, The Raising of Lazarus, Folio 1 recto in Purpureus Rossanensis (The Rossano Gospels) (c 550 CE), Diocesan Museum, Rossano Cathedral, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

[1] Psalm 90:13, sung as a versicle during the Lenten office.

[2] These fabulous accounts of the asp, basilisk, and lion owe much to Rabanus Maurus’ De universo 8.2 (“On Serpents”) and Isidore, Etymologies 12.4, but Honorius conflates the qualities of the asp and the salamander to serve the allegory, and the mystical interpretations are probably his own. The material on the basilisk and the dragon has been falsely ascribed to Hugh of Fouilloy, appearing as it does after his De avibus in the British Library’s Sloane MS 278.

[3] Cf. Psalm 57:5-6: “Their madness is according to the likeness of a serpent: like the deaf asp that stoppeth her ears, which will not hear the voice of the charmers; nor of the wizard that charmeth wisely” (Furor illis secundum similitudinem serpentis, sicut aspidis surdae et obturantis aures suas, quae non exaudiet vocem incantantium, et venefici incantantis sapienter.)

[4] Cf. Isaiah 11:8

[5] Here he invokes the devil’s depiction as a lion in 1 Peter 5:8.

[6] An expression found in many versions of the Confiteor used in the Middle Ages.

[7] Cf. Hebrews 2:14

[8] On the damnation of the devil and his “members,” see Elucidarium 3.4. Gregory the Great often spoke of sinners as parts of the devil’s body in his Moralia, e.g. 13.24.38 (1:689); 3.16.29 (1:133); 13.10.12 (1 :675).

[9] Psalms 90:13 and 21:22, the latter in the Vetus Latina reading used in the liturgy. The former is used daily as a versicle in Lent before Passiontide, when it is replaced by the latter.

[10] Psalm 73:12

[11] Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Psalm 69:6

[12] Cf. Romans 11:33

[13] Cf. John 11:37

[14] An adaptation of John 11:47-48

[15] Cf. John 11:50

[16] Proverbs 21:30

[17] Cf. Colossians 2:14

[18] John 12:2.

[19] John 12:19

[20] Honorius picks up the Cypriot tradition that Lazarus ruled for thirty years as bishop of Citium on that island, where an eponymous church is built over his alleged tomb. The relics were taken to Constantinope in 898 and lost after the Fourth Crusade. Honorius may have taken this account from the Chronica Clara of Marianus Scotus, who cites an unknown Ammularius as his source. A competing account, widely disseminated in the 13th century and followed by the Golden Legend, holds that Lazarus travelled to Provence with his sisters and became bishop of Marseille. His head is still venerated there, although the rest of his body was taken to Autun in the Carolingian age. The fact that Honorius relates the Cypriot account rather than the Provençal is further evidence that he was not from Autun.  

[21] Matthew 21

[22] I.e., for the Feast of Tabernacles, described in Leviticus 23:40 and Nehemiah 8:15-18.

[23] Luke 19

[24] Cf. the Responsory Ingrediente Domino (Cantus Index 6961).

[25] Luke 8

[26] Luke 7

[27] John 11

[28] The exegesis of the three people raised from the dead by Our Lord as representing three deaths of the soul appears already in the 9th century in commentaries on the psalms by Haymo of Halberstadt (PL 116:198) and Remigius of Auxerre (PL 131:151). In the 10th century it was picked up by Manegold of Lautenbach’s psalm commentary (wrongly attributed to Bede, PL 93:484) and appears in a sermon by Honorius’ contemporary Hildebert of Le Mans (PL 171:475). All these authors, however, name the three deaths differently, and Honorius is original in tying them to the three types of sin mentioned in most Confiteor formulæ. This creativity within tradition was characteristic of mediæval writers, and one could scarce find a better encapsulation thereof than in Honorius’s books.

[29] Matthew 5:28

[30] Wisdom 1:11

[31] I Corinthians 6:10

[32] Matthew 8:22

[33] Proverbs 2:14

[34] See Psalm 1:5, where “the impious” do not rise for the judgment. See Elucidarium 3.14 on the fate of the wicked at the Final Judgment.

[35] Genesis 2:17

[36] Cf. Genesis 24:2

[37]  In 1 Corinthians 10:4, St. Paul reports the oral tradition that the rock struck by Moses in Numbers 20 followed the people through the desert to the promised land.

[38] Numbers 21:9

[39] See Numbers 13

[40] John 1:29; the reading here follows that of the acclamation at Mass.

[41] Isaias 53:7

[42] John 10:11

[43] Isaias 9:6, Vetus Latina (used in the introit Puer natus of the third Mass of Christmas).

[44] Wisdom 16:20

[45] I.e. Josue

[46] See Psalm 118:32

[47] See Psalm 114:9, sung in the Office of the Dead.

Rejoice, Jerusalem, & Celebrate a Feast, All You that Love Her: A Mediæval Sermon for Lętare Sunday

Midway through the rigors of Lent, Honorius tantalizes his audience with a sermon abounding in allegories related to food. 

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and celebrate a feast, all you that love her. The allusion to a “feast” in this alternate textual tradition of the Introit verse from Isaiah 66:10 allows him to direct the minds of the faithful, wearied by fasting, to the feast that awaits them in the Heavenly Jerusalem. Keep your eyes fixed on our mother above, where joy awaits!

