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Homily 16, Quinquagesima Sunday


1 Quinquagesima Sunday. The Gospel according to Luke. In that time

2 Latin rubric (Luke 18:31–43): Then Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished [which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: And after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said. Now it came to pass, when he drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the way side, begging. And when he heard the multitude passing by, he asked what this meant. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. And they that went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out much more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus standing, commanded him to be brought unto him. And when he was come near, he asked him, Saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? But he said: Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him: Receive they sight: thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.]


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; OI: Old Irish; ON: Old Norse; Tubach: Index Exemplorum, ed. Tubach. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

On this Sunday, fifty days before Easter, the Gospel text speaks of Jesus' journey towards Jerusalem and his prophecy of what will occur there. The blind man who cries out for help along the way and will not be distracted becomes a metaphor of the need for perseverance in prayer. In the exemplum that follows, a peasant's recognition of his inability to keep his thoughts from wandering as he tries to pray, as well as Saint Bernard's acknowledgment of a similar failure, makes this one of NHC's most appealingly human narratives. Gregory's words on this subject, which may have helped to inspire the choice of exemplum, also suggest the universal nature of the problem: "In proportion to the tumult of our unspiritual thoughts must be our eagerness to persist in prayer" (Forty, Homily 13, p. 96).

NIMEV 2971, 3865. Manuscripts: A: fols. 59r–62v; G: fols. 59r–61v; D: fols. 87r–89v; L: fols. 22r–23r.

45 Here on spekis Saynte Gregorye. Once again the NHC-poet makes explicit reference to and use of Gregory. Compare the opening of Homily 13: "Our Redeemer foresaw that the hearts of his disciples would be greatly disturbed by his passion. He foretold to them far ahead both the agony of his passion and the glory of his resurrection. Then when they beheld him dying, as had been foretold, they would not doubt that he was also to rise again" (Forty, Homily 13, p. 94).

99–100 Jericho. This meaning of the Hebrew word, "Jericho," comes from a work of Saint Jerome, as noted by Hurst in Gregory (Forty, Homily 13, p. 100n3).

149–54 The folk that yede be the strete . . . blynne. Compare Gregory's very similar allegori­zation of the scriptural text: "And the people ahead rebuked him, that he should be silent. What is meant by 'the people ahead' as Jesus comes if not the crowds of bodily desires and the uproar caused by our vices?" (Forty, Homily 13, p. 96).

179 We find writen of Saynte Bernarde. Tubach 3615: Paternoster, horse offered. Ber­nard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) was one of the most notable medieval exponents of monastic culture. As the abbot of the Cistercian house of Clairvaux, he played a leading role in promoting the newly reformed vision of the Benedictine Rule, whereby monks lived lives both literally and metaphorically apart, dedicated to prayer and contemplation (G. Evans, Bernard of Clairvaux, pp. 8–9). The emphasis on prayer perhaps provided this particular exemplum's link with Bernard, which otherwise appears to have no historical connection to the saint. Gerould suggests a possible affinity with one of the many affiliates of the celebrated French fab­liau, "Les Souhaits de Saint Martin" (NEHC, p. 47). The common thread linking all versions involves the granting of a wish by a supernatural being, but without the expected positive consequences. However, apart from this very general simi­larity there is nothing at all like the NHC exemplum found among the narratives described in Bédier's Fabliaux (p. 177), none of which mentions Saint Bernard. Closer analogues are found in the Legenda Aurea (chapter 120, volume 2, pp. 98– 107), the exempla of Jacques de Vitry (Die Exempla, p. 49), and the later AT (113).

200 Umstonte. MED: Probably from ON, compare OI um stund, perhaps by analogy with ME umbestounde, "at times."


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; Nevanlinna: Nevanlinna, The Northern Homily Cycle; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; Small: English Metrical Homiles, ed. Small. for manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

9 schenschip. MED: Northern form of schendschip.

43 of todaye. MS: ol, canceled, between of and todaye.

44 Als man in Ynglisse tonge mai saye. MS: Als man etc. This phrase, often abbreviated in this manuscript, has been expanded here, following fol. 31v (Epiphany), where it is written out in full.

127 ille. So D. MS: will.

147–48 With rightwisnes ageyn the fendis, / That rightwismen wit schame schendis. So D. MS: With rightwisnes agaynes the fende; / For rightwis men thaim schameli schende.

