Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mater Dolorosa - Oct. 29

Our readings and discussion this past class focused on Mary’s suffering at the cross as seen through medieval writers. These readings are not all chronologically later in history than the previous readings we have read, instead their relationship to each other is their understanding of Mary, particularly Mary’s suffering. Anselm of Canterbury discusses the importance of Mary as someone one can meditate on to understand God, and her importance as a redeemer, but not a redeemer in quite the same way as our earlier readings discussed.  The Stabat Mater hymn exhorts the singers to feel the passion of Mary at the crucifixion. The Meditation on the Lamentation of the Blessed Virgin by “Bernard”, and “The Passion of the Lord Jesus” by John of Caulibus are particularly interesting in their use of imagery, and vision in particular on conceptualizing the crucifixion. Although some these readings contemplate Mary broadly, the focus is on the crucifixion for the majority. They are a step away from our discussions of the births of Mary and Christ, and the holy bliss of those moments. These readings take a significant step towards an empathic understanding of Mary and Christ through observing her suffering.
Anselm of Canterbury was the earliest text we read for this discussion. Anselm was first abbot at Bec in France, before eventually becoming the archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of William II after the Norman conquest of Britain.  In his prayer to Mary, Anselm frequently contemplates Mary’s importance as the mother of God:

“All nature is created by God and God is born of Mary.
God who made all things made himself of Mary”[1]


            “Lord, son of my lady,
Lady, mother of my Lord”[2]

Mary’s importance as the birth giver of God relates to her redeemer quality that in previous readings was shown through Mary-Eve parallels, but in Anselm’s writing is lacking. Mary is still shown as a redeemer, as the woman who “re-established”, and “brought forth him by whom all are saved”, but I was struck that Eve was not mentioned, as this appeared so common among our previous readings.[3] The connections that Anselm makes are between Mary and God, instead of Mary and Eve. This emphasizes through Mary we understand God rather than that we understand our redemption through a Mary-Eve relationship. At the end of his prayer, Anselm wishes that he might eternally sing “Blessed be the Lord, for ever. Amen.” However, Anselm does this through his venerating, loving, and serving “both” Mary and God. [4]
Stabat Mater is a 13th century Latin hum meaning “the Mother is standing” referring to Mary standing at the cross at Christ’s crucifixion. This hymn is quite clear in its emotional plea to feel the transcendent passion of Mary:

“Fairest maid of all creation,
Queen of hope and consolation.
Let me feel your grief sublime”
            “Mary, fount of love’s devotion
            Let me share with true emotion
            All the sorrow you endured”

These stanzas, among others in the hymn present Mary as a kind of conduit whereby the singer contemplates the suffering of Christ. Mary presents a person who the singer and listener can emulate. Maybe Mary is a better person through whom to imagine the crucifixion than Christ, as it seems you might be guilty of hubris in saying that one could imagine God’s suffering, but then again part of what is special about Christ is his human nature.
            Both the Meditation on the Lamentation of the Blessed Virgin by “Bernard” – generally believed not to be Bernard of Clairvaux–, and “The Passion of the Lord Jesus” by John of Caulibus give extended imagined scenes at the cross from varied perspectives. The details are not so much false as elaborations of what could have been. In terms of perspective, both authors write in a way that the reader will at times be looking at the Virgin Mary, and other times be looking through her eyes. In John of Caulibus the author invites the reader to meditate on Mary’s suffering through a visual way: “Do you see how many times she died this day?”[5] The reader cannot literally see the crucifixion, but the imaginative exercise is a tool that the author uses as an attempt to get the reader to do more than just read over the words. “Bernard” at times takes this visual experience further by writing from the perspective of Mary so that the reader is seeing with her eyes:

“I looked at him, struck by fists, beaten with blows, crowned with thorns, spat upon and made the reproach of men, all my innards were stirred, my spirit failed, and there was in me neither sense, nor voice, nor sound. With me there were my sisters and many other women, weeping over him as though their only child.”[6]

The use of Mary in this way emphasizes her as both a role model, but also as a prism in which to view God. She is a role model in her devotion to Christ, but she is not the only one standing by God at the crucifixion. However, she is the only one who can view God perfectly. In a previous reading in this course by the real Bernard of Clairvaux we noticed how it is only Mary who can see God clearly. The faux “Bernard” and John of Caulibus appear to treat Mary in this context by viewing the crucifixion from the Virgin’s perspective rather than one of Disciples of Christ who although venerable, do not possess the same clear vision of God as Mary does. All of these reading, not just "Bernard" and John of Caulibus, showed a side of Mary capable of great suffering in contrast to her holiness, perfect, humbleness, etc. This gave the impression of a person much more relatable to the reader as although one can attempt to imitate Mary's perfection, you cannot hope to attain it, however one can certainly empathize with another's suffering. 