Meanwhile, he reminds us that Holy Mother Church offers them the milk of consolation in this life, expressed through the teaching of the two Testaments, where we are promised a “land flowing with milk and honey” “a paradise of delight,” “a river of peace,” and bodies that “shine like the sun” in glory that “eye hath not seen.” They are refreshed also by the teaching and example of the Holy Fathers, as if by bread.

The faithful should therefore “praise the Lord for the benefits they have received” of holy doctrine and exempla, and for the rest of Lent  “prepare themselves for this heavenly repast by cultivating cleanliness of heart and body, for chastity alone frees those who are in peril and reconciles the penitent with God.”

Several exempla serve to strengthen us for this task. The stories of the monk Malchus and the persecuted patriarchs are calculated to encourage laity to keep their obligation of marital continence (chastity) during the Lenten season, so that with the saints we might show marvelously “how much chastity can do.”

Lest we depart with minds too much inebriated with the milk of consolation, Honorius closes with a rendition of the Dantesque Vision of Dryhthelm, a dire warning to sinners to repent before it is too late!


Rejoice, Jerusalem, and celebrate a feast, all you that love her.[1] The divine office[2] we have sung today, dearly beloved, warns us not to covet worldly and perishable things unduly, without betimes directing our minds to our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem. For it says, Rejoice, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, which means “vision of peace,”[3] is the Church, who shall see in heaven the everlasting peace that is Christ. The prophet urges her to rejoice, because she shall be made joyful in gladness with the Lord’s countenance.[4] All that love her, too, are called to celebrate a feast, because in the feast of angels they shall see the Lord’s face with joy.[5] They, also are told to rejoice for joy with her,[6] who were heretofore in sadness on account of their sins, that they might exult in their forgiveness and be sated with the breasts of her consolations

Marco Zoppo, Maria lactans, 15th century

The Church’s breasts represent the two testaments, by which her children are fed with the milk of the letter and of allegory.[7] The Jewish people sucked one, the Christian people suck the other; the former the letter, we allegory. One gives milk when it consoles us in the Law: Hear, O Israel, the commandments of the Lord and write them in your heart as if in a book, and I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey,[8] that is, a paradise of delight[9]overflowing with all sweetness. The other feeds us milk when the New Law thus promises: When Christ shall appear, we shall be like to him, because we shall see God as he is.[10] The prophet presses milk from the old breast when he promises us thus: They shall not hunger nor thirst any longer, neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them, for he that is merciful to them at the fountains of waters shall give them drink.[11] The evangelist draws milk from the new breast when he tells us the Lord’s promise: The just shall shine as the sun[12] and shall be equal to the angels.[13] We suck one: They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.[14] We drink from the other: The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, it hath not entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.[15] Hasten to these joys, dearly beloved, with all your strength, so that you may flow with delights, from the abundance of her glory; the abundant glory here is that of the Church, when, established in the place of the pasture[16] of eternal life, she lacks nothing. The prophet gives a picture of this glory when he says: Behold I bring upon her as it were a river of peace, and glory as an overflowing torrent. O how blessed are those upon whom the Lord brings down an abundance of peace as a river, and in whom perfect glory is poured as an overflowing torrent!

Giovanni Pisano, Ecclesia lactans, from the pulpit of the Cathedral of Pisa, ca. 1302-1310

Today’s reading [17] tells us who shall be granted this glory on account of a gracious gift, and to whom it shall be denied on account of their lack of merit. Abraham, it says, had two sons, the one by a bondwoman, and the other by a free woman. But the bondwoman and her son are cast out, while the free woman and her son receive the inheritance. Abraham represents God the Father, Agar the Old Law, and Ismael the carnal people; Sara betokens the New Law, and Isaac the Christian people. And so the Law kept in a carnal manner is deprived of the inheritance along with the Jewish people; the Church, on the other hand, established by grace,  comes into the riches of God’s kingdom along with the Christian people. Abraham also designates our spirit, the bondwoman our flesh, and her son carnal works; the free woman is a figure of our soul, and her son of spiritual works. Therefore, just as Sara harassed Agar for disdaining her and ordered Ismael to be cast out for nearly killing Isaac,[18] so let the soul, which is the mistress, afflict the flesh, which as her bondwoman contemns her, with fasts and vigils. Let the soul cast out the flesh’s son who persecutes her own son, that is, the carnal work which impedes the spiritual. Let her beget a lordly son, that is, a good work, who might seize the joy of the Lord’s inheritance.

Abraham expels Agar and Ismael at Sara’s petition. From the Bible Moralisée (1235–1245), Oxford, Bodleian Library 270b fol. 13v

We also read[19] that the Lord went over the sea and went up into a mountain, and a great multitude from the whole area round about came unto him. Taking the boy’s five loaves of bread he handed them out to the crowd, feeding five thousand men, not counting women and children. He then ordered the fragments that remained to be gathered up, and they filled twelve baskets. The crowd gave thanks to God when they saw these things. The sea represents this world, which is ever battered by countless tempests of adversity. The Lord went over it, for while he lived here he committed no sin. He went up a mountain, when he ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. A crowd flocked to him from the whole area round about when the apostles’ preaching drew people from every part of the globe to believe in him. They make a repast on five loaves of bread because the five books of Moses instruct them how to obtain eternal life. The additional two fishes are the psalms and the prophets which are given to the faithful. It is written that the loaves were of barley, because as barley-corn is covered by a husk, so the books of the Law are shrouded in many mysteries[20]. The boy who brought the loaves but did not eat them is the Jewish people, whose childish understanding does not comprehend the sense of the Law. Now, Jesus broke the loaves and distributed them to the crowd when he opened the faithful’s minds to understand the Scripture. They eat their fill stretched out on the grass, because only the humble are judged worthy of the Lord’s refreshment. The five loaves also represent the writings and examples of the Fathers who lived during the five ages, on which the faithful feed abundantly every day.

