User:Jahsonic/AHE/The Middle Ages/When the heart is full the tongue will speak
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Despite the fact that during the Middle Ages, the clergy considered sex a horror rather than a godsend, the fire of Eros burns with great intensity in the loins of our Church Fathers and nuns are challenged by regular bouts of passionate ecstasy. Penitential books of the 12th-century French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux and the 11th-century Italian theologian Peter Damian display a sincere but exaggerated hatred of sex, so exaggerated in fact that it cannot indicate but a dark and subconscious fascination with the matter. If one reads one of their works, one can not escape the impression that the abstinence these Church Fathers preach - and hopefully also abide by, albeit perhaps with varying degrees of success - demonstrates an irrational obsession with sex, which by today's standards appears unhealthy and almost pornographic in nature. But the renunciation of Eros also provides very lovely passages.
- "There seethed all around me a cauldron of lawless loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and I hated safety... To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness." --Confessions 3.1.1, translation by Edward Bouverie Pusey
And this sexual-religious obsession often found an outlet in unexpected places. Thus the Flemish 13th-century mystic and poet Hadewych describes herself as a passionate mistress of God:
- "On a certain Pentecost Sunday I had a vision at dawn. Matins were being sung in the church, and I was present. My heart and my veins and all my limbs trembled and quivered with eager desire and, as often occurred with me, such madness and fear beset my mind that it seemed to me I did not content my Beloved, and that my Beloved did not fulfil my desire, so that dying I must go mad, and going mad I must die. On that day my mind was beset so fearfully and so painfully by desirous love that all my separate limbs threatened to break, and all my separate veins were in travail. The longing in which I then was cannot be expressed by any language or any person I know and everything I could say about it would be unheard-of to all those who never apprehended Love as something to work for with desire, and whom Love had never acknowledged as hers. I can say this about it: I desired to have full fruition of my Beloved, and to understand and taste him to the full. --tr. Mother Columba Hart