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John Mirk, Sermon on St. Anne


1 suche a day, on such and such a day [to be inserted by the speaker].

2 worschep, honor.

4-5 lest any unkonyng man toke one for another, to prevent any ignorant person from mistaking one for another.

5-6 to knowen one be another, [to help you] distinguish one from another.

7 forme, first; profetthe, prophet; bischop, high priest.

8 Heyly, Eli; fele yerus, several years.

9 mythe, could; schyldren, children.

10 bareyne, barren; be gevyng of grete almus, by generous almsgiving.

13 haddon, [they] had.

14-15 evre the fende the forme nyghte strangeled hem, the devil always strangled them the first night.

15-16 for thei wolde . . . hur flesse, because they wanted to have sex with this woman, Sara, out of sheer lust for her body.

16-17 in purpos . . . Goddys service, with the intention of begetting children to serve God.

17-18 sclene hem or, slay them before.

19 browth, brought; Raguel hous, Raguel's house; be tysyng, by the urging.

20 forbare hys wyfe, left his wife alone.

20-21 weron in here preyeres, [they] spent the time in prayer.

21 yode, [he] went; haddon schyldren, [they] had children.

22 Thobyes wyf the elder, wife of Tobias the elder; the wyche was fadour and modur, who were the parents.

24 dud besyly, diligently performed.

25 previn his meke suffraunce, prove/test his humble patience.

26 wery of travayle, tired from the labor.

27 wowe, wall.

28 fyntyng, excrement.

29 desese, suffering; visitacioun, adversity imposed on a human being by God.

32 Candelmes, Candlemas (February 2).

33 how it fel aftyr of Hym, what would happen to Him later.

34 wedde, married; yode, went.

36 see, saw; er, before.

37 handled, touched.

38 Lady modur, Lady's mother; fostred hyr of, fed her from.

39 of age, old enough; browte, brought.

40 Moyses lawe, the law of Moses (i.e., the religion of Israel).

42 kynde, family.

43 for cause that, because.

45 in mynde of, as reminders of.

46 thoght to turne this kynde of lynage in hym, planned to apply this family lineage to himself.

48 the mynde of Cryste schuld a ben forgeton, the mention of Christ would be forgotten.

49 conveyon be sleytys, transfer by deceptions.

49-50 into hym and to hyse, to him and to his [family].

50-51 cam be descende, descended (came by descent).

54 on that was callyd Nathan, one who was called Nathan.

54-55 of the whyche was ther on Levi, from whom came one [called] Levi.

56-57 the wyche Barpanther . . . fadur to Mary, the same Barpanther was the father of Joachim, who was the father of Mary.

57 the whech he hadde be Anne, whom he had by Anne.

58 dyed aftur Joachym, afterwards Joachim died.

59 husbande was called, husband [who] was called.

59-60 doghtur was callud Mari Cleophe, daughter [who] was called Mary Cleophas.

62-63 geton hyr thre schyldren in worchep of the Trenité, obtained for herself three children in honor of the Trinity.

63 aftur alle hyr lyve scheo gaf hyr, for all the rest of her life she devoted herself.

65 the forme doghtur, the first daughter.

69 hadde be hym to sonnus, Jamus the More, had by him two sons, James the Greater.

70 Evangelie, Evangelist.

70-71 of a gode tre comyth a gode froyte, from a good tree comes good fruit.

73 gef us hele, give us health.


7-12 The story of this first Anne, or Hannah, is found in 1 Samuel [1 Kings in Vulgate and Douay] 1:1-2:21.

13-21 This story and the next one are based on the Book of Tobit or Tobias, one of the texts from the Septuagint that are accepted as a canonical part of the Old Testament by the Catholic Church but not by most Protestants. (For a somewhat fuller account of these texts, see explanatory note to line 238 of Bokenham's Life of St. Anne.) The plight of Raguel's daughter Sara is recounted in Tobit 3:7-25; the angel's advice and young Tobit's success in Tobit 6-8.

22-30 The virtues and tribulations of Tobit the elder are recounted in much more detail in chs. 1 and 2 of the Book of Tobit; his healing, in ch. 11.

27 wowe. An obsolete word for "wall" that comes from OE wg or wh rather than the more usual weall.

31-37 The Bible gives only a very brief account of this prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38).