The multiplication of the loaves, from the Lenten veil of Millstatt Abbey (Austria), Oswalt Kreusel, 1591

In the first age, Enoch feeds us with bread of his writing when he writes that the Lord shall come to judge with a thousand saints.[21] He fills us with the bread of example when, as Scripture recalls, he pleased God on account of his justice and was snatched up to paradise. In the second age, Abraham supplies us with bread when, as it is told, he invented Hebrew letters,[22] wrote down what had occurred from the beginning,[23] taught astronomy in Egypt,[24] and obeyed God in all things. In the third age, Moses copiously restores us when his writings teach us the ten commandments and when he is described as having been exceeding meek above all men[25] and having shone with many signs. In the fourth age, David, Solomon, and most of the prophets fill us with sweet bread when they instruct us by their mystical writings and deeds. In the fifth age, Esdras sates us with bread when he renews the Law that had been burned[26] and rebuilds the temple that had been destroyed. These loaves of bread are distributed to the crowd when the doctors expound the allegorical sense of these men’s writings and deeds to the faithful.

Moreover, the two fishes represent the only two persons, who were anointed with holy oil in the Old Testament, to wit kings and the priests. Christ, for his part, used his fishermen, the apostles, to catch the faithful, who were dwelling like fish in the sea of the world, with the net of faith, and had them all anointed with the oil of chrism as kings and priests. Indeed, the alb received at baptism represents the priesthood, and the miter placed on the head represents the diadem of kings. Five thousand men are fed, because those who lived out the Trinitarian faith through the two works of charity in the five senses are restored with Christ’s body, for three plus two make five. Three signifies Trinitarian faith, and two the performance of the twin works of charity. Those whom this number consecrates Christ refects in his banquet. Further, the women and children denote heretics, who participate in the Lord’s sacraments, but since they are not counted in his number, they are not admitted into the Lord’s inheritance. The apostles filled twelve baskets with the fragments left over by those who ate, when in the sixth age they explained the earlier writings in their teaching. A basket is woven from plain wicker, and the order of apostles was chosen from humble stock. They collect the leftovers of those who ate when they give out the literal meaning to the vulgar, reserving the mystical meaning for the wise.

And so, dearly beloved, join the sated crowds in praising God for the benefits you have received. Prepare yourselves for this repast by cultivating cleanliness of heart and body, for chastity alone frees those who are in peril and reconciles the penitent with God. 

Joseph, when he does not give into lust, is freed from prison and is even raised as a prince over all Egypt. Daniel, since he loves chastity, is not harmed by the ferocious lions in the den he was twice cast into, and mighty kings elevated him above the princes. Susanna too, when out of love for chastity she did not sully her husband’s bed, not only escaped from the accusations of the wicked cabal, but even had the false accusers delivered up to a meet punishment once they were convicted by Daniel’s just sentence. The holy widow Judith rescued God’s people from the danger of imminent destruction by cherishing chastity, when she spurned the honors and riches of the generous prince. Moreover, she killed the tyrant and revels in her victory, and even today triumphant she receives due praise from the lips of all men.

Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Duomo of Milan

A certain monk named Malchus was part of a large group captured by the Saracens.[27] Along with the captured wife of another man, he was handed off by lot to a man who set him to pasture his flocks of grazing sheep and gave the women to him in marriage. But though his master coerced him, for his love of chastity he never lay with her. Eventually, he escaped with the slave woman, but his master and another slave pursued them on camels. Taking flight, the pair sought out a cave in which a lioness was caring for her cubs. Catching up with them, the master orders the slave to drag them from the cave and kill them, while he waits outside with the camels, holding his unsheathed sword. The slave enters the cave with his blade drawn, but instantly the lioness pounced and tore him to shreds before Malchus and the woman’s terrified eyes. Impatient at the slave’s delay, the master goes inside but forthwith meets the same fate. After this, the lioness brings out her cubs, giving the fearful fugitives a chance to slip out. Mounting the camels they went away and made it known everywhere how much chastity can do.

St. Malchus of Syria praying, engraving by Jan Sadeler, ca. 1550, in the book Solitudo, sive, Vitae patrum eremicolarum

There was a certain woman caught in adultery who was brought before our Lord for judgment, but her accusers were confounded and she allowed to go without harm. Dearest, serve the Lord in holiness and justness, and he will set you free from every rage of your enemies. 

My beloved, I desire to make something known to you, to put fear into the sluggishness of the indolent, and gladden the minds of those who devoutly serve God.

