Bad Nuns!

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday November 29, 2008 in

I came across this lovely recitation of human folly and, well, you know me, I have to share this kind of stuff.

This excerpt was written by Eudes Rigaud, someone whom I imagine to be a very weary religious reformer. It was his task, in 1249, to visit a troubled nunnery and bring the antics there to the attention of the archbishop (whom we hope was able to sort things out). Sometimes reformers were terrible, self-righteous prigs, but even if this was true of Rigaud, in this case I still feel sorry for him!

Most nunneries, of course, were well managed and well run. I hope you enjoy this exception to the rule (excuse the pun!) as much as I did!

From Medieval English Nunneries by Eileen Power, 1922. p. 665

We visited the priory of Villarceaux. There are twenty-three nuns and three lay sisters. [Here follow several minor disorders.] Only four nuns there are fully professed, to wit Eustachia, Comitissa, Ermengarde and Petronilla. Many of them have pilches made from fur of rabbits, hares and foxes. They eat flesh unnecessarily in the infirmary ; they do not observe silence anywhere and they do not keep within the cloister. Johanna of “Aululari” once went out of the cloister and lived with someone, by whom she had a child ; and she sometimes goes out of
the cloister to see that child ; item she is ill-famed ( infamata ) with a certain man called Gaillard. Isabella la Treiche is a fault finder, murmuring against the Prioress and others. The cellaress is ill-famed with a man called Philip of Villarceaux. The Prioress is too negligent and does not reprove, nor does she get up [for matins]. Johanna of Auvilliers goes outside the house alone with Gayllard and within the year had a child by him. The cellaress is ill-famed with Philip of Villarceaux and with a certain priest of her own neighbourhood. Item the subprioress with Thomas the carter. Idonia her sister with Crispinatus. Item the prior of Gisors frequents the house for the sake of said Idonia. Philippa of Rouen is ill-famed with the priest of Suentre, in the diocese of Chartres ; Marguerita the treasuress with Richard de Geneville, of the diocese of Chartres. La Tooliere [? the chambress] is ill-famed with Sir Andrew de Monchy, knight. They all wear their hair long to their chins ( nutriunt comam usque ad mentum ) and scent their veils with saffron. Jacqueline came back pregnant from a certain chaplain, who was expelled from the house for this. Item Agnes de Montsec was ill-famed with the same. Ermengarde of Gisors and Johanna of Auvilliers beat each other. The Prioress is drunk almost any night…she does not rise for matins nor eat in the frater nor correct faults.

Poem for Sunday

Posted by: Richenda at Saturday November 8, 2008 in

Sunday Song

The channel whitens, a pathway
crystal over leaves once golden
now crisped into stillness
beneath a fresh layer of ice.
Rot. Beautiful food for worms
and beetles and grass
underneath the ice, underneath
my feet. As I step, crackling
the proud autumn flame
now extinguished into dust.

The ice lays a new path, clean,
clear, stark, with colored breath.

A new turf, popping. It seems
my very small steps
have changed on this new course.
I did not expect the way to be
green, or easy, or warm, yet
the freezing world holds
a beauty of its own
oh ye sea monsters!
an ocean of ferocity in waves
that even now creates
a landscape of oceanic dunes.

I think I will kneel and sing

and salt my body with this life.

Images of the trinity

Posted by: Richenda at Friday November 7, 2008 in

I was reading along in my book…homework…Justo L. Gonzales’s +The Story of Christianity+…and I came across this medieval image of the trinity:

(I know, I know. The image is blurry. I used my camera phone, what can I tell you.)

Still, it made me think. On the one hand, I like that the image shows uniformity, in that it is an effort to depict the “three faces” of God—the son, the father, the Holy Spirit—in a way that shows that these three ‘different’ facets are really of the same substance and so are One.

[Note from Gregory of Nyssa: Oh ye Gentiles, laugh if you will. But you thought this up. :) ]

As for me, I find the concept of the Trinity easy to understand. Perhaps it is because I have long loved to gaze at glass prisms. Out of a single ray of sunlight, poured through a single facet of a prism, the light explodes from the rest of the facets like a fountain with a million bits of color. This, to me, isn’t division of light, it’s revelation of light!

It is ironic, then, that what I appreciate so much about this medieval depiction of the “three faces of God,” the uniformity, is also what bothers me about it.

These three faces are all the same. They are all male. And they are all white. And they are all bearded.

[Question for the Divine Barber: These three faces are all bearded… Is God bearded?]

This image is of God as a European and loving familiar. To picture God as part of your immediate world, and in the ‘image’ of the humans you know and interact with, is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. But we have to always remember that it is we who are thereby limiting God. We depict God in ways that help us to form and understand God. But as for God? God is not limited.

God is not limited to the paint and gesso of the painter, and God is not limited by human conception, either. Images we make of God are supposed to help us to
imagine what God is like. But if we are not careful, they can freeze us in ink. And ink is not God. (Beards are probably not God, either.)

And that begs the question, if God is not limited to what a particular culture in a particular time or place can imagine, what is God? If we risk shaking loose the images of ‘familiar’ and seek to un limit our understanding of God…what happens? How might the Trinity be depicted then? A leaf, a moon beam, and a drop of water? A blue jay feather, a chunk of serpentine, ash? A breath, a tear, a song?

Imagine—just imagine!—the prayer that is God! Just think in what ‘form’ the immanence of Christ ever-circles all around us.

Imagine the Father, Imagine the Spirit, Imagine the Christ manifested in the heart, the feet, the longing in your gut.

What? Be still! God is with you.

Congratulations Mr. Obama

Posted by: Richenda at Tuesday November 4, 2008 in

My son was 17 on November 4th, and what he wanted for his birthday was a President-elect Obama. Happy Birthday, Michael!

I am Canadian, but I married an American guy (what can I say, he was cute!). I had the privilege of being an up-close witness to the historic events of November 4th. I shared a sofa with two brand new voters, my daughter and her friend, both 18, who both voted for Obama. Not only did they get the joy of seeing their candidate win, but both girls were in tears as the camera’s readied for Obama’s acceptance speech and were enthralled during the speech itself.

I am Canadian, so I did not vote. But I have great respect for both candidates, especially the John McCain of the McCain-Feingold days. I thought his concession speech proved valiant and honorable. I am sad for the tone of the campaign, though. If this is the real McCain—and I feel it is—perhaps he would have had better luck just being himself. Half way through his speech my daughter’s friend looked at me with an expression of incredulity. None of the negative campaign ads had showed this side of John McCain. She blurted out, “I would have voted for him!”

Regardless, it is my great privilege to have been here in America during this historic evening. America is a great country, and I have great hopes for what Obama and Biden will be able to do.

Happy Halloween!

Posted by: Richenda at Friday October 31, 2008 in

First day back to Northwest House with the term beginning on Halloween Night! lol.

Though an email circulated to suggest we should come dressed as our favorite
reformer, only one student dressed up at all. I guess the rest of us are still figuring out who our favorite reformers are, though the Lutherans should have come up with something. I mean, hello! What about Luther for goodness sake!?

Well, I suppose we will all get better at this.

But, dinner was wonderful as always. Thanks to Israel and Elizabeth for putting together a delicious and festive meal! Clam chowder (or veggie stew) in a bread bowl with pumpkin pie. Don’t you wish you attended Northwest House?

Here’s a picture of the decorated bread bowls to prove just how much fun they were:

As for the rest of the evening…


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