Homily definition: A homily is an extended speech intended for moral edification.
What is a Homily?
A homily is a literary device that is a type of extended speech (although it can be a piece of writing as well).
A homily is a type of religious speech that is intended to offer correction. In the traditional sense, a homily is a synonym for a sermon. A Christian pastor might read an expert form the Bible and offer a perspective on how that passage might be applied.
A homily is a type of nonfiction writing or speech. However, homilies may be used in literature by a character in order to affect or influence other characters.
Modern Examples of Homilies
The most common type of homily includes a Sunday sermon. It is not the passage from the religious text itself that is the homily. Rather, a homily is the priest’s or pastor’s interpretation of the excerpt from the text.
An example will further illustrate this.
Perhaps a Sunday sermon begins with a reading from the Bible. Then, a pastor speaks for thirty minutes on how that passage relates to the lives of his congregation. It is this extended speech that is the homily, not the specific excerpt from the Bible.
The Purpose of a Homily
A homily is meant to correct or edify a congregation. The purpose is not merely to expose flaws but to cause some sort of change in the listener.
As a nonfiction rhetorical device, a homily is an effective way to persuade an audience to follow action. The homily points out the flaws in character and encourages its listeners to alter their actions.
Homilies are effective tools when used for the appropriate audience. They can broach very sensitive material, and the writer should beware.
Furthermore, a homily is effective in literature when a character is (or is not) affected by it.
Examples of Homilies in Literature
When considering examples of homilies in literature, two types should be discussed: fiction and nonfiction.
The nonfiction homily is the more common one. This is because any religious speech that is intended to awaken and correct is considered a homily. The sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are homilies.
In fiction, homilies are less common. However, a writer will include a homily if it serves to influence the characters in his text.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch sits in church every Sunday and listens to her pastor as he gives his weekly homily. Author Harper Lee includes these homilies and their scenes more as insight to the society of Maycomb than as lessons to particularly correct or edify the characters.
Additionally, the episodes of homilies reflect Scout’s innocence and naiveté as she, the narrator, tries to comprehend the pastor’s words.
Summary: What are Homilies?
Define homily: the definition of homily is religious discourse intended to explain the practical and moral implications of a particular scriptural passage; a sermon.
To sum up, a homily is a type of extended speech given by a religious person (or character). The intention is to morally correct or edify its listeners. Homilies are more common in rhetoric than in literature.