Archive for the ‘Anglo-Saxon England’ Category

Aelfric on Lent 1 and Exeter’s Vainglory

The more I consider Aelfric’s sermon on Lent 1 (CH I.11), the more I’m struck by its similarities to Vainglory from the Exeter Book.

  • We have two characters in both that are identified as sons of the Devil and God. (Well, ok, the devil isn’t his own son so that doesn’t quite work…)
  • The Devil is confused as to Jesus’ identity precisely because he is not a gluttony, drunkard, nor luster.
  • The boasting behavior of the drunkard in Vainglory is highlighted just as boasting is a major feature of the second temptation in Aelfric’s homily.
  • The boaster, due to his ofermod is explicitly connected with the Devil and his army who tried to overthrow God in a fit of ofermod.
  • The chief attribute of the opposing character in Vainglory is his humility for which he gains the title of God’s own son; likewise, humility (as the preeminent monastic virtue) is Christ’s chief characteristic for Aelfric.

I’m not positing dependence, of course, (and I need to read the intro to the Rule of Chrodegang…) it’s just fascinating how the connections come together.

I must remember to do a lit search to see what others have written on this connection…


More Genesis and Responsories: Quinquigesima

Continuing with the theme and texts from the last post, I’m still looking at the responsories of pre-Lent and how they serve as interpretive lenses for early medieval liturgical communities as they read through the book of Genesis.

As we saw, the responsories of Sexagesima got us through creation and up to the murder of Abel by Cain. Remember, we’re heading into Lent here, so images that can be read as pointing to the crucifixion and passion will be thrown into relief by the season as a whole.

The responsories for Quinquigesima begin (in our book of choice…) with:

Quadraginta dies et noctes (CAO 7454)
R: For forty days and nights the heavens were opened, and out of all flesh having the spirit of life they entered into the ark, and the Lord closed the door of the entrance.
V: Namely Noah and his wife and his sons and the wives of his sons. They entered into the ark…
Sources: Gen 7:4b, 11b, 15b, 16b, 7a.

Ponam arcum meum (CAO 7391)
R: “I have placed my bow in the clouds of heaven,” said the Lord to Noah, “And I will be mindful of my covenant that I pledge with you.
V: And when I produce clouds in the heavens, my bow will appear in the clouds. And I will be mindful…
Sources: Gen 9:13, 15, 14.

Per memetipsum juravi (CAO 7375)
R: “I have sworn by my own self,” says the Lord, “I will not increase the flood-waters upon the earth; I will be mindful of my pact that I shall not destroy all flesh with the flood-waters.
V: “I have placed my bow in the clouds of heaven, and I will swear by my right hand. That I shall not destroy…
Sources: Gen 9:11. While most of the earlier responsories have been almost word-for-word cut-n-paste events from Scripture, the language here departs from the vocabulary of the Vulgate. Creative license or tracks of the Old Latin…?

Aedificavit Noe altare (CAO 6055)
R: Noah built an altar to the Lord, offering upon it a burnt-offering. God smelled the pleasant odor and blessed him: “Be fruitful and multiply, refill the earth.”
V: “Behold–I establish my pact with you and with your seed after you. Be fruitful and multiply…”
Sources: Gen 8:20a, 21a, 9:1b.

Locutus est Dominus ad Abraham (CAO 7097)
R: The Lord spoke to Abraham saying, “Go out from your land and kinsman and go to the land that I will show you, and I will make you to increase into a great nation.”
V: “Those blessing you, I will bless you and will multiply you. I will make you to increase into a great nation…”
Sources: Gen 12:1,2a, 3a.

Tentavit Deus Abraham (CAO 7762)
R: God tested Abraham and said to him, “Take your son whom you love, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt-offering upon a mountain that I will show you.”
V: Make to God a sacrifice of praise and repay your vows to the Most High. upon a mountain…
Sources: Gen 22:1-2; VgPs 49:14. (Of course, the juxtaposition in the second half also contains strong resonances to the style of Deuteronomy and is intended to bring Mt. Zion into clear focus.)

[Antiphon for the canticles for Nocturn 3]

Angelus Domini vocavit Abraham (CAO 6098)
R: The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham saying, “Do not extend your hand against the boy, for you fear the Lord.”
V: And all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed in you. For you fear the Lord.”
Sources: Gen 22:11, 12; 12:3b.

