Homily 1

[Based on the Holt edition, ll. 109-898, with excerpts from Jan van Vliet via Ker]

Orm bases this on Luke 1:5.

Latin pericope: Fuit in diebus Herodis Regis Judee sacerdos quidam nomine Zacharias.

There was a priest among the Jewish people in Herod’s day, and he was, certainly indeed, called Zachary [Zacariȝe]. And he had a worthy wife, who was of Aaron’s daughters, and she was called Elizabeth truly. They were good and righteous before God, for both walked here as right according to God’s instruction, so that no man found in them anything to blame or to accuse, nor of evil that people can have or wrath against each other.

And so they led their lives until they were old and did not have, through their family, a child—no son, no daughter—for it was discovered that she the wife could not bring forth [a child]. Because he was God’s priest to serve in the temple, at one time when his turn came up to serve, he took his censer in hand and went into the temple. All alone, clothed with a holy shroud, he went to God’s altar to serve the Lord God in the Jewish way. And all the people stood without at that time in their prayer, and God’s angel came to him on the right side by the altar, which was set by God’s law for them to serve there with incense. He became disturbed and alarmed from seeing that angel, and God’s angel said to him, because he wished to comfort him:

“Do not fear, Zachary, anything, not me, nor my words, for God All-ruling has heard and granted your prayers: now you shall bring forth one son with your wife Elizabeth, and you shall call him John and have bliss. Numerous others shall also become very glad and joyful because he shall be born and come here to people. Because he shall be a distinguished man in holy life and faith, he shall not drink any drink that drunkenness follows, and he will be full of the Holy Spirit still in his mother’s womb. He shall turn a great flock of this Jewish people to God’s Son Jesus Christ and the proper faith. He shall come forth soon to humankind here in life before Christ Almighty God to prepare his ways. And he shall come forth early before Christ’s coming just in the same good spirit and in the same power that Elijah shall come again before Christ. And he shall come soon to turn and to change the hearts of the fathers through his holy preaching to the sons, and he shall turn the faithless people through his preaching wholly to the proper knowledge of those who were righteous. He shall come before Christ’s coming to prepare for Christ all throughout the holy people through baptism, through holy preaching, & holy example.”

Then Zacharias [Zacariass] said to the angel immediately, “How will I know now, this which can be for me? We are both of such old age now that we two cannot conceive.”

And God’s angel said this to Zachary again immediately, “You know that I am Gabriel who forever and ever stands before God, to obey him, to praise and worship him; and hither I am sent to you, to make known to you this happiness. And from this day you shall be mute until it will be completed because you would not believe my words now, which shall be fulfilled through God at their proper time.”

And all the people outside stayed, and it seemed a great marvel [to them] why the priest was at God’s altar so long that day. Then he came out afterward completely mute and without speech, and he began to beckon to the people and spoke not with his tongue. And then they knew immediately why he had delayed; they knew that some unknown sight was shown to him that day.

Zachary took himself home after the day’s sun, and afterwards Elizabeth became with child from him through God. And she concealed it well for five months, which you know well indeed, and thus she said in her thoughts of her secret happiness, “Thus has the Lord done with me, through his measureless mercy, so that I will not be scorned among womankind without children.”

Thus, here ends two Gospels, and it behooves us to examine them, to look at what they teach us of our soul’s need. Here I have revealed to you entirely some part how St. John the Baptist was begotten from father and mother through God’s gift, though unnatural, for both were old, and I will show you, about the two Gospels, how great they will teach you of your soul’s need.

This Gospel says that St. John was begotten here for people in the day of King Herod, and that was God’s will because God’s Spirit had said through his prophet’s tongue, a very long time before that [time] when Christ came to humans, that God’s folk, the Jewish folk, who upheld God’s laws, that they should always have rulers and kings from themselves, always, until God’s Son Christ should reveal himself on earth. And so it was always, until Christ was born here for people. Thus, they always had rulers and kings from themselves until Herod, a heathen man, was set as king by the Emperor-king of the city Rome who was the overlord there.

