Homily 3

Based on the Holt edition, ll. 1,798-2,684

Orm bases this on Luke 1:26.

Latin pericope (taken from the Latin list of texts): Missus est Angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilee. 

[…] in that time with her cousin Elizabeth, just as the Gospel makes known, for she wished to abide there in Elizabeth’s time that she was with her child so that she should bring it forth. And after it was born and came here to people, thereafter [she] went to the lady’s home in the city of Nazareth and [was] there with her child completely all those many months, as if it were another child that was in her family.

Here ends thus two Gospels, and it behooves us to examine them, to see what they teach us concerning our soul’s need. It comes to my mind that I said to you a little before now in this lesson that God’s angel Gabriel was sent to Zachary to make known to him that he should beget John the Baptist, and I also said to you that he was sent to St. Mary to make known that she should be with child from the Holy Spirit. Wherever we find in the book an angel called by name, it behooves us well to see there what that name can signify to us, for a name is never set to them unless it shall signify what work is set to him by the Lord to perform here on earth.

For Michael signifies to us, according to what I can say, what is with God completely equal in all kinds of power and is not anything that might be with God of equal power; that name was set to him through God because he should fight against a dragon and kill him through heavenly power, and that was done because it should signify very well to us that God’s Son should overpower the devil well.

And Raphael signifies to us, according to what I can say, the holy remedy of the Lord and eye-salve of the soul. That name was set to him through God because he wished to send him with a heavenly remedy to cure Tobit’s eyes. This Tobit was a holy man among the Jewish people, and he was once made blind, just as the Lord willed it. And the Lord sent the Archangel Raphael down from heaven with a heavenly remedy to give him his eyesight, and that was done because it should signify very well to us that the Lord should give us good eye-sight of the soul through the leech-craft [spiritual healing] of Christianity and through the right belief and through that work that pertains to there and through that good will.

And Gabriel signifies to us in English God’s strength, and so was he named through God because it should signify what was set in him through Lord God to make known and to show to God’s priest Zachary and also to St. Mary that God’s Son Jesus Christ, through his divine strength in our human nature, should overcome the devil for us. This Gospel says that Gabriel came to the lady Mary after Elizabeth was made with child earlier, and also it tells that he came right in the sixth month, which was in March, but March was then nearly completely gone to the end because that was on the fifth day at twenty days’ end of March that St. Mary became with child from the Holy Spirit. And in that same month again and that day in the month was our Lord Jesus Christ nailed on the rood, guiltless. And March’s nights always wane, and March’s days always wax; and Christ rose up from death’s sleep to wane death’s night and to give his friends the true light and gleam of the soul, that gleam that always waxes if they follow it properly. And Christ was born in this life within Yule’s month, but that day was very nearly completely gone out of that month because that was on the fifth day at twenty days’ end of Yule that our Lord Christ was born here to people. And on that day the light of day begins to wax for us, and the true light came to us through Christ, just as you heard a little before.

That angel of God, Gabriel, came to the lady Mary in that Galilean town that was called Nazareth; that was done so because it should signify a good blessing for us, for Nazareth’s name is called “blossom” in English speech for us. And this belonged really very properly to our lady Mary because there where she became with child from the Holy Spirit through the Lord, there she received the blossom from God’s Spirit in a completely unstained womb; and there where our Lord Christ was born here to people, there she brought that fruit forth from a completely unstained womb, that fruit that is the bread of life on earth and also in heaven.

And you ought to know that she was married through God’s will to a man of her kin who was called Joseph, for the Lord had then set among the Jewish people that no one should be defiled through the heathen company of a mate. For all folk were heathen then and were completely unclean outside that Jewish folk that was pleasing to God then through their continuing to follow well God’s lawbook. And, therefore, God completely forbade them, just as I have shown, that not one of them should be married to a heathen mate, that no one should be defiled with heathendom through a mate. And it was necessary that she was married with God’s law then because if a person were to become aware that she was with child before she was lawfully married with any mate, she would be stoned to death according to the law-book.

