Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nutus Divinus, or, Everything Depends on Seeing Each Other

I am teaching The Life of Christina of Markyate tomorrow and this passage catches my eye as incredibly relevant to much that was said at the friendship panel:

"The virgin of God lay prostrate in the old man's chapel, with her face turned to the ground. The man of God stepped over her with his face averted in order not to see her. But as he passed by he looked over his shoulder to see how modestly the handmaid of Christ had composed herself for prayer, as this was one of the things whic he thought those who pray ought to observe. Yet she, at the same instant, glanced upwards to appraise the bearing and deportment of the old man, for in these she considered that some trace of his great holiness was apparent. And so they saw each other, not by design and yet not by chance, but, as afterwards became clear, by the divine will [divino nuto]. For if they had not had a glimpse of each other, neither would have presumed to live with the other in the confined space of that cell: they would not have dwelt together : they would not have been stimulated by such heavenly desire, nor would they have attained such a lofty place in heaven. The fire, namely, which had been kindled by the spirit of God and burned in each one of them cast its sparks into their hearts by the grace of that mutual glance [gratia mutue visionis]: and so made one in heart and soul in chastity and charity in Christ, they were not afraid to dwell together under the same roof" (ed. and tr. Talbot, 101-3, my italics).

Cf. a passage Eileen cited here: "Claustrophilia . . . names the love that lights up a body, building, or book, from within, acknowledging what is discrete and irreconcilable in the beloved as the effect of one's own appropriative, organizing gaze. Relinquishing that desire for appropriation, one sees each former object in light of another, and thus beyond the logic of objectification: a light, hermeneutic and mnemonic, always refracted, always coming from elsewhere" (Howie, Claustrophilia, 151-52).

Claustrophiliac friendship, the love of/in enclosure, is ocular, a mutual dwelling housed in the projection of the eye's, our eyes', containment of the world.

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