Friday, April 14, 2023

An Old English (c. 12th century) Homily on Easter Day

Homily 16 from a collection of Old English Homilies from the 12 century or so.


This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. This day our Lord has made to gladden us and bless us; let us give thanks to Him and prepare for the holy feast that He speaks of when He says: "Ecce prandium meum paratum" ("Behold, my banquet is prepared"). My table is set, and He invites us all, saying: "Venite prandium" ("Come to the table and understand the bread"). But before we bow before the holy table and partake of the bread, let us do as the apostle commanded, saying: "Probet autem se ipsum homo, et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat" ("Let each man examine himself and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup"). Let every man prove himself, and if he feels worthy, then let him partake of the sacrament. Let him who comes to it in a becoming manner and with due reverence understand the cup, and let him drink of it.

And in becoming attire and at the appropriate time, one should come in a becoming manner. In a becoming manner, a man should first show his sins to the priest, renounce them, repent, and receive good counsel. The second time, he should raise his head before the holy altar and believe in the six things that belong to it, namely vigils, labors, sackcloth, fasting, thirst, that is, watchfulness and toil, hard clothes, smarting blows, rare food, and less drink. The third time is on Palm Sunday during the procession, the fourth time on Maundy Thursday at the absolution that loosens the bonds of sin, the fifth time is to creep to the cross on Good Friday, the sixth time is to go around the font on Easter Eve, which signifies the Holy Sepulcher, and the seventh time is to bow before the holy table and partake of the bread. Becoming attire is of two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical attire comes in many kinds, but I will not speak of them; I will speak only of the spiritual ones, which come in many kinds and are all fair to those who receive the sacrament. But two of them are such that no man may receive them for his own healing unless he has them either here or on him. They are called "vestis innocencie" (the robe of innocence) and "vestis misericordie" (the robe of mercy), one being guiltlessness or penance.

The robe of innocence is restored in baptism, as the priest says, "Accipe vestem candidam et inmaculatam" ("Receive the white and spotless garment"). One understands guiltlessness at his baptism, which is signified by the chrism cloth that the priest wraps around the child and says, "Underfo shrud wit and clene" ("Receive this garment, white and clean"). Every man wears this garment after his baptism, and he should bear it all the while that he refrains from doing, saying, or even thinking anything unworthy of God or wicked men. This garment is becoming and suitable for every man to have when he receives the sacrament. The other spiritual garment I speak of is mercy, also called compassion. The man who deeply regrets his sins and abandons them and seeks mercy, as our Lord commanded, saying, "Miserere anime tue placens deo" ("Have mercy on your soul, pleasing to God"), is said to have a merciful heart. The man who has compassion for his neighbor's distress and loves their well-being, and relieves the misery of wretched men with his wealth, is said to have a merciful heart. No man who has sinned may receive the holy sacrament without wearing these garments.

But to everlasting harm of his soul and body, any man who receives it without either of these garments shall be shamefully driven out of this holy sacrament, and his hands and feet shall be bound and he shall be thrown into the dreadful pit of hell, by the word of our Lord who says to such men, "Amice quomodo huc intrasti non habens vestem nuptialem" ("Friend, how did you come in here without wedding garments?"). This day is a becoming time to receive the sacrament, "quia hec dies quam fecit dominus" ("for this is the day which the Lord has made"), not that this day is more significant than others, but because it commemorates a greater event than any other, namely, the resurrection from death, both of our Lord and of us. For on this day, our Lord, who created all things, displayed his power more conspicuously and showed more mercy to mankind than on any other day. When He arose from the dead, He raised us up with Him, "unde exultemus et letemur in ea" ("let us be glad and rejoice in it"), and He brought us out of the depths of hell and thereby gladdened us. And if we follow Him, He will give us heavenly happiness and bless us. Therefore, this day is called Easter Day, that is, the Day of Resurrection, because on this day He arose from the dead, and we all do likewise when we partake of the holy sacrament, provided that we are leading a clean life, living rightly, and at peace with all men. Our Lord invites us to this sacrament and brings us to His holy flesh and blood, and allows us to partake of them, saying, "Accipite et comedite ex hoc omnes, hic est enim corpus meum et sanguis meus" ("Take and eat of this, all of you, for this is my body and my blood").

