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Homily 25, Easter Monday


1 The Second Feast [of Easter]. The Gospel according to Luke. In that time

2 Latin rubric (Luke 24:13–35): And behold, two of them went, [the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also drawing near, went with them. But their eyes were held, that they should not know him. And he said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days? To whom he said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people; And how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we hoped, that it was he that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea and certain women also of our company affrighted us, who before it was light, were at the sepulchre, And not finding his body, came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who say that he is alive. And some of our people went to the sepulchre, and found it is so as the women had said, but him they found not. Then he said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. And they drew nigh to the town, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther. But they constrained him; saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in with them. And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way, and opened to us the scriptures? And rising up, the same hour they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them. Saying: The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of bread.]

3 Lines 23–24: Mighty before God in his words, / Trustworthy to worldly folk in his deeds

4 And they [the eleven apostles] told them [the two others] that Christ was risen

5 Lines 79–80: For Peter means in English a stone, / To be laid in the foundations of the wall


Abbreviations: CA: Catena Aurea, ed. Newman; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; OE: Old English; PL: Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne; Tubach: Index Exemplorum, ed. Tubach. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

Easter, the central liturgical season of the church year, includes not just Easter Sunday, the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, but also the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, commemorating the appearances of the risen Christ to his disciples, his Ascension, and finally the sending of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the NHC paraphrase of Jesus’ encounter with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are told that since this account is itself both sermon and tale, as well as being very long, there will be no explication apart from the last lines, which describe Jesus’ breaking of bread. This action and the recognition of its significance by Jesus’ disciples, stands for all obedient men who come gladly to hear God’s preaching; both homily and exemplum, however, are primarily given over to vivid illustrations, evidently drawn from contemporary life, of parishioners who may be present in body, but who, if they are not fast asleep, are nonetheless far away in spirit.

NIMEV 2970, 290. Manuscripts: A: fols. 112v–115r; G: (missing); D: fols. 119r–120v; L: fols. 35v–36r.

4 To a castell that Emaus hight. The exact location of the village of Emmaus is un­known. From the fourth century on, pilgrim texts took it to be Nicopolis (today Khirbet Imwas), which is seventeen miles from Jerusalem, although modern scholars have generally agreed that this is too far for a day’s journey (Freedman, Anchor Bible, 2.497). As Douglas Sugano has observed:
Christ’s appearance to the two apostles on the road to Emmaus is de­scribed in Luke 24:13–22, where Emmaus is called simply a village. Emmaus is generally identified as Latrun, the legendary burial place of the “good thief” crucified with Jesus. The alteration from village to castle adds feudal associations but was also a point of fact in the Middle Ages: the construction of the crusader fortress Toron des Chevaliers at Latrun gave rise to an automatic association between Emmaus and castles. In describ­ing the environs of Jerusalem, for example, Mandeville describes the loca­tion variously as ‘þe castel of Emaux’ or ‘þe castel of Cheynay’ (Defective Version, ed. Seymour, pp. 39, 52, 54). (N-Town Plays, p. 337, line 465n).
14 the tane. Northern form of the ton(e). From an incorrect analysis of that on(e).

74 And schewid to Symon sythen he rase. The NHC-poet, in what follows, correctly understands Luke’s potentially unclear statement that Simon Peter had already seen the risen Christ, before His appearance on the road to Emmaus (see 1 Corinthians 15:5, where Paul states that after Jesus’ death and resurrection “he was seen by Cephas [Peter]; and after that by the eleven”). Bede recognizes the need for clarification when he says, “It seems that our Lord appeared to Peter first of all those whom the four Evangelists and the Apostle mention” (CA, 3.781).

75–76 This Symon of wham I mene, / Was Sainte Petire als I wene. Simon the fisherman is among the first to be called by Jesus to discipleship; subsequently he is called Simon, Peter (Jesus’ name for him), or Simon Peter. See further the note to line 79.

79 For Petir on Ynglihsse stane es saide. The poet interprets Peter’s name by explaining Jesus’ pun on petros, the Greek word for “rock,” in Matthew 16:18: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church” (emphasis added).

