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The Homiletic Writings of Archbishop Wulfstan

The Homiletic Writings of Archbishop Wulfstan

Joyce Tally Lionarons
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    The Homiletic Writings of Archbishop Wulfstan
    Book Description:

    The prodigious writings of Archbishop Wulfstan (d. 1023) encompass secular laws, religious canons, political theory, and homilies (sermons); despite their importance, however the homilies have not received the critical attention they deserve, a gap which this book seeks to fill. It focuses on three particular aspects: the re-establishment of the Wulfstan homiletic canon, Wulfstan's processes of composition and revision as manifested in their manuscript variants, and his characteristic themes and concerns. These include adherence to secular and divine law; the keeping of Christian feasts and fasts; the payment of church dues and tithes; social justice for the poor; absolute clerical celibacy and sexual continence for the laity; repentance, prayer and penance; and the continual reminder, both pre- and post-millennium, that the end of the world is close at hand. Wulfstan's homilies indicate that for the English to heed his warnings, they would have to be persuaded or if necessarily legally coerced to adhere to the dictates of a "Holy Society"; and their influence can be seen in his law codes, where the book argues that even in coercion the archbishop sought to teach and to persuade. Joyce Tally Lionarons teaches in the English Department at Ursinus College, Pennsylvania.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-913-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Manuscript Sigla
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Along with his contemporary and correspondent Ælfric of Eynsham, Archbishop Wulfstan of York (d. 1023) is one of two named writers of vernacular homilies in late Anglo-Saxon England. In comparison to Ælfric, however, Wulfstan has fared relatively poorly at the hands of scholars in the past half-century or so. The standard edition of his works, edited by Dorothy Bethurum in 1957,¹ is outdated and incomplete; Arthur Napier’s 1886 edition,² on the other hand, contains many homilies that are not Wulfstan’s and is lacking its projected companion volume of critical apparatus and commentary. The single book-length study of Wulfstan’s homiletic writing,...

  7. 1 Wulfstan and Wulfstan Manuscripts
    (pp. 9-22)

    Wulfstan was consecrated bishop of London in 996; in 1002 he was elevated to bishop of Worcester and archbishop of York, holding the two sees in plurality until his resignation of Worcester in 1016, and continuing as archbishop of York until his death in May 1023. What little we know of his life has been gleaned from relatively few sources: charters dating from 996 through 1023 bear his signature,¹ and he is mentioned by name four times in theAnglo-Saxon Chronicle: at his accession to the bishopric of London (F 996), celebrating the consecration of Cnut’s church at Ashingdon (D...

  8. 2 Re-Establishing the Wulfstanian Homiletic Canon
    (pp. 23-42)

    The modern canon of Wulfstan’s homiletic works was established in the 1950s, primarily through the scholarship of Dorothy Bethurum, Dorothy Whitelock, and Karl Jost. In the years following, the canon was generally assumed to comprise only those homilies published in Bethurum’s 1957 edition; the additional texts previously printed by Arthur Napier were deemed spurious in terms of authorship or, if authentic, considered to be either variants of Bethurum’s texts or simply non-homiletic. In recent years, however, Bethurum’s editorial practices have come under increasing criticism as a new generation of scholars has returned to the manuscripts to rediscover familiar works in...

  9. 3 Wulfstan’s Eschatology
    (pp. 43-74)

    During his tenure as bishop of London, Wulfstan wrote five homilies devoted wholly to the subject of the Final Days, one in Latin and four in Old English. A sixth,Secundum Marcum, may be dated internally as coming not long after the year 1000 and was probably written soon after Wulfstan became archbishop of York in 1002. The end of the world is a subject he returns to repeatedly throughout his homilies, most notably in the opening lines of theSermo Lupi ad Anglosand in the thoroughly eschatological ending of Napier homily 50. It is little wonder that Mary...

  10. 4 Salvation History and Christianity
    (pp. 75-107)

    When wulfstan became bishop of London in 996 and later archbishop of York and Worcester in 1002, he took on the powers and responsibilities that the church had assigned to bishops since late antiquity: thepotestas ordinis, the power to administer the sacraments reserved for bishops and archbishops – confirmation and the ordination of priests – as well as the power to consecrate new bishops and to dedicate churches, altars, and chrism; thepotestas jurisdictionis, the power to legislate for and dispense justice to those within his sees; and thepotestas magisterii, the power to instruct both the clergy and laity.¹ The...

  11. 5 Wulfstan as Archbishop
    (pp. 108-122)

    An anglo-saxon archbishop was responsible for supervising the priests and bishops of his sees, calling and presiding over ecclesiastical synods, administering church lands, attending meetings of the king’switan, and performing a wide range of liturgical functions, some of which were common to all priests or to other bishops, and some of which were reserved to the archbishop alone. The scope of an archbishop’s liturgical functions can best be seen by looking at the variousordinesfound in Anglo-Saxon pontificals: these include directions for the ordination of priests, deacons, and others in lower orders; for the consecration of bishops, abbots,...

  12. 6 Sacramental Sermons
    (pp. 123-146)

    Of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, Wulfstan was primarily concerned with baptism and penance. Notable for its absence is any homily pertaining to the sacrament of the eucharist: although it is possible that he composed such a sermon and it has not survived, it is likely that, given Wulfstan’s characteristic emphasis on the sins of the English, he was more concerned with the sacraments involving the remission of sin: baptism, which removed the stain of original sin and provided admittance into the community of the faithful, and penance, which conferred forgiveness for sins and reconciled the penitent with both...

  13. 7 The Danish Invasions and the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos
    (pp. 147-163)

    Wulfstan’s response to the Viking invasions did not, of course, end with the penitential edict of 1009. To further underscore the need for radical penance on both an individual and communal basis, Wulfstan turned to the Old Testament and the tribulations of the Israelites to find a precedent for the sufferings of the English and the remedy for such suffering in penitential actions. One of the earliest of Wulfstan’s writings to make use of the Old Testament analogy is a series of Latin excerpts from Isaiah and Jeremiah, followed by English translations and supplemented by a few commonplace homiletic sentiments....

  14. 8 Homilies Based on Legal Codes and the Institutes of Polity
    (pp. 164-176)

    The homilies Wulfstan composed based on his legal codes and theInstitutes of Polityare probably the least read and commented on of all. Bethurum omitted them from her edition on the grounds of genre, and scholars interested in Wulfstan’s legal writing are understandably inclined to work with full legal texts rather than homiletic adaptations. Yet the homilies are interesting in their own right, demonstrating those portions of Wulfstan’s legal and political writings that he considered important enough to include in his preaching. Moreover, because these homilies were for the most part composed towards the end of the archbishop’s life,...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-188)
  16. Index
    (pp. 189-195)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 196-197)