Bernini’s “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”
The following is from the “affective devotion” chapter draft from Getting Medieval with C S Lewis:
Margery Kempe (c. 1373 – after 1438)
Margery was a middle-class laywoman (mother and business owner) who lived in the late 14th and early 15th century and provided us with the first biography of a woman written in English. This, by the way, was probably dictated to a clergyman, since she was almost certainly either illiterate or barely literate.
Margery is a great example of a layperson with a deep, even mystical piety who became an influence on the clergy and monastics of her day—although plenty of people simply wrote her off as a crazy lady because of the depth of her emotion during church services. But in that very trait, she was a reflection (if extreme) of the late medieval tradition of affective devotion: “Her spiritual life was centered, from the beginning and throughout her life, on the human Christ, the object of her prayers and her love. She identified very closely with the Virgin as woman and mother, and her participation in the Passion was enlarged and inspired by sharing Mary’s grief. Her enthusiasm, her ‘boisterous’ emotion, and her conspicuous humility were borrowed from the Franciscans and legitimated by their authority. And her method of meditation—that is, her personal involvement in the biblical story, placing herself among the holy figures—was exactly the method prescribed by writers of affective devotion.” (ATK, 155)
Margery’s book is earthy at points – even bawdy. She tells a particular story about an episode of sexual temptation in her life that is R-rated. And her language of intimacy with Christ is also direct and frank. When he sees a “comely [handsome] man” in the streets, it sets her to meditating on Jesus. And when she talks about her times of inner dialogue with her Lord, she uses a term usually reserved in her time for the kissing and cooing of young lovers: “dalliance.” We have not moved far from Bernard here! Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged affective theology, Bernard of Clairvaux, C S Lewis, devotion, devotional life, emotion, Margery Kempe, mysticism, Richard Rolle, sex, sexuality, Teresa of Avila, Walter Hilton
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Last summer, Mark Van Steenwyk and I taught a Bethel Seminary course called HS-ML729: Resources for Radical Living. Now we are preparing to teach the course again in Bethel’s winter 2011 term, in both a Masters and a DMin mode.
Version 2.0 of the course will be different from version 1.0, both in its basic structure and in the figures and movements we will be studying under the rubrics of the prophetic life, the compassionate life, the penitential life, the devotional life, and the communal life.
We will still explore, under each of these five thematic areas, two figures/movements from Christian history and today–making a total of 10 case studies. But both the framework and the case studies will change. This post outlines the new and, we hope, improved structure. The revised list of case studies (figures and movements) we will cover in version 2.0 can be found here. The first post in this series of three presented the original version of the course. Continue reading
After a busy first half of the summer, Mark Van Steenwyk (of the Missio Dei community and the www.jesusmanifesto.com webzine) and I met a few days ago to update our “Resources for Radical Living” course in anticipation of teaching both a Masters and a DMin version of it this coming winter. Over several hours of woodshedding, we made some significant changes, which will also ripple through to our proposed book. I’ll post on the changes in a moment, but first, here are the basic rationale and structure for the course and book, including the figures and movements we used in the first iteration of the course:
[See also post 2 of this series, describing the revised structure of this course, and post 3, giving the revised set of case studies]
Resources for Radical Living
American Christians today—especially 20- and 30-somethings—are going to church and asking: “Is that all there is?” They are aware that those outside the church don’t want to hear about their religion unless they can see it in the way they act. They are aware of the critique leveled by such teachers as Ron Sider and Tony Campolo—that evangelical Christians just don’t look that different from the rest of the world in key areas of behavior and social practice. Continue reading