Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity

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9780801452536: Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity

A magnificent proliferation of new Christ-centered devotional practices―including affective meditation, imitative suffering, crusade, Eucharistic cults and miracles, passion drama, and liturgical performance―reveals profound changes in the Western Christian temperament of the twelfth century and beyond. This change has often been attributed by scholars to an increasing emphasis on God's embodiment in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. In Holy Matter, Sara Ritchey offers a fresh narrative explaining theological and devotional change by journeying beyond the human body to ask how religious men and women understood the effects of God’s incarnation on the natural, material world. She finds a remarkable willingness on the part of medieval Christians to embrace the material world―its trees, flowers, vines, its worms and wolves―as a locus for divine encounter.

Early signs that perceptions of the material world were shifting can be seen in reformed communities of religious women in the twelfth-century Rhineland. Here Ritchey finds that, in response to the constraints of gendered regulations and spiritual ideals, women created new identities as virgins who, like the mother of Christ, impelled the world’s re-creation―their notion of the world’s re-creation held that God created the world a second time when Christ was born. In this second act of creation God was seen to be present in the physical world, thus making matter holy. Ritchey then traces the diffusion of this new religious doctrine beyond the Rhineland, showing the profound impact it had on both women and men in professed religious life, especially Franciscans in Italy and Carthusians in England. Drawing on a wide range of sources including art, liturgy, prayer, poetry, meditative guides, and treatises of spiritual instruction, Holy Matter reveals an important transformation in late medieval devotional practice, a shift from metaphor to material, from gazing on images of a God made visible in the splendor of natural beauty to looking at the natural world itself, and finding there God’s presence and promise of salvation.

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About the Author:

Sara Ritchey is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Review:

"Ritchey is carefully attentive to detail yet her narrative flows seamlessly, making what could be dense or difficult territory a much more pleasant read. I appreciate that readers who are not specialists in this area could enter into and engage her thinking. Graduate students and scholars interested in the Speculum virginum, Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Carthusians Marguerite of Oingt and Bruno of Cologne, Dominican Henry Suso, affective meditation, as well as medieval studies, women's spirituality and monastic studies will find this a useful source."―Laura Swan, Magistra (Winter 2014)



"Ritchey's attention to the spiritual themeof God’s infusion into, and hence redemption of, creation will be an importantcounter both to those who see the period as characterized by concentration onsuffering and sacrifice and to those who emphasize discipline, even abuse, of thephysical human body in its ascetic practice."―Caroline Walker Bynum, Common Knowledge (Jan 2016)



"In Holy Matter, Sara Ritchey examines the place of natural language and imagery in the devotional practices of medieval women and men, highlighting the centrality of the created world in liturgy, architecture, art, and devotional texts from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. In so doing, she brings together the seemingly contradictory realms of the created world and the spirit."―Fiona Griffiths, New York University, author of The Garden of Delights: Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century



"In this spirited study of the imaginative theology of the Middle Ages, Sara Ritchey calls attention to late medieval developments in the ancient doctrine of re-creation―developments that led religious men and women to train themselves in faith to see the things of the natural world differently. Reclaimed, reordered, and sanctified by God through the Incarnation and the tree of Christ's cross, local flora and fauna thus appeared to their eyes not merely as signs of the Creator and proof of his existence but also as sacraments of the divine presence. Recovering this spiritual hermeneutic through a focus on arboreal imagery, Ritchey offers a refreshing corrective to the commonplace view of medieval spirituality as anxiously distrustful of the physical senses and of material things."―Ann W. Astell, University of Notre Dame, author of Eating Beauty: The Eucharist and the Spiritual Arts of the Middle Ages

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A magnificent proliferation of new Christ-centered devotional practices--including affective meditation, imitative suffering, crusade, Eucharistic cults and miracles, passion drama, and liturgical performance--reveals profound changes in the Western Christian temperament of the twelfth century and beyond. This change has often been attributed by scholars to an increasing emphasis on God s embodiment in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. In Holy Matter, Sara Ritchey offers a fresh narrative explaining theological and devotional change by journeying beyond the human body to ask how religious men and women understood the effects of God s incarnation on the natural, material world. She finds a remarkable willingness on the part of medieval Christians to embrace the material world--its trees, flowers, vines, its worms and wolves--as a locus for divine encounter. Early signs that perceptions of the material world were shifting can be seen in reformed communities of religious women in the twelfth-century Rhineland. Here Ritchey finds that, in response to the constraints of gendered regulations and spiritual ideals, women created new identities as virgins who, like the mother of Christ, impelled the world s re-creation--their notion of the world s re-creation held that God created the world a second time when Christ was born. In this second act of creation God was seen to be present in the physical world, thus making matter holy. Ritchey then traces the diffusion of this new religious doctrine beyond the Rhineland, showing the profound impact it had on both women and men in professed religious life, especially Franciscans in Italy and Carthusians in England. Drawing on a wide range of sources including art, liturgy, prayer, poetry, meditative guides, and treatises of spiritual instruction, Holy Matter reveals an important transformation in late medieval devotional practice, a shift from metaphor to material, from gazing on images of a God made visible in the splendor of natural beauty to looking at the natural world itself, and finding there God s presence and promise of salvation. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780801452536

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A magnificent proliferation of new Christ-centered devotional practices--including affective meditation, imitative suffering, crusade, Eucharistic cults and miracles, passion drama, and liturgical performance--reveals profound changes in the Western Christian temperament of the twelfth century and beyond. This change has often been attributed by scholars to an increasing emphasis on God s embodiment in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. In Holy Matter, Sara Ritchey offers a fresh narrative explaining theological and devotional change by journeying beyond the human body to ask how religious men and women understood the effects of God s incarnation on the natural, material world. She finds a remarkable willingness on the part of medieval Christians to embrace the material world--its trees, flowers, vines, its worms and wolves--as a locus for divine encounter. Early signs that perceptions of the material world were shifting can be seen in reformed communities of religious women in the twelfth-century Rhineland. Here Ritchey finds that, in response to the constraints of gendered regulations and spiritual ideals, women created new identities as virgins who, like the mother of Christ, impelled the world s re-creation--their notion of the world s re-creation held that God created the world a second time when Christ was born. In this second act of creation God was seen to be present in the physical world, thus making matter holy. Ritchey then traces the diffusion of this new religious doctrine beyond the Rhineland, showing the profound impact it had on both women and men in professed religious life, especially Franciscans in Italy and Carthusians in England. Drawing on a wide range of sources including art, liturgy, prayer, poetry, meditative guides, and treatises of spiritual instruction, Holy Matter reveals an important transformation in late medieval devotional practice, a shift from metaphor