The Medieval and the Modern, Part 3

(Part 1) (Part 2)

The war, as I have said, severed the connection to the medieval past through the brutality it inflicted on the land it touched and on those who participated in it. The stories of Captain Nevill and those like him—and there are many—continuously remind us of this fact. They tell us it is most emphatically not dulce et decorum to pro patria mori. Their irony remains a perpetual critique, and irony has defined the genre of war literature ever since.

After the fire comes new growth. A new approach to medieval history arose from the narrative wasteland of the postwar period. The history of the Middle Ages written after the Great War does not manage to entirely escape the nationalistic and antiquarian impulses of the prewar period, but it is aware and wary of them. The scope of the narrative expands, and for the first time, scholars begin to take a serious interest in those on the margins of their sources: heretics, the poor, women. The 1920s saw the birth of the Annales school and the beginnings of American medieval scholarship (the Medieval Academy of America was founded in 1925). With these changes came a new emphasis on original sources and, thankfully, citation. An example: in 1927, Ernst Kantorowicz published his great biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite certainly reflected the nationalistic fervor that defined Kantorowicz and the late Wiemar milieu that shaped him, but the book was not simply another ‘great man’ history. Kantorowicz sought after what the Annalistes had begun to call ‘mentalité‘—an understanding of Frederick as a person, of how the emperor saw the world, and not a simple listing of great deeds and decisive victories. And Kantorowicz could back up his claims. When critics dismissed his book as a Romantic flight of fancy—a criticism which could have been rightly leveled at almost any work produced twenty years earlier—Kantorowicz responded with a massive Ergänzungsband listing his sources and defending his arguments.

This radical shift in the scholarly approach to the medieval period was a response to the criticism leveled at the Romantic imaginary by the Great War. The old tropes and assumptions could no longer be taken as givens; irony had turned them all on their heads. The practice of history shifted to compensate. The broader and less nationally-oriented approach constituted an acknowledgement that much of what had come before had been myth-making and not fact-finding. But the old impulse behind historical inquiry, the one that sought out the legendary past as a pathway to individual and national identity, had fulfilled a very basic human need. The new history of the postwar period could not satisfy it; it needed another outlet. Unable to place such narratives in a historical reality, we turned to myth, and we called this myth ‘fantasy’ to to emphasize its distance from (historical) truth. This re-positioning is evident in the major works of the two great fantasy authors of the postwar period: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis is straightforward in his allegory. With The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he extracted an old foundation myth—that of Christianity itself—and transported it into the fantasy setting of Narnia. By thus extracting Christianity from the wrapping of reality, Lewis removed it from debates over the historical Jesus and other such attempts at justification, allowing what he saw as the universality of the Christian message to shine through. Lewis’ story never happened, but it is still somehow true. Tolkien, by contrast, professed that he “cordially dislike[d] allegory in all its manifestations, and have always done so since [he] grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. [He] much preferred history, true or feigned.” The Lord of the Rings is indeed a feigned history, Tolkien’s creation myth for the world. The events of The Lord of the Rings never happened; it cannot be history, and, although it is certainly imbued with Tolkien’s ethos and approach to life, it is not allegorical—we have the author’s word on that. Instead, this “feigned history” is Tolkien’s attempt to establish a pleasing origin story, a way of providing the sources of behaviors, ideas, and even words. Linguists have long puzzled over the origins of one of the two known surviving pre-Celtic words, ‘ond’, which means ‘stone’. Tolkien gave ‘ond’ an origin within his world, where we find it in Gondor (Stone-Land). Similarly, the bucolic lifestyle of the hobbits gave a precedent for the kind of English country life Tolkien cherished; the different bloodlines of Men did the same for the wisdom and brutality we now see in human nature. In other words, Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth was the creation of and justification for his identity. Just as the prewar historians used history, so Tolkien used fantasy.

In recent decades, the divide between historical reality and fantastical identity has started to collapse. More and more, we see an emphasis on the historicity of fantasy. The marketing of popular television shows such as Game of Thrones or Vikings emphasizes their realism (a term which is fast developing into a code word for blood and sex) and their historical inspiration. Yet the tension created by the Great War, the expectation of ironic laughter, still remains. We cannot allow history to have unironic heroism, but we simultaneously seek those founding myths, and thus we generate the tensions we have already observed in literature and film. To return to the example of The Kingdom of Heaven, each of the two characters we encounter provides an outlet for one of these necessities: Balin preserves the noble ideal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem renders delicious, expected irony. We leave our encounter with the medieval once again reassured of the nobility of our origins and the perversity of history.