Vocavit angelus Domini Abraham (CAO 7911)
R: The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven saying, “I will bless you, and I will multiply you like the stars of heaven.”
V: “And all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in your seed because you obeyed my voice. And I will multiply you…”
Sources: Gen 22:15, 17, 18.

Deus domini mei Abraham (CAO 6420)
R: “God of my lord Abraham, direct my way that I may return in health to the house of my lord.”
V: “I pray you, Lord, have mercy upon your servant. That I may return…”
Sources: Very loosely connected to Gen 24:12.

Veni hodie ad fontem (CAO 7827)
R: Today I came to the fountain of water and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Lord, God of Abraham, make my desire prosperous.”
V: “Therefore the girl to whom I shall say ‘Give me water from your jar that I might drink’ and she shall say, ‘Drink, lord, and I will give a drink to your camels’ she it will be whom the Lord prepared for the son of my lord.” Lord, God of Abraham…”
Sources: Gen 24:42-44.

Caecus sedebat secus viam (CAO 6260)
R: A blind man used to sit beside the road and, the Lord having passed by, he cried out to him. The Lord said to him, “What would you like me to do for you?” “Rabbouni, that I might see light.”
V: But those who went before rebuke him that he would be silent, but he called out more and more. “Rabbouni, that I might see light.”
Sources: Luke 18:35b, 38, 41, 39. Light is an addition to the biblical text (and not commonly found in this responsory either).

Dum staret Abraham (CAO 6563)
R: While Abraham remained at the root of Mambre, he saw three boys coming down the road; he saw three but he worshiped one.
V: The Lord said to Abraham, “Behold, your wife Sara shall bear you a son and you shall call his name Issac.” He saw three…
Sources: loosely based on Gen 18:1-2, 17:19. The R appears to have been created mostly whole-cloth from the substance of 18:1-2 highlighting the Trinitarian possibilities in the text, playing off the Vulgate’s use of “adoravit” as a form of welcome.

We begin with a nocturn-full of Noah materials that both begins with “40 days” and foregrounds the everlasting covenant not to destroy the earth by water.

Moving to Abraham, we note that there is not a continuous narrative here. Rather, it jumps a bit from place to place. For instance, we have Isaac’s almost sacrifice before we have him being born. Indeed, we have the search for his wife before he’s even been born! And that is, perhaps, one of the more puzzling sections of this group of responsories–why two responsories on the search for Rebecca?

Too, we have the injection of material from Luke. Luke 18:31-43 is the Gospel appointed for the day and sure enough on the next page are five antiphons labelled “In Ev” (i.e., to be used with the Magnificat at Vespers) that are all extracts from the healing of the blind man in Luke 18, a typical treatment for the Gospel of the day. I would think this reponsry would function best as the first responsory in the third nocturn but the order doesn’t work quite that neatly. At any case, here we see one of the not uncommon cross-overs that place the Night Office lectionary in connection with the Mass lectionary.

I’m tempted to suggest that the placement of this Gospel-inspired responsory is intended as a pregnant juxtaposition in connection with the pleas of Abraham’s servant, given the common theme of beseeching but that may be stretching a bit…

In any case, the responbsories here show the same pattern that we saw at Sexagesima, namely responsories that are intended to shape, focus and fundamentally interpret the continous reading of Scripture.

Genesis and the Responsories

No posts in way too long—time for some substance.

My central premise here is that Scripture interpretation in the early medieval period is fundamentally a liturgical event. To try and look at early medieval materials without reference to the liturgy and the interpretive lenses it puts on Scripture is a big mistake. Looking at EM sermons is great, but without a sense of the background, you’ll miss why certain interpretive choices were made and not others.

I’m looking today at Ælfric’s Letter to the Monks at Eynsham (LME) and his recommendations for how Scripture ought to be read in the Night Office. Remember, this is where monks would hear the whole of Scripture being read through each year (a goal Ælfric is quite explicit about in LME 78).

