For Wulfstan [preaching in the year 1014] diagnosing his society’s ills as breaches of law was not a source of despair, but an opportunity. It meant he could offer a plan of action. In this sermon his purpose is not just to denounce and lament, to criticize without providing solutions. His aim is to preach repentance and amendment – to convince people that things can get better, even in the shadow of the end times. The end will come; he has no doubt of that, and right now things are almost as bad as they can be. But there are measures we can take in the meantime, he suggests, things that will help. They won’t stave off the apocalypse or keep the Antichrist away. Yet they’re still worth doing – both morally right in themselves and a remedy for present evils.
His message is simple: repent, repair, do better. There’s no pretense that it’ll be easy. “A great wound needs a great remedy,” he says, “and a great fire needs a great amount of water if the blaze is to be quenched.” The worse the situation, the more work and collective effort it will take to mend it. But the promise that it can be mended is, nonetheless, a remarkably hopeful takeaway from such a fierce and angry sermon.
Is Wulfstan the unofficial patron of this blog?