Posted in Historical Ramblings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Medieval and the Modern, Part 2

(Part 1)

We cannot resolve this disconnect, this cynical optimism about our past, but perhaps we can seek to explain it. To do this, we should look into the milieu where it first appears: the period surrounding the First World War. Due to the Romantic impulses of the late nineteenth century, many of the European men and women who would experience the War to End All Wars, and particularly those with a literary bent, were steeped in a medieval mythos cultivated by fiction writers and historians. The nationalistic tensions that defined the prewar period often manifested in writings about the medieval past, for it was to the medieval and not to the ancient that the learned turned when they wanted to tell the story of their origins. Those familiar with medieval historiography are all too familiar with the fact that most of the histories written in this period are the product of nationalist fervor. Some authors satisfied the antiquarian impulse and related the history, nobility, and antiquity of the author’s town, region, and culture, filling in family trees and writing biographies of the local notables. Others attempted to trace the origins of their own modern nation-state (or, in the case of sectarian factions, what they wished to make their own modern nation-state) to the tribes and polities that had inhabited a particular region after the fall of Rome, in much the same way as the medieval Frankish, Irish, and Scandinavian cultures had followed the Roman model and claimed descent from groups of Trojan refugees. This nationalistic impulse was so important to those who practiced it, so ingrained in their work, that the discipline has been unable to completely excise it a century later, where it now exists wrapped in (pseudo-)scientific attempts to reconstruct cultures and migrations through DNA analysis. In other words, in the prewar period, the medieval past became intricately linked with not only the identity of nations, but also self identity. The American fascination with the medieval—manifested most prominently in the architecture we have already discussed, but also in a spree of collecting books, art, and other relics—is at least in part an attempt to participate in this Old World co-option of history to create identity.

The First World War is responsible for the final destruction of the medieval, severing the cord and dividing it from the modern. Although we traditionally interspace various historical periods between the end of the medieval period and the beginning of the Great War—Early Modern, Enlightenment, Industrial, Romantic—there is no discontinuity between any of them. One slowly fades into the next, the new transforming and adapting to the old. Omnia mutantur; nihil interit—everything changes, but nothing is truly lost. The trauma of four years of trench warfare, by contrast, cause a chasm, an abrupt disjuncture in this continuous progression. The world that existed the mud and the blood of the Western Front was fundamentally changed, its past a lie that had not survived the destructive fire of battle.

Many images of the Great War show how it turned the storied battlefields of Flanders, lands where kings and their armored knights had waged noble and chivalrous combat with worthy adversaries, winning glory and renown, into a ruined moonscape. The War obliterated towns and villages that had existed for a millennium. The great cathedral at Reims, the site where the Frankish king Clovis and all his men had converted to Catholic Christianity on Christmas Day in 496, burned and was destroyed. Manuscripts, or even entire archives, were lost.

Nor was this destruction only physical. In the Romantic imaginary of the medieval, heroic deeds on the battlefield must have their chanson de geste, their praise in poetry and song. The Battle of Roncevaux had La chanson de Roland; the charge of the Light Brigade had Tennyson. But there are no great Romantic epics for the First World War. The reality of trench warfare would not allow it. As Paul Fussell has put it, there was a collision

“…between events and the public language used for over a century to celebrate [them]…Logically, there is no reason why the English language could not perfectly well render the actuality of trench warfare: it is rich in terms like blood, terror, agony, madness, shit, cruelty, murder, sell-out, pain and hoax, as well as phrases like legs blown off, intestines gushing out over his hands, screaming all night, bleeding to death from the rectum, and the like. Logically, one supposes, there’s no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man’s works.” (Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 184.)

The only stories were grim, and the soldiers quickly “discovered that no one is ever interested in the bad news they have to report. What listener wants to be torn and shaken when he doesn’t have to be? We have made unspeakable mean indescribable: it really means nasty.”(Ibid.) In other words, the Great War destroyed the idea of battle as a chivalrous endeavor and the literary genre that went with it.