In the same day of Herod, Jesus Christ came to people, half a year after St. John was born of his mother, and so the word that was declared before was fulfilled openly: that God’s folk, the Jewish folk, who upheld God’s laws, always should have rulers and kings from themselves, always, until God’s Son Christ should reveal himself on earth. Also, this Gospel writer [Luke] says that Zachary’s mate Elizabeth was a woman from Aaron’s daughters. And Aaron was the first priest of the people of Israel, and Aaron, which the true book says, was Moses’ brother. Moses was the head person of the people of Israel, and Aaron was the head priest among the Jewish people. And this woman was of their kin, just as the Gospel makes known, and certainly this Elizabeth, about whom we now speak, was thus of Aaron’s kin. Although the Gospel writer says that she was the relative of St. Mary, the mother of Lord Christ, who was of King David’s kin, and King David, nevertheless, was not of Aaron’s kin or lineage.

Because this is entirely true, believe completely what stands in the Gospel book, which does not lie throughout; it behooves us to know well of this and see and understand that the lineage of King David’s kin, from men or from women with Aaron’s kin’s lineage were gathered lately to beget offspring in order to be related to kings and to priests.

Receive now this race that thus was related to priests and to kings and allowed to beget enough offspring all in the same tribe, all so some of it may be begotten of kings and of priests and allowed since to bring forth Elizabeth to people and allowed since to bring forth the lady St. Mary. And receive them both out of that race and each related to the other and begotten in this life from kings and from priests. And receive the Lord Jesus Christ through St. Mary his mother, who was begotten by that holy race of kings and of priests and that race that was Almighty God—King of all kings, Priest of all priests also, and Creator of all creation—and a gift offered here to become an altar from the rood-tree, to release humankind out of the devil’s power by his death, and to reconcile them to his Father up in heaven, who was completely irate with all humankind and had despised it all always because Adam forsook God and took himself to the devil.

Thus the Lord Christ on earth was kin of priests because he wished to become a gift that priests receive and also because he was the chief Priest of all priests, to pray for his own people for his Father’s grace. And also this same Gospel says, just as you heard a little before, that Zachary God’s priest and she who was his mate were righteous and good people before God’s eyes, and you can be this same word, good instruction [for] how you ought to live. He said they were both righteous before God, and that was as he said thus with completely open speech; they both pleased God together through their righteousness. So all those who do not follow in righteousness, they do not please God at all with their righteousness because a person can find in this life between us enough that leads one so secretly before people’s eyes that people regard themselves as good people and very righteous and are nevertheless wicked and unrighteous before God. Because, for idle boasting and people’s words, they show before other people goodness and righteousness and are foul people, nevertheless, in thought and also in hidden deeds before the Lord, through the uncleanness of sin.

But those who, all for the love of God, always follow righteousness before people, behind people, in days and in nights, and not for earthly praise, but all for heavenly reward; those are certainly before God righteous people and good, and they shall have their reward for their righteousness, always without end, bliss enough with all of God’s angels.

And also the Gospel speaks about them to teach us through them, that both of them went so right according to God’s instruction that a person found nothing in them to charge or to accuse, nor that people might have enmity or wrath against either of them. And here you can see now that they were both very pleasing before God in heaven and also before people on earth. And you shall find now such between us very few, for as we do unskillfully whatsoever we do for good, and so we do it with indiscretion that it can anger another; but so those two about whom we now speak did not, for a person found nothing about them that could anger another. By what you can see now, that they were righteous and good, so they led their lives until they were old; that they had never had a child until then was God’s will. Because God had chosen it so that St. John the Baptist should be begotten at that time against nature, that his friends might have happiness from him all the more, and that the folk should follow his instruction all the better, in that they should see him be born here for people by God’s will and by his power and not by mother nature. For she was so found a woman who had not conceived, and she was then a woman so advanced in winters and of such a great age that she had not the nature then in her to conceive; and, therefore, it was all by God that she was then with child because she should bring forth one exceptional child to people.


This good person, this good priest, of whom we now speak, was, as I said a little before now, called Zacharias. And he was, as I have said, a good priest and very pleasing to God, and he was placed in that division that was called Abia. Because then priests and Levites [dæcness] also were divided between which of them should serve first, which after, in the temple, and he, this Zacharias, was set to serve between other priests in that division called Abia after a head priest of Aaron’s line, which then was called by name Abiah [Abyuþþ] or Abia [Abyas]. Under all the old laws all the priests were first from two priests, and one of those two was called Eleazar and the other was called Ithamar. And those two priests were both of Aaron’s sons. And a company of priests spoke of the laws that all came from those two priests because then the Lord had set that no one should become one, when appointed to become a priest, unless he was a priest’s son. And all priests who came from those two priests were divided by lot among those, which should serve Almighty God first at the altar, which after at the temple. And King David had set them in twenty-four lots so that each one should know well which lot should set him to come into Jerusalem to serve in the temple.