[1] Anselm of Canterbury, The Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm, New York: Penguin Books, 1973, 120.
[2] Anselm of Canterbury, 124.
[3] Anselm of Canterbury, 121.
[4] Anselm of Canterbury, 126.
[5] John of Caulibus, Meditations on the Life of Christ, Asheville: Pegasus Press, 1999, 258.
[6] “Bernard,Texts of the Passion: Latin Devotional Literature and Medieval Society, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996, 169.

Mary and the Franciscans: a Seraphic - or Cherubic? - Order

One of the most important hymns in the Orthodox Liturgy is the so-called Cherubikon. This "Cherubic"  Hymn, which dates to at least the sixth century, is sung during the Great Entrance when the gifts of the Eucharist are brought into the altar sanctuary (i.e., the liturgical reenactment of the moment of the Incarnation). Its opening lines identify the worshippers singing this hymn as "those who mystically represent [εἰκονίζοντες] the cherubim," before calling on the congregation to "lay aside all earthly cares" in order to "receive the King of all." The church takes on the persona of the  "angelic orders invisibly escorting" Christ into their presence at this pivotal point in the liturgy.

What does an ancient Byzantine hymn have to do with our readings - all western, mostly Latin, and all dated to the later High Middle Ages - for this week? Well, these western, Latin texts explain the contemplative process in suspiciously similar terms: the Meditations of John of Caulibus, in particular, practically resounds with echoes or the Cherubic Hymn.
One of the major themes of this week's discussion was whether the "affective" focus of these readings represented a true innovation or the continued evolution of preexisting traditions. A modern approaching these texts for the first time may be overwhelmed by the specific literary and rhetorical devices used to elicit the reader's emotional involvement in the story, as we said - the thought of potentially accessing a "historical" version of Jesus is so tempting that we lose sight of the larger picture. But this emotional focus is in fact not unique to this period: earlier homiletic literature, such as the selections we read of Germanos I and Andrew of Crete, also relies on the reader/audience's emotional involvement to achieve its full rhetorical effect.

Like these earlier works, this week's selection from John of Caulibus' Meditations on the Life of Christ brings the reader directly into the action it describes. John places great importance on the goal of actually seeing God. A number of movements shared this objective and focused on achieving it through the practice of contemplation during the High Medieval period. Hesychasts (13-14th century Byzantine contemplatives) practiced strict asceticism and withdrawal from society in order to glimpse the Uncreated Light of God; Thomas Aquinas, known today for his role in the development of Scholasticism (the reconciliation of religion and Aristotelian reason), supplied the Dominican motto "Contemplata Aliis Tradere,"  "to hand over to others the fruits of contemplation." Franciscans like John and the Poor Clare the Meditations were destined for also had a notable connection to contemplation - it was, after all, after a vision (of a crucified seraph) that their founder had received the stigmata. Both eastern and western traditions emphasized the role of emotion in achieving this goal: the hesychasts believed a vision of God could only be achieved through eros, complementing the role we discussed in class of emotion in works like Anselm's prayers to Mary, the Stabat Mater, and John's Meditations.

Yet however much it relied on pathos, contemplation always remained absolutely connected to logos. The primary goal of these (at times, highly emotional) texts was to guide the reader in achieving a more perfect, intellectual understanding of the divine. This brings us back to the Cherubic Hymn: if the contemplative is moved by this practice towards a more perfect knowledge of God (the virtue, according to Pseudo-Dionysius, that exemplified by the Cherubim), once again we may observe the close association of angels and Mary, this time in the specific devotional context of meditating on her role in the Passion.

