Abbot Aelfric (955-ca. 1012), wrote and preached in the English language (Anglo-Saxon), as opposed to Latin (although he was a Latin scholar too).  He was an excellent, clear preacher:  we can still learn from his wisdom.

Here’s part of his sermon for Quinguagesima on Luke 18:31-43.  Don’t worry – it’s been translated! – and well worth reading. Note that the deacon reads the Gospel.

‘Here it is read in the gospel, which we heard just now from the deacon’s mouth, that the Saviour took his twelve disciples apart and said to them, “Behold, we shall go to the city of Jerusalem, and then all the things which were written about me by the prophets shall be fulfilled. I shall be betrayed to the Gentiles, and they shall mock me, and scourge me, and afterwards kill me, and I shall rise from death on the third day.” His disciples did not understand the meaning of these words. Then it happened that they came near to a city which is called Jericho, and a certain blind man sat there beside the road; and when he heard the passing of the people with the Saviour, he asked who went past there. They said to him that the Saviour was passing. Then he began to cry out, and said, “Saviour, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The men who were going in front of the Saviour chided the blind man to make him keep quiet. He cried much louder then, “Saviour, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then the Saviour stopped, and told them to lead the blind man to him. When he came near, the Saviour asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may see.” And the Saviour said to him, “Look now: your faith has healed you.” And he immediately saw, and followed the Saviour, and glorified him. Then all the people who saw that miracle glorified God with great fervour.

The beginning of this gospel touched on our Saviour’s passion, though he did not suffer at this time; but he wanted to make known his suffering to his disciples, from afar and long before, so that they would not be too afraid at his suffering, when the time came that he chose to suffer. Their minds were afraid at Christ’s saying, but he encouraged them again by the words he spoke: “I will rise from death on the third day.” Then he wanted to strengthen and confirm their faith with miracles. And they came then to the place where the blind man sat beside the road, and Christ healed him in the sight of all the multitude, so that by that miracle he might bring them to faith.

But the miracles which Christ worked manifested one thing by power, and betokened another thing by mystery. He worked those miracles, truly, through divine power, and with those miracles confirmed the people’s faith; but yet there was another thing hidden within those miracles, in a spiritual sense. This one blind man betokened all mankind, who were blinded through Adam’s sin, and thrust from the joy of Paradise and brought to this life, which is likened to a prison. Now we are shut out from the heavenly light, and we may not, in this life, enjoy the eternal light; nor do we know any more of it than we read in books, through Christ’s teaching. This world, though it may at times seem pleasant, is really no more like the eternal world than a prison is like the bright day. All mankind, as we said before, were blinded with lack of faith and error, but through Christ’s coming we were snatched up out of our errors and enlightened by faith. Now we have the light in our minds, that is Christ’s faith; and we have a hope of the joy of everlasting life, though we still dwell bodily in our prison.

The blind man did not pray for gold, or silver, or any worldly thing, but prayed for his sight. He did not think anything worth praying for except sight, because though the blind man may possess something, without light he cannot see what he has. Let us then imitate this man, who was healed by Christ, both in body and in soul: let us pray not for false riches, nor for transitory honours, but let us pray for light from our Lord; not for the light which will be ended, which will be driven away with the night, which is common to us and beasts, but let us pray for the light which we and the angels alone may see, which will never be ended. To that light, truly, our faith will bring us, as Christ said to the blind man: Look now, your faith has healed you.’


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