In Nomine Dei Summi - Sermon 1

These sermons are of anonymous authorship, and were in circulation before the 10th c. throughout the Celtic world. Quotes from them are found in Anglo-Saxon writings as well (and even in the Upper Rheinland by the early 9th c.). The content of one sermon pinpoints that the sermons were likely written about the time that the Nicene Creed became a feature of liturgical prayer in the West. From R. E. McNally, "In nomine Dei summi": Seven Hiberno-Latin Sermons', Traditio 35 (1979), pp. 121-43.


In the name of God most high.

It is indeed fitting that we should first hear justice and then understand it. THen we ought to offer the fruit of those teachings we have understood, just as the apostle tells us: 'it is not the hearers, but the doers of the law who will be justified'. Thus in whatever manner we have tasted life, we do not rest from fulfilling the law, since the taste of death is that which awaits us in the future. So the prophet foretold: 'who is the man who can live and not' taste 'death'? But in whatever way death was given 'in Adam', so it rules in all his sons and at life's end this is what the future holds for each and every human being. Then two opponents will come to meet him: an enemy, an Ethiopian black as a raven or quenched coals, the other an army in garments white as snow. And over the soul of each one they will hold a contest to see if he be just or unjust; and both protagonists shall know to which of them he belongs.

If in this contest the demons find that the person is one of their allies they all rejoice, and by the same token the angels are saddened.

The demons say: 'That man is ours! He was unarmed in the battle, he was not brave, and he failed to bear the arms of Paul the apostle, "the shield of faith" "and the sword of the" holy "Spirit which is the word of God" and the "breastplate of justice" and "the helmet of salvation" which he ought to have carried for warfare against us. Arouse him and drag him from his body and give him terrors and horrors and lead him to the terrible places where he will see all the trials.'

Then that soul, who sees nothing in the present life, says: 'O great distress!' Having heard it all before, the demons reply: 'Even greater is about to be given to you. We have tethered you to the first-formed Satan who is bound with his attendant mob in the deepest hole'.

Then the soul says: 'Great is the darkness!' The demons reply: 'It will get even worse for you.'

Then the third time it says: 'The way is rough!' The demons reply: 'The future is even rougher for you. You will see the bitterness of your kind who have abandoned "the tents of the just".'

Then the demons will say: 'Divide up into two opposing groups, one group to start and the other to follow and sing to him songs from the songs of David: "Why do you rejoice in evil-doing?"; and then again "God has plucked you out and up-rooted you from the land of the living"; and then say: "There is no help for him in his God".'

Michael meanwhile never abandons a soul until he allots it its reward before the judgement seat of the Trinity. He sees all the works that the soul has done and, holding his book in his hands, he lays out for it either good things or bad. And if the angels find the soul to belong to them, they rejoice while the demons grieve. Then the angels say: 'That man is ours for he was strong in the conflict and solid in the battle and was welcoming and merciful. He was helpful, remembered nothing evil, guarded every good, and he did not push away the arms of Paul the apostle, namely, "the shield of faith" "and the sword of the" Holy "Spirit which is the word of God" and "the breastplate of justice" and "the helmet of salvation" which are the instruments of war. Arouse him gently from his body so that he sees nor feels nothing of fear or sadness or doubt.'

Then the soul says: 'Great is the light!'

The angels responding say: 'It will be greater for you yet and you will see the brightness of God as it were "face to face" and not as "in a mirror" nor through a veil in the way that the sons of Israel looked on the face of Moses'.

The soul then speaks again: 'Great is the joy!'

The angels reply: 'It will be even greater for you. You will see the joy of the angels coming to meet you with their divine singing, and with all the saints saying "These are they who have come through great tribulation and have washed their garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'

And the soul spoke a third time: 'The road is sweet!'

The angels replied: 'It is going to be even sweeter for you. We are going to lead you to the tents of the just away from the haunts of the wicked.'

Then the angels said: 'Divide up into two armies, one group to start and the other to follow and sing to him songs from the songs of David where he manifests the blessedness of the soul on entering into the house of God'. They said: 'Blessed is he whom you choose and take up, O Lord; he will dwell in your tents. We will be filled with good things in your house. Holy is your temple and wonderful in equity'. 'There is no acceptance of persons there,' nor nobility of kind, for God 'rewards each one according to his works'. The wicked depart 'into eternal fire', 'but the just into eternal life'.

(From "Journeys on the Edge: the Celtic Tradition" by Thomas O'Loughlin, (Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series) 2000, London, Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd. )

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