Saturday, February 29, 2020

A narration of St Marys miracles

A narration of St Mary's miracles Religious storytelling was one form of popular religion used to teach commoners. Simple stories connected religious ideas to ordinary people, events, and objects that were relatable and also taught moral lessons in a way that commoners could understand, much like a Biblical parable. The content and intended purpose of the stories and lessons depended upon the intended audience as well as the teacher reaching out to that audience. Jacques de Vitry’s religious purpose of writing The Virgin Mary Saves a Monk and His Lover differs from King Alfonso X’s political purpose of including Song 159 in The Cantigas de Santa Maria, but they are both able to accomplish their intended purposes by telling stories of miracles performed by Saint Mary and using the characters, their actions, and story outcomes to teach a moral lesson. Jacques de Vitry, a Christian priest and scholar, wrote The Virgin Mary Saves a Monk and His Lover to teach lay people about moral living.[1] Because of the high cost of producing Bibles and high levels of illiteracy among commoners, many commoners â€Å"had a simple understanding of their faith† and religion.[2] Commoners depended on priests for biblical knowledge and instruction.[3] As a priest, de Vitry’s duty was to teach his parishioners, but he was also a scholar. He was challenged to the teach the people at a basic level that they could understand, a level of understanding more basic than his own. Stories about â€Å"saints’ lives reached a wide audience†, and clergy â€Å"encouraged the writing of vernacular poetry on biblical themes which could be recited publicly†.[4] Commoners were interested in listening to these stories, and the stories were memorable, easy to understand, and easily spread. De Vitry’s writing was able to fulfill his purpose by effectively reaching and teaching commoners. King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon compiled The Cantigas de Santa Maria, which contains Song 159, to praise the Virgin Mary and to unite his subjects. He was a Christian king and â€Å"a great patron of law, science, and the arts†.[5] Lyric poetry from Song 159 incorporated his value of art as well as Christian values— praise to the Virgin Mary. Popular saints like Saint Mary â€Å"could unite a country, bolstering its political order†.[6] King Alfonso could unite religious and political communities throughout his kingdom in their common belief and praise of the Saint Mary. Additionally, he could gain political support as king. Alfonso’s purpose for compiling these songs may have been personal but was more likely to promote himself politically. In The Virgin Mary Saves a Monk and His Lover, pious (moral) attitudes and actions were encouraged through praise of approval and reward. The â€Å"pious matron came frequently to the church frequently and served God most devoutly, day and night†, and the monk was the â€Å"guardian and treasurer of the monastery, had a great reputation for piety, and truly he was devout†.[7] Through repeated acts of service, which demonstrated devotion and humility, the monk and matron both had positive reputations for being pious. Even after the scandal, their pious actions were rewarded. When they confessed their sins and prayed to the Virgin Mary, she was â€Å"overcome by their prayers [and] summoned the demons who had caused the deed† to â€Å"bring the infamy to an end†.[8] They were rewarded with the forgiveness of sins and a miracle from Mary, which saved their reputations as well as the reputation of all religious people. The people were taught that if they follo wed the examples of the pious matron and monk that they too would be looked on favorably, praised, and rewarded. Through disapproval and punishment, immoral attitudes and actions were discouraged. The devil temped the monk and matron with carnal love and caused them to steal possessions from other before abandoning their positions of treasurer and wife.[9] Their acts of service became acts of lust and selfishness. When the people they had wronged brought them back, they â€Å"threw them into prison. Moreover so great was the scandal throughout the whole country and so much were all religious persons reviled that the damage from the infamy and scandal was far greater than from the sin itself†.[10] In addition to the punishment of being thrown into jail, the monk and matron has to suffer the shame and guilt of tarnishing their reputation as well as the reputations of other religious people. The people were taught that if they followed the immoral examples of the scandalous matron and monk they too would be frowned upon, shunned, and punished. In Song 159, the pious actions and attitudes of the pilgrims are, like the monk and matron, recognized and rewarded as encouragement. The nine pilgrims â€Å"were going to Rocamador to pray simply and humbly as good Christians†.[11] By praying simple prayers in a humble manner and going on a pilgrimage, which is beyond essential practice, they are credited with the reputation of being â€Å"good Christians†.[12] When they again pray to the Virgin Mary to find the missing steak, she makes the steak miraculously hop inside the trunk where it had been hidden.[13] They find the steak in answer to their prayer and are rewarded with a spectacular miracle. The pilgrims were examples for the people to follow if they wanted favorable outcomes. The immoral actions and attitudes of the pilgrims were privately recognized, and although unpunished, they were still discouraged because they had the chance of being discovered by someone else. The narrator stated that the pilgrims asked Mary for their pious prayers to be heard, and as soon as they had finished their prayers, they hurried â€Å"back to the inn where they waited for dinner impatiently†.[14] The narrator discretely mocked the pilgrims by highlighting the irony of offering prayers of self â€Å"piety† to the pious Saint Mary and by noting their ability to be impatient in prayer and in waiting for their dinner. The pilgrims’ impatience was far from piousness. The idea of the narrator being able to see the pilgrims’ secret actions and attitudes, with or without them even knowing, was similar to the Christian belief of being unable to hide secrets from an all-knowing. The potential for a secret action or attitude to be discovered was almost as dangerous as if it had been discovered, and the risk would deter some people from immoral behavior. Jacques and Alfonso were both Christians in positions of authority, and they both used popular stories about the Virgin Mary to teach a moral lesson. They both encouraged behaviors that convey attitudes of obedience, servitude, and humility and discouraged behaviors that convey attitudes of disobedience, selfishness, and greed, but their motivations for teaching these lessons were different. Jacques was teaching people how to live as â€Å"good Christians† while encouraging praise for the Virgin Mary, but Alfonso was teaching people how to live as â€Å"good citizens† while encouraging praise for the Virgin Mary and ultimately himself. They teach morals lessons to their audiences, and they also demonstrate their personal morals through their purposes and motivations.

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