What replaced the old ideal was irony, an irony predicated on the author and audience’s understanding of what is expected from the traditional genre. But the finale upends tradition, destroys it, and mocks us for ever having found tradition true or useful. Captain Nevill bravely punts a football towards the Boche lines, encouraging his boys to put on a good show and signaling the advance, all with one swift kick. Captain Nevill is immediately shot dead. His men are massacred on the uncut wire by machine gun fire. The attack fails. The football is preserved in the Imperial War Museum with a little poem. (Ibid., 28–29.) So it goes.

Posted in Historical Ramblings | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Avert your eyes


Continue reading

Posted in Other Ramblings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Medieval and the Modern

The medieval and the modern have a fraught relationship. The public is fascinated by depictions of the medieval (or pseudo-medieval) they encounter. From J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to G.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire the entire literary-film genre of Fantasy is a modern invention. And even here in the New World where we do not have a medieval past, we have nevertheless attempted to build one. Our great civic buildings, constructed in the nineteenth century, may follow the Roman model, but our religious and educational edifices, most of which were built in the first decades of the twentieth century, exult in the Gothic aesthetic. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the campus architecture of the University of Chicago, and our own Andover Hall are all conscious attempts to import a medieval past onto the American continent. Yale University went one step further, not only aping the general style, but actively attempting to recreate Oxford and Cambridge in New Haven. Those who began the great Gothic cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City (also known, following good medieval precedent for construction time, as St. John the Unfinished), using Italian stonemasons, were not content with the workforce of the Old World. They needed its very bones and constructed their edifice out of imported stone.

Yet this culture which glories in its medieval past even as it creates it also views it with a chauvinistic distaste. Often, we embrace and revile the medieval simultaneously. Medieval clerics are almost universally depicted through a Protestant lens as sycophantic, corrupt, weak-willed charlatans, ready to throw away their religion the second they might receive any benefit for doing so. In Ridley Scott’s recent epic The Kingdom of Heaven, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, surrounded in his city by Saladin’s army, advises those around him to convert to Islam. After all, they can always repent later. Our hero Balin, experienced and world-weary—and thus naturally skeptical of organized religion—quickly puts our prevaricating prelate in his place. Other examples from literature and film will quickly spring to mind.

We cannot resolve this disconnect, this cynical optimism about our past, but perhaps we can seek to explain it.

Posted in Historical Ramblings | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Choice passages from the DoJ report on the Ferguson Police Department

I have no words to add. The report speaks for itself.

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.” (p. 2)

“…in the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also asked to search the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.” (p.3)

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices overwhelmingly impact African Americans. Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson’s population. African Americans are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated, but are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers, suggesting officers are impermissibly considering race as a factor when determining whether to search. African Americans are more likely to be cited and arrested following a stop regardless of why the stop was initiated and are more likely to receive multiple citations during a single incident.” (p.4)

“Nearly 90% of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African Americans. In every canine bite incident for which racial information is available, the person bitten was African American.” (p.5)

You can find the just-released Department of Justice Report in full here:

Posted in Life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Taking Stock

This is the end of my second cycle. I currently hold offers from Ohio State and Brown. I have received a rejection from UCBerkeley, and presume rejections from Harvard and UChicago. My application to UToronto is still outstanding. In my first cycle, I applied to Harvard, Harvard Divinity (MTS & ThD), Yale, UChicago, Notre Dame, UMinn, BC, and BU, all for history. I was rejected from all PhD programs, but accepted to the MTS at HDS with a 3/4 scholarship and the MAPSS at Chicago with a 1/2 scholarship.

There are two major reasons why I was forced to take an MA, I think. First, I was a problematic undergraduate. It took me 9 years to finish my BA, a process which started in the mechanical engineering program at UMass Amherst, involved failing out of that school twice and then working in a grocery store for 6 years, and finished at Harvard Extension (i.e. Night) School. Taking a PhD student is a risk, and the MA constituted penance for my previous sins. Second, although I very clearly knew that I wanted to study medieval history, focusing on gender and monasticism, I hadn’t moved much beyond that idea. That is, I had energy, but I lacked intellectual maturity. Looking back over my old writing sample and SoP, I was a disorganized but enthusiastic mess. This is made particularly clear in my choice of schools in my first round. Yale, BC, BU, and the HDS ThD had more or less nothing to do with my areas of interest. They had strong programs, but were not strong matches.

