25 December 2015


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 a sense, perhaps they did; because 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 think to be merely 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 Galilean 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 her Immaculate Heart will prevail.

Lectoribus omnia felicia, omnia fausta, omnia precor sancta.


Woody said...

Amen. Christ is born! Glorify him!

Mary Kay said...

Thank you, Fr. Hunwicke. That humble girl is hard to match, let alone best, by any modern or antique Medea... I hope someday that I will meet her and tell her so myself. That is, if I should even be allowed to line up in the queue of those hoping to thank her. Again, Merry Christmas (as we say this side of the pond)to all the Hunwickes!
Mary Jones