Sunday, September 16, 2012

What We Can Learn from the Middle Ages

I don't really know enough about the Crusades to make a correlation between today's politics and the last time the West was at war with Islamic countries.  But I do love Medieval literature, and particularly the plays from Quem Queritas through Everyman.  It was a time when Catholic themes were expected in drama.  More time should be spent sharing these tales and plays with young students.

I love the pictures I see in my mind as I read.  Sir Gawain rides forth to face what he believes is certain death at the hands of the Green Knight.  On his shield is a Pentacle to represent the Five Wounds of Christ, the Five jJoys of Mary, and the Five Decades of the rosary.  On the inside of his shield is a painting of the Blessed Virgin holding the Child  Jesus.  He travels alone, beginning after Mass on All Saints Day, and ending at a strange castle after praying for a place to hear Mass on Christmas Eve.  This is a warrior of incredible virtue.  He is a model for us in this wild age.

I love the Castle of Perseverance.  From his birth, Man is lured by the temptations of the World.  He is distracted by Flesh, and responds to Lechery.  The Devil shows Man his best offers, and Man is drawn to Covetousness.  In the end, Man struggles free with the help of God and resides in Perseverance until he departs from this life.

I even enjoy the very obscure plays of Hrosvitha.  She was an Icelandic nun who rewrote the plays of Plautus to entertain the sisters in the convent.  She clearly enjoyed a good laugh.

At a time in which our Catholic faith is rocked by schism and heresy akin to the Protestant Reformation, and we are at war with Islam as we were during the Crusades, I recommend taking time to look back at the literature of the Middle Ages.  Perhaps we will hear the angels telling us not to look for Jesus in the tomb, as they do in Quem Queritas.  Or maybe we will, like Everyman, find we are carrying Good Deeds with us to our final judgement.  Hopefully our Good Deeds will be more robust than the character in Everyman.
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