EDUCATED at Fulda and in Tours under Alcuin, Maurus became one of the most distinguished scholars and controversialists of the ninth century. As Abbot of Fulda he instigated, and himself greatly accelerated, the collection and production of literary works, massive both in their cumulative impact and expansive range. Forced out of retirement to assume archiepiscopal duties at Mayence, he fostered preaching among his clergy even as he had, during his active career, written sermons and sermon manuals. His concern that preaching be sufficiently homespun to move the common people to a more actively Christian life is evidenced in this homily. MPL 110:76-78; the translation of Ne.Mpp. 32-36 is from an undisclosed ed. of Opera V, 604.
You must know, beloved brethren, that our holy fathers ordained and commanded to all Christians to rest and to abstain from worldly labours on the Festivals of the Saints, but more especially on the Sundays, that they might be more ready and more prompt for the worship of God, and might not be exposed to any inconvenience that should hold them back from it; and that they might for a time dismiss all worldly anxiety, so as more easily to be able to understand the will of God. Whence the Lord Himself saith by the Prophet, Be still then, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10; D. 45:11). But for those who are implicated in diverse cares and businesses, and despise this commandment of God, and have no leisure for Divine contemplation, I fear lest in the future judgment, when they knock at the door of the Lord and demand that it should be opened to them, the answer should be, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not: depart from Me, all ye that work in iniquity (Matt. 25:12; 7:23); and that they who now neglect God, should then be rejected by Him. Wherefore, my brethren, do not find it a trouble to attend to God’s worship on the Sundays and the Festivals of Saints. The Apostles and apostolic men ordained that the Sunday should be kept holy for this reason; because it was on that day that our Redeemer rose from the dead. And it is therefore called the Lord’s day, that we, abstaining from earthly business and the snares of this world, may serve God only; giving honour and reverence to this day on account of the hope of our Resurrection which we have in it. For, as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ rose again the third day from the dead, so we also hope that we shall arise at the last day.
It appears also in Holy Scripture that the day is holy; it was the first day of all; in it were formed the elements of the world: in it the angels were created: in it Christ also rose from the dead: in it the Holy Ghost came down from heaven upon the Apostles: in it manna was first given from heaven in the desert. From such proofs as these, Sunday comes before us as an illustrious day; and the holy doctors of the Church ordained us to transfer all the glory of the Jewish Sabbath to it. What they did in figure, we may do in reality; because then will be our true rest when the resurrection shall have 112 been accomplished, and our remuneration both in soul and body perfected.
Let us observe, therefore, brethren, the Sunday, and sanctify it, as it was commanded the Jews concerning their Sabbath, for their lawgiver said, From evening to evening ye shall observe your Sabbaths. Let us see therefore that our rest be not in vain; but from the evening of the Saturday to the evening of the Sunday, have nothing to do with any country work, or any other business, and give yourself up to God’s worship only. Thus shall we rightly sanctify the Sabbath of the Lord, according to His commandment, Ye shall do no work in it. Let every one therefore who can, come to vespers and to nocturns, and there pray in the congregation of the Church, confessing his sins to God. And he who cannot do so much, at least let him pray in his own house, and not neglect to pay his vows to God, and to render the service due to Him. And, on the day itself, let no one fail to attend the holy celebration of Mass, nor remain idle at home, when others are going to church; let no man occupy himself about hunting, and engage in the devil’s work; nor roam about the fields and woods, shouting and laughing, instead of raising from his heart sighs and prayers to God. And (what is yet more detestable) some who come to church, neither enter, nor pray, nor wait with silence for the celebration of Mass; but when the lessons are being read within, they are either transacting law business, or indulging in calumny without, or giving themselves up to dice or to useless games. Sometimes also (which is even yet worse), some give way to excessive passion, and strive furiously so as to use arms or clubs, and even to commit murder. And this takes place among those who, full of envy and hatred, having the devil as their guide, go to church, not that they may benefit themselves, but that they may hurt others. If such an one there perishes by murder, or is hurried off by sudden death, where else will he go than with him whose footsteps he was following to eternal punishment? Do not such things as these, my brethren; do not deceive yourselves; do not, when you are gathered together, give place to the devil, but rather prepare yourselves as a dwelling-place for Christ. Do not give your attention, outside, to vain talk; but within to psalms and prayers. Do not talk to each other in church, but be quiet. For there are many, and principally women, who so chatter in church, who so keep on talking, that they neither hear the lessons 113 themselves, nor allow others to hear them. Such an assembling together after such a fashion ought not, my brethren, to be in the house of God; we ought not thus to stand in the presence of God and of His holy angels.
Furthermore, I wish to complain to you of that which is a subject of great grief. There are some, and they principally the mighty men of this world, who, when they come to church, are not devout in celebrating the praises of God, but oblige the Priest to shorten the Mass and to sing it as they choose; nor is he able to follow out the rite of the Church on account of their gluttony and avarice; and they thus allot one moment of the day to the service of God, and all the rest of it, and the night also, to their own pleasures. . . .
I beseech you, beloved fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His coming Kingdom and Judgment, that ye withdraw yourselves from every man who walks disorderly, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; and ye neglect not the honour which ye have received, but constantly keep in mind the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Ye are called the sons of God, because the true Son of God hath set you free. Study by a good life to please such a Father, to the end that He may not deliver you as most evil servants to everlasting punishment, but may bring you as dear children to our heavenly Country, that ye may be coheirs of His Son Jesus Christ.