The lady was made with child by the Holy Spirit through God, but not any person knew that, especially not her mate, and the devil did not know anything yet, that she was with child in such a way. And Almighty God did not wish, through she who was with child, that she, who was completely innocent, be stoned to death. For Lord God wished better than humankind not know in which way Jesus Christ was born to people; Lord God wished better, just as the book makes known to us, than that the lady be shunned and shamed here in life, just as that woman ought to be who is completely guilty of fornication. And, therefore, she was married to Joseph with God’s law so that she was not shamed here, not shunned for uncleanness, and, therefore, the folk thought well—and so thought the devil—that she was Joseph’s wife and with child from Joseph; and so she came away very well, through that which she was married, that she was not shamed, nor shunned, nor held guilty of fornication.

And she was married also because, which you know well indeed, it should be undeclared and completely unknown and secret to the loathsome spirit so that he should not understand it, that then she should be with child from the Holy Spirit through God and that she should bring forth here Almighty God to people. And that was a great good that it was undeclared to the devil because, if the devil were aware that Christ’s divine nature should rob him of all his power and humankind out of hell, he would never allow him to be killed through rood-pain. And then Jesus Christ’s coming would be completely profitless for us if he were not dead for us to release us from pain.

And our lady was married still for another necessity; she was married because she should be with child then, even though it should not be begotten on the father’s side. And if then she were to bear a child and not be married, then a woman might bear a child through foul fornication and if a person wished to accuse her [of] that and revile and howl upon her, she could haughtily answer against thus and say, “She, the lady Mary, bares a child without a wedded mate, and if you wish to accuse me, you ought to accuse her also.” Thus can she very haughtily boast of her sin and that she was made a whore through foul fornication; thus can she justify well and defend [herself] through that example if the lady were to bear a child and not be married. And she was also, which you know well, therefore married to a man, to one who was of her kin and completely of her lineage because the kin of the Lord Christ on earth on his mother’s side should be listed by men upward and downward both. For in that time and in that land in which Christ was born, they did not report their kin neither upward nor downward by women, but they always reported by men as it went, and, therefore, Christ’s kin was listed completely upward and downward by Joseph and not by the lady St. Mary. And Christ’s kin can be enumerated by Joseph very well because both were of one kin, Joseph and St. Mary, and, therefore, Christ’s kin can be enumerated well by Joseph because Christ was of Joseph’s kin on St. Mary’s side.

And our lady was married still all for another necessity because she was married to a holy man, for he should watch over her and her child well, and foster and feed them, and lead them from land to land if they should move. For such a need was Joseph married to St. Mary, but she was ever a virgin from man, clean throughout, before she was with child and while she was with child and after he was born and forever without end; and whoever will not believe this slays his own soul. And, moreover, people thought evidently, that time in the land, that she was Joseph’s wife and with child from Joseph, and the devil thought so also; and, therefore, he would dare then to strive with his practices to catch Christ and nail him on the rood. They thought that she was a wife, but she was a clean maiden, and she was, as I have said, with child from the Holy Spirit.

That good man that was married to our lady Mary was called Joseph by name because it should signify that his goodness should be very much increased through that for him who was given to be with St. Mary in a house, for just as an evil person takes an example from evil, so a holy person takes an example from holiness. And you know that his holiness was improved and increased in him because he saw daily the lady St. Mary, who was completely full of holiness in heavenly virtues. And through his name was this very plainly signified about him because Joseph signifies to us that thing that is improved and increased.

And our dear lady was named Mary through the Lord because that name should signify well her blessing, for her name signifies to us in English the sea-star. And she always will be and was and is the sea-star in holy example because, just as the steersman always looks to one star that always stands still up in the sky and shines so brightly—for he wishes to always follow the same path of the star so that he may proceed right to land with his will—so all Christian folk ought to look to St. Mary, who stands with her son in the place that is highest in heaven. And each Christian person who yearns for bliss ought to continue, according to his ability, to follow her example so that he may proceed right, according to his own will, up into heaven’s place to enjoy eternal bliss. And her name is lady in English speech, and that pertains very well to her great blessing because she is the queen of all creation and lady full of might.