There were twenty-four men that were head priests, and one good company of priests came from each of all those, sprung from him, produced through him, and was called his household [hird]. Each separately from the twenty-four households was named after one of the twenty-four priests that were the head priests of the twenty-four households, and each separate household of the twenty-four knew very well which of the twenty-four lots asked him to be ready to serve his week in the temple because each household knew very well whether it should send the priest to serve in the first lot, or in that which comes after, or in third lot or in the fourth or in the fifth. Of the twenty-four men who were head priests and chiefs and families, of the twenty-four hosts that were priests to serve Lord God weekly, from those two times twelve men was called Abia or Abiah [Abyud], and in his household Zacharias was found. And of his kin one holy priest and very pleasing to Lord God.

And in the eighth lot this household of Abia came to serve, to find a priest to serve his week in the temple, and to find always whenever that company of priests that were twenty-four had served one time completely in the temple, they always had fulfilled properly twenty-four of the weeks. And always they undertook again to serve weekly, and you ought to know that the king had divided then the twenty-four households into two to appoint two households: one sprung and produced from Eleazar; another was produced here from Ithamar for people, and each household and each house was divided moreover into sixteen households rightly and also into twice four households. And the household that was divided into sixteen households properly, all that household was produced here for people from Eleazar because Eleazar had sixteen sons, and a household was produced separately from each one for the people. And the household that was divided into twice four households, all that group was produced through Ithamar on earth for people because Ithamar rightly had eight sons, and, from each one separately, a household was produced for the people. And the sixteen that Eleazar had produced here, the households that, you know very well, had one head household, had one head household that was above all the others, as if it were the chief company [laferrdflocc] over all the other groups.

And that which was the head household, that household was in that time called Eleazar’s house, Eleazar’s family. And so it went on the other half in descendants of Ithamar, for Ithamar’s household was also divided the same way in eight houses, says the book, and had one head household and had one head household that was above all the others, as if it were the chief company over all other groups. And that which was the head house, the house was at the time called Ithamar’s house and Ithamar’s family. And each household was called always by name, in all that time, by some noble and good man who was head in that household. And each household knew well enough which lot God asked his priests to serve in God’s temple, and always Zacharias came under the eighth lot with an offering to serve in the temple, and in that same way Levite after Levite always came, all according to his lot fell to him to serve in the temple.


That God’s angel Gabriel came down on God’s behalf in God’s house, with God’s word, on the right side of the altar where Zacharias, God’s priest, should serve with incense, was very good because it was done just as the Lord wished. Therefore he came down with God’s word to make it known on earth that Christ’s herald St. John then should come soon in this life before Christ to prepare his ways before him who should be the head of all priests and a sacrificial offering more than good enough according to his Father’s will, to release humankind from the devil’s power by his death so that people can work here to enjoy each bliss, which everywhere in the holy book is signified by the right side.

And, therefore, all those who shall have bliss shall stand together at the Judgment on the right side by the Judge by Jesus Christ on Judgment Day where he shall judge all people because it will be signified to them by the right side that it shall be prepared for them by the Lord to enjoy each bliss.

And, as soon as Zachary saw that angel’s bright ray, he became terrified and greatly afraid, just as the Gospels make known. And God’s angel took him there to encourage and to comfort him because our miserable nature is such that it can be terrified if it suddenly sees at all the face of angel-kind [ennglekinde] and God’s angel is very meek and mild, and soft and blithe, to encourage and to comfort you, if he sees you badly frightened. But the devil is, which you know well, of cruel and wicked heart because if he sees that a person is at all terrified of his sight, he will terrify him, if he can, and scare [him] more and more. But whoever is armed with complete faith in Christ, though he may see the loathsome spirit, he is rightly not terrified.

God’s angel Gabriel said to Zachary, “Know the Lord has heard and granted your prayers, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son.”

He said that truly because then the time was come that the Lord wished to release his people out of the devil’s power, that God’s priest Zacharias and other good priests and many holy lay people had prayed to God because all those who pleased God before Christ’s coming, they all begged inwardly with prayers and deeds that the Lord might release them from the devil’s power. Then time came that God wished to release them, thus Gabriel said, “You shall have a son,” for his son must be the start of bliss.

Thus all our bliss began at the coming of St. John, all so that the Lord Jesus Christ could come to humankind on earth, and buy humankind from the devil’s power by his own death. Therefore St. John the Baptist came before Christ’s coming to make known to the people that Christ then should come soon, and the Lord Christ’s coming began with St. John and all that bliss that came to us through his coming on earth.