The Meditations open with a set of instructions. Like Germanos and Andrew, John acknowledges that the pursuit of ever more perfect devotion is not an easy task. He cautions that "to glory in the passion and cross of the Lord" requires the student to "persevere in earnest meditation" and the "mind's undivided attention" - that is to say, "with all [one's] outside cares put aside" (236). A suspiciously familiar turn of phrase, but one that may just be a coincidence. Once the reader has accomplished this, they move on to vividly imagine important moments from the Passion, as arranged around the liturgical hours. At first glance, this seems quite different from the Byzantine practices we examined earlier in the quarter: venerating an icon of the Mother of God is quite a different physical action than imagining scenes from the Passion. Yet icons were thought to really represent the essence of the holy figures they depicted, thus transporting those who venerated them into the real presence of the divine (and thus justifying the veneration of such images). According to John, "a person [following the exercise outlined in the Meditations] would place herself in the presence of each and every thing that had a bearing on that lordly passion and crucifixion" (236), and "notice every detail as if [they] were present" (239). (He even justifies his exercises exactly as Germanos and Andrew justify icon veneration, by "stating [nothing] in this little work that is not confirmed by sacred Scripture, or not spoken about either in the words of the saints or in approved interpretations" [236].)  Having laid aside her earthly cares, the Poor Clare is now ready to really receive the King of all. In theory, however, it could be argued that this is the duty of any praying Christian, and especially one dedicated to the monastic life. Perhaps this is where the continuity of the two traditions ends?

The liturgical hours were important in any monastic practice, but among the Franciscans they acquired a still greater meaning, especially in connection to the Passion. St. Francis' Office of the Passion consists of a number of original psalms - actually centos that retell the Passion story through rearranged verses of the Biblical Psalms - and constituted an important and original part of Franciscan worship. Like the basic Divine Office, the psalms of the Office of the Passion were recited at the liturgical hours of the day, and were accompanied by readings, prayers, and antiphons. John's Meditations, as we discussed, follow a similar hourly structure, starting at Matins and concluding at Compline. Like the Office of the Passion, the Meditations use the Psalms as the paramount examples of prayer - they're what Christ himself uses to pray to the Father in Gethsemane (240-241). The Office of the Passion, however, has another deeply significant connection to Mary: its antiphon is almost an elaborated Hail Mary. Just as the works of Andrew and Germanos identified the audience with angels through the use of anaphoric chairetismoi or "greetings" - the repetition of "hail" and a Marian epithet, echoing the original greeting of Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation - so these Franciscan examples of devotion on the Passion transform their practitioners into true angels of the Seraphic order. In the end, participants of the Office or in the Meditations really do end up "mystically representing" the angels in heaven.

It is impossible to say for certain whether or not John had the Cherubic Hymn in mind when composing the Meditations. A Latin translation of the hymn exists from the tenth century, but it never seems to have gained the same prominence in the West as it enjoyed in Orthodox liturgy. Echoes of the Cherubic Hymn seem obvious to a (or at least this) Byzantinist's eye, but its content admittedly overlaps with more general sentiments of Medieval Christian thought - detachment from the world, imitation of the angels, anticipation of Christ's return. Yet both traditions hinge on the involvement of Mary, especially her involvement at the Passion. Her suffering then was unique because she saw God as no other human - even the Apostles - ever did. Meditation on her role at the Passion is one of the only ways the faithful could understand that relationship. The fascination of these sources with emotion and their reliance on emotion to facilitate understanding is simply one manifestation of the overriding human desire to understand God - the same desire we've identified over and over in our readings this quarter.

-- F. S.