85–86 That ylke man forsothe hight Lucas, / That sawe Jhesu Criste with Cleophas. In giving a name to the unknown disciple who, along with Cleophas, encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, the NHC-poet concurs with a tradition reported by Theophylactus in the CA: “Some say that Luke was one of these two, and for this reason concealed his name” (3.773). D, however, evidently confused by the earlier allusion to Simon, reports: “þat ylke Symound forsothe it was / þat saw Crist wiþ Cleophas.”

92 And lange withal. Gregory’s words at the beginning of his homily on this text suggest a similar awareness of its length: “I have determined to examine the meaning of the Gospel reading summarily and not word by word, lest an over­long explanation be a burden upon your kindness” (Forty, Homily 23, p. 176). Gregory’s theme, summarized as “Receive Christ at your tab­les,” bears some resemblance to that of NHC, but the similarity could also be accounted for by the nature of the Gospel text itself.

110 Bothe the Alde Lawe and the Newe. Alde Law is understood as Mosaic Law, most importantly the Ten Commandments. Christians consider that Christ’s coming did not cancel this Old Law, but embodied its true fulfillment, as expressed through the term “New Law.”

123 On werldes welthe som men thinkes so mikil. This line and those following describe parishioners whose minds are on their worldly affairs, and not on the sermon to which they should be attending. They have an interesting parallel in one of the exempla found in the collection known as Jacob’s Well, whose source is in fact the same Vitae Patrum exemplum as NHC (see line 147n). As will be seen, the NHC-poet gives a very spare rendering of the exemplum itself, but the homily here includes further details not dissimilar to some of those found in the Vitae Patrum and Jacob’s Well. Compare Vitae Patrum (PL 73.766A): “Before another they appeared as if they were building and carrying something or doing several differ­ent things; and whatever the devils had produced as if playing, those in prayer turned these things in the thought of their hearts”; and Jacob’s Well (37): “A-fore summe þe feendys drouyn beestys, & þanne þei thouʒtyn on here bestys. A-forn summe þe feendys teldyn nobelys, & þanne þo men settyn here thouʒt on here tresoure. A-fore summe feendys komyn as merchauntys, þanne þo folk thouʒtyn all on byggyng & sellyng . . . & on here wordly good.”

135 lykehouse. L: lyk hous; D: at lyche wake & synful plawes. For lychwake (from OE lic, “body” and waeccan, “to watch”), MED gives the following quotation from John Mirc lending support to the idea that wakes were occasions for unseemly revelry as well as mourning: “Art thow iwont at lychwake / Any pleyes for to make” (In­structions for Parish, lines 1353–54). The seventeenth-century antiquarian John Aubrey offers the following fascinating glimpse into this custom, from an eyewit­ness account of the early seventeenth century: “At the funeralls in Yorkeshire, to this day, they continue the custome of watching and sitting-up all night till the body is interred. In the interim some kneel downe and pray (by the corps), some play at cards, some drink and take Tobacco: they have also Mimicall playes and sports” (Remaines of Gentilisme, p. 30).

143 forworthinnes. MED cites only the verb form. Compare D: foul slouþe.

147 Herebi ligges a litil tale. Tubach, 4448: Sleeping potion given by devil. This brief anecdote comes from the Vitae Patrum (PL 73.765), where Abbot Macarius sees a number of demons running about the church in the form of small black Ethio­pian boys, performing a variety of mischievous activities: “Some quite little black Ethiopian boys were running about the whole church hither and thither . . . and if they had pressed together the eyes of any one of them with two little fingers, he immediately fell asleep; but if they had dipped a finger into anyone’s mouth, they made him yawn.” The exemplum can also be found in the Alphabetum Narra­tionum ascribed to Etienne de Besançon, and its later English rendering in the AT (59), as well as in Bromyard’s Summa Predicantium (NEHC, p. 60). Once again, Jacob’s Well (37), includes more of the Vitae Patrum’s very enter­taining details than does NHC: “dyuerse feendys smale as chylderyn, blewe as men of Inde, rennynge al abowte in þe cherche . . . & puttynge here fyngerys to þe eyʒen of summe, and þei sleptyn, & whenne þei awokyn þe feendys grecyd here lyppes wyth here oynementys in here box, & þanne þe folk iangelyd, & telde talys.”