I took the MTS offer from HDS. It meant that I didn’t have to leave my wife for 9 months just 2 months after our wedding. This has, of course, vastly strengthened my application. If you spend two years at Harvard doing graduate work and don’t have a radically stronger application at the end, something clearly went very wrong. More than that, though, when it came time to apply again, I didn’t have to just page through programs hoping to find a professor who had somewhat similar interests. I knew who they were already.

For my second round I cut the four programs above immediately because I knew they didn’t work. I also decided to only aim at the top tier of programs because I felt (and still feel) that where I get my PhD is much more important than if I get a PhD. I wasn’t willing to settle just to make sure I got in somewhere, and in this job market I think that is fantastically good sense (if I do say so myself). I cut Notre Dame because I’d visited South Bend. Also, they were really slow sending out rejections in my first cycle and I’m pretty petty. UMinn got cut as well, since my interests had shifted away from gender studies (which was their strength) to monastic history more generally. Harvard and Chicago I kept, although neither was a good fit, to be perfectly honest. But I knew and liked the professors at Harvard and their interest in digital projects (which I share), and I was moderately in love with UChicago after my MAPSS campus visit.

To these two, I added Berkeley and Brown as clear matches within my area of interest. Toronto went on the list after one of my LoR writers suggested it, and a professor at OSU convinced me to apply when I met her at a conference.

As I said, my application was stronger just by the fact that I had been at Harvard for 2 years. All my LoR writers knew me well, and each had supervised aspects of my research. Plus, one of them was a Big Name – that doesn’t hurt.

My writing sample was very short, about 2500 words, with as much again in footnotes. However, it was not some long, meandering senior thesis, a document only seen by the author and the grader, as my first had been. Instead, it was a paper I had written for a seminar, presented at a conference, submitted for publication, and received a revise & resubmit with substantial feedback. So, it was short, but really, really solid. Well, it’s at the reviewers again, so I hope it’s really solid. The paper itself was highly technical, a codicological study of a 12 c. manuscript, which showed off my paleographic and Latin skills. I also made sure that my footnotes were (somewhat unnecessarily) filled with German and French sources, to demonstrate that I could read and incorporate scholarship in those languages. Thus, I tried to ensure that my sample was not only a good example of my intellect and writing, but also of my technical skills, demonstrating that I could put what I claimed on paper to practical use.

With my SoP, I made sure that I not only outlined what my interests were and why, as I had done in my first season, but also where I thought these interests might lead and how I thought I might get there. I found a what (monastic communication) and a how (social network theory) which addressed what I felt to be a gap in the scholarship, but left the other details vague because they should be vague. The result was an essay which showed where I’d been, what I am (reinforced by the writing sample), where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there, and, most importantly, why I thought the program would get me to that goal.

Apparently it worked.

If I were forced back for a third try, what would I do differently? I would be more brutal with my school selections (sorry, Harvard and UChicago). I would continue to revise and hone my writing sample, throwing it at as many critics as would read it. I would acquire new technical skills and ensure that I demonstrated those skills practically in my application materials. I would revisit my writing samples to draw even clearer lines between my academic path and the institution to which I was applying.

Posted in Life, Other Ramblings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Something topical

A Sermon by Brother Nicolas of Landouzy, OCist, of the Monastery of Foigny, given on the First Sunday of Lent, ca. 1275 AD

Ed. & Trans. Leland R. Grigoli

See, now is the proper time; see, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).

These are the words of the Apostle which we recite in church on the first Sunday of Lent, but they can be easily applied to any day of penitence. He says: See, now is the time. ‘See’ is a demonstrative adverb. We are accustomed to use it to demonstrate innovations, wonders, and worshipful things, and so the word ‘see’ reveals an innovation. Adding ‘now is the time’ reveals a shortness of time. Adding ‘proper’ to the saying reveals its utility to us, and by concluding ‘day of salvation’, he reveals the wholesomeness of virtue. So the words of the Apostle gather together the innovation of grace, the shortness of time, the utility to us, and the day—the wholesomeness of virtue. The innovation calls us forth so that we see, the shortness of time so that we fear, the utility to us so that we do, and the wholesomeness of virtue so that we love.