Gaining Intellectus Through Affectus

In addition to including a hymn, the most recent selection of readings also introduces us to a more emotional and sometimes personal devotional genre: that of the meditation. Written with a faithful fervor that can seem to be “too much” to the modern reader, these works seek to stir emotions in a uniquely powerful way to better understand and love God—here, specifically in the context of Christ’s Passion. I found the notion of gaining intellectus though affectus different from other approaches to devotion that we have seen in previous readings, and hard to miss in the texts we read for last class once this theme had been uncovered and pointed out in discussion. In particular, St Anselm’s “Prayer to Christ,” the author of the Stabat Mater, and John on Caulibus shed light on this medieval phenomenon of understanding the great importance of Christ’s sacrifice through the utter devastation of His mother.
In The Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm, we encounter a voice unlike anything we’ve seen previously—almost groveling, Anselm disparages his sinning self in contrast with his pure and kind “Lady” as he asks for her love and mercy (108, 124-125). The visceral language he employs in deeming himself unworthy, like in qualifying himself as “putrid with the ulcers of sin” (107), effectively communicates that these prayers are an inward-facing and deeply personal labour. The individual nature of his meditations renders his expression of longing to feel the deepest emotion at the death of Christ all the more poignant. In his “Prayer to Christ,” Anselm laments that he was not present for each event of the Passion, and was not—like Mary, it is implied—“pierced by a sword of bitter sorrow” at the sight of the crucifixion (95). Anselm wishes that he witnessed this event, but does not say exactly why; it is certainly not an issue of faith, which he does not lack. His bemoaning of his absence at the crucifixion is shot through with acknowledgement that he does not “deserve to be amazed” by such events, an instance of self-disparagement characteristic of what we have read of Anselm (95). Additionally, he wants his Redeemer to come to him and “turn my lukewarmness into a fervent love for you” (99, 94). Though not explicitly related to his desire to experience the excruciating range of emotions of a witness of the Passion, particularly Mary, he does seek to better understand and love God.
The Stabat Mater, in its focus on the overwhelming “sorrow” of the Virgin at the crucifixion, includes pleas that she might let the speaker “share with true emotion/All the sorrow you endured,” “stand and mourn with you,” and “feel your grief sublime,” and consequently “fire me with your love of Christ.”  These repeated imperatives indicate that whoever composed this hymn considers empathizing deeply with Mary to be an avenue towards gaining a “love of Christ” like hers. Here, understanding Mary and her emotional response are more clearly shown as integral to a devotee trying to love Christ completely and passionately. Mary’s role in such a contemplative ascent echoes the notion that we have seen in earlier texts: that Mary is she through whom we can best see God.
Meditations on the Life of Christ, attributed to John of Caulibus, goes a step further than the longings of St Anselm or the author of the Stabat Mater, however. John of Caulibus elaborates upon the Passion with the intention of drawing the reader into a narrative of the Passion that he insists is wholly “confirmed by sacred Scripture” or “spoken about either in the words of the saints or in approved interpretations” (236). His meditations appear less fervently personal than those of St Anselm, and instead often directly invite the reader to imagine himself in whatever scene is being described. John of Caulibus seems to be attempting to coax an emotional response out of the reader in imploring him to imagine the humbled Christ as “just a man” as He endures countless heart-wrenching slights that are recounted in painful detail (249). Most effective of all is his portrayal of Mary, a bereaved mother “stricken half-dead in her anguish,” enduring excruciating pain in sympathy with her son, and ultimately begging to be buried with him as she “held his head in her lap” (250, 261). Mary is a human reference point of sorts; no image inspires more sorrow to the reader than that of a mother grieving over her child (let alone the Mother of God doing so with the Creator). The impulse to immerse oneself in the Passion through a carefully constructed story is yet another attempt to love God through feeling and understanding, particularly with Mary as an aid of such an effort.

As we have seen her function before for the faithful, Mary frames the discussion of understanding through emotion; it is her grief that we center around and strive to feel as much as we are able. Here, again, Mary is the way through which we can glimpse God. St Anselm, John of Caulibis, and the author of the Stabat Mater all wish to obtain a stronger love of Christ through comprehending Mary’s sorrow, both intellectually and emotionally. Similar narrative impulses present in the Meditations on the Life of Christ and in William of Newburgh’s commentary on the Song of Songs appear to be written with a similar objective in mind. The genre of the meditation, as a text born from the author’s own devotion, also has a great capacity for expressing the necessary depth of feeling. Through depicting her sorrow at witnessing the Passion of her son and indicating that they wish they could have been present to better understand it, medieval authors demonstrate a desire to attain intellectus through affectus, and thereby approach a truer and more passionate love of God.

Anselm & The Passion: Mary as Healer

An endless litany of descriptors seem to surround Mary throughout medieval texts: Mary as Queen, as bringer of light and wisdom, and as humble servant. Perhaps unexpected, however, is the addition of the designation of healer to this list. The Marian miracle stories and prayers of Rocamadour, Alfonso X, Herolt, and Gautier focused almost exclusively focused on Mary as a healer of physical ailments, or at the very least place her in texts which emphasize physicality. From curing blindness to washing the brow of our fervent tumbler, Mary as she is represented in these texts seems to have no limit to her convalescent abilities. Shifting to Anselm of Canterbury, however, we begin to see Mary not only as a healer of bodies, but also as a healer of souls. How and why does this shift occur? Is there theological justification for the image of Mary as a healer?

In the “Prayer to St. Mary” of his The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm, Anselm of Canterbury immediately humbles himself, telling us he was commissioned to write a prayer for St. Mary, and considers his third attempt alone worthy of “the great St. Mary” (page 106). One must question why Anselm included the versions of the prayer he considered substandard, particularly as only one prayer was requested of him. Regardless, Anselm includes his first two drafts, and in all three touches upon Mary’s role as a cleanser of spiritual sickness. Though he writes in the first person throughout his prayers, it is worth noting that Anselm seeks not to speak purely from his own personal experience, but rather is attempting to make his prayer easily accessible to his readers.

