Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Medieval Piety Essay -- essays research papers

Religion in the Middle Ages takes on a character all of its own as it is lived out differently in the lives of medieval men and women spanning from ordinary laity to vehement devotees. Though it is difficult to identify what the average faith consists of in the Middle Ages, the life told of a radical devotee in The Book of Margery Kempe provides insight to the highly intense version of medieval paths of approaching Christ. Another medieval religious text, The Cloud of Unknowing, provides a record of approaching the same Christ. I will explore the consistencies and inconsistencies of both ways to approach Christ and religious fulfillment during the Middle Ages combined with the motivations to do so on the basis of both texts. A central component of medieval religion that is evident in even the slightest dissection of the life of Margery Kempe or the directed discipline from the author advising contemplation is an unmistakable desire for religious experience. Even among married men and women who are occupied with family responsibilities, lay people during this time such as we see in the life of Margery herself are seeking more intense religious ways of living. Margery, as the example, lived with her husband with whom she had fourteen children. Growing up influenced by the church, her spirituality came to a heightened level when she and her Jesus began having actual communication with one another. While the church was catalyzing religious experience in medieval communities, upon the realization of direct mystical connection with Christ in the lives of people such as Margery, the desire for the inward search for spiritual satisfaction spread. Another tendency of those practicing religion in the Middle Ages is to take Jesus' words from the Bible to a new literal level affecting medieval lifestyles across the board. Where monks and nuns had typically been the only observers of chastity, fasting, and poverty, laity began to observe these life practices as well. In Margery Kempe's life, this apodictic understanding of Jesus' biblically recorded or spoken words is evident among her commitment to make vows of chastity, her desire to embark on long pilgrimages, and her steps of unquestionable obedience as she advances on her spiritual journey. The absolute submission of Margery and the dedication to perfect contemplation in The Cloud of Unknowing which warns, â€Å"†¦y... ...Jesus commands to Margery the contrary saying on one occasion â€Å"†¦go again to her husband and pray him to grant her what she desired† (Windeatt, 59). Margery lived well aware of her desires and, though they often caused temporary conflict such as her chastity, did not neglect herself to such extremes as hiding the desires of her heart or the absence of knowledge. Similarly of the two texts, the practice of contemplation suggests that one comes to know God on the basis of both intellect and emotions. Margery clearly understands this emotional tie to the divine in her relation to the passion of both Christ and Mary and her sufferings on the behalf of them both. Though most probably did not practice their faith as devoutly as Margery Kempe, the central concerns of her life coupled with the practices taught in The Cloud of Unknowing reveal a faith that is defining of Medieval Christianity. Both texts act as a mirror reflecting the Middle Ages and come down to a same key ingredient: desire. Never has there been a time like the Middle Ages where the prevalent desire to physically and emotionally experience the truths of religion was so widespread and evident in the lives of Christians.

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