For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

90 Als man . . . tell. Expanded according to previous occurrences.

96 With Lucas and with Cleophas. D: of symound & of cleophas.
Feria ii. Evangelium secundum Lucam. In illo tempore:1

Ibant duo ex discipulis Jhesum.2



































   Saynte Luk saise how dissiples two,
That with Jesu was wont to go,
Yede als todaie the waie right,
To a castell that Emaus hight;
Fyve myle or more of that contré,
Fra Jerusalem that hye cité.
And of Criste gon thai wordes warpe,
And of his ded sorowfull to carpe;
And als thai of Criste carpande yede,
He ovretoke thaim in palmare wede,
And askid thaim what thai spak, and whie
That thai ware sorowfull and sarie.
Bot knawynge of him had thai nane,
Forthi thus answerd him the tane
That Cleophas hight, and saide to him:
“Ertou in Jerusalem a pilgrim,
And wote noght of tha plightfull plaies
That tharein es wroght in thir daies.”
Than askid Jesus what thai ware,
And bothe answerd and saide with care:
“Swilk mornynge and dole, allase,
That es of Jhesu that prophete wase,
Before God in worde mightie,
In werk to folk in werld traystie;3
And how oure princes with the prestis rede,
Gert him on rode be done to dede.
We wend he suld oure folk have boght,
And Israel of thraldome broght,
And this daie es the thrid daie,
Sithen this was done, bot we herd saie
That he now lives, for wymen ware
Areli at his toumbe and sawe thare
Ane aungele that saide he es livand;
And some of oures yode thider and fand,
Right als the wymen thare had saide:
Noght thai fand thare he was laide;
And sone onane thai come agayne,
And thus er we a parti fayne;
For risen hope we that he be
Bot siker thareof yitt er noght we.”
Than saide Criste, “A, foles unwise,
And late to trowe the prophecyese.
Behoved noght Criste on rode to dye
And so into his blisse to stye?”
Than he undid with wordes swete,
The sawes of Moyses the prophete;
And of other prophetes ma
That saide the Jewes suld Criste sla.
And als he spak thus bi the waie,
Nere thaire innes neghid thaie.
And Criste toke leve with worde hende,
And saide, “Ferrer behoves me wende.”
And thai him praied till thaire innes sone,
And saide the daie was nere done.
Thai gert him to the sopere dwell,
Als saise Saynte Luke in oure Gospell.
Criste satte with thaim at the supere,
And blissid thaire mete on fayre manere,
And brak thaire brede, and in the brekinge
Had thai of him full graithe knawynge.
And of that sight full fayne ware thaie,
Bot of thaire sight he went his waie.
When Criste was thusgate went thaim fra
Thai spak and saide betwene thaim twa:
“Ne was oure hertes brinnande hate
Whiles he spake with us in the gate?
And undid us wordes wyse
Of Hali Writte and prophecise?”
Apon the morn areli als daie
To Jerusalem than tornid thaie,
And fand thare when thai come thidir,
Ellevene of the apostlis togidir;
And thai thaim talde that Criste risen wasse,4
And schewid to Symon sythen he rase.
This Symon of wham I mene,
Was Sainte Petire als I wene:
For first was he Symon callde,
And sithen Petir als Criste walde;
For Petir on Ynglihsse stane es saide,
In the grounde of wall to be laide;5
For Criste him sette grounde wall to be,
In Hali Kirk, als writin finde we.
Bot noghtforthi als I you talde,
Saynte Petir was Saynte Symon callde.
That ylke man forsothe hight Lucas,
That sawe Jhesu Criste with Cleophas;
And talde with him how thai Criste kende,
When Criste brak brede with his hende.
This es the strenghe of oure Gospell.
Als man with Ynglihsse tonge mai tell.