There passed away a certain well-born and wealthy man.[28] His family and a large crowd of his neighbors stayed up the whole night mournfully performing his obsequies, when at first light the dead man returned to his body. All there present turned tail and ran in fright and wonder. But he sped immediately to the church, where he lay prostrate in prayer until nearly midday. Upon returning from the church he divided all his property into three parts. One part he gave to his wife and children, one he gave out to the poor, and the last he bestowed on the brethren of a monastery in which he became a monk. When the brethren asked him what he had seen, he told the following story:

“Bright were the dress and countenance of the one who led me. As we headed toward a northern country, on our left ran a vale of colossal depth, exceeding breadth, and boundless length. On one of its slopes an immense fire was raging, while the other was frozen by a horrible chill. On both sides, wretched souls languished in torments, leaping now from the fire into the chill, now from the frost into the flames. Observing this, I thought to myself that this must be hell, about whose unspeakable torments I had often heard tell. My guide answered my thoughts, saying that this was not hell. As we walked along further, everything before us began to darken, and through shadows black as night, we wended our way into the regions below. And lo! a great pit loomed before us, which vomited out sulphurous eddies from its volcanic maw and then greedily guzzled them back down again. Yea more, an unbearable fetor wafted up from that furnace, making the air all around heavy with its stench. Then all of a sudden, my guide vanished, leaving me standing alone before this horrible sight. As I stood there frightened and adread, not knowing where to turn my step or what end awaited me, a pitiful clamor rose abruptly behind me, where the demons were hauling along a throng of souls. The souls wailed dolefully, while the demons cruelly mocked them and cast them into that chasm, cackling all the while. Meanwhile, loathsome spirits emerged from that abyss, breathing out fulsome fire from their mouths and noses, and tried to seize me with fiery tongs. But anon, my guide returned, and the spirits dove back into the pit bellowing frightfully. 

Hellmouth, St. George’s Church, Haguenau, Alsace, painted wood, 1496.

“Free now from the terror of the gloom, I was immediately led by him into the serene light of an eastern country, where another wall with no entrance appeared before us, rising up to heaven. When we  had reached it, we found an exceedingly vast field, wonderful in all its delights, more splendid than the light of day, planted with fragrant flowers, in which white-clad bands made merry, resounding a sweet hymn. I therefore began to think that this was the kingdom of heaven, about whose indescribable joys I had often been told. But my guide answered my heart, and said that this was not the kingdom of heaven. As we passed by those fields of the blessed, even more splendid things appeared before us, and lo! an immense light shone before us with the greatest radiance, emitting a marvelously sweet scent, and moreover resounding with the most sweetly tuneful harmony. 

“This glory was so great that everything I had considered excellent before then seemed aspaltry by comparison. Although I hoped we would enter this light, my guide turned back and coming up to the merry-makers told me, “Dost thou know what the things thou hast seen signify?” When I answered that I did not, he said: “That vale, dreadful for its flames and frost, is the place prepared for those who delay repenting of their mortal sins until the very end. Since they take refuge in penance at the time of their deaths, they escape the woes of hell, but since they did not make sufficient satisfaction for their sins in this world, they are cleansed with these torments and are freed hence by the masses, alms, and prayers offered by the faithful, until they join these thou seest here. Those, however, who die without repenting are forthwith plunged into hell, whence they shall never escape for all eternity. That volcanic pit thou sawest is Hellmouth. Now, those who lead a good manner of life come hither after their death. Those who are found perfect, however, are forthwith admitted into the kingdom of heaven, whose entry is that bright place thou sawest. Now thou shalt return to thy body: if thou livest well, thou shalt join these here.” 

Immediately the man returned to this life, and thenceforth he led such a holy life that even if his tongue had not revealed what he saw the manner of his life would have made it manifest. 

Therefore, my beloved, if you live soberly, justly, and piously in this life,[29] at last you will arrive in those joys where you may exult for everlasting ages and God shall be pleased to make his dwelling within you, whom eye has not seen, etc.[30]


[1] Isaias 66:10. The version of the text Honorius quotes is not the same as that of the Vulgate or the Introit Laetare Jerusalem (Cantus ID g00776), but does appear in the third canticle sung at Mattins on Christmas in a number of monastic breviaries written between the 10th to the 13th centuries. The monastic breviary issued after the Tridentine reform by Pope Paul V imposed the Vulgate reading. See James Mearns, The Canticles of the Christian Church, pp. 81-86.

[2] Officium was another term for the introit. 

[3] Jerome gives this interpretation, which was repeated by Augustine and Isidore, and links it to the Church’s vision of peace in the next world.

[4] Psalm 20:7

[5] Job 33:26

[6] Isaias 66:10-12.

[7] The following meditation is probably inspired by Bede’s allegorical reading of the beloved’s breasts praised in Song of Songs 4:5, in his commentary In Cantica Canticorum 3 (CCSL 119B, p. 251, lines 268-70).

[8] From a responsory sung at Matins on Laetare Sunday (Cantus ID 6143), itself a free adaptation of Deuteronomy 4:1 and 27:3.

[9] Genesis 2:8

[10] 1 John 3:2 

[11] Isaias 49:10

[12] Matthew 13:43

[13] Luke 20:36

[14] Isaias 35:10

[15] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[16] Psalm 22:2

[17] The epistle of the mass, viz. Galatians 4:22-31.

[18] In Genesis 21, Sarah asks Abram to cast out Hagar and Ishmael after seeing him “playing” with Isaac (21:9). To clarify this rather abrupt dismissal, Jewish tradition (recorded by St. Jerome in a gloss from his Questions on the Old Testament) suggested that Sarah caught Ishmael teaching Isaac to play with idols (cf. Exodus 32), or that the older boy was playing roughly in order to harm his half-brother and so steal the inheritance, as hinted by Saint Paul’s use of the word persequere in Galatians 4:25. Some Christian commentators insisted that Sarah acted thus because she was seized by a prophetic foresight of the typological significance of the moment (mysterio prophetiae compulsa, Isidore). In any case, as Bruno of Asti points out (Commentary on Genesis 21, PL 164:196), as a type of the synagogue, it was natural that Ishmael sought to harm Isaac, a type of the Church. 