That angel of God Gabriel came unto St. Mary, which it does us well to understand that she was not outside in amusement and in idleness and in luxury and in sports, just as the loathsome maiden is who seeks uncleanness. And, because of that, she was disturbed and afraid of God’s angel because he was coming in in the form of a man, by which was seen clearly that she was found indeed moreover very throughout bashful and humble and sedate. She knew him well because before he was very accustomed to come down often and frequently with God’s word to gladden and to comfort her, and, in spite of that, she was much much ashamed and alarmed by him—because he came in the form of a man—because she was a holy maiden. For as soon as the maiden became bold, she immediately became immoral because love shall perform what she shall neglect, humility. It behooves our maiden very well to be ashamed if a person brings before her an immoral word and a wanton word by poets, if our lady Mary was ashamed and alarmed where the angel came with a word of greeting to her on behalf of God. And because she was never before comforted with such a greeting, she began to question him wisely what it could signify. And because he saw that she was disturbed by his speech, he began to comfort her at once and said, “Be not afraid, Mary; you are very dear to your God.”

And then he said immediately with really very open speech because it should be seen that she was very pleasing to God, he said that she should be with child from the Holy Spirit; and that she should bring forth God’s Son to people from God; and that she should call him Jesus, which is Healer, because he himself should heal humankind of the wounds of sin.

That angel of of God Gabriel said to St. Mary concerning her son Jesus Christ, who should come soon, that the Lord should give him that same throne that King David his father held among the Jewish people and which was belonging to Jacob, which he said certainly because Christ then should soon turn Jewish folk to Christianity through his disciples and bring them to heaven’s place, into his royal kingdom and there rule them in bliss without end. But you know well that all those who believe in Christ concerning both, concerning the Jewish people and concerning the heathen people, which you know well, that all those are signified here to you, both through Jacob and through the Jew, according to spiritual instruction. For Jacob signifies all those who tread down and destroy all those who are against God in all kinds of sin, and the Jew signifies all those who love and honor God and inwardly acknowledge always with mouth and also with faith that there is no God without him who made all creation and inwardly acknowledge always all their enmity and sin and persevere to please God in all kinds of ways. And such are Christ’s folk and Christ’s royal kingdom, and Christ shall rule always and always in heaven’s place in such [a way].

That St. Mary said thus to the Archangel Gabriel, “How can this deed be done? How can I be with child without begetting it on the father’s side, without any mate?”

She said that through great wisdom because that was never done, that any woman would bare a child without the company of a man, and she was turned so to God with body and with soul that she would not lose the reward for virginity through a mate, and, therefore, she would be wise about that through God’s angel, in what way she should be with child without a man. And you know well that there was never, before St. Mary, a woman who, for love of God, would live in virginity, and, therefore, she was really very exceptionally worthy to be blessed through God and to be the mother of All-ruling God. And because she wisely began to question God’s angel how she should be with child without the company of a man, immediately completely openly he began to show how she should, through God’s will, become with child from the Holy Spirit soon so that, nevertheless, she should not lose the reward for virginity. And so that she should so much the better with full faith believe that she could well bear a child without the company of a man, through Almighty God’s power that aids his will, he said that Elizabeth was made then with child, [she] who was then so aged a wife and incapable of bearing [children]; and also that wife who had always been childless [up] to that time and then should bear a child against woman’s nature.

And that was said as if he thus completely said, “Do not doubt that God can do all that is his will; so God makes you bear a child very well against nature, just as Elizabeth shall now bear a child against nature.

And as soon as St. Mary saw that she should become with child so that she should not be stained through it, she immediately became very happy and said thus with words, “Look, here I am a handmaid, completely ready to follow God’s will.”