   This spell es bothe sermoune and tale,
And lange withall, forthi I sale
Leeve it all bot the last worde,
That es whi Criste brak brede on borde.
And in that brekinge knawen wasse,
With Lucas and with Cleophas.
Thir twa betaknes all men bowsome,
To gasteli mete gladli to come;
That es to saie to Goddis worde,
That prechurs bringes of Goddes horde.
For Goddes worde es brede gastelie,
Als Criste saise us aperteli:
For right als brede the bodi fedis,
And makes it stithe in werlde dedes,
Right so fedes Goddes worde the gaste,
And it in trouthe mase full stedefaste.
And Criste before us brekes it,
When he unduse us Hali Writte,
And brekes it small to us to schewe,
Bothe the Alde Lawe and the Newe.
For when we se wele what thai mene,
Than es Criste gasteli of us sene.
Bot Crist of that man sight sone witis,
That him in prechinge noght delitis;
For mani foles heres sermoune,
Withouten ani devocioune;
And som man comes to the sermoune,
That ware bettir be in the toune,
For to do thaire other thinges,
For in his hert na likinge springes,
To here of thinge that lastis aie,
Bot thinkes all on othir plaie.
On werldes welthe som men thinkes so mikil,
That fals and fayleand es, and fikile,
That prechinge savours thaim right noght,
So es thair hertes on other thinges broght.
And som men comes thidir full yare,
All anerli for to be sene thare,
For to be halden in felde and toune,
Man of grete devocioune;
Bot of the prechinge litil he kepis,
For att the prechinge he routis and slepes.
Att Goddes worde he es slepeande,
And att the taverne all wakande;
And atte lykehouse for to plaie,
Thare will he wake to it be daie.
Bot when he comes sermoune to here,
He es so hevye and so swere,
That he may noght his heved hald uppe,
Bot bringes it in the fendes cuppe;
For Sathanase gase than aboute
To ger men drink his cuppe alloute.
His cuppe forworthinnes call I,
That geres men slepe and be hevye,
When that thai Goddes worde suld here:
Oure Lorde us schelde fra his pycchere!
Herebi ligges a litil tale,
How the fende geres men drink dwale,
And geres thaim slepe for dronkennes,
And helde unto forworthinnes.

   A hali man at prechinge gon site
And thoght the prechinge ferli swete,
And als he lokid him besyde,
The fende sawe he bi him glyde,
With a picchere in his hande,
And yede aboute with cuppe birland.
And ilk man that his cuppe kepid
And drank therof, full swith he slepid.
Thus duse the fende for to lette
The folk that er at prechinge sette,
To here that es spoken thare;
For he wote wele that gastli lare
Geres thaim leeve his wickid trace,
And fro him torne and go to grace.
For he that Goddis worde techis,
The sinfull man tharewith he lechis;
How he sall leve the fendes servyse,
And sare he geres the fende than gryse.
Forthi the fende fondes to spere
With slepe the sinfull mannes here,
That he ne maie here his saule hele,
Thus fast he fondes mannes saule to stele.
Oure Lorde us schelde fra his stelinge,
And to the blisse of hevene us bringe. Amen.

were accustomed
(see note)

did they [with] words converse
death; speak

pilgrim’s clothing

the one of them; (see note)
was called
Are you
know; terrible events
have occurred

Such mourning; grief

priests’ counsel
Had; put to death
thought; redeemed
out of bondage



at once
partly glad


Was it not necessary

lodging approached
Farther must I

immediate recognition

But out of

on the way

revealed; after; rose; (see note)
speak; (see note)

afterward; wished
(see note)

established foundation


(see note)



long, moreover, [and] therefore; (see note)

By; (t-note)
spiritual nourishment

bring forth from God’s treasure



makes [us]


(see note)

But Christ soon withers the sight of that man

would be better off

(see note)
has no savor for them

[As a]


tomb; (see note)
remain awake


make; completely
sloth; (see note)

lies; (see note)

cleave to

did sit

every; took

spiritual instruction


makes; fear
attempts to close

protect; theft


[Homilies 26–31 not included in this edition. See Explanatory Notes.]

Go To Homily 32, First Sunday after the Ascension