154 And biddes us of oure prayers blynne. MS: Written as two half lines at the ends of lines 152 and 153.

228 tele. So D. MS: stele.
Dominica in quinquagesima. Evangelium secundum Lucam. In illo tempore:1

Assumpsit Jhesus duodecim disciplis suis et ait illis: Ecce ascendimus Jerosolimam et consummabuntur. Et cetera.2
















































   Saynte Luke tellis us that Criste himselve
Toke to him his dissiples twelve
And saide, “To Jerusalem we wende
And all thinge bese broght to ende.
That es writen in prophecye
Of Goddes Sonne that man sall bye.
To haythen men he bese bekende
That sare sall pyne him with thair hende.
For all sall him with schenschip schende
And do him wa als men unhende;
And when thai have done him this wa
Than sall tay atte laste him sla,
And he sall rise the thrid daie.”
Bot what Criste ment never wist thaie:
Wist thai noght what Criste walde mene
For nane of thaim had fandid bene.
When Jhesu Criste had saide this sawe,
Towarde a cytee gon he drawe
That Jericho was callid than,
And with him many a man.
And als thai yede be the strete
A pure blynde man gon thai mete,
And he spirid wha yede be the waie?
“Jesus the prophete,” for sothe saide thaie.
And he cryed als blynde er wone
And sayde, “A, Jhesu, David sone,
Of me that es blinde have mercye.”
And the folk bad him be still his crye,
Bot mare and mare aye cryed he,
And saide, “Jesue, thou rewe on me.”
And Jhesus stinte and stude him still
And bad bringe the blind man him till.
When he was nere Criste saide him to
“What will tow that I to thee do?”
“Lorde,” he saide, “gife me my sight.”
And Criste thare schewid Goddes might
And saide, “I bid thee that thou se
For thi trouthe has savid thee.”
And als swithe had he his sight,
And folowid Criste and louid his might.
And all the folk that sawe that dede
Loued God and his godhede.
This es the Gospell of todaye,
Als man in Ynglisse tonge mai saye.

   Here on spekis Saynte Gregorye,
And saise that Criste schewid openlye
His passyoune lange before the tyme,
To gerre the apostles trowe in hyme.
For he schewid on whatkin wyse
He suld first dye and sithen ryse
Fra dede to lyve, to gere thaim fande
And se that all his worde suld stande,
When thai sawe him right swa be graythid
Als he before to thaim had saide:
That thai might trowe thorghe pinynge
And be right sikir of his risinge;
For when thai sawe his pynes all
Als he said suld on him fall
Of his risinge borde thaim be sikir
And therof nouther doute ne flikir
For he saide he suld first drye
Full harde paynes, and sithen dye
And ryse apon the thrid daie
Fra dede to lyve, als wha saye
“Sikir maye ye of mi risinge be
When ye all this with eye se.”
Yitt es thare another enchesoune
Whi Criste thaim schewid his passyoune:
For his dissiples suld be resoune
To thole harde dede be balde and boune,
When thai sawe thaire maistire take
Gladli his dede withouten sake.
Forthi before thaim warnid he
And talde thaim all how it suld be:
First pynid and sithen slayne
To ger thaim to thaire dede be bayne.
Before thaim to dede he yede,
And gave thaim ensaumpil of his dede,
How thai suld thole willfulli
For his lufe pyne, and sithen dye.
For thaire hele than tholid he
Harde pyne apon the rude tre.
Bot for thai might noght undirstande
What he ment with worde tellande,
With dede he schewid thaim his might
And gave a blynd man his sight.
Forthi will we luke forthermare
What oure Gospel menes thare,
Thare it is saide Criste yede into
A towne that was callid Jericho,
And fand bi the gate sittand
A blynde man on him fast calland.
And Criste stude and gave him sight,
And schewid bi this dede full right,
That all mankynde with synne was blynde,
For na man coude the right waie fynde
To hevene, or Crist come to do
Oure aller nedes in Jerycho.
Jericho, es for to saye
On Ynglis, mone that chaunges aie
And it betaknes the werld thatt es
Chaungeand with synne and wickidnes.
This wickid werld es so chaungeabile
That nathinge es tharein stabile
For now es leve and now es lathe,
And now er we gladde and now wrathe.
Now er we hale, now er we seke,
And now wode and now meke,
Now calde and now hate;
And swa dwellis never a thinge in state
And for this werld es swa chaungeande
Be the mone we may it undirstand.
For the mone ye wate wele chaunges aye
Swa duse this werld bath night and daye
And Jerycho betaknes the mone
On Ynglihsse when it es undone:
And forthi may we undirstand
Bi Jericho this werld chaungeand.
Thidirward yede Criste full right
And gafe a blynde man his sight.
When he come for to hele mankynde
That Adam synne made gasteli blynde;
For gasteli blynde may be callde
He that canne noght the right wai halde.
That was sene on oure fadir Adame
That broght his ospringe all in blame:
For thorghe him yede mankynde ille
Aye to Jesus come us till,
And broght us into the right waie
Unto the blisse that lastis aie;
And gave us sight this waie to halde
For right trouthe gasteli sight es callde.
For trouthe of Hali Kirk es sight
That ledes man to lemes light,
Into the blisse that graithid es
To thaim that lives in rightwisnes.
Bot for mankynde held noght the waie,
Forthi sais oure Gospell todaie
That this blind man gon noght sete
In the waie, bot all besyde the strete.
Als to saie mankynde was oute gane
Of the strete for sight was fra him tane,
Aye to God gave him gasteli sight
And broght hin into wayes right.
In synne he fand him blynd sittand,
Bot Criste him kende full stiffe to stand
With rightwisnes ageyn the fendis,
That rightwismen wit schame schendis.
The folk that yede be the strete
Bad this blynde man his cryinge lete.
Thare maye we se that in oure bedes,
Bathe in kirk and other stedes.
Evyle thoghtes comes us in,
And biddes us of oure prayers blynne.
Forthi suld we ensaumpile take
Of this blinde man prayere to make,
That callid on Criste and wald noght lete
His cryinge, for folk that yede be the strete.
The mare thai bad him leeve his crye,
The mare he cryed Criste mercye.
And for he callid on Criste swa fast,
He gave him his sight atte last;
And so duse Criste with Cristen man
That callis on him als he can;
If he leve noght for thoghtes yll
His bedes, Criste grauntis him at his will.
Bot now es many a man that prayes
And his thoght to wyde strayes,
That he ne wote noght what he sayes;
For he thinkes on werldes playes:
He thinkes of halles and of boures,
And now of castelles and now of toures,
And now of fayres and marchawndise,
And so his prayers he forlyes.
How suld Jhesu here his prayere
When he himself will it noght here?
Of swilk prayers Jhesus ne kepes:
Thaire lippis spekis and the hert slepes.