The first thing to notice is the immediate contextualization of Scripture. Each time Ælfric mentions a biblical book, it is placed in relation to two data-points: a liturgical season, and the responsories that are to be sung in relation to it. Thus you don’t get “it’s January 1st, let’s start at Genesis 1!” but rather:

“In Septuagesima we should read Genesis until mid-Lent and we sing the history ‘Alleluia: While it is present’ [Alleluia dum praesens est (CAO 6071)] first and for one day only, and for the week as a whole we sing the responsories from the psalms, ‘O how great is the multitude’ [Quam magna multitudo (CAO 7459)] and so forth. Then, in other weeks, we sing what is found in the antiphoner. But from mid-Lent we read Exodus and sing ‘The Lord said to Moses’…” (Christopher Jones, LME, 144-5)

There’s actually more focus on the correct responsories than on the text and this will become important in a moment. Glancing at the identified responsories, they don’t seem immediately relevant or interpretive of the Genesis texts. Alleluia dum praesens est is a responsory in praise of the word “Alleluia”, fitting as this day is the last time it will be sung until Easter.  Quam magna multitudo is taken directly from VgPs 30:20: “O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.” (D-R)

But then we check out “what is found in the antiphoner…” Our task is, of course, complicated by the fact that we have no antiphoners from Anglo-Saxon England (Cf. Pfaff & Gneuss).  Thus we turn to a representative example of an EM antiphoner which just happens to be one of the most nicely written and important chant manuscripts in the world, the St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 390 written exactly contemporary with Ælfric, having been produced between 990 and 1000. It also just happens to be online…

So, Ælfric has given us the week of Septuagesima. Moving to the next Sunday, Sexagesima, we find the following responsories:

[Nocturn I]
In principio Deus creavit (CAO 6925):
R: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of the Lord passed over the waters, and God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good.
V: Therefore the heavens and the earth were completed with all their adornments. And God saw…
Sources: a mash-up of Gen 1:1, 2b, 31a, 2:1.

In principio fecit Deus (CAO 6928 )
R: In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth, and he created upon it a man in his image and likeness.
V: Therefore God formed a man from the dirt of the earth and breathed into his form the breath of life. In his image…
Sources: a mash-up of Gen 1:1, 26a/27a, 2:7a.

Formavit igitur Dominus hominem (CAO 6739)
R: Therefore God formed a man from the dirt of the earth and breathed into his form the breath of life and a man with a living soul was made.
V: Therefore the heavens and the earth were completed with all their adornments. And a man…
Sources: Gen 2:7, 1.

[Nocturn II]
Tulit ergo Dominus hominem (CAO 7798 )
R: Then God took the man and placed him in the paradise of delight that he might work and keep it.
V: Therefore God formed a man from the dirt of the earth and placed him in paradise. That he might work…
Sources: Gen 2:15, 7a.

Dixit Dominus Deus: Non est bonum (CAO 6473)
R: God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. Let us make him a helper like himself.”
V: For none was found like to Adam, thus said God. “Let us make him…”
Sources: Gen 2:18, 20b.

(Next page…)

Immisit Dominus soporem (CAO 6883)
R: The Lord sent sleep upon Adam and took one of his ribs and God constructed with the rib he had taken from Adam a woman and led her to Adam so that he might see what he might call her. And he called her name Woman (Virago) because she was taken out of a man (de viro).
V: “Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” And he called her name…
Sources: Gen 2:21-23.

Dum deambularet Dominus (CAO 6537)
R: When the Lord was walking in paradise in the breeze of the evening, he called and said, “Adam, where are you?” “Lord, I heard your voice and hid myself.”
V: “Lord, I heard your sound and I feared, I beheld your works. And hid myself.”
Sources: Gen 3:8a, 9, 10.

[Nocturn III]
In sudore vultus (CAO 6937)
R: “In the sweat of your brow you will feed on your bread,” said the Lord to Adam. “When you work the ground it will not give you its fruits, but it will grow spines and thorns for you.”
V: “Because you obeyed the voice of your wife more than mine, cursed be the earth regarding your works. It will grow…”
Sources: Gen 3:19, 18, 17. With a theologically significant modification of 17 that introduces the concept of obedience.

Ecce Adam quasi (CAO 6937)
R: “Behold Adam has become as one of us, knowing good and evil. See that he does not by chance take from the tree of life and live forever.”
V: A Cherubim and a flaming sword that turns guarding the way to the tree of life. [Will] see that he does not…
Sources: Gen 3:22, 24b.

(Next page…)

Ubi est Abel (CAO 6937)
R: “Where is your brother Abel?” said the Lord to Cain. “I do not know, Lord, for am I my brother’s keeper?” And he said to him, “What have you done? Behold–the voice of the blood of your brother Abel calls to me from the earth.” V: Cursed be the earth regarding your works because it has opened its mouth and has received the blood of your brother from your hand. Behold–the voice of the blood…
Sources: Gen 4:9-11.