Anselm wastes no time in his first “Prayer to St. Mary” establishing the sinful nature of the human soul. Indeed, he subtitles this first prayer “when the mind is weighed down with heaviness,” immediately letting his reader know that the prayer comes from a place of internal grievance. After giving Mary her due praise, Anselm begins to deride his own sinfulness: “I long to come before you in my misery / sick with the sickness of vice, / in pain from the wounds of crimes, / putrid with the ulcers of sin” (lines 12-15). While Anselm’s language contains physical imagery such as “wounds of crimes” and “ulcers of sin,” the qualifiers within these phrases let us know that Anselm’s metaphors are just that: metaphorical. Even so, Anselm continues to use highly visceral language throughout his first prayer, referring to himself as “filthy and stinking” and “scarcely aware of the extent of [his] sickness” (23, 22). Not only does Anselm liken spiritual suffering to physical ailment, but he also calls on Mary as a healer while using the language of bodily illness: “What I want to ask you, Lady is / that by a glance from your mercy / your will cure the sickness and ulcers of my sins, / but before you I am confounded / by the smell and foulness of them” (45-49). Though Anselm may be buried in his sinfulness so much so that he cannot even see the depth of it, a single “glance of [Mary’s] mercy” will purify his soul.

Anselm does not spend much time discussing spiritual sickness in his second prayer, but his third, he again emphasizes the foulness of his sins, though the majority of his time is spent discussing the healing power of Mary. “I confess that my heart is unclean, / and I am right ashamed to turn towards such cleanness, / but I turn towards it to be made clean / in order to come to it” (21-24). In contrasting his own sins with Mary’s “cleanness,” Anselm seems to point specifically to her virgin purity; this is made clearer further in the prayer when Anselm notes that it is “by [Mary’s] child-bearing / I am brought forth from eternal death” (60-61). The “eternal death” to which Anselm refers is clearly damnation as a result of sins, but hell itself is the absence of God; in giving birth to Christ, Mary offers us the chance to know God and thus reach heaven. While Mary’s immaculate conception may save her from the dirtiness of human sin, it is the birth of Christ that offers true salvation: “Through your fruitfulness, Lady, / the sinner is cleansed and justified / the condemned is saved and the exile is restored. Your offspring, Lady, redeemed the world from captivity, / made whole the sick, gave life to the dead” (109-113). Though Mary herself may not represent salvation, she gave birth to Christ who in turn “gave life to the dead,” and thus she is capable of providing the means to achieve salvation.

While an examination of Anselm’s prayers reveals how Mary might cleanse the sinner of his foulness, they do little to explain why Mary has come to fulfill a healing role. “Texts of the Passion” offers an elaborate depiction of Mary at the Passion of Christ and may provide an answer. Mary’s emotional suffering as she witnesses Jesus’ torture, crucifixion, and death is described in extreme physical terms: “Dying, she lived; and living, she died. Nor could she die, who was a living dead person; in fact she stood wounded with cruel pain, waiting for the body of Christ to be taken down from the cross” (177). Mary’s pain during the Passion sounds much like the pain of sin that Anselm so thoroughly describes. Like Anselm, however, Mary does not give up hope: “She did not despair but piously and rightfully sorrowed, hoping bravely and firmly believing that he would rise on the third day according to to his promise, when he had conquered death. In her alone, during the three days, the faith of the church rested” (181). Though incapable of sin herself, Mary seems to understand the pain of being separated from God, and thus seeks to cleanse the impurity of our souls so that we might never be without Christ as she was.

(Woops, forgot to sign my initials!)

