Homilies are religious writings, instructing the laity in the teachings of the gospel and how to live by the ideals of Christian faith. Depending on audience and purpose, they differ in structure and approach.

The Ormulum (ca. 1190) is a sequence of homilies based on the life of Christ. Hali Mei­had (ca. 1200) and Ancrene Riwle (ca. 1220), intended for devout women and recluses, encourage choice of religious life. Patience (ca. 1375) illuminates the importance of this virtue by retelling of the Old Testament allegory of Jonah. Exempla of saints leading ideal Christian lives, e.g. The Life of St. Margaret (ca. 1200), became more popular in the 12th and 13th centuries, replacing homilies especially on saints' days. The South English Legendary (end of 13th century) is a collection of such saints' lives and homilies. Such collections comprise material for sermons throughout the church year, as they served as material for mass for unequipped clerics. By end of 14th century, homilies were composed to a large part of texts outside Scripture. This was also the time of mysticism: homilies were composed for private prayer, emphasising an individual relationship to God, as The Prick of Conscience and The Cloud of Unknowing show.

Wycliffe wrote satirical homilies in the late 14th century, criticising the hypocrisy of the Church, e.g. The Perversion of the Works of Mercy. Chaucer reflects contemporary religious concerns in his satirical depiction of clerics in the Pardoner's Tale, a self-titled sermon, saying everything a good sermon would not.

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Sermons and Homilies
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