So–what we have here is a Scriptural pastiche that summarizes the story of Creation & Fall, hitting certain high points in order to accentuate certain themes. Others are absent entirely…

This is a narrativethat focuses upon three characters: God, Adam, and the earth. Eve gets a mention, but the heart of the story is that the man, who is the completeion and perfection of the created order, fell fundamentally through his disobedience. The fault is not that the woman took the fruit (though that’s part of it) but that Adam disobeyed. [Note that the exchange we tend to find most significant–Eve and the Serpent/Satan–does not appear and is not even referred to!] As a result of the human actions of Adam and Cain, the earth was cursed not once but twice.

I don’t know about you but I hear strongly here the main notes that Ælfric strikes in his many narrative summaries of Creation & Fall, particularly the disobedience of the created towards the Creator.

Remember, then, these are sung throughout the following week until a new set is picked up at Quinquagesima. That gives this narrative a bit of time to sink in and to form an interpretive frame through which the events of Genesis 1-4 will be remembered and shaped.

[Edit: oh yeah, don’t forget the Invitatory Antiphon, either: “Let us adore the Lord who made us…”]

Godwinson’s Law

“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Normans approaches one.”


Dissertating is back on track; hopefully more posts here soon…

Missal Comparison: Nativity of the BVM

As today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, I checked out the propers for the feast among my usual suspects: The Leofric Missal (LM), the Missal of Robert of Jumieges (MRJ), the Sarum Missal (SM), York Missal (YM) and the Liber Usualis (LU). However, my copy of the York Missal doesn’t have a Sanctorale, so you’ll only get four of the five…

  • Great agreement across the sources! The two Anglo-Saxon missals (LM, MRJ) had exactly the same materials: 2 collects, secret, preface, and postcommunion. The LM had incipits to the “other” material, the MRJ doesn’t.
  • The SM agreed on the major missal material (collect  1, secret, and postcommunion) with only minor additions–a “Jesus Christ our Lord” into the Secret and a phase on the BVM into the postcommunion. The preface was that of the BVM (N.B.: This is a major difference between early medieval sacramentaries and the medieval/late-medieval missals: a move to the use of prefaces proper to certain occasions–like feasts of the BVM). The Epistle and Gospel were also identical. The “other” material started the same with an identical introit and psalm but after that they diverged. Typical of the SM, it also started with a procession…
  • The LU used collect 2 of the LM/MRJ mass-set, the same Gospel as the above three, the same proper preface as the SM, and the Secret and Postcommunion were identical. Again, the “other” material was different. Interestingly, the common introit/psalm from the earlier three can be found together for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16th) in the LU, and the SM Alleluia verse appears as the first antiphon of the Second Vespers…
  • Texts:
    • (LM/SM) Introit/Psalm: Gaudeamus omnes/Eructavit- Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating this feast day in honor of the Virgin Mary, concerning whose solemnity the angels rejoice and praise together the Son of God /  VgPs 44 (This psalm–in the literal sense about a princess marrying the king–frequently appears for virgins and virgin martyrs who are brides of Christ; in this context it represents nothing less than the BVM as the bride of the Holy Spirit.)
    • Collect 1: Supplicationem seruorum – Hear the supplications of your servants, compassionate God, that we who gather for the nativity of the mother of God and virgin, may be rescued by you from the presence of danger on account of her favorable intercessions.
    • Collect 2: Famulis tuis, domine, – Direct your gift of heavenly grace, Lord, upon your servants to whom the birth of the Blessed Virgin appears the beginning of salvation the consecrated solemnity of her birth may bestow an increase of peace.
    • Epistle:Ecclesiasticus 24:23-31. Ego quasi uitis fructificaui (This is a great Marian text, and one that even regular Bible-readin’ Christians have generally never encountered as it’s different in the Vulgate than most modern translations of the Apocrypha. Even the KJV is a little different. Pull out your Vulgate or Douay-Rheims and check it out!)
    • Graduale (SM [V in LM]): Audi filia – Listen, daughter, hear, and incline your ear because the king desires your appearance. V: Your appearance and your beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and rule. (This is a mash-up of VgPs 44:11 and 5. Again, the marital psalm reconfigured by a new liturgical context.)
    • Alleluia (SM) : Nativitas gloriose uirginis – Alleluia. The birth of the glorious Virgin Mary is sprung from the seed of Abraham, from the well-known tribe of Judah, from the stem of David. Alleluia V: Through you are we ruined given life; in heaven you receive your offspring, on earth you bore our savior. (The first portion recalls the Magnificat or Song of Mary sung every evening at Vespers with its mention of “Abraham and his seed”; the biblical figures mentioned also recall the opening of the Gospel: “The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of Abraham”; this may also remind you of the Christmas carol Lo How a Rose–which is simultaneously about both Jesus and Mary. The second has overtones of the Salve Regina, a Marian antiphon that followed Compline in the long Time after Pentecost.)
    • Gospel: Matthew 1:1-17 (The genealogy of Jesus beginning with Abraham)
    • That’s all for today–I’ll post the rest later…