A Problem of Pain: Mary as the Mater Dolorosa

            In the readings for Tuesday, I was struck by the seeming paradox of Mary’s excruciating pain at the crucifixion and the authors’ assertion that Mary was the only one of Jesus’s followers to maintain hope in the time between his death and resurrection because of her foreknowledge of the latter event. She many times throughout begs that she might die too with her son because her pain is just too great to bear. However, John of Caulibus tells us in Meditations on the Life of Christ that “Our Lady, however, stood fast with a tranquil and settled mind, for she had a most firm hope in the resurrection of her son.” These two reactions to Jesus’s death that we are told Mary experiences feel incompatible to me, and I especially appreciated the chance to hear other people’s opinions on it in class.
            One point that I thought was very important was that everything the figures in these prayers and meditations do is heavily grounded in scripture—whether or not you agree with the way they are interpreting and using those scriptures. Anytime we see Jesus speak, it’s a composite of snippets from Psalms, the Gospels, etc. If the works are so deeply entrenched in their source material, then, we may be able to use the Bible to explain Mary’s experience at the Passion. One place the writers themselves commonly turn to in order to explain their depiction of Mary’s suffering is Simeon’s prophesy to her in Luke 2:35, that “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There is no doubt that the Mary of Tuesday’s readings fits this description well. However, I was especially interested in the idea that it is okay for Mary to feel this deep pain—even though she knows that the resurrection is coming—because Jesus himself modelled a similar behavior when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus shortly before miraculously recalling him to life. If we take this viewpoint, then, the tradition of Mary serving as a way to see or experience Christ’s behavior so that we too can see Christ’s behavior is alive and well in these readings.
            The writers themselves, though, would probably find more convincing that Mary feels this pain because she is so strongly linked to Jesus himself. The reasoning they give for this goes back to the extraordinary circumstances of Jesus’s birth and heritage. Because Mary is his sole parent and has remained a virgin, they are in fact the only family that either of them has, and with Jesus’s death Mary is left completely alone in the world (hence why Jesus tasks John with caring for her). This point is, I think, seriously problematized by the points in the Gospels which refer to Jesus’s brothers and sisters. However, in some ways it does echo the grief of the widow at Nain whose only son is miraculously resurrected in Luke 7:11-15. This foreshadows both Jesus’s death and resurrection and Mary’s grief, but it may also suggest that there is some characteristic of the bond between a mother and her only son—Luke is careful to note that this is the widow’s only son—that is somehow special, that God particularly cares about such a bond. In addition, Jesus is of course not at all like any other son, because he is at the same time Mary’s Creator, Savior, and God. Indeed, no one better than Mary should understand the true weight of who exactly is being crucified during the Passion; in that sense, the authors argue, she has to feel a distress far beyond that of the other ordinary observers.
            Then, of course, as was suggested in class, there is always the possibility that these authors are incorrectly interpreting the texts, and that such a depiction of Mary’s pain is excessive. Indeed, how could a bunch of medieval monks truly grasp Mary’s experience witnessing the crucifixion of her son and God? They themselves understand that this is intrinsically impossible, and as a result constantly bemoan their inability to summon up tears or the proper feelings in response to the events they seek to describe. “Bernard” pleads with the Virgin herself in his Meditation on the Lamentation of the Blessed Virgin, asking that she will reveal to him a true, more interior version of the Passion so that he can better grasp the emotional implications of it. Acknowledging his emotional failure, he says, “I greatly wish to weep, for nothing would please me more; but I am a wretch with a stony heart, and I cannot weep.” There is, for each of these men, a fundamental impasse between them and the mindset of the Virgin, one that they try desperately to overcome. This desperation, then, may well lead to an excess in their descriptions.
Why, though, are they so desperate to understand Mary’s position in particular during the Passion of her son? Throughout these texts, there is a deep desire to accurately grasp the meaning of the death of Jesus, who is at once both human and divine; this search is of course one we have seen time and again throughout the Marian tradition. Jesus’s sufferings are described in gory detail, highlighting what has been called Christ in his humanity. However, there is still the question of his divinity, and, as the authors know and argue, it is completely, intrinsically impossible for humans to comprehend the mystery of the eternal God suffering physical pain and death. In Meditations on the Life of Christ, John of Caulibus starts his “Meditation on the Passion at Terce” by exhorting his readers to first consider Jesus as solely human experiencing these things, then reintroduces his divinity to show how truly mind-boggling such events seem to him. Jesus’s position is impossible to experience or comprehend, but Mary, being fully human, may well be a different story. The tradition of Mary serving as an intermediary for us to experience Jesus is, I think, very present in their desire to understand her point of view during the crucifixion.

In addition, just as has been seen throughout the course, these authors see Mary as the model for what proper Christian behavior should look like. As she answers in Meditation on the Lamentation of the Blessed Virgin, “What you seek inspires compunction and is very sorrowful; but because I have been glorified, I cannot weep. You, however, write with tears those things which I have pondered with great pain.” Here, she directly charges us all to place ourselves as entirely as possible into her perspective because hers is the proper reaction to the events described. Just like almost all of the Marian tradition thus far, these authors’ use of Mary is really supposed to tell us how to respond to and experience her son. And, they argue, this interiority is completely necessary because it is only through feeling correctly that we can understand correctly, just as we saw Bernard argue that experience is the necessary factor for proper understanding. Mary’s pain should be our pain because it is only through this pain that we can grasp the singularity and importance of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.