25 December 2017


In a patristic reading recently offered (remarkably) both by the Roman Breviary and by the Liturgy of the Hours, S Ambrose reminds us that the first thing our blessed Lady did after the Annunciation was to hurry into the hill country to visit Elizabeth; and asks, rhetorically, 'For whither, now Full of God [plena Deo], should she hurry if not to higher places?'

The greatest of the Roman poets was Publius Ovidius Naso, whose rococo imagination and baroque syntax would have made him a most wonderfully Counter Reformation Catholic, had he lived a millennium and a half later. In this year, we of the elite have been commemorating the 2000th anniversary of his death. I wrote about him a little while ago. And it is purely and simply the Spirit of Ovid that animates the exuberant baroque statuary in the fountains and squares of renaissance Rome. In his youth, the dear old boy appears to have written a tragedy, the Medea, of which only two fragments remain as citations in later rhetorical treatises ... yes ... a sad fate ...

One of these fragments gives a few words of Medea, the Colchian Witch, a liberated feminist girl who engagingly terminated her children in order to irritate her husband; a wench quite worthy to be adopted as their tutelary deity by the crazed half-naked demonstrators plenae Diabolo [full of Satan] who riot for Abortion; the Choroi whose spondaic-dactylic-spondaic-dactylic incantation orders us "keep your rosaries off our ovaries". Apparently, in her frenzy, Medea cried out in Ovid's play feror huc illuc, ut plena deo [I am carried this way, that way, as full of (a) God].

In Roman literature, it is not unnatural for one in the grip of madness or, indeed, merely alcohol, to be called 'Full of (a) God', because Roman deities were so often personifications of dangerous or even disastrous things. So, after your Christmas celebrations, you might be (but I trust you will not be) said to be full of Bacchus. Medea was, I'm afraid, merely demented, poor thing.

I wonder whether S Ambrose, as an exercise in what we Classicists call Creative Intertextuality or imitatio cum variatione [copying something but with a significant change] but which lesser mortals mistake for Plagiarism, has consciously transposed this witty topos from the demented, noisy and bloody mythological figure of Medea, to the reality and hesychia [quietness] of a particular Jewish Girl who, quite literally, carried God Eternal and Incarnate an inch or two south of her fallopian tubes and is now Queen of Heaven. If so, he certainly put his finger on the Culture War, the essential enmity, between the Theotokos and today's maddened Satanic perversions of her icon.

But her heel will tread down the Serpent's head; and the Immaculate Heart of our Lady of Fatima will prevail.

Lectoribus omnia felicia, omnia fausta, omnia precor sancta.


Banshee said...

Ovid probably would be pleased, because he actually was a pro-life guy. (As much as a Roman could be. He wrote a very sad poem about his mistress who almost died of an abortion, asking why the heck she would do such a stupid, evil thing.)

Which reminds me of something. You might be interested in the Ovid translations on David Drake's webpage. His interest in the classics helped him get through Vietnam and become a remarkable writer of military science fiction. Whenever he uses Roman materials, he makes it remarkably vivid.

(He's also one of those guys who's not a Christian but clearly wishes that he was, and he seems to have felt the Real Presence when he visited Liverpool Cathedral with friends. I often pray for him and his extremely sensible wife.)

Woody said...

Blessed Nativity to you and yours, Father.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Michael Leahy said...

Thank you, Father, for this inspiring meditation. A Happy Christmas to you and yours.

James Ignatius McAuley said...

Merry Christmas, Father Hunwicke! What a lovely piece to read, thank you!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas - and I second what J.I. McAuley and the previous commenters said.

Mary Kay said...

I wish a blessed Christmas to you and yours, dear Fr. Hunwicke.

Mary K Jones in the US

Deacon Augustine said...

It may be that St. Ambrose was simply referring to the typological fulfilment of The Ark of the Covenant which was full of God and also retrieved from the hill country in Judah:

2 Sam 6,2 *And David AROSE AND WENT, with all the people that were with him of the men of Juda, to fetch the ark of God, upon which the name of the Lord of hosts is invoked, who sitteth over it between the Cherubims.

3 And they laid the ark of God upon a new cart: and took it out of the house of Abinadab, who was in Gabaa [a hill] and Oza, and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart."

I am sure that Ambrose would have been aware that the Baptist leapt at the presence of the Mother of God, just as David had leapt before the Ark.

A very Happy Christmas to you and all yours, Fr. H.

Prayerful said...

Always wonderful posts Fr H. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.