19 October 2020

More on S Frideswide

So, hiding among her pigs, Saint Frideswide prayed to S Margaret and S Catherine, who made a spring arise from the ground (a Holy Well can still be seen at Binsey, restored by a Tractarian Vicar) with the water of which S Frideswide cured her erstwhile suitor of his blindness (I bet he was more careful thereafter to practise Custody of the Eyes).

So were S Margaret and S Catherine the other two ladies in the arms of the See of Oxford (see earlier post)? Probably, but I'm not sure that my great predecessor at S Thomas's, Canon Thomas Chamberlain, thought so, since in his famous Eucharistic Window he portrayed S Frideswide, S Margaret, and S Etheldreda - another Saxon royal virgin who preserved her chastity against onslaught (this time, the importunities of no fewer than two husbands).

I don't know what you think about those female saints - some of them a tadge legendary - who sprawl all over the Analecta Bollandiana and whose sanctity appears to lie at least partly in their heroic and determined protection of their virginity. It's easy to call this dualist or paranoid; to complain about an unnecessary denigration of the holy estate of Matrimony; even to speculate along Freudian lines. Just possibly some of these points could have been validly made in earlier generations. 

But in our culture, surely, a quite different point has to be made. Our Zeitgeist has its own novel superstition: that everybody is inevitably going to express genitally the sexuality about which they either say 'God has created me' or 'I have chosen this gender'. The point which all those Armoured Virgins - even the mythical as well as the historical ones - make is that it was and is neither compulsory nor inevitable to be sexually active. Our Christian cult of Virginity teaches that if you want, or, rather, are called, to be a male or a female who is not committed irrevocably to pursue fruitfulness with another individual 'in bed and at board', the consequence is simple. You offer up to God a sexually abstinent life. It is a privilege, rather than a disaster, to have such a divine vocation.

The assumption all around us now is that, since mechanical means exist whereby sexuality may now be divorced from both fertility and commitment, we are all at liberty to be uncommitted, sterile, and promiscuous. This preposterous nonsense is now solemnly enshrined in the 'laws' of this and many other lands. It is one of the most superbly crafted of the deceits of the Evil One. Day by day, it becomes increasingly clear that it is only in a culture which values Virginity and Celibacy that Matrimony itself can flourish ... paradoxical as that may seem to us.

During the 2014 Synod, the suggestion was made that the modern debates within the Church about Gender and Sexuality may be our equivalent of the debates in the first six Christian centuries about Christology. I think this is quite an acute observation. If it is true, this could mean that we have several centuries of the present mayhem in front of us.

Those who observe the pre-Pacelli rules and celebrate the solemnity of S Frideswide with a Privileged Octave, will have seven more days to meditate upon these matters!


Unknown said...

' ... it is only in a culture which values Virginity and Celibacy that Matrimony itself can flourish ...'.

Father Hunwicke, could you kindly point us in the direction of materials that would explain and elaborate on this? Thank you.

Banshee said...

Well, it makes sense, doesn't it? If a society values individual people -- not just their utility as breeders or sexual receptacles, but also for choosing God rather than man or woman -- then a marriage is not just something that happens and can unhappen. It is a holy state of life, a merger of two mighty beings of opposite sex.

Apropos not much, there's a UK youtube channel called CummingsYourWay that had a nice new video about Birmingham, with a stop by St. Chad's. If you have never watched this guy and his cameraman, they basically make normal town walks look like music videos and sound like philosophy majors with beer. Since (as an American) I pretty much expect the UK to look like an old episode of The Prisoner or Doctor Who, obviously this works for me!

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

... which is why the secular clergy ought not be allegedly bound to celibacy.