Understand this and use it all, for it is my body that you shall all partake of. He also gives us his holy blood, which shall be shed to redeem you, and says that these two things are our belief, "Caro mea vere est cibus, et sanguis meus vere est potus" ("My flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink"). My flesh is indeed food, and my blood is indeed drink, and after this He says, "Nisi manducaveritis carnem filii hominis et biberitis eius sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis" ("Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you"). You cannot have any life in you unless you live by my flesh and my blood. The sacrament that you understand is His holy flesh and blood. Firstly, it appears as bread and wine, but through the holy words that our Savior Himself spoke with His holy mouth and after Him, the priest says at the consecration, the bread turns into flesh and the wine into blood, although the appearance, color, and taste of the flesh remains in the bread. But in the holy flesh, faith abides.

But in the holy flesh, the shape and form of the bread remains, as well as the taste and texture of the bread and wine. Our Savior does even greater miracles than the holy words He spoke through His mouth. When a person eats and drinks through the body's nature, the bread becomes flesh, and the drink becomes blood. Therefore, God's word can transform the bread and wine into flesh and blood, and that is the manifold commandment that all Christian men must observe today. That is why this day is called Easter Day, which is the day of the sacrament, and no one can deny how good it is, "quia est pretium mundi" ("for it is worth the whole world"), and better than the whole world. This is the holy man whom our Lord sent, as it is said in the prophet's words, "Pluit illi manna ad manducandum, et panem celi dedit eis. Panem angelorum manducavit homo" ("He rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of angels").

"Manna" means "what is this?" And when our Lord sent this food from heaven to the Israelite people, it became in each mouth the food that they loved most. This signifies the holy sacrament, which every Christian now understands, as the highest and sweetest feast, which cleanses from sin, or begins the process of cleansing, and the most bitter and bitterest of all eternal punishment for a person's soul who has not abandoned all their great sins and repented. As the apostle said, "Qui manducat corpus domini et bibit et cetera" ("He who eats the body of the Lord and drinks..."). Whoever receives the holy sacrament unworthily understands himself to be enduring eternal torment and endless damnation. Let us now pay attention to ourselves, if we have come in a fitting manner, that is to true confession, to receiving absolution on Palm Sunday, to the procession on Maundy Thursday, to absolution on Good Friday, to the holy cross, and to the procession on Easter Eve (around the font).

And if we have come in fitting clothing, of innocence that is cleansing, such that we have forsaken our sins, and with the guidance of confession, begun to repent and humbly ask for mercy, then we may fittingly approach God's table, and worthily partake of His body, and through the holy feast come to the Resurrection. May this be granted to us by Him who rose today and lives with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

