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Kzoo Presentation 5-14-10

Kzoo Presentation 5-14-10

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Published by Derek Olsen
Communicating the Ælfrician Vision: The Contents and Manuscript Context of SupHom11a
(Presented at 45th International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo; May 14, 2010)
Communicating the Ælfrician Vision: The Contents and Manuscript Context of SupHom11a
(Presented at 45th International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo; May 14, 2010)

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Published by: Derek Olsen on Jan 04, 2011
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Communicating the Ælfrician Vision: The Contents and Manuscript Context of SupHom11a
Derek Olsen When we consider the writings of Ælfric, two characteristics
 — 
among others
 — 
consistently appear.First, Ælfric was a big-
picture person. Following in the steps of Augustine‘s
advice, following the
lead of Martin of Braga and Pirmin, one of Ælfric‘s great catechetical strategies is to give his listeners
a big picture overview of the scope of cosmic history, God and Satan as the great protagonist andantagonist, and how the people of his day fit into it, at the end, just before the great consummation.
 This is what Virginia Day referred to in her important 1974 article as Ælfric‘s ―catechetical
narratio
.‖
 While this phrase describes its function, we may also refer to it by its form: Ælfric gives us aninterpretive framework in the shape of an
eschatological epic
within which any Scriptural orhistorical event could be located.Second, Ælfric was a compulsive liturgist. His writings are sprinkled with liturgical references,
 whether he‘s explaining the significance of a liturgical season in his sermons, giving liturgical
directions in his pastoral letters, or nailing down the specifics of which responsorial histories mustbe sung in relation to which Scripture lessons in the nocturns of the Night Office. These two characteristics are drawn together most neatly in a composition that either dates to theend of his life or was produced in the decades immediately after. Supplemental Homily XIa
represents in two ways, the ―Afterlife of Anglo
-
Saxon homilies‖ as it represents a composite homily that testifies to the reception of Ælfric‘s corpus as a whole.
 This homily is unique, found only in onemanuscript, Cotton Vitellius C.v. (Designated as Manuscript H in the modern editions). Here itstands in the very first place, serving as a grand introduction to a very full set of Catholic Homilies,series 1 and 2 that focuses particularly on the Temporal cycle of the liturgical year.Supplemental homily XIa takes these two characteristics
 — 
a big-picture view and an appreciation forthe liturgical year
 — 
and binds them together in an intimate embrace that captures the fullness of 
 Ælfric‘s vision better than any other of his works
, whether his own compositions or the composite works of his later editors. While other presentations of the eschatological epic are more
complete
 (notably the versions found in the Letter to Sigeweard and in De initio Creaturae) none other takesthe step of tying the yearly liturgical cycle into the grand narrative in such a way. Turning to the homily itself, its structure shows a clear debt to the liturgical occasion that spawned
it. There‘s no question that this
text started life as a sermon for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It
moves through the three persons of the Trinity, cleaving closely to the Apostles‘ Creed as an outline.
 The homily begins with praise of the Trinity,
1
then expands on the creed
‘s terse ―Creator of heavenand earth‖ by describing the creation of the
angels through the fall of humanity.
2
In telling the story 
1
Hom XIa.1-19. Pope, Supp, 463-464.
2
Hom XIa.20-52. Pope, Supp, 464-465.
 
of Jesus, however, after an introduction
3
the sermon moves into the temporal cycle starting with the Annunciation
4
then stepping through Christmas
5
(with a special focus on redemption),
6
Epiphany-tide including Candlemas,
7
Lent,
8
Passion-tide (again emphasizing the redemption),
9
Triduum,
10
andEaster including the requisite discussion of the final judgment linked with the Ascension andconcluding with Pentecost.
11
The last liturgical event, the Feast of the Holy Trinity 
12
 — 
the Octave of Pentecost
 — 
segues into a concluding encomium on the Trinity.
13
  While the sermon is clear and coherent as a stand-alone document, Pope notes that it is acombination of at least three known compositions from the pen of Ælfric, and
 — 
Pope suspects
 — 
afourth that is no longer extant. The two most important
known
sources are supplemental homily XI
(without the ‗a‘)
and the Letter to Wulfgeat. The first is a sermon for the Feast of the Holy Trinity that serves as a retrospective
 — 
it looks back and summarizes the liturgical year from its beginning atChristmas up through the major seasons until the feast of the Holy Trinity that occurs one week after Pentecost closes out the Easter Season. From the second source is drawn the eschatologicalepic. In describing how these two are combined, Pope is rightly complimentary:
<quote>
 The combination of [these two texts] is what provides the structure of thediscourse. The liturgically inspired passage from the
Sermo
 
serves as a reminder of Christ‘
slife on earth, his passion, resurrection, and ascension and his sending of the Holy Spirit tothe apostles. The passage from the Letter to Wulfgeat is a freely elaborated statement of thecreed, expatiating on the nature and operations of the Trinity, touching on the emergence of evil
in Satan, then outlining God‘s dealings with man from creation to judgment. The
passage thus gives the whole sweep of universal history before the nativity and after thesending of the Holy Spirit; and in the middle as it mentions the nativity and then moves atonce to the crucifixion, it overlaps the passage from the
Sermo
, varying the account of thepassion, resurrection, and ascension, adding details of the harrowing of hell, and, like thecreed, bringing in the last judgement as a conclusion immediately after the scene of Christ
sitting at his Father‘s right hand.
It is in the overlapping section that the compiler
singenuity is most clearly displayed
, for he interweaves the two accounts so deftly as to
3
Hom XIa.53-60. Pope, Supp, 465.
4
Hom XIa.61-68. Pope, Supp, 466.
5
Hom XIa.69-85. Pope, Supp, 466-467.
6
For Twelve days we honor with worship the Savior with our songs of praise because of his great love at the time of hisbirth because he came to us to redeem us from the hateful bondage of the hell-fiends if we love him. [Twelf dagas we wurðiað to wyrðmynte þam Hælende mid urum lofsangum for his micclan lufe on his acennednysse timan, for ðan ðe hecom to us þa us to alysenne of ðam laðan ðeowte hellewites, gyf we hine lufiað.] Hom XIa.81-85. Pope, Supp, 467.
7
Hom XIa.86-127. Pope, Supp, 467-468.
8
Hom XIa.128-132. Pope, Supp, 468.
9
 
 Then we honor the latter part of Lent in the holy reading of the Saviour‘s passion: how He redeemed us from thehateful bondage and from the devil‘s grasp through His own death.
Eft we wurðiað on ufeweardan Lenctene on halgumrædingum þæs Hælendas ðrowunge, hu he alysde of þam laðan ðeowte, & fram ðæs deofles anwealde mid his agenumdeaðe.] Hom XIa.133-136. Ibid.
10
Hom XIa.137-142. Pope, Supp, 469.
11
Hom XIa.143-187. Pope, Supp, 469-470.
12
Hom XIa.188-196. Pope, Supp, 470-471.
13
Hom XIa.197-234. Pope, Supp, 471-472.
 
include all that each of them has to offer, word for word, in one continuous fabric.<
endquote
>Pope is very complimentary here, and on the strength of the deft editorial work, it seems likely thatthe compiler
may
have been Ælfric himself 
 — 
or, if not him
 — 
one of his best students. However,Pope finds fault with how the fourth otherwise unknown source is worked into the narrative. Thereis a set of fifty-one lines that are inserted in three blocks into the description of the liturgical year.One block of twenty lines introduces Christmas, five more fill out the twelve days of Christmas,then twenty-six lines on the miracles of Jesus are inserted between Candlemas and Lent. This last set is the most interesting, the most important, but
 —in Pope‘s opinion— 
is terribly misplaced. And, on the strength of this
misplacement
, Pope concludes that the editor
cannot
be Ælfric and that this editorial fumble injects a degree of incoherence into an otherwise praiseworthy composition. I disagree. The placement is both precise and perfect when we consider it from theperspective of the liturgical rhythms. Redeeming the placement of this passage redeems the editorial
 work that placed it here and, with this ―degree of incoherency‖ removed, redeems the homily as the
clearest expression of 
 Ælfric‘s v 
ision that weaves the liturgical year and the eschatological epic into aseamless whole. The key to understanding the placement of these twenty-six lines containing references to some 16miracles or classes of miracles lies in the lectionary. The season of Epiphany was, according to theearly medieval lectionaries, a clearly defined period with its own theological integrity.
14
Following 
temporally
on the heels of the Christmas season, it also follows it
theologically
; Epiphany represents the working out of themes established by Christmas. The key to the season is the feast of Epiphany itself. Known as both
Epiphania 
 
(―the manifestation‖) and
Theophania 
 
(―the manifestationof God‖)
15
it celebrates the signs and wonders that pointed to the manifestation of God in Jesus.
 John‘s prologue ( 
appointed for the Feast of the Nativity) provided further guidance for the
lectionary‘s selection of passages for the season, particularly John 1:10– 
15. The Epiphany seasonreadings group around three major themes of manifestation described in the prologue: the early miracles of Jesus (the glory, full of grace and truth, of John 1:14), the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth(his own people did not accept him of John 1:11), and the calling of the first followers (those whobelieved in him, who believed in his name, who became the children of God, from John 1:12).In his various English discussions of the seasons of the liturgical year, Ælfric uses the Old English
term ―
Swutlode 
‖ to refer to Epip
hany;
 
this is a direct translation of the Greek term as the root
―+
swutl 
-
― means ―manifest.‖
 Although Ælfric not infrequently uses words from this root, itsoccurrences in the Catholic homilies are higher on the average in two homilies: the homily forEpiphany itself and the homily for the Third Sunday after Epiphany. It is no surprise, then, that the
14
The modern Revised Common Lectionary has effectively suppressed the season by making it the first block of Ordinary Time marked by the start of readings in course through the gospel of the year. Only vestiges remain: it retainsthe traditional themes and emphases for the first two Sundays after Epiphany and
 — 
oddly 
 — 
in the last Sunday afterEpiphany/before Lent which it calls the Feast of the Transfiguration. This celebration was moved from August 6
th
inservice of the
traditional Epiphany theology which was then suppressed…
15
Both titles are found in Anglo-Saxon lectionaries and missals.

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