For she saw and understood well through Gabriel’s speech that she was a blessed woman, one among all womankind. The lady St. Mary was completely entrusted by God with all and had set in her the thought to live in cleanness, to lead her life to the end completely in virginity, but she did not say it to any person that she wished to live in such a way but to the Lord she had said it in her clean will that she, if it could be, wished to live in virginity. And that was great before God that she should live in such a way because there was never found before that among women on earth that any woman wished to lead her life in virginity, and through that and through all that good that was found in her, in her life that was all completely pleasing and dear to the Lord, because was she very worthy to be so honored here on earth, that God’s Son should become human in her womb, from her flesh, from her blood, from her family’s kindred.

And then after she thus well had thought to live in virginity for the love of God and for the reward of heaven, thereafter [she] went to her relations to receive counsel among them, to give her some good man completely according to her family. And she was not against that but granted them their will, and granted that she would be betrothed right lawfully to a mate, just as was the law to be betrothed in that age. And she well thought, nevertheless, that she wished to live in virginity if she could help it in any kind of way, and she laid all that in God and in his dear will, that he thereof should do completely whatsoever was his will; and inwardly she prayed to God for his help that she could always live in clean virginity and in purity. And she was betrothed to a good man who was called Joseph, and she remained with her relations yet after that for some time. And in that time while she was with her kin at home, God’s angel came one day to her in her dwelling, and the Lord sent her word through the Archangel Gabriel that she should be with child and bear a child to people.

And because she had well thought to live in cleanness, she gave the Archangel Gabriel a reply again and said, “How can this be performed through me so that no man knows?”

Why did she give such a reply again when God’s angel said that she should be with child and bear a child to people? Truly, she could soon after that unite with her mate and know her mate’s seed [stren] and become with child in such a way and bring forth her offspring with him as other women bring forth [children]. Why did she give such a reply again, “How can this be performed that I may be with child and bear a child to people?”

Now I will show you why she gave such a reply again: because she wished to show that she, if it might be, had nothing in her will to know any man’s seed, to be with child in such a way, to bring forth in such a way with a man an offspring as other women bring forth [children]. Therefore, she said these words to the Archangel Gabriel, “How can this be performed through me so that no man knows?” For this was said as if she thus said with other words, “In what way can I bear a child, I who have well fixed in my thoughts that I will not know a man? I have fixed in my thoughts to live in cleanness so that, if it may be, I will not know a mate, and I know not how that can be, that I can be with child in my virginity, in a clean bed, without the company of a mate; and happily I would see and know through you yourself in what way this, which you make known on God’s behalf, can be.”

And God’s angel Gabriel gave her an answer and said, “You will be with child from the Holy Spirit and will be a clean virgin nevertheless.”

And she began to become with child well with God’s word in such a way so that she, nevertheless, should be a clean virgin completely throughout. And she became then with child in such a way completely according to God’s will, and not one living person knew it, that she was with child in such a way because she did not say it to any person and neither did God’s angel, for it should be well concealed from the devil that God’s Son should be born here in that way. And her stomach then began to grow as it should, and she concealed it from all people, from relatives and from strangers. And she was then after that brought home to her mate, and he became aware immediately then, as soon as he saw her stomach, that she was grown some great deal and that she was with child; and [he] immediately wished to separate her from himself completely quietly. And God’s angel came to him before dawn where he slept and said to him that his mate was with child from the Holy Spirit. And he commanded him to be very mild and meek, to aid and to obey that clean maiden who should be the mother of Almighty God, and she then afterward said to him very completely how she had fixed in her thoughts to lead all her life in cleanness. And he became then, through her, prepared to live in cleanness, and both led all their lives in virginity to the end.

And yet it was a noble and true wedlock to behold on either side because either was meek and good at all the needs of the other. And all was a common thing a little as they had, and all in one way fell to either of their hearts, all that which came to the other of them from happiness and from unhappiness. And, therefore, it was right very well to behold the wedlock between them, even though they led their lives in virginity completely to the end.