Missal Comparison: 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Out of curiosity, I checked out this week’s propers as presented in five sources: The Leofric Missal (LM), the Missal of Robert of Jumieges (MRJ), the Sarum Missal (SM), York Missal (YM) and the Liber Usualis (LU). That is, two early medieval sources used in England, two late medieval English sources, and the “modern” pre-Vatican II form.

A few interesting things:

  • The sources quickly fell into three groups: the LM, the MRJ-SM-YM agreed with one exception, and the LU.
  • The MRJ-SM-YM collect and post-communion prayer had some common concept in increase (augmentum):
    •  Almighty Eternal God, give to us an increase of faith, hope, and love and, that we may be worthy to obtain that which is promised, make us to love what you command.Through etc.
    • We beseech you, Lord, may the reception of these heavenly sacraments assist the increase to our eternal redemption. Through the Lord etc.
  • In terms of the chant propers, the Introit and Offertory for the 15th Sun appeared in the LU on the 14th Sun; however the Gradual and the Communio were the same across the three. All had different psalm texts following the Alleluia, though.
  • Many of the propers have strong biblical allusions or outright citations. I’m intrigued at how they don’t correspond to one another. On one hand that’s not entirely surprising: the time after Pentecost/Trinity was the last to be nailed down liturgically and was rearranged several times but it’s still strange to me to see so many direct echoes. For instance:
    • the MRJ-SM-YM Introit is VgPs 83:10-11; the Ps is Quam dilecta (VgPs 83:2)–so far, so good.
    • The collect contains the virtues most clearly lined out in 1 Cor 13:13 but these are so common and generic that this one almost doesn’t count…
    • the Gradual begins with VgPs 91:2-3
    • then, after the Alleluia in the great divergence the SM has VgPs 104:1; YM has VgPs 89:1, and the LU has an odd mashup of Vg Ps 46:3 and 94:3 (or else a very convenient case of haplography to remove a henotheistic perspective…)
    • The Offertory is VgPs 33:8-9a,
    • the Communio is a direct citation of John 6:52
  • What does all of that mean? It means there’s a whole lot of biblical interpretation going on. What I don’t see, though, is any immediate connection to the lections for the day (SM-YM&Lenker Luke 17:11-19/LU Luke 7). It easy to see from just this cursory look why some suggest that that there was an original point where everything matched up. I’d like to believe it too, but the only way to solve it/convince myself will be with a database that can demonstrate it…

Great Liturgical News!

Word coming from a traditionalist Roman Catholic site is that the Henry Bradshaw Society is going to make all of their past works available as reprints!

If you’re not familiar with this society, its chief purpose is reprinting rare medieval liturgical manuscripts. Because of its location, these are primarily though not exclusively English. But not in English—or at least not modern English. The grand majority appear only in Latin and the series does not include translations.

The other issue here is price—these volumes normally come in around the $80-$100 range.

They’re taking requests now for items with which to begin. The most important to my mind for Anglo-Saxonists are these:

VIII. The Winchester Troper, from MSS. of the Xth and XIth Centuries,
with other Documents illustrating the History of Tropes in England and
France. Edited by Walter Howard Frere, 1894 (though available here for free…)

LVI. The Leofric Collectar compared with the Collectar of St. Wulfstan,
Together with Kindred Documents of Exeter and Worcester, Vol. II,
Edited and Completed from the Papers of E. S. Dewick, by W.H. Frere,