*** the above is an AI translation of the following ***

HEC est dies quam fecit dominus exultemus et letemur in ea. Þis dai haueð ure drihten maked to gladien. and to blissen us þonked wurðe him. and giarked þat holie gestninge. þe he offe specð þus queðinde. Ecce prandium meum paratum. Mi bord is maked. and us bidded*. [So in MS.] alle þerto þus seggende. Venite prandium Cumeð to borde and understondeð bred. ac er þenne þe*. [? read we.] holie bord bugen. and þat bred understonde do we alse þe apostel bad. seiende þus. Probet autem se ipsum homo. et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat. Proue ech man him seluen. and gif he feleð þat he is wurðe þer to; þenne understonde he þat husel. and drinke of þe calice. þe man hit understondeð wurðliche þe cumeð þerto on bicumeliche wise. and mid bicumeliche wede. and on bicumeliche time. On bicumeliche wise cumeð þe man þe Erest sheweð preste his sinnes and forleteð and bimurneð and nimeð þerof god wissinge. and oðer siðe þe holie acxen uppen his heued. and þe six pinen þe þerto bilien. scilicet vigilias. labores. saccum. inedia. sitim. þat is wecche and swinch. harde cloðes. smerte dintes. selde eten and lesse drinken. Þridde siðe palm sunedeies procession. feorðe siðes shereðuresdaies absolucio[n] þe liðe þe sinne bendes. þe fifte siðe crepe to cruche on lange fridai sixte siðe on ester euen gon abuten þe fantston. þe bitocneð þe holie sepulcre. and þe seueðe siðe þat holie bord bugen and þat bred bruken. bicumeliche wede ben tweire kinne. lichamliche and gostliche. þe lichamliche wedes ben manie kinnes. ac of hem ne speke ich noht ac do of þe gostliche. þe ben ec fele kinnes. and alle hie bien faire him þe þe husel underfoð. ac two þeroffe ben swiche þat no man ne mai underfo. him seluen to hele bute he haue here oðer on him. þe ben þus clepede. Vestis innocencie. Vestis misericordie. an is loðlesnesse oðer sinbote. Vestis innocencie restituitur in baptismo dicente sacerdote [A]ccipe uestem candidam et inmaculatam. loðlesnesse understondeð þe man at his folcninge. and þat bitocneð þe crisme cloð. þe þe prest biwindeð þat child mide. and þus seið. Underfo shrud wit and clene. þis shrud haueð ech man on him after his fulcninge. alle þe wile þe he him beregeð þat he ne do ne ne queðe. ne ne ðenche no þing for þat he bie unwurðere gode; ne loðere men; þe iuele is soule; Þis wede is wel bicumeliche and biheue ech man to hauen þenne he husel underfoð. Ðet oðer gostliche shrud ich embe spece; is mildhertnesse. þe is nemed ec; armhertnesse armheorted is þe man. þe swiðere reoweð his sinne. and he hem forlet and bet. and milce bit. alse ure drihten bad seien þus. Miserere anime tue placens deo. haue reoðe of þin ogen sovle. þenne likeste gode. Mildheorted beð þe man þe reouð his nehgebures unselðe. and likeð here alre selðe and ofþinð sore wrecche mannes wanrede. and freureð hem mid his weldede. No man þe sineged haueð ne mai wiðuten þus*. [So in MS. Read þise.] wedes holi husel under|fon; bute to eche harme his soule and lichame and ech man þe hit underfoð wiðuten eiðer þese wedes shal ben shameliche driuen ut of þis holi gestninge. and bunden togedere his honden. and his fet. and worpen in to þe ateliche pit of helle bi ure drihtenes word þe seið to swiche men. Amice quomodo huc intrasti non habens uestem nupcialem et cetera hwu come þu ider in mid unbicumeliche weden. þis dai is bicumelich time husel to underfon. Quia hec dies quam fecit dominus. non quod magis hanc quam alias. sed quia maiora quam in aliis á morte resurgendo. et nos á morte resuscitando. for þat þis makede ure drihten þe makede alle oðre. ac he kidde oðerluker his mihte. and mankin more milce dide on þis dai; þanne on ani oðre. Ðo he aros of deaðe rerde us mid him. Vnde exultemus et letemur in ea, he us fette ut of helle wowe. and þermide us gledede. and gif we him folgieð he gifð us heuene wele and þermide us blisseð to dai þonked. wurðe him. forþi þis dai is cleped estrene dai. þat is aristes dai. for þat þe he þis dai aros of deaðe. and we alle don; þanne we holi husel undernimen. gif