   We find writen of Saynte Bernarde
That anes fore to a cytee warde
Ane erande in his abbaye nedes,
And sawe a tyllman do his dedes.
And Saynte Bernard bad him wele spede
And spake to him of sawle mede;
And als he spak on this manere,
He askid him what was his prayere.
He saide, “Prayere canne I nane
Bot the Pater Noster allane.”
And Saynte Bernarde answerd than,
And sayde unto that ilk tyllman:
“What thinkes thou, godeman, all waies,
When thou thi Pater Noster sayes?”
He saide, “Than es all my thoght
On Criste that me on rode boght.”
Than Saynte Bernarde sayde him to:
“Full wele es thee that so maie do
For so ne fares it noght of me
That man of ordir suld be;
For my thoght flyes ferre and nere
Umstonte, when I make my prayere.”
This tyllmane saide, “That ware ferlye
That thou suld be wers man than I:
Thou hase gode pees in thine abbai,
Thou suld noght late thi thoghtes straye.”
And Saynte Bernard answerd than
And saide, “Thou ert a haly man;
Bot whether fande if thou maye
Withouten any evyle thoght saye
A Pater Noster all this daye
And I sall give thee my pallfraie.”
And wha was fayne bot this tillman?
And Pater Noster he began,
Bot or he might thre wordes saie
His thoght was all on this palfraie.
“Lorde,” he thoght, “Whether I sall have,
Bathe sadil and bridil and the knave?”
This Pater Noster was saide sone,
Bot he sawe wele when he had done
That he thoght thoghtis tharein,
And he wald it eftsones begynne.
This hors was in his thoght allwaies,
So he it tynt and all the hernayes.
For Saynte Bernard wist what he thoght
Forthi of him gatte he right noght
Thus fares it now of folk full fele
That thinkes mare of thaire catele
In prayere than of thaire saule hele
And swagates thaimself thai tele;
For God will noght thaire prayere here
That praies him on swilk manere.
Forthi es gude that we oute steke
Thoghtes that maie oure prayers breke,
And sett oure thoghtes in Cristis woundes
That for us tholid harde stoundes.
For than will he us gladli here
Aye when we make oure prayere,
And freli graunte us oure bone
And all oure langinge gerre be done.
Oure Lorde fullfill oure langynge
And till his blisse he us all bringe. Amen.

Drew towards him
will be brought to pass

shall redeem
will be given up
sorely; torture; hands
bring him to destruction; (t-note)
woe; cruel

they; slay


put to the test

asked who went
in truth

have pity

do you wish

at once


(see note)

make; believe
in what manner
death; to make them understand
be upheld

[his] suffering

would befall him

as if to say


So that; according to reason
suffer; death; be bold and ready

death; guilt
Therefore ahead of time

tortured; then
make; ready
And offered them an example through his death
suffer willingly

healing; salvation
But because
by speaking words


all that was necessary for us
(see note)

pleasing; hateful
healthy; sick

in one state




keep to
That was shown through
went; (t-note)
Forever until

Because spiritual insight is called true faith

rays of light


did not sit

As if to say; gone out

taught; resolutely
(see note)

tell; cease; (t-note)
follow the example


cease; on account of

So that; knows
worldly pleasures


To such; attends

(see note)
once; travelled toward
his abbey’s business
ploughman; work
greeted him
the soul’s reward

Except for the Our Father alone

do you think about; at any rate

it goes not thus for me
Who ought to behave like a man in holy orders

Frequently; (see note)
That would be marvelous

But just the same see if you can

who was happy if not this ploughman


Which of these will I have

would; again

lost; harness

are more mindful; possessions

thus; deceive; (t-note)

thrust out

hard times of suffering

desire; cause


[Homily 17 not included in this edition. See Explanatory Notes.]

Go To Homily 18, Second Sunday in Lent