That angel of God said to him there what name he should bestow upon that same child that he then should soon produce, which was, to all the child’s kin, a great honor, for the Lord God himself said to him through his angel that he then should produce a child and how he should name it, who was honor enough to people and also a very clear sign that their offspring was dear to the Lord still before it was produced. And that name was bestowed to him to signify a great thing because, according to that, I can say “John” in English speech signifies to us that thing that is all according to God’s will. And so was that, lo indeed, all according to God’s will that St. John was produced then through a father and through a mother, at which time they were both advanced in winters and old people. And besides that she was old, moreover she was so [old] that she, just as God willed it, could never bear children; thus, it was very certainly all through the Lord’s will that they could conceive a child so late in great old age. And that this same St. John, who was produced so late, was filled from the Comfort [Frofre] Spirit still in his mother’s womb, just as the Gospel writer says who throughout does not lie, that Lord God gave him happiness according to his own will.

Therefore, it was very right that he was named John, which signified all that thing that is all according to God’s will, and afterward through his preaching and through his holy example, he drew so many people to God and to the right faith, as soon as he began to preach to them about God and to baptize, that Lord God gave him happiness according to his own will. Thus, Lord God set him to be named John, which means all that according to God’s will.

And God’s angel said there about St. John still more to Zachary where he stood all clothed at God’s altar. He said, “And you shall have gladness and bliss from that child,” and that was clearly true what God’s angel said because that was to that good priest such great bliss that the Lord gave him in old age such a mighty child to produce.

Moreover, the angel said to him there that other numerous people should be very glad and joyous also about that child’s coming, and that was true, for many a person was joyous about his coming because he was the first person who brought word on earth that humankind should be released soon from the devil and obtain heaven’s kingdom through the pure weapon of life.

Moreover, he said thus to him, “That child that you shall produce shall be a very mighty and great man before Lord God, and he shall never drink the drink that drunkenness follows.”

God’s angel said this there, and we all ought to believe that he despised gluttony completely for love of God, he who was full of the Holy Spirit before he was born, for the Holy Spirit avoids and flees completely from all that is sin.

And Gabriel spoke there about this to Zachary and said, “And he will be full of the Holy Spirit still in his mother’s womb.”

As soon as he knew to be alone by himself, he fled from the people to the desert because he wished not to sin and, further, not to speak through an idle word here in life. And in the desert where he was, his food was plain because it was not delicacy-food [esstemete] there that gluttony follows; though he found it anywhere there, he would never know it, for he was filled through God from the Holy Spirit’s drinks.

And still God’s angel spoke thus to Zachary and said, “And that child, which you shall produce, shall come here to people before Christ right in that spirit and in that same power that Elijah shall come again before Christ’s coming.”

And that was certainly true, for St. John the Baptist came forth before Jesus Christ at Christ’s first coming, and Elijah shall come again in the time of the Antichrist before our Lord Christ at Christ’s second coming. And St. John the Baptist came before Christ’s coming when Christ was here all guiltless condemned to death by evil. And Elijah shall come again before Christ’s coming when Christ shall judge all humankind all rightly and not with evil. And St. John the Baptist came before Christ’s coming when Christ came hither down to release his people out of hell, and Elijah shall come again before Christ’s coming when Christ shall come again to lead his people into heaven.

Thus came John before Christ all in that same way that Elijah shall come again before Christ’s coming. And each was like the other still in another way, for both led a life poor in food and in clothes, and both fled from the folk into the wild desert and led there a very holy life to obtain bliss. And it fell to them both to suffer woe by the evil ire of women.

[Now begins the missing folios (columns 13-28). I will supply the text copied by Van Vliet (MS Lambeth 783), published by Ker in 1940. See the blogpost Dissertation Alteration, Twitter Project, & Orm’s Repetition Reconsidered from March 23, 2014 for the full citation of Ker’s essay.

NB: Van Vliet’s extracts have “no value for reconstituting an exact text” (Ker 3), so my translation will be shorter than expected for all sections supplemented by Van Vliet (via Ker for now) and fragmented.]

Because Elijah escaped with difficulty with his Lord’s help from Jezabel, an evil woman who wished to be allowed to kill him.

All guiltless because she was an evil woman all the same.

Through one deceitful woman that was called Herodias.

To follow all the right track of all the holy company.


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