LXXII. English Benedictine Kalendars before A.D. 1100. Edited by Francis Wormald […] Vol. I, Texts, 1934

LXXXIII. The Psalter Collects from V-VIth Century Sources (Three
Series), Edited with an Introduction, Apparatus criticus and Index by
Dom Louis Brou, O.S.B. from the papers of the late Dom André Wilmart,

LXXXIX. The Portiforium of Saint Wulfstan (Corpus Christi College,
Cambridge, Ms 391), Edited by Dom Anselm Hughes […] Volume I, 1958 [issued for 1956]

The Portiforium of Saint Wulfstan (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge,
MS 391), Edited by Dom Anselm Hughes […] Volume II, 1960 [issued for 1957]

CIII. A Pre-Conquest English Prayer-Book (BL, MSS Cotton Galba A.xiv
and Nero A.ii, (ff. 3-13)), Edited by Bernard James Muir, 1988 [issued for 1983 and 1984]

CV. The Monastic Ritual of Fleury (Orléans, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 123 [101]), Edited by Anselme Davril, 1990 [issued for 1988]

CVI. Anglo-Saxon Litanies of the Saints, Edited by Michael Lapidge, 1991 [issued for 1989 and 1990]

CVII. The Durham Collectar (Durham, Cathedral Library, MS A.IV.19), Edited by Alicia Corrêa, 1992 [issued for 1991]

Although the last three items are fairly recent, they too are out of print.The last in particular is a wonderful study of collectars in general and ought to be on the shelf of any Anglo-Saxonist with an interest in liturgy—and a book allowance.

A bit after the Anglo-Saxon period but still quite worth having are these:

LXIX. The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, MSS.
Rawlinson Liturg. e. 1*, and Gough Liturg. 8, in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford, Edited with Liturgical Introduction, Notes and Indices by
J.B.L. Tolhurst […] Volume I, Temporale (Advent to Easter), 1932 [issued for 1930]

The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, MSS. Rawlinson Liturg.
e. 1*, and Gough Liturg. 8, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Edited
with Liturgical Introduction, Notes and Indices by J.B.L. Tolhurst
[…] Volume II, Temporale (Easter to Advent), 1933 [issued for 1931]

The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, MSS. Rawlinson Liturg.
e. 1*, and Gough Liturg. 8, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Edited
with Liturgical Introduction, Notes and Indices by J.B.L. Tolhurst
[…] Volume V, Commune Sanctorum, Kalendarium, Letania, Officium
Defunctorum, 1934

LXXVI. The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, MSS.
Rawlinson Liturg. e. 1*, and Gough Liturg. 8, in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford, Edited with Liturgical Introduction, Notes and Indices by
J.B.L. Tolhurst […] Volume III, Sanctorale (January to June), 1938 [issued for 1937]

The Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, MSS. Rawlinson Liturg.
e. 1*, and Gough Liturg. 8, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Edited
with Liturgical Introduction, Notes and Indices by J.B.L. Tolhurst
[…] Volume IV, Sanctorale (July to December), 1939 [issued for 1939]

Having a complete liturgical *anything* from the medieval period is a big deal, and this is the earliest complete Benedictine breviary that survived Henry the VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Dating from right around 1300, it’s worth noting that Hyde Abbey used to be New Minster Abbey of Winchester. This collection is rounded out by a sixth volume which has already been reprinted. Needless to say, it’s one of my great dreams to have the complete set adorning my library shelves.

Gneuss’s Typology of Liturgical Materials in Anglo-Saxon England

In light of The post below on early medieval liturgy as the chief locus for innovative Scripture interpretation, I’ll post here in a slightly modified form something I’ve had up elsewhere:

The most comprehensive resource I know for getting a quick handle on the variety of early medieval liturgical texts is a 1985 article printed in a festschrift for Peter Clemoes: Helmut Gneuss, “Liturgical books in Anglo‑Saxon England and their Old English terminology,” pages 91-141 in Learning and literature in Anglo-Saxon England : studies presented to Peter Clemoes on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, edited by Michael Lapidge and Helmut Gneuss (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

What makes this article invaluable is that Dr. Gneuss has laid out
the major types of books according to liturgical use, then categorized
every surviving A-S liturgical sources known to him within his
typology. Here are his headings from page 99:

A Missal and Sacramentary
B Gradual
C Troper
‑ Mass Lectionaries ‑  
D Gospel‑Book and Gospel Lectionary
E Epistolary
F Breviary
G Collectar
H Psalter
J Antiphoner
K Hymnal
‑ Office Lectionaries ‑  
L Bible
M Homiliary
N Legendary
O Books with special offices
P Martyrology
Q Regula S. Benedicti and Chrodegang’s Regula canonicorum
R Pontifical
S Benedictional
T Manual
U Consuetudinary
W Prayer‑Books and Private Prayers
X Liturgical Calendar
Y Confraternity Book

This set of typologies is incredibly helpful for thinking through
different kinds of liturgical materials. The danger in seeing a
typology like this, however, is assuming that since these categories
exist epistemologically that they exist in reality—that each section
represents a kind of book one might find in a monastic library. This is
not the case… Inevitably, certain kinds of material travel together.
For instance, it is quite common for a “Psalter” to be much more than
Gnuess’s category H. Indeed, most physical psalters contain H (the Book
of Psalms) but this is preceded by X (a liturgical kalendar) and
followed by K (a hymnal).

Nevertheless, Gneuss’s categories are a great place to begin for
learning about the range of early medieval liturgical materials.

On Early Medieval Catechetical Narratives

Here are a relatively random assembly of thoughts on early medieval catechesis that are floating around in my mind as I consider revising chapter 2 of my dissertation…

Within the patristic period, I see two general kinds of catechism occurring, each linked to different situations.

The first type contain the catechetical lectures/sermons/addresses connected directly with baptism at the Easter Vigil and is centered temporally in the 4th century Mediterranean world. In this model, those who wished to enter the church would begin a rigorous period of preparation that started at the beginning of Lent. The catechumens, who were only allowed in church for the first part of the service—no Gospel reading or Eucharist for the unbaptized—would be instructed in some of the basics of the Christian faith. Certain core teachings like the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc. were given to them and their meaning expounded upon. Then–the Vigil happened to them. In the weeks after, the meaning of everything that had experienced at the Vigil–preeminently their Baptism and first Eucharist–was explained. So, the catechesis was centered around ritual acts. The two great examples of this category would be the Catechetical Lectures/Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem and On the Mysteries by Ambrose.

The second proceeds from Augustine. As many know, Augustine is often seen as the father of western homiletics as his On Christian Teaching is the first “homiletical textbook”. As far as the title goes it is correct—but less for On Christian Teaching than is commonly supposed. There’s not much hard evidence for the use of On Christian Teaching that I’m aware of for quite some time; what did have a clear impact is his On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed. In this work, Augustine offers quite a bit of advice to a Carthaginian deacon on how to teach new and/or would-be Christians. (Among his nuggets of wisdom in this work, he tells the deacon not to be tedious—then goes on to disregard his own advice…) The key thing here is that he gives two sample sermons which were to prove very influential. Augustine’s major goal here is to convey a worldview by sketching the span history from creation to the final judgment by means of a theological perspective.

Ok–that’s enough patristic stuff for now—on to the medievals and especially Ælfric…

Reading through Ælfric’s corpus, an attentive reader notices that he continually returns to certain themes grounded in an overarching narrative that holds together the Scriptures, world history, and the eschatological fulfillment. The numerous bits and pieces scattered throughout his writings point towards several texts that lay out a narrative of this kind. Virginia Day’s 1974 article “The influence of the catechetical narratio on Old English and some other medieval literature” correctly identified the place of Ælfric’s core narrative within its patristic and early medieval trajectory.

Day begins by defining the identifying characteristics of what she refers to as the “catechetical narratio”:

In medieval literature there are a number of examples of a type of writing which provides an outline of Christian cosmology and Christian history. These works deal, usually briefly, with the following: [1] God and his creative powers, [2] the creation, [3] the fall of the angels, [4] the creation and fall of man, [5] biblical history, [6] the redemption, [7] Christ’s life, [8] the crucifixion, [9] the descent into hell, [10] the resurrection, [11] the ascension, [12] the second coming and last judgement. The subjects vary somewhat; the fall of man and his redemption are of central importance, and some outline versions are reduced to these essentials.[1]

Day identifies the originating source of this outline—particularly taking creation as a starting point and emphasizing redemption—as Augustine’s De Catechizandis Rudibus. While correct in highlighting the importance of this patristic work, she misses a yet more basic source, indeed, Augustine’s own: the creeds. Of her twelve common elements only three—elements 3, 4, and 5—are not contained within the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.

