Daily Archives: March 9, 2011

Early Medieval Expectations for Laity

Posting will be quite light in the near future. I’m not giving up blogging for Lent or anything, but—as is usual—have way too many irons in the fire…

I warn you now, not only will posting be sporadic but it may also be both research intensive and potentially cryptic. I’m chasing several quite specific hares—and today’s led me into something I knew some of you would be interested in.

In Old English circles there are two main homileticians and two major anonymous collections: Ælfric, Wulstan, the Blicking Homilies and the Vercelli Homilies. Then there’s the mass of random anonymous stuff into which very few individuals go, myself included.

While trawling an old tome I found a reference to this interesting passage which shows up in an anonymous homily for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (i.e., old Passion Sunday):

Us is ðonne swiðe gedafenlic, þæt we gelomlice ure circan secan and ðær mid micelre eadmodnysse and stilnysse us to urum drihtne gebiddan and godes word gehyran. And se ðe on oðrum ðingum abisgad sy oððe to ðam ungehænde, þæt he dæghwamlice his circan gesecan ne mæge, he huru ðinga on ðam sunnandagum and on oðrum freolsdagum þider cume to his uhtsange and to mæssan and to æfensange and na to nanum idelum geflite, ne to nanum woruldlicum spræcum, ac to ða anum, þæt he his synna gode andette and hira forgifnysse bidde and ðære halgan þenunge mid micclum goddess ege gehlyste and siððan mid ælmæsdædum gange him to his gereorde and mid micelre syfernysse and gemetfæstnysse his goda bruce and na mid nanre oferfylle, ne mid oferdrince, forði ðe Cristenum men nis nan ðing wyrse, ðonne druncenscipe. (Assmann, BASP3, 144: [Assmann 12] B3.2.16)

It is very proper for us that we should frequently visit our church and there pray to our Lord and hear God’s word with great humility and silence. And the one who is busy with other things or is overcome and cannot visit his church daily, he at the least should come on Sundays and on feastdays to morning-song* and to mass and to evensong and not pass them in idleness nor in worldly speech, but in this only: that he confess his sins to God and pray for their forgiveness and that he hear these holy services with a great fear of God and afterward, with almsgiving, go to his meal and partake of his food with much sobriety and moderation and not with any overeating or overdrinking for there is nothing worse for Christian men than drunkenness.

* Uhtsange looks to be the aggregated Night Office of Matins and Lauds which was said at the hour of “uhta”–the first glimmer of light.