Now I have shown you our lady Mary in some part, how she was made with child from the Holy Spirit through the Lord because she was completely entrusted to the Lord with body and soul, for she was, indeed truly, completely full of holy virtues, of obedience, of righteousness, and of true meekness, of true chastity, of good prudence, of moderation, of true love, of true patience, of righteous diligence. That she was ready to undertake to follow the will of the Lord, that was, which you know certainly, very perfect obedience; and it was also true righteousness, for that is right on earth that humankind be obedient to Lord God in all ways, and true meekness was clearly shown in her answer through which she said that she was a handmaid to serve the Lord. She was full of true chastity so that a person can understand why the Lord chose her among all womankind to become filled completely throughout in body and soul with the holy might of God’s Spirit to become the mother of God. It was fully seen there that she was completely full of true cleanness, for the Lord shuns all those who follow uncleanness. And she was full of good prudence and that was very fully seen where she began to question very gravely God’s angel completely how she should bear a child without the company of a mate, she who wished never to be defiled by a man in life. And she was full of strength and virtue to stand against the devil, for she trod the devil underfoot throughout in all ways because there was no woman born here before in life—and there was none while she was among people on earth, and none will be here in this after the lady Mary—who may become like her in any holiness nor tread down the devil’s might, just as she trod fully. And she was full of measure and moderation in all kinds of ways so that she wished not to follow one thing to excess, for her thoughts and her words and her works were clean and completely with wisdom and completely with reason and completely with moderation. She was full of true love, and that was seen very well in that the Lord chose her to become God’s mother, for she would not be so unusually pleasing to Lord God if she were not full of the power of true love because all those who have wisdom and grow old among people, if they please Lord God, you know that they please him with love of the Lord and of people and with the right belief. And she who pleased him the most of all of all humankind on earth, she was certainly filled with true love the most of all people, for she was exceptionally good, and mild and meek and happy, both toward God and toward people, in all kinds of ways.

And she was full of true patience to endure and to suffer with true meekness, with wisdom, with reason, each happiness and each unhappiness. And you can know that she was found very full of patience, for there is no virtue right good enough before God’s eyes unless it is gilded over very well through the gold of patience. For patience ought to be with each virtue, to behold and to strengthen it so that it may be a good weapon for us against the devil, who always and always perseveres to supplant our souls, to make us sin against God in some way. And she was diligent—you know well—in all good deeds, for idleness and indolence are very unpleasing to the Lord, and she was dear and beloved and pleasing in all ways to the Lord because we know that she was clean of idleness.

[“þohh þatt te” is editorial conjecture, so I’m not translating it here; once I’ve seen the text in the manuscript, I may change it.] […] the lady Mary was so unusually honored by God that she should be the mother of Almighty God, and yet she took no pride from her great blessing but began to show immediately meekness so much the more because she wished to give us a good example in herself of how we ought to humble ourselves if God exalts us here. For whosoever is exalted by God here on earth, he ought to humble himself very certainly through true meekness according to the example the lady St. Mary gave him, by which she became very meek after she was exalted and raised by God to be the mother of All-ruling God. For after that Gabriel came down from heaven to make known that she should be with child from the Holy Spirit, she rose herself up and went at once up into the high hills to her female relative Elizabeth to honor and to exalt her. And that was indeed true humility that our lady Mary went so to Elizabeth to honor and to exalt her for, though she was a holy wife, yet she was much lower than our lady Mary was in all kinds of ways because Elizabeth was a wife [sexually active married woman] and Mary, a clean maiden [a pure virgin]; and also Elizabeth’s child was begotten through the father’s seed, and Mary was with child without the seed on the father’s side; and also Elizabeth’s child was a human and nothing more, and Mary’s child was human and God, one Person [of the Trinity] in two natures. And, therefore, Elizabeth was in all ways lower than our lady Mary was, and we ought to believe it well because she was the highest in this life of all humankind on earth; and she is now and ever will be highest in all creation.


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