22 July 2009

S Frideswide: end of the story

... so Saint Frideswide prayed to S Margaret and S Catherine, who made a spring arise from the ground (the spring can still be seen at Binsey, a little country chapel which comes under my daughter church of S Frideswide) with the water of which S Frideswide cured her erstwhile suitor of his blindness (I bet he was more careful thereafter to practise Custody of the Eyes).

So were S Margaret and S Catherine the other two ladies in the arms of the See of Oxford? I'm not sure that my great predecessor Canon Thomas Chamberlain thought so, since in our Eucharistic Window he potrayed S Frideswide, S Margaret, and S Etheldreda - another Saxon royal virgin who preserved her chastity against onslaught (this time the importunities of no fewer than two husbands).

I don't know what you think about all these female saints - some of them a tadge mythical - who clutter up the Bollandist volumes and whose sanctity appears to lie at least partly in their heroic protection of their virginity. It's easy to call this dualist or paranoid; to complain about an unnecessary denigration of the holy estate of Matrimony; and to speculate along semifreudian lines. Perhaps all these points could, with profit, have been made in earlier generations. But in our culture, surely, a quite different point has to be made. We have a superstition that everybody is naturally going to express genitally the sexuality in which God has created them ... whatever their circumstances, whatever their orientation (... er ... unless, of course, God has created them as paedophiles, in which case, at least in this sceptred isle, our current instinct is to lynch them). The point which these Armoured Virgins - the mythical as well as the historical ones - make is that it is not compulsory or inevitable to be sexually active. Our Christian cult of Virginity teaches that if you want, or are called, to be a male or a female who is not committed irrevocably to another individual 'in bed and at board', the consequence is simple. You live a sexually abstinent life. The assumption around us is that since mechanical means exist whereby sexuality may now be divorced from commitment, we are all at liberty to be uncommitted and promiscuous. It is one of the most superbly crafted of the deceits of the Evil One.


Malcolm Kemp said...

You make some very good and valid points here, Father. Our current world seems obsessed with what other people are supposed to be doing in their private lives, and the church is no exception to this. My guess is that, probably both within and without the church, a far greater number of people have no interest in, or intention of getting involved in, sexual activity than gossips like to imply. Perhaps I am being incredibly naive but I don't think so. Chastity and celibacy are probably more widespread than some people like to imagine.

There is an old saying that those who do do and those who don't talk about doing. People who take an unhealthy interest in the sex lives of others are probably saying, by implication, more about their own selves than about the people they are gossiping about.

rev'd up said...

Fred Rogers (of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) - God rest his soul - wrote an excellent song in this vein. Here's the chorus:

You've got to do it.
Every little bit
You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you're through,
You can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Please, give it a listen here:


People have so very much trouble making up their mind. They must choose what they will do, do it and take the consequences. There is really no pretending what Christians should do. To the devil with the world's ethics, we must do what God wants. "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love."