People gladly see innovations, and what greater innovation is there than to fast and to be weakened so that we are made strong, to be made ill so that we might be healed? Particularly when Paul says: When you receive food, you are fortified (Act. 9:19), and in Kings: Eat and drink; a longer road awaits you (3 Kings 19:7). But in these days we are called to fast, by which the body is weakened and made ill. It is thus a wonder to see a frail body made strong in war, and strengthened in sickness. But strength is twofold: interior and exterior, spiritual and bodily. Thus, although fasting weakens the exterior strength and the body, it strengthens and solidifies the spiritual interior, whence the Apostle says: When I am more ill, then am I more strong and powerful (cf. 2 Cor 12:10). And Gregory says, “Unless a person becomes weak by his or her own will, he or she will not draw near to Him who is above.”[1] And also: “When we are weakened in our bodies, then we attain God.”[2] And Bernard says: “A strong spirit lives in a weak body.”[3] This is the innovation which we read about in Judges: The Lord will wage new wars and overthrow the gates of His enemies (Jg. 5:8)—overthrow the doorway of demons, whence it says in the Gospel: This type of demon cannot be expelled except through prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:20 ; Mk. 9:28). And so Paul says, “See something new.” Second, ‘see’ is used to demonstrate miracles. What greater miracle is there than to purchase glory from indignity, wealth from poverty, anguish from health, and life from death? And so Augustine says, “The merchant of heaven came to receive indignities, to give honors, to swallow grief, to give salvation, to undergo death, to give life.”[4] Third, we enthusiastically see worshipful things. What greater worshipful thing is there than the time of Lent and penitence by which Hell is shut up, Paradise is opened, war is declared on vices, the Enemy conquered? And so ‘see’ is well said. See something deserving innovation, admiration, veneration.

This is followed by: Now is the time, which is to say the shortness of time because the time is now, it is upon us, and what must be done should be done promptly, whence it says in the Apocalypse: Time is brief (Apoc. 1:3). First, time is short because of its flow, whence it says in Ecclesiastes: A generation passes away, and a generation arrives (Eccla. 1:4). And the Poet says, “The years pass in the manner of flowing water.”[5] We all die, and we disperse like water over the earth, etc. (2 Kings 14:14). Second, time is also short because of the shortness of life, whence it says in Job: The days of humans are short (Job 14:5). And in Ecclesiasticus: The number of the days of a person’s life is a full hundred years (Eccli. 18:8). Gregory says, “Everything which happens is brief.”[6] The Psalm says: My days descend like a shadow (Ps. 101:12). Job says: My days pass more swiftly than one who is cut down by a woven dart (Job 7:6). Because of this, Ecclesiasticus says: Do not hesitate to turn to the Lord (Eccli. 5:8). And Ecclesiastes says: Whatever you can do by your hand, do immediately (Eccla. 9:10). And the Poet says:

“A person who puts off the time for living righteously is like the farmer who hoped that the river would flow away, but it flowed on, forever winding.”[7]

Third, time is also short because of the vanity of material things. As Ecclesiastes says: Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity (Eccla. 1:2). The Psalm says: Sons of men, why do you delight in vanity (Ps. 4:3). And Wisdom says: How is pride useful to us, etc.? All things pass like a shadow (Wis. 5:8 -9). And the Psalm says: They sleep their sleep and will discover nothing (Ps. 75:6). And in Luke, speaking about the rich man, it says: Oh my soul, you have many good things, etc. And hearing him He said, “Fool, do you know these things which you have bought will claim your soul this night; whose then will they be, those things you have bought (Lk. 12:19 -20)?” Fourth, time is short because of celestial power. I pass over this briefly—All power has a short life (Eccla. 10:11).

