Sermon on Law and Grace

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The Sermon on Law and Grace (Old Church Slavonic: Слово о законѣ и благодѣти; Russian: Слóво о закóне и благода́ти, Slovo o zakone i blagodati; Ukrainian: Слóво про закóн і благода́ть, Slovo pro zakon i blahodat') is a sermon written between 1037 and 1051 by the Kievan Metropolitan Hilarion.[1] It is one of the earliest Slavonic texts available, having been written several decades before the Primary Chronicle.[2] Since Hilarion was considered to be a writer worthy of imitation, this sermon was very influential in the further development of both the style and content of Kievan Rus' literature.[3]

Full Title[edit]

Although often called simply the Sermon on Law and Grace, the work bears a much longer title:

Concerning: the Law given by Moses and the Grace and Truth which came by Jesus Christ. And: how the Law departed, and Grace and Truth filled all the earth, and Faith spread forth to all nations, even unto our nation of Rus'. And: an encomium to our kagan Volodimir, by whom we were baptized. And: a prayer to God from all our land.[4]


The sermon is divided into two distinct parts.[5]

The first part presents the Grace of the New Testament surpassing and replacing the Law of the Old Testament.[6] Hilarion retells the Old Testament account of Hagar, the handmaiden of Abraham, and Sarah, his wife. He likens Isaac, "the free son of a free mother", to the followers of Christianity, and Ishmael, "a servant (not a truly free man)", to the Jews. Hilarion emphasizes that the Law came first, and then came Grace, just as Ishmael came before Isaac. He then explains that the Gospel now spreads over the whole earth, while the "lake of the Law" has dried up.[7]

The second part serves as a eulogy to Vladimir, the grand prince of Kiev, and baptizer of Rus'. It is written in a highly rhetorical panegyric, possibly for the purpose of presenting Vladimir as a candidate for canonization.[8]


While the sermon was most likely composed for the Christian elite of Kievan Rus' and given at the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev,[9] scholars are still uncertain of many details pertaining to the presentation of the sermon. Some scholars suggest that the two parts of the sermon were presented on different occasions and were brought together only during later compilation.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Franklin, S.: Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991) p.xxi.
  2. ^ Zenkovsky, S.A.: Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, Trans. S.A. Zenkovsky, 2 ed., (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1974) p.85.
  3. ^ Birnbaum, H.: Aspects of the Slavic Middle Ages and Slavic Renaissance Culture (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1991) p.150.
  4. ^ Franklin, [1].
  5. ^ Zenkovsky, p.85.
  6. ^ Tarras, V.: "Ilarion (Hilarion)", Handbook of Russian Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985) p.198.
  7. ^ Zenkovsky, p.87-88.
  8. ^ Zenkovsky, p.85-86.
  9. ^ Franklin, p.xxxvii.

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