[19] The gospel of the mass, viz. John 6:1-15.

[20] This interpretation is drawn from St. Augustine (De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII, 61, 1 [PL 40:48-49]).

[21] The verse from the Letter of Jude 1:14 paraphrased here refers to the extensive Jewish and Christian apocryphal traditions around Enoch, especially the Book of Enoch. It is not clear that Honorius would have had access to any Enochic texts.

[22]This unusual claim was made by the Hellenistic Jewish writer Eupolemus, fragments of whose writings were transmitted in Eusebius’ Preparation for the Gospel. Both Jewish and Christian tradition usually associated the invention of the alphabet with Moses.

[23] Possibly a reference to the

[24] Abraham’s mastery of Chaldean science was a common theme in apocryphal Jewish literature, repeated by Josephus and Philo.

[25] Numbers 12:3, in a version quoted by Jerome rather than the Vulgate text.

[26] Cf. 2 Esdras 14:21.

[27] The story is taken from Jerome’s Life of Malchus the Captive Monk.

[28] The following story is a retelling of Bede’s Vision of Dryhthelm (Ecclesiastical Histories 5.12.), part of a long tradition of vision literature ultimately stemming from the late antique Visio Sancti Pauli. See also his descriptions of Hell in the Sermo Generalis and in Elucidarium.

[29] Titus 2:12

[30] 1 Corinthians 2:9


Edition prepared from PL 172:893-898 and the following MSS:
A: Admont, Benediktinerstift, cod. 131, ff. 43r ff.;
Gr: Graz, Univ. Bibl., Cod. 173, ff. 50r ff.;
SG: St. Gall, Stiftsbibl. 1075, pp. 84 ff.;
Go: Göttweig, Benediktinerstift, Cod. 104 rot / 47 schwarz, f. 56v ff.;
L: Lilienfeld, Stiftsarchiv und Stiftsbibliothek, HS 140,  p. 73 ff.

Honorii Augustodunensis
Sermo
in Dominica in media Quadragesima

Letare, Ierusalem, et diem festum agite omnes qui diligitis eam. Diuinum officium karissimi quod hodie cantauimus,[1] monet nos ne tantum terrenis et caducis[2] inhiemus,[3] nisi aliquando etiam[4] ad matrem nostram cęlestem Ierusalem[5] mentem[6] dirigamus. Ait enim, Letare Ierusalem.[7] Ierusalem,[8] quod dicitur “uisio pacis,” est Ęcclesia quę ęternam pacem xpm uisura est in cęlis. Hęc[9] a propheta letari hortatur, quia in gaudio cum uultu Domini[10] habet letificariDiem quoque agere festum iubentur omnes qui eam diligunt, quia in festo angelorum faciem Domini in[11] iubilo uidebuntGaudere etiam admonentur[12] cum[13] leticia, qui hactenus propter peccata fuerunt in tristicia, ut de uenia exultent et ab uberibus consolationis eius se satient. 

Per ubera Ęcclesię[14] duo testamenta accipiuntur, per quę filii[15] eius lacte litterę et allegorię nutriuntur. Vnum[16] suxit populus Iudaicus, aliud sugit populus xpianus. Ille litteram, nos allegoriam. De uno lac datur,[17] cum nos[18] in lege sic consolatur: Audi, Israel, precepta[19] Domini et ea in corde tuo quasi in libro scribe, et dabo tibi terram lacte et melle manantem,[20] id est paradysum uoluptatisomni dulcedine exuberantem. De alio nobis lac mulgetur, cum lex noua sic nobis pollicetur: Cum xpc apparuerit, similes ei erimus quoniam Deum sicuti est uidebimus. Propheta nobis lac de ueteri ubere premit,[21] cum nobis sic promittit: Non esurient neque sitient amplius, et non percutiet eos sol et estus, quoniam miserator eorum reget eos, et ad uitę fontes aquarum potabit illos.[22] De nouo nobis ęuangelista[23] lac elicit, dum Dominum hęc nobis spondere dicit: Iusti ut sol fulgebunt et angelis equales erunt. De uno sugimus: Obtinebunt gaudium et leticiam, et fugiet dolor et gemitus. De alio haurimus: Oculus non uidit, auris non audiuit, in cor hominis non ascendit[24] quę Deus se diligentibus preparauit. Ad hęc gaudia festinate, karissimi, totis uiribus, ut deliciis affluatis ab omnimoda gloria eius, Ęcclesię gloria quę[25] tunc omnimoda erit, cum in loco pascuę uitę collocatanichil ei deerit. Hęc gloria exprimitur cum per prophetam dicitur: ecce ego declino in eos ut flumen pacis et ut torrens inundans gloriam.[26] O quam beati in quos Dominus habundantiam pacis ut flumen declinat, et in quos omnimoda gloria ut torrens inundans[27] riuulat!