This is followed by: proper, where our utility is noted. For it is the proper time for healing because of the abundance of medicine, the skill of the doctor, and the abundance of humors. The abundance of medicine is the plenitude of grace through Christ, whence it says in John: We all receive from His abundance (Jn. 1:16). And also: Full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). And in Ecclesiasticus: The medicine of all is in the haste of the cloud (Eccli. 43:24), i.e. of the humanity of Christ, and so it says, “Gazing from far off I see the coming power of God and a cloud covering the whole land.”[8] Second, it is the proper time because of the skill of the doctor. The skilled doctor is Christ because He needs neither syrup, nor drug, nor bandage, for He restores everything with only His word. As the Psalm says: He sent His word and it healed them, and He saved them from their ruin (Ps. 106:20). And in Wisdom: Neither herb, nor syrup or drink, nor poultice—a bandage—cured them, but your word (Wis. 16:12). Accordingly, blessed Agatha says: “I never showed a worldly doctor my body, but I have Lord Jesus Christ, who restores everything with His word alone.”[9] Third, it is the proper time because of the appearance of humors—of vices. As Bernard says: “Crooked humors, evil morals.”[10] Those humors were bloody from the time of the Law and were not reduced by a mixture of honey and vinegar. For the Law does not have honey, the honey of divine sweetness and the roots of faith from which the mixture of honey and vinegar is concocted, from which crooked humors—evil morals—are extracted and flow away from the face of the Lord, whence it says: Just as wax flows before a fire, so sinners perish before the face of God (Ps. 67:3). Peter flowed away from that face into tears, whence it says: The Lord looked at Peter and he wept with love (Lk. 22:62). And similarly Mary Magdalene watered Jesus’ feet with her tears (cf. Lk. 7:38).

This is followed by: See, now is the day of salvation, where we note the virtue—the wholesomeness—of penitence. Clearly, virtuous penitence is healthy. Penitence first purges us, having been cleaned and pressed, from sin (Eccli. 2:13), as Ecclesiasticus says. God remits sin because of hardship, as Ezekiel, David, 2 Kings, and the King of Niniva in Jonah make clear. Second, penitence is because it strengthens us to virtue, whence it says in Ecclesiasticus: The furnace proves the vessels of the potter, and the trial of hardship proves humans righteous (Eccli. 27:6). And in Deuteronomy: I humbled you and I strengthened you (cf. Deut. 8:16). And also in Romans: Hardship creates endurance (Rom. 5:3). Third, penitence gladdens the soul. As it says in James: Consider every joy, my brothers, when you fall into diverse temptations (Jas. 1:2). “So that you are not deemed unworthy, if evil flourishes in the world, you must suffer because a Christian should not be exalted in worldly things, but should rather be humbled.”[11] No evil person lives in heaven; none of you live in the world. But you ought to rejoice because of that good which you seek, regardless of what happens on the road. Fourth, penitence is associated with Christ, whence it says: I am in tribulation with Him (Ps. 90:15). And it says in Daniel: And an angel of the Lord descended with Azaria and his companions into the furnace (Dan. 3:49). Fifth, penitence is crowned with immortal life, whence it says in Jacob: Blessed is the person who endures temptation, for when one is tested, he or she will receive the crown of life (Jac. 1:12), which He deigns to give to us, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns as God forever and ever. Amen.

[1] Gregory the Great, Homiliae in evangelia 32.2 (Étaix 1999, p. 279 ln. 57-58); [2] Peter Damian, Sermones 28 (Lucchesi 1983, p. 165 ln. 71-72); [3] Bernard of Clairvaux, Epistulae 254.8 (Leclercq and Rochais 1977 v. 8, p. 259 ln. 20-21); [4] Augustine of Hippo, Ennarrationes in psalmos (Dekkers and Fraipoint 1956 v. 1, p. 192 ln. 16-17; [5] Ovid, Ars amatoria 3.61 (de Verger 2002, p. 228); [6] Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 13.27 (Adriaen 1979 v. 2, p. 686 ln. 2-3); [7] Horace, Epistolae 1.2.41-42 (Ferry 2001, p. 14); [8] Responsory Aspiciens a longe; [9] Vita sanctae Agathae BHL 133; [10] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super cantica canticorum 36.4 (Leclercq and Rochais 1977 v. 2, p. 6 ln. 16); [11] Marginal gloss on Jas. 1:2 . Froehlich et al. 1992 v. 4 p. 513.

Posted in Historical Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment