Dramatic ritual and preaching in late Anglo-Saxon England
Visitatio, however, is driven by the same forces that drive equally dramatic liturgical commemorations year-round, climaxing in but not exclusive to the period around Easter. Beginning with an account of late Anglo-Saxon baptism, I examine the liturgy for the high festivals from Christmas to Ascension Day. For each chapter, I describe the liturgical forms for the day and their intended relationships with the participants, focussing on the establishment of dramatic associations between the celebrants and certain figures in the commemorated events. I then compare the liturgical forms with vernacular treatments of a particular festival, looking both for overt instruction and more subtle influence of the liturgy on the preaching texts. Anglo-Saxon preachers and homilists openly assumed the themes and symbolic images of the dramatic ritual in their attempts to make their congregations understand and take on Christian imperatives. Recursively, vernacular preaching helped solidify the meanings of the symbolic elements of the dramatic ritual and their significance to the lives of Christians. Anglo-Saxon appreciation of the dramatic potential of the liturgy was realized both in creative expansion of the liturgy and in the vernacular preaching texts that identified and enhanced this dramatic dynamic.