Legitur hodie quibus hęc gloria ob gratiam detur, et quibus ob meritum denegetur. Abraham, inquiens, habuit duos filios, unum de ancilla, et unum de libera. Sed ancilla cum filio suo eicitur,[28] libera cum filio suo hereditate[29] potitur.[30] Per Abraham Deus Pater[31] intelligitur, per Agar uetus lex,[32] per Ismahel carnalis populus;[33] per Saram noua lex, per Ysaac xpianus populus accipitur. Lex ergo[34] carnaliter obseruata, cum Iudaico populo hereditate Domini priuatur; Ęcclesia uero sub gratia constituta, cum xpiano populo regno[35] Dei ditatur. Per Abraham quoque noster spiritus, per ancillam nostra caro, per filium eius carnalia opera designantur; per liberam anima, per filium eius spiritualia opera figurantur.[36] Sicut ergo[37] Sara despicientem se Agar afflixit, et Ismahel ad mortis periculum Ysaac impellentem eici iussit, sic anima, quę est domina, carnem, ancillam suam se contempnentem, ieiuniis et uigiliis affligat;[38] filium eius persequentem filium suum,[39] id est carnale opus impediens spirituale eiciat;[40] herilem[41] filium, id est bonum opus, pariat, qui gaudium hereditatis Domini[42] capiat.

 Legitur etiam quod Dominus trans mare abiit[43] montemque[44] subiit, et maxima multitudo eum undique adiit. Qui V panes et duos pisces a puero acceptos turbę distribuit, et V milia uirorum, exceptis[45] paruulis et mulieribus, satiauit. Iussit uero[46] colligere fragmenta quę manducantibus superfuerunt, et XII cophinos impleuerunt; quod turbę uidentes Deo grates[47] retulerunt.[48] Per mare hoc seculum intellegitur quod innumeris aduersitatum[49] procellis iugiter colliditur. Super hoc Dominus transiit, quia hic uiuens[50]peccatum non fecit. Montem subiit, dum in cęlum ad dexteram Patris conscendit. Turba ad eum undique circumfluxit, dum predicatio apostolorum populum ex omni orbis parte[51] ad fidem eius contraxit. Qui V panibus reficiuntur quia V libris Moysi ad uitam[52]instruuntur. Duo pisces adduntur, dum psalmodia[53] et prophetia fidelibus traduntur. Panes ordeacei scribuntur, quia sicut ordeum folliculis, ita libri legis multis mysteriis inuoluuntur. Puer qui eos portauit nec comedit, est Iudaicus populus pueriliter sapiens qui[54]sensum legis non intellexit. Ihc uero[55] panes fregit, turbis distribuit, dum fidelibus sensum ad intellegendum Scripturas aperuit. Super fenum discumbentes saturantur, quia humiles tantum refectione Domini digni iudicantur. Per quinque panes etiam Scriptura et exempla patrum in quinque etatibus degentium intelliguntur, quibus cottidie fideles habunde reficiuntur. 

In prima etate Enoch pane scripti nos reficit, dum Dominum cum milibus sanctorum ad iudicium uenturum[56] scribit. Pane exempli nos saciat, dum eum ob iusticiam Deo[57] placuisse et in paradysum raptum fuisse Scriptura memorat.[58] In secunda etate panis nobis per Abraham ministratur, dum litteras Hebreas reperisse, transacta ab inicio scripsisse, astronomiam in Egypto docuisse, ac Deo in omnibus obedisse narratur. In tercia etate per Moysen copiose reficimur, dum X preceptis per eius scripta instruimur, et ipse super[59]omnes homines mansuetissimus fuisse[60][61] et multis signis fulsisse[62] describitur. In IIIIta etate, Dauid, Salomon et omnes pene prophetę nos dulci pane saciant, dum nos mysticis scriptis et factis informant. In V etate Esdras nos pane saturat, dum legem incensam reiterat, et templum destructum reedificat.[63] Hii[64] panes turbis distribuuntur, dum horum scripta et facta a doctoribus mystice fidelibus exponuntur.[65]

Per duos quoque pisces duę personę, regis uidelicet et sacerdotis, designantur, quę solę in Veteri Testamento oleo sancto unguebantur. Xpc autem[66] fideles in salo seculi ut pisces latentes per piscatores apostolos rete fidei cepit,[67] et cunctos oleo chrismatis in reges et in sacerdotes unguere fecit.[68] Per albam namque in baptismate acceptam sacerdotium;[69] per mitram uero[70] capiti inpositam designatur diadema regium. Quinque milia uirorum pascuntur, quia qui fidem sanctę Trinitatis per duo opera caritatis V sensibus uiriliter impleuerunt, xpi corpore reficiuntur, quinque enim in tria et duo diuiduntur. Per tria fides Trinitatis, per duo operatio intelligitur geminę caritatis. Quos hic numerus consecrat, hos xpc suo conuiuio recreat. Porro per paruulos et mulieres heretici[71] denotantur,[72]qui in Dominicis sacramentis nobiscum participantur, sed quia ab hoc numero excluduntur, in hereditatem Domini non admittuntur.[73] Apostoli XII cophinos de fragmentis manducantium impleuerunt, dum in VI etate[74] scripta priorum sua doctrina disseruerunt. Cophinus de gracili uimine contexitur, et ordo apostolicus de humili styrpe eligitur. Hic reliquias edentium congregat, qui litteram popularibus erogat, mystica sapientibus reseruat. 

Cum refectis ergo turbis, karissimi, Deum pro collatis beneficiis laudate.[75] Ad ipsius refectionem tota[76] cordis et corporis[77]mundicia uos[78] preparate, quia sola castitas homines in periculis liberat, penitentes Deo conciliat.[79]

Ioseph namque dum a libidine non subiugatur,[80] a carcere liberatur, insuper totius Egypti princeps eleuatur. Daniel, dum castitatem diligit, feritas leonum in caueam bis[81] eum missum non ledit, sed et regum[82] potentia super principes eum extulit. Susanna quoque, dum amore castitatis mariti thorum non uiolauit, non solum manus iniquorum iudicum euasit, sed etiam ipsos falsos accusatores iusta sententia Danielis conuictos debitę penę mancipauit. Iudith sancta uidua, castitatem diligendo, dum honorem et diuitias magnanimi principis spernit, populum Dei ab imminentis[83] mortis periculo eripit. Insuper ipsa, occiso tyranno, de uictoria tripudiat, et omnium ore usque hodie laude digna triumphat. 

Malchus quidam monachus, dum cum multis aliis a[84] Sarracenis capitur, cum uxore alterius uiri capta, uni pro sorte traditur, a quo ei grex pecudum pascendus commendatur, et mulier ei in coniugium datur.[85] Sed ipse[86] amore castitatis a domino suo etiam coactus, numquam ei copulatur. Transacto tempore aliquo,[87] cum eadem muliercula in fugam uertitur, sed dominus cum seruo in[88] camelis insequitur.[89] Illi ob timorem speluncam petebant, qua interius leena catulos fouebat. Dominus insecutus seruum eos de spelunca occidendos extrahere iubet, ipse foris camelos, euaginato tenet gladio. Seruus nudato ense ingreditur, sed ilico ab leena arripitur, ante oculos pauentium discerpitur. Quem tardantem dominus iratus insequitur, sed similem finem protinus sortitur. Hoc facto leena catulos effert, locum abscedendi[90] trepidis[91] offert. Illi ascensis camelis abierunt et quantum castitas ualeat ubique notum fecerunt.

Quędam mulier in adulterio deprehensa, Domini iudicio sistitur, sed accusatoribus eius confutatis, illesa abire sinitur.[92][93] Huic,[94]karissimi, seruite Domino in sanctitate et iusticia, et liberabit uos ab omni inimicorum seuicia. Volo, dilectissimi, ut res dilectioni uestrę innotescat, unde neglegentium ignauia perhorrescat, et Deo[95] deuote seruientium mens hylarescat.

Quidam genere et opibus preditus obiit, cuius exequiis frequens propinquorum[96] turba et lugens familia tota nocte interfuit, sed primo diluculo defunctus ad corpus rediit. Cuncti qui affuerunt in stuporem et admirationem conuersi fugerunt. Ille uero[97] concitus ad ęcclesiam cucurrit, usque ad mediam fere diem in oratione procubuit. Inde[98] reuersus cunctam substantiam suam[99] in tria diuisit, unam partem uxori et filiis dedit, unam pauperibus distribuit, unam fratribus in monasterio contulit in quo se monachum fecit. Sciscitantibus fratribus[100] quid uiderit hoc retulit: 

«Veste et facie lucidus erat, qui me ducebat. Euntibus nobis ad plagam aquilonis, erat a leua uallis immensę profunditatis, nimię latitudinis, infinitę longitudinis, cuius unum latus maximo incendio estuabat, aliud horribili frigore congelabat. In utraque parte miserę[101] animę penis deficiebant, quę nunc de igne in frigus, nunc de gelu in flammas resiliebant. Hoc uiso cogitare cepi hoc infernum esse, de cuius ineffabilibus penis me sepius contigit audire. Ductor[102] meus respondit cogitationi meę[103] dicens hoc infernum non esse. Vltra nobis[104] progredientibus ceperunt omnia ante nos obscurari, et nos per tetras tenebras quasi descendendo ad ulteriora dilabi. Et ecce magnus puteus ante nos apparuit, qui sulphurea uolumina de flammiuomo ore euomuit, et rursus eadem retracta absorbuit. Intolerabilis etiam fetor de illa fornace ascendebat,[105] qui omnia in circuitu replebat. Tunc repente ductor meus disparuit, et me in hoc horrido spectaculo solum statuit. Cumque ibi pauidus ac perterritus[106] starem, et quo gressum uerterem, uel quis finis me[107] expectaret ignorarem, subito post me miserabilis clamor exoritur, ubi turba animarum a demonibus trahitur, animę[108]flebiliter eiulantes, demones crudeliter insultantes, et eas in illud baratrum cum cachinno[109] precipitantes. Interea teterrimi spiritus ab illa[110] abysso emergebant,[111] putidum[112] ignem de ore et naribus efflantes, igneis forcipibus me capere[113] querebant;[114]sed[115] mox ductore meo adueniente in eundem puteum cum diro mugitu se precipites dabant. Qui statim me timore ex tenebris exemptum in serenam lucem orientalis plagę duxit, ubi ante nos alius murus nullum introitum habens ad cęlum usque surrexit.[116]Quo cum peruenissemus, erat campus latissimus,[117] omni amenitate conspicuus, pre diei luce splendidus, odoriferis floribus consitus, suaui odore[118] plenus, in quo letabantur albatorum[119] agmina, dulcem ymnum resonantia. Cepi itaque[120] cogitare hoc esse regnum cęlorum, de cuius inenarrabilibus gaudiis sepius michi est relatum. Ille uero cordi meo respondit, hoc regnum cęlorum non esse dixit.[121] Pretergredientes[122] illa beatorum loca, apparuerunt ante nos omnia[123] splendidiora, et ecce immensa lux ante nos maximo iubare radiabat, de qua miri odoris suauitas fraglabat,[124] insuper dulcissimi concentus armonia resonabat. Et talis erat hęc gloria, ut omnia quę prius uideram conspicua uiderentur esse permodica. Quo[125] cum nos sperarem intraturos, ductor meus reflexit et ad locum letantium perueniens, michi dixit: “Scis quod significant[126] quę uidisti?” Cui cum responderem me ignorare, dixit:[127]“Vallis ardore et algore horrida est locus his[128] preparatus qui usque ad finem[129] differunt penitere sua crimina. Hii quia in morte ad penitentiam confugiunt, inferni supplicia euadunt. Sed quia hic ad satisfactionem non emendantur, in his penis purgantur et inde per missas et elemosinas et orationes fidelium liberantur et his quos uides associantur. Qui autem sine penitentia moriuntur, mox in infernum dimerguntur, unde numquam in euum[130] liberabuntur,[131] cuius introitus erat ille puteus flammiuomus. Porro qui in bona conuersatione uitam ducunt, post obitum huc ueniunt. Qui uero perfecti inueniuntur mox in cęleste regnum introducuntur. Cuius ingressus ille est quem uidisti locus lucidus. Nunc[132] ad corpus reuerteris: si bene uixeris, his associeris.»[133] Protinus ad hanc uitam rediit, tam sanctam deinceps[134] uitam duxit ut lingua tacente uita loqueretur quid uiderit. 

