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IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 623: Monastic Virtues: Objects of Reflexion and Symbolization

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 11.15-12.45

Sponsor:Sonderforschungsbereich 'Institutionalität und Geschichtlichkeit', Technische Universität, Dresden
Moderator/Chair:Markus Schürer, Abteilung Mittelalterliche Geschichte, Institut für Geschichte, Technische Universität, Dresden
Paper 623-aMonk's Hair as a Symbol of Humility, Penitence, and Contempt for the World
(Language: English)
Jörg Sonntag, Forschungsstelle für Vergleichende Ordensgeschichte, Katholische Universität, Eichstätt / Institut für Geschichte, Technische Universität, Dresden
Index terms: Monasticism
Paper 623-bWiping the Feet of Jesus with her Hair: Sexuality and Penitence in the Story of Luke’s Sinful Woman, as Seen by Ephrem and other Syriac Writers
(Language: English)
Hannah Hunt, Department of Theology & Religious Studies, Leeds Trinity & All Saints / Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Sexuality, Women’s Studies
Paper 623-cSpiritual Mourning and Holy Sorrow: Fourteenth-Century Elaborations on Two Ancient Monastic Concepts
(Language: English)
Constantine Lerounis, Faculty of Theology, University of Thessaloniki
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Language and Literature - Greek

Abstract paper -a: This paper focuses on the symbolic illustration of these three associative categories of the monastic, virtuous pattern of life in the Cluniac-moulded communities and in the order of the Cistercians. The time-frame begins in the 11th century and finishes at the early 13th century. The paper looks first at the traditional Benedictine customs and the Cistercian normative texts, complemented by theological reflections on co-evals like Honorius Augustodunensis, or the Anonymus of Petershausen.
The appearance of a monk and – if we follow the sources – his incorporation in the celestial paradise depended on the design of his tonsure, the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ, shouldered by him as a sign of the humbly-suffered shame and dishonour. To signify the contempt of the world the hair – a symbol of earthly vices – had to be cut off again and again like those vices, that never could be deleted once and for all.
So, the symbolic actions around the hair and the tonsure itself are integrated in this analysis, too. Putting hair into clefts of walls, prohibiting delinquents from shaving, cutting the beard of disobedient lay brothers, public shaving of unruly monks, or the claimed shave after eating meat: all these actions aimed either to communicate the loss of monastic virtues, or else to restore them in a visual way. The paper will undertake a comparative investigation of these symbolic dimensions.

Abstract paper -b: This paper explores some of the many homilies in the Syriac tradition which treat of the so-called Sinful Woman, who bathes the feet of Jesus with her tears of penitent grief, and dries them with her hair. Her actions recall the anointing at Bethany, the symbolic exemplification of Christ’s humanity and divinity, his kingship and passion. These Syriac exegetes give the Biblical figure a voice to debate with a personified figure of Satan (as in medieval mystery plays). Her actions illustrate the mingling of grief and joy, and the paper explores issues of the sterility of sin and the fecundity of penitence.

Abstract paper -c: Mourning (penthos) and holy sorrow are essential features of a number of religious and especially monastic treatises since, at least, the efflorescence of Patristic writing in the 4th Century, but it was St John Climacus who about a century later on extolled spiritual mourning and holy sorrow, placing them at the centre of a theory of emotions intended to provide a ladder to heaven. St John Climacus was the foundation on whom later theologians, particularly 14th-Century Quietists, built their concepts of spiritual mourning (penthos) and lype, through which an altered mental and emotional state becomes possible. This altered state must be concurrent with a certain discernment (diakrisis), the ability to distinguish between the sorrow that emanates from this world and holy sorrow proper.