“You are all beautiful, my love”

There is a reason that women need Mary, and it isn’t just because she is the Mother of God.

It is because a) Mary is the most beautiful woman God ever made. And b) women are bitches about other women—especially beautiful ones.

Let me explain.

Beautiful women (or, at least, women who want to think they are beautiful) can be consummate bitches about other women whom they want to make feel less beautiful than they. Trust me on this, I’ve been on the receiving end.

But less beautiful women—we might, if we were being uncharitable, call them ugly—can be even uglier about beautiful women. Just look what they write about Mary!

As a myth—or so Marina Warner argued in Alone ofAll Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976)the Virgin Mary deserves to die because, in her excellence and beauty, she is an insult to all other women:
[The] adulation of the Virgin excludes other women.... In a celebrated English tenson, or discussion, written in the thirteenth century, a misogynist thrus…

Stop Being Ugly

Beauty is out of fashion. Worse. Beauty is not just out of fashion; it is downright rude even to notice beauty. To call a woman “beautiful” is to commit an egregious faux pas. It is much better—according to the new feminist keyboard app SheBoard—to call her “happy.” Not “beautiful.” Anything but “beautiful.”

But it is not just women. To call anything beautiful—a painting, a poem, a story, a landscape, a building, a song—is considered by many an affront against justice or, conversely, a kind of attack. To give excessive regard to the beautiful, it is argued, is to to neglect the injustices that judging one thing better than another—because more beautiful—commits. Conversely, it is contended, to direct one’s gaze towards the beautiful—particularly but not necessarily a person—is to rob that object of autonomy, to “reify” it by the very act of looking at it, to deny it subject status, to make it a thing.

Noticing that someone or something is beautiful—or so the argument goes—is at once v…

The Good Thief

Would you be ashamed to be crucified next to a thief?

Never mind the tenderness of your body, the injustice of being condemned to death for speaking the truth, the betrayal by your friends, the wracking of your entire body and all of your senses with agony, the mocking and scorn of the mob.

Would you be ashamed to be crucified next to a thief?

This is what the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacobus de Voragine said about the pain of Christ’s passion:
The pain of the passion was of five kinds. The first was its shamefulness. It was shameful because it happened in a place of shame, namely, on Calvary, where malefactors were punished. The mode was shameful, because he was condemned to a most ignominious death, the cross being the instrument of punishment for thieves... The Lord’s passion was shameful because of the company in which he suffered. He was reckoned with thieves and robbers who were criminals to begin with; but later one of them, Dismas, who was crucified at Christ’s right side, …

Mob Justice

Look at this image. What do you see? A lawful execution? A dying god?

I’ll tell you what I see: a mob who has just lynched an innocent man.

Perhaps it is the realism of the statues. Or maybe it is the fact that they are life-sized. But when somebody showed a slide of this sculpture last week at the conference I attended at the Museum of the Bible, I gasped.

I have been training myself for decades to see scenes like this one as works of devotion, but all I could see was the mob. It was like a scene from a haunted house, not a sacred meditation.

I can’t make this impression go away.

“The passion of Christ was bitter in its pains, scornful in the mockery it laid upon him, and fruitful in its manifold benefits.”

Fruitful—we are taught to think about the crucifixion as fruitful. There Christ is, the fruit of the tree of the cross, dying so that we might live.

I think I am going to throw up.

“The pain of the passion was of five kinds. The first was its shamefulness. It was shameful because i…

Lady Day Invitatory

Imagine the scene, if you will. It is dark except for the light of a few candles and silent except for the breathing of those around you. Someone coughs. You are, perhaps, tired, because you have already been singing and listening for some time, praising God through the watches of the night. Still in your stall, you turn with your brothers (or sisters) toward the altar and repeat, once again, the opening dialogue of Matins, led by your priest:
Domine, labia mea aperies. 
Lord, open my lips.  To which you as part of the choir reply:
Et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam. 
And my mouth shall show forth your praise.  Again, the priest lifts up his voice:
Deus, in adjutorium meum intende. 
God, come to my assistance.   To which the choir responds:
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina. 
Lord, make haste to help me, the latter spoken rather than sung, followed by a Gloria patri. And then, as if with the voice of an angel, the versicularius intones the familiar chant:
Ave, Maria, gratia plena. 
Hail, Ma…

Thought for the Day: Of Corruption, as it tends to Political Slavery

This one’s for you, Milo.
Liberty, in one sense, appears to be the portion of polished nations alone. The savage is personally free, because he lives unrestrained, and acts with the members of his tribe on terms of equality. The barbarian is frequently independent from a continuance of the same circumstances, or because he has courage and a sword. But good policy alone can provide for the regular administration of justice, or constitute a force in the state, which is ready on every occasion to defend the rights of its members. It has been found, that, except in a few singular cases, the commercial and political arts have advanced together. These arts have been in modern [eighteenth-century] Europe so interwoven, that we cannot determine which were prior in the order of time, or derived most advantage from the mutual influences with which they act and re-act on each other. It has been observed, that in some nations the spirit of commerce, intent on securing its profits, has led the way…

The Trolls of Academe

Meanwhile, at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America last weekend...

I am so disappointed. I never saw these “alt-right trolls,” although clearly others were able to see them.

I even went to the panel on diversity and inclusivity that Professor Stoyanoff mentions in his tweet expecting to see some—it was, after all, exactly the kind of event guaranteed to attract trolls! I have read through the tweets from that afternoon, and I can’t see what he is talking about there either. Perhaps if there had been time for some Q&A at the end, the trolls would have exposed themselves, rather than sitting quietly with the rest of the audience as they apparently did.

(I wouldn’t know, I couldn’t see them, but then I was sitting up front so as to be able to pay proper attention to the panel. Perhaps they were behind me.)

The panel itself was extremely instructive. The panelists talked about how much they loved studying the Middle Ages and how encouraging it was to find others like …

Nobody Sees MILO Like RFB

Sometimes the parody writes itself. This time, someone in the Middle Ages wrote it for me.

Here begins the life of the most holy and most glorious Nobody. At sundry times and in divers manners, dearly beloved, God spoke in times past through the prophets, who, as if in riddles and an obscure voice, foretold the coming of the only-begotten son of God for the redemption of those who labor in darkness and sit in the shadow of death. In the last days, however, he speaks openly through his holy Scripture, and foretells, explicates, and bears witness to the most blessed and glorious Nobody as similar to himself, begotten before the ages, yet unknown to humankind until now by reason of our sins. But our own Savior and Lord himself, who is always merciful, and who never leaves his own helpless, showed pity to the people redeemed by his own blood, and with the ancient darkness wholly removed from our eyes, he has deigned to reveal to us the treasure, so renowned, of this most glorious Nobody, …

Jordan of the Internet v. Cathy of Television

My friend and fellow Three Kraters Symposium panelist Josh Arguien has a theory about why Jordan Peterson’s interview with Cathy Newman blew up the internet.