New PDF release: The Old English homily and its backgrounds

By Paul E. Szarmach, Bernard Huppe

ISBN-10: 0873953762

ISBN-13: 9780873953764

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The church played a very important role in early medieval society. The relationship between the human and the divine was seen as a very real one. Men felt a need to harmonize that relationship if their affairs were to prosper, and the church was the essential bridge, the interpreter of the divine will and the placater of divine wrath. The church could and did exercise political powers of an administrative and executive kind. But its involvement in political affairs should not be seen solely in this practical light.

Bequests to family feature, but not prominently. The monastic order itself has largely taken the place of family affiliations, and it is just this which made such men potentially good royal servants. Page 22 Wulfstan of York is one of the best examples of how church-men could be involved in all contemporary concerns of the society. 58 None of the Anglo-Saxon laws would have been preserved for us, were it not for the interest of men like Wulfstan. 59 Wulfstan's political ideas and writings are related, as we shall see, to his general role as a royal adviser and to his special position in the north.

Because this prominence could bring problems, there was need for a new statement of the church's place in society, and Wulfstan provided the first such statement since the time of Aethelberht of Kent. With Wulfstan there is the need to regularize, to codify, to provide the basis of order which is present in the work of so many Page 26 great ecclesiastics in the ninth and tenth centuries and which was such an important legacy of the Carolingian past. At the same time, and in no way divorced from this, are the concerns of a northern archbishop coping with the aftermath of the monastic revival.

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The Old English homily and its backgrounds by Paul E. Szarmach, Bernard Huppe


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