Day helpfully identifies a number of works that implement Augustine’s catechetical pattern: Avitus of Vienne’s Libelli de Spiritalis Historiae Gestis, Hrabanus Maurus’s De Fide Catholica—a reorganization of the Hiberno-Latin Altus Prosator, Odo of Cluny’s Occupatio, the Old Irish Voyage of Snegdus and MacRiagla, the poem Saltair na Rann, the prose version of the same in the Lebar Bec,[2] (Ps.-)Boethius’s De Fide Catholica, and a handful of sermons—both freestanding and incorporated into martyrologies.[3] The two most important early medieval adaptations of Augustine’s work are Martin of Braga’s De Correctione Rusticorum and Pirmin’s Scarapsus.[4]

Turning to the narratio’s effect on OE literature, Day mentions Cædmon’s hymn, the Junius Manuscript’s “Genesis” and “Christ and Satan”[5] but focuses upon three OE sermons: the anonymous Vercelli XIX, Ælfric’s De Initio Creaturae (CH I.1), and Wulfstan’s Bethurum VI—a reworking of Ælfric’s piece. All three bear the imprint of Martin of Braga’s work; the first and last show clear signs of Pirmin’s as well. Ælfric’s, though, is more independent from its sources.[6]

Ælfric presents his own particular version of the narratio in a number of his writings:

Ælfric produced other versions of the Christian cycle. There is one at the beginning of his Letter to Sigeweard[7] and another at the beginning of his Letter to Wulfgeat. His Hexameron also contains similar material; although its structure is that of the six days’ work [of creation], it closes with a reference to the redemption and eternal life and a passage of exhortation… There is also evidence that the Letter to Sigeweard, the Letter to Wulfgeat and the Hexameron all lean on the De Initio [CH I.1] in diction and phraseology. The De Initio was Ælfric’s most complete version; it is as if all the latter accounts presuppose the existence of this basic one.[8]

Day also mentions Ælfric’s works De Creatore et Creatura and De Sex Etatibus huius Seculi.[9] Furthermore, verbal and thematic parallels may be found throughout Ælfric’s sermons such as CH I.13, CH II.1, and LS 16. Truly grasping this narrative and its contours is essential to apprehending Ælfric’s program.

Day touches on the crucial importance of this narratio. Since her intention, is to place Ælfric’s appropriation within a larger trajectory she does not explore the idea further but states:

The catechetical background explains why he chose the De Initio to open his Catholic Homilies: the catechetical sermon is the traditional introduction to Christianity. In the Letter to Sigeweard the narratio serves as an introduction to a discussion of the bible and Ælfric’s various translations from it. The Augustinian background makes clear how apt this is. Augustine considered that the catechetical narratio should provide the essential narrative and message of the scriptures interpreted for the ignorant: the narratio is to lay down the guidelines for the understanding of scripture. Accordingly, before allowing his reader to proceed to what he conceived of as the dangerous terrain of the bible itself, Ælfric took the opportunity to clarify the correct message to be derived from it. In the Letter to Wulfgeat also the context of the narratio is clearly ‘catechetical’: Ælfric prefaces his advice on how to live the moral life with a brief outline of the Christian cycle, exactly as Augustine had recommended that the narratio be followed by exhortation. In general Ælfric’s production of several versions of the narratio—as well as his use of some similar material in the Hexameron—has the aim of providing a framework for the unlettered, of placing each particular point of Christian doctrine in relation to the pattern of the whole.[10]

Day rightly identifies the function of this narratio: to fix the framework of the Christian story in the minds of its hearers. Her point may be extended—especially given the verbal reminiscences and allusions in Ælfric’s other writings—that it securely embeds itself within the worldview of the preacher and interpreter as well.

[1] Virginia Day, “The influence of the catechetical narratio on Old English and some other medieval literature”, ASE 3 (1974): 51-61, 51. The numeration of the elements is my own for ease of reference.

[2] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 54.

[3] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 53

[4] Ibid.

[5] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 54-55.

[6] Both Day and Godden—citing Day—emphasize the freedoms that Ælfric takes with his sources. While they both acknowledge his significant debt to Augustine and Martin of Braga, close verbal parallels are few and tentative. Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 57; Godden, Commentary, 8.

[7] Actually, the letter as a whole is largely structured by this narrative—certainly by the logic of the narrative.

[8] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 57, 58.

[9] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 57 n.9.

[10] Day, “catechetical ‘narratio’”, 59.