Igitur, karissimi si hic sobrie, iuste et pie[135] uixeritis,[136] ad illa gaudia quandoque peruenietis ubi licet in ęternum exultare, et Deo[137] placebit in uobis habitare, quem oculus non vidit &c.


[1] cantamus SG

[2] rebus add. PL

[3] inhiamus PL

[4] nisi aliquando etquia PL

[5] Hierosolimam PL

[6] nostram add. SG, PL

[7] Hierosolima PL

[8] Hierosolima PL

[9] omit. leg. Hanc SG, PL

[10] Dei SG, PL

[11] cum SG

[12] monentur SG

[13] in PL

[14] Iherusalem Gr

[15] filio PL

[16] finis add. PL

[17] lac daturille lactatur SG, lactatur L

[18] Omit. SG

[19] mandata SG

[20] Audi … manantemAudi Israel Dominus Deus tuus unus est. Et iterum. manantemfluentem SG

[21] promittit PL

[22] eos Gr sed illos in marg., perducet eos SG, eos L, PL

[23] euangelium L

[24] in … ascendit omit. SG, nec in cor hominis ascendit L

[25] omit. Go, SG; ejus PL

[26] Isaiah 66

[27] omit. SG

[28] eicietur Go

[29] haereditatem PL

[30] ibid.

[31] omit. L

[32] intelligitur add. L

[33] omit. SG

[34] quoque SG, uero Go

[35] regnum L

[36] designantur Gr, SG

[37] enim SG

[38] affligebat L

[39] omit. PL

[40] efficiat PL

[41] heredem SG

[42] omit. SG

[43] Galilee SG

[44] montem quoque SG

[45] absque SG

[46] quoque SG, ergo Go

[47] gratias SG

[48] Mark 6

[49] aduersitati L

[50] vivent PL

[51] terrę Gr, Go

[52] fidem PL

[53] plasmodia L

[54] omit. SG

[55] autem PL

[56] aduenturum SG

[57] omit. SG

[58] conmemorat SG

[59] omit. SG

[60] testatur add. PL

[61] Numbers 12:3, in a version quoted by Jerome rather than the Vulgate text.

[62] claruisse A, fuisse L

[63] nos … reedificatsaturandos legem reuelat, et templum destructum cum aliis reedificat SG

[64] Hic PL

[65] distribuntur L

[66] omit. L

[67] accepit Go

[68] precepit SG

[69] sacerdotes SG

[70] omit. SG

[71] omit. L

[72] designantur Gr, Go

[73] intromittuntur SG

[74] VI etateueritate Gr, Go, L

[75] laudare Go

[76] toto PL

[77] et corporis omit. L

[78] omit. L

[79] reconciliat SG

[80] superatur L

[81] omit. SG

[82] regia SG

[83] eminentis PL

[84] inminenti L; omit. Go, PL

[85] et mulier … datur omit. Go

[86] omit. SG, Go

[87] aliquanto L

[88] et PL

[89] sequitur PL

[90] abscedendo PL

[91] trepidantibus SG

[92] permittitur SG

[93] John 8

[94] Hinc PL

[95] ideo PL

[96] proximorum SG

[97] quoque Go

[98] Ille PL

[99] omit. PL

[100] omit. PL

[101] omit. PL

[102] autem add. PL

[103] cogitatione meę] cogitationibus meis L

[104] nos SG

[105] illa fornace ascendebat] illo exiebat SG

[106] tremens PL

[107] Omit. PL

[108] scilicet add. PL

[109] cum cachinno omit. L

[110] illo PL

[111] dimergebantur SG, inmergebant PL

[112] putridum SG

[113] Lacuna hereafter Go

[114] me capere querebantsibi obnoxios adtrahebant SG

[115] et SG

[116] ubi … surrexit omit. SG

[117] letissimus Gr, PL

[118] amenitate SG

[119] beatorum SG

[120] autem PL

[121] omit. PL

[122] autem add. PL

[123] omit. PL

[124] flagrabat SG, L, PL

[125] Quę L

[126] significent A; signant SG

[127] ait Go, L

[128] ibi PL

[129] uitę add. SG, PL

[130] aeternum PL

[131] liberantur PL

[132] Nam PL

[133] sociaberis SG, associaberis PL

[134] omit. SG

[135] vivendo add. PL

[136] uiuetis Go, uiuitis SG

[137] ideo Go