32 Candelmes Day. Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, was celebrated on February 2 to commemorate Jesus' presentation in the temple by Mary and Joseph 40 days after His birth. The Legenda aurea's chapter on this feast day gives several explanations of its connection with candles; see Jacobus de Voragine, trans. Ryan, 1.147-49.

43-53 This ingenious explanation for the dearth of evidence concerning Joachim's lineage (and the Virgin Mary's) is found in the Legenda aurea's chapter on the Nativity of the Virgin (Jacobus de Voragine, trans. Ryan, 2.150), where it is attributed to the Ecclesiastical History (presumably meaning Eusebius) and Bede's Chronicle.

53-58 Bokenham presents this same genealogy for Joachim, also derived from the Legenda aurea, in lines 120-24 and 140-45 of his Life of St. Anne. The obvious differences here are that Mirk shows no interest in the more complicated genealogy of Joseph and that he goes on, where Bokenham does not, to recount the traditions about Anne's later marriages and their offspring.

58-70 Mirk may have derived this account of Anne's own "holy lineage" - her two additional husbands, two additional daughters, and six additional grandsons - from the same chapter of the Legenda aurea as the preceding material on the genealogy of Joachim. But the details were given in many other medieval sources as well. In fact, all but two of the grandsons were included in the original formulation of the trinubium theory by Haymo of Auxerre in the mid-ninth century, and those two were added by Peter Lombard when he wrote about the theory in the twelfth century. By the end of the Middle Ages the completed theory had been discussed and debated by other prominent theologians, popularized in later recensions of the Pseudo-Matthew (the source from which the Legenda aurea itself probably derived it, according to Ashley and Sheingorn), and circulated further in sermons and vernacular adaptations based on those sources.


Abbreviations: C = British Library MS Cotton Claudius A.ii, fols. 95v-96v [base text]; Dd = Cambridge University Library MS Dd.X.50, fols. 133r-134v; H 2403 = British Library MS Harley 2403, fols. 137r-139r; H 2417 = British Library MS Harley 2417, fols. 59v-61r; G = Bodleian Library MS Gough Eccl. Top. 4 (SC 17680), fols. 122r-123v.

1 Gode men. Other MSS have Good men and wommen, or Dere frendes.

5 thys wommen. C: thys womman, but the context obviously demands a plural.

7 was bischop. The reading of virtually all the MSS except C, which has is schef.

23 was. C: was was.

30 ageyne. C: agyne.

36 er. C omits, but the other MSS all have some form of it.

41 scheo. C: omits. The other MSS either have it or omit the whole clause, ending the sentence with nyght.

61 scheo2. C has no pronoun at this point, but the other MSS have either she, which, or that.

