Confessing in Old English: The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt and the problem with penance

Abstract

This essay theorizes early medieval confessional practices by exploring some of their risks, with particular attention to the Old English Life of Saint Mary of Egypt and the instructional note for a confessor, which begins ‘Man mot hine gebiddan swa swa he mæg ond can’ [‘One may pray just as he is able and knows how to’].

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Mary’s story circulated widely throughout the Middle Ages. After originating in Cyril of Scythopolis’ sixth-century Life of St Cyriacus, the tale was soon expanded in a longer Greek version attributed to Sophronius of Jerusalem. This, in turn, was translated into Latin by Paul, a deacon of Naples, in the ninth century, providing the probable source text for the Old English version.

  2. 2.

    Here, and throughout, all translations into Modern English are my own.

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Weaver, E. Confessing in Old English: The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt and the problem with penance. Postmedieval 11, 282–290 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41280-020-00184-7

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