Today really proved to show how I should study the medieval church, and particular hagiography (saints’ lives). This morning in Latin, Maxwell-Stuart pointed out that today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and gave us two prayers to Mary in Latin for us to practice with. Somehow along the way I’ve managed to memorize most of them, so working with them in Latin was really fun. Then, after our Old English lesson, Christine started talking about the project she is working on, translating and editing an Anglo-Saxon martyrology. She said that the entry on Creation was funny because the writer said there were 153 types of fish. “153!” I asked. “I wonder if he got that from when Christ visits the disciples after–” (John 21:11) She exclaimed: “Exactly! Oh, you’re brilliant!” —which, didn’t really feel like it to me, because I’ve been reading the Bible since I was 8, and daily for over a decade, but she doesn’t know that. Then she said something about how the writer seemed to think that God only made fish and birds on the sixth day, and I mentioned that even modern translations say, “creatures of the sea” and “birds of the air” to indicate all animals, and she sat back in her chair and “Hmm’d” about it.
No, I don’t believe that there are only 153 types of fish, but I find it incredibly fascinating how someone in the medieval period would think so, and know why they thought so. This allowed me to write a 1300-word email to my friend John who’s a journeyman in Peru who asked me about certain Catholic beliefs regarding Mary. It being the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, I made sure to reply today and was surprised, and pleased, to find that I was able to give an explanation of the Immaculate Conception; the Great Chain of Being; and the history of Halloween, All Saints’, All Souls’, and Día de los Muertos, with only needing to double-check a couple details. It’s good to be reminded every now and then that I do know some things, when most of the time I feel like I’m so behind!
Another reason why I like saints’ tales: crazy stuff happens, but it’s okay, because God did it! In the Life of St Edmund, which we finished translating today, his head gets chopped off and hidden in the woods. So his people are searching through the woods so that they can find it to bury with his body, and they’re calling for it. And, even better, the head replies, “Here! Here! Here!” until they find it in the bushes. When they find it, the head is being guarded by a wolf, who has been protecting it from other wild animals. Now talk about awesome. 😉
On the subject of the medieval church, now that Latin and Old English are done for the day, I must hermit away to research and write my essay on medieval christology, the eucharist, and Margery Kempe and Nicholas Love—with maybe a bit on the Church thrown in (hey, it’s another form of the “body of Christ,” which is what my essay is about). I spent the weekend cleaning and stocking up on supplies, so my little den is ready for the long haul. I have the rest of T.H.I.N.G. to read as study breaks, and then Persephone to edit. My only concern is having to memorize a ton of Old English vocab by Monday but otherwise I should be okay. This weekend I learned that if you want something to happen, ask a missionary and a seminarian to pray for you, and so I ask again for energy and focus! Wish me luck!