74 etc.Some MSS continue with wording that is clearly designed for an audience of laymen and lay women: and grace to kepe your ordyr of wedlok and gete such chyldyrn that byn plesant and trew servandys to God, and so com to the blys that Saynt Anne ys yn. Amen (quoted from G, the source of the EETS edition; same lines with minor variants in Dd and H 2417 and H 2403).
    Gode men, ye schul suche a day have the fest of Seynt Anne, that was modur
to oure Lady. Wherefore in worschep of oure Ladi Mari, ye schulde come that day
to holy chyrch and worchepon hur modur, Seynte Anne. Thanne schul ye knowen
that we redyth of fyve holy wommen that weren kalled Anne. And lest any
unkonyng man toke one for another, therfore I wil telle yow of thys wommen, to
knowen one be another.
    The forme Anne was modur to Samuel, Goddys holy profetthe, that was bischop
aftur Heyly and governod the pepul of Israel fele yerus. This Anne hadde ane
husbande that was called Elchana and mythe have none schyldren be this Anne,
for scheo was bareyne. But at the laste, be gevyng of grete almus and wyth devoute
preyer to God, God grauntid this Anne a sone that was called Samuel, os I sayde
    Anothour Anne was wyf to a man that was callyd Raguel, and haddon a doghtur
that was callyd Sara, the wyche Sara hadde seven husbandys and evre the fende
the forme nyghte strangeled hem, for thei wolde have cowpled wyth this womman,
Sare, for grete lust of hur flesse and not in reverens of God ne in purpos to geton
chyldron to do Goddys service. Wherefore God gaf the fende power to sclene hem
or thei hadde defowlyd the womman. Bot aftur com Tobye the yonge, the wyche
an angel browth to Raguel hous. And so, be tysyng of this angel, this Tobye
weddyd this Sare, and thre dayes and thre nythes he forbare hys wyfe, and weron
in here preyeres, and so the ferthe nyght yode to hur bedde and haddon schyldren.
    The thrydde Anne was Thobyes wyf the elder, the wyche was fadour and modur
to this Tobye that I have spokyn of beforen. The weche Tobye the elder was an
holy man and dud besyly the werkys of mercy and of charité. And yete God, to
previn hys meke suffraunce, made hym blynde. Thus on a day, whan he hadde
beryed so many dede bodyes that weryn slayne that he was wery of travayle, he
lay downe in hys hows by the wowe to reston hym, and so os he lokud up the
fyntyng of swalowes fel upon hys eyen, and so was blynde. Bot for he toke hys
desese paciently and evre thankyd God of hys visitacioun, therfor God sende hym
hys syght ageyne.
    The ferth Anne was in the tempul of Jerusalem whan Joseph and our Lady
broghton Criste into the tempul on Candelmes Day. And than cam this Anne and
prophesyed of Cryste how it fel aftyr of Hym. This Anne was so holy that whan
scheo hadde ben wedde seven yere and hur husband dyed, than scheo yode into
the tempul of Jerusalem and was ther servyng God day and nyght tyl scheo were
foure score yer olde. And than scheo hadde suche a grace that scheo see Criste er
scheo dyed and handled Hym wyth hyre handys.
    The fyfte Anne is oure Lady modur and fostred hyr of hur brestes. And whan
scheo was of age, scheo browte hur into the tempul of Jerusalem and lafte hyr
thare among othur virgynes of hur age to lerne Moyses lawe and to serve God
bothe day and nyght, and so scheo dude. This Anne hadde an husbande that was
called Joachym, the whyche cam of the lyne and of the kynde of David the kyng.
But for cause that prophetes toldyn long beforen how that the kyngdam of David
schulde decende to Criste, and so dydon wryton in bokys, the wyche bokys weron
kepte in the tresurye of the tempul in mynde of this thyng, Herode, kyng of Jerusa-
lem, thoght to turne this kynde of lynage in hym and hys eyres aftyr hym. Where-
fore he toke these bokys oute of the tresurye and made to brenne hem, so that
whan thei weryn done away the mynde of Cryste schuld a ben forgeton and he
myght so conveyon be sleytys the lynage of Kyng David doun into hym and to
hyse. Wherefore ther ben bot few bokys that tellon openly how that Joachim cam
be descende from David. But whan this Herode hadde done this fowle dede, yete
were there gode men and wyse that hadde copyes of these bokys wyth ham at
home, the wyche tellyth how Joachim cam of the kynde of David. For David
hadde mani childron, and among alle he hadde on that was callyd Nathan, of the
whyche was ther on Levi, and of this Levi was ther on Panther, and of Panther
was ther on Barpanther; the wyche Barpanther was Joachymes fadur, and he was
fadur to Mary, Cristis modur, the whech he hadde be Anne hys wyf, and aftyr gaf
hyr in mariage to Joseph. And than dyed aftur Joachym, and Anne toke another
husbande was called Cleophas and hadde be hym another doghtur was callud Mari
Cleophe, and aftur he dyed. And than sche toke the thridde husbande, that was
callyd Salome, and be hym scheo hadde the thridde doghtur, and scheo was callyd
Mari Salome. And so, whan scheo hadde geton hyr thre schyldren in worchep of
the Trenité, scheo wolde have no mo, bot aftur alle hyr lyve scheo gaf hyr to
chastité and to holynesse.
    And so of these three doghtyres ther com an holy lynage. For the forme doghtur,
Mari, scheo bare oure Lorde Jhesu Criste. The secunde, Mary Cleophe, was weddyd
to a man that was callud Alpheus and hadde foure sonnes: James the Lesse and
Joseph that was callud Barsabas, Symon, and Judas. The thrydde Mary was weddyd
to a man that was callyd Zebedeus and hadde be hym to sonnus, Jamus the More
and Seynt John the Evangelie. Thus, as God sayde Hymself, of a gode tre comyth
a gode froyte, so of theis holy womman, Seynt Anne, com an holy ofspryng.
Wherefore ye schal pray to Seynt Anne to pray for us to hyr holy doghtur, oure
Lady, that scheo wyl pray for us to hyr dere Son, to gef us hele bothe in body and
soule, etc.