we ben þe togenes on clene liflode. and on rihte leue. and wið alle men sehte. Ure louerd þe us bit to þis gestninge. and bringe us to his holi fleis and to his holi blod and leue us hem to bruken. and þus queðinde. Accipite et commedite ex hoc omnes hic est e. c. s. m. n. et cetera. Understondeð þis and brukeð it alle. for it is mi lichame þe giu shal alle lesen. he bet us ec his holi blod þe shal ben shad giu to lesende and seið þat þese two þing bien ure bileue. Caro mea uere est cibus et sanguis meus uere est potus. Mi fleis is wis mete. and mi blod iwis drinke and after þat he seið. Nisi manducaueritis carnem filii hominis et biberitis eius sangui|nem non habebitis uitam in uobis. Ne muge hauen no lif on giu bute ge liuen bi mi fleis and bi mi blod. þat husel þe ge understonden; is his holi fleis and his blod. Erest it beð ouelete and win. and þureh þe holi word þe ure helende him self seide mid his holi muð; and efter him prest hem seið atte swimesse turneð þe bred to fleis and þe win to blod. Set in carne remanet forma color et sapor. ac on þe holi fleis bileueð þe shap and hiu. and smul of ouelete. and on þe holi blod hew and smul of win. More mihte doð ure helende þenne þe holi word þe he þurh his muð spec. þanne he giueð mannes cuinde. and Naþeles þanne man eteð and drinkeð þureh þe lichames cunde þat bred wurð to fleis. and þe drinke to blod. for þi mai godes word turnen þe ouelete to fleis. and þat win to blod. and swo doð. and þat is þe felefolde heste. þe is alre hestene heste þat alle cristene men agen to dai to noten. for þat þis dai is cleped estre dai þat is estene da. and te este is husel. and no man ne mai seien husel*. [A play upon the word husel, as if made up of hu = how, and sel = good: in ll. 8, 9, there is a similar play upon estre and este, and in ll. 34, 35, upon estre, este, and ariste.]; wu god it is. Quia est precium mundi. for it is wurð al þe wereld. and betere þene al þe wereld. þis is þe holi manne þe ure drihten sende alse snow sleðrende alse þe prophete seið. Pluit ille manna ad manducandum et panem celi dedit eis. [P]anem angelorum manducauit homo. he let hem reine manne*. [[Ps. lxxviii. 25.]] to bi-liue. and gef hem bred of heuene. and men eten englene [bred]. Manna interpretatur. quid est hoc? Manne bitocneð wat is tis; and þo ure drihten sende þis mete fro heuene þe israelisse folke; it warð on eches muð wat mete se he mest luuede. and bitocneð holi husel; þe ech cristeman understont nuðe. þe is þe manne hegeste sweteste este þe is of sinne clensed. oðer bigunne to clensende. and alre bitere biterest eches mannes soule þe ne haueð alle michele sinnes forleten. and bet. oðer bigunnen alse þa*. [So in MS.] apostel seið. Qui manducat corpus domini et bibit et cetera. Ech þe understandeð þat holi husel unwurðliche he understant him seluen eche pine. and endelese wowe. Nime we nu geme ure ech agen him seluen. gif we bien cumen on bicumeliche wise. þat is to soð shrifte. to holi axen a palm sunedai; to procession. a shereðursdai to absoluciun. a lange|fridai to holi cruche. an ester euen to procession [abuten þe fanstone]. and gif we ben cumene mid bicumeliche wede. of lodlesnesse þat is clensinge. swo þat we hauen ure sinnes for|leten. and bi shriftes wissenge bet. oðer bigunnen to beten. and milce bidden. þanne muge we bicumeliche to godes bord; bugen. and his bode wurðliche bruken. and þureh þe holi este cumen to Ariste*. [Looks like driste in MS.]. Quod nobis prestet qui hodie surrexit et uiuit cum deo patre in unitate spirituc sancti.

Old English homilies of the twelfth century : from the unique ms. B. 14. 52. in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge : Second series, with three thirteenth century hymns from ms. 54 D.4.14 in Corpus Christi College / edited, with introduction translation, and notes by the Rev. R. Morris. (Morris, Richard, 1833-1894., Morris, Richard, ed. 1833-1894, Old English homilies and homiletic treatises. London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N. Trübner, 1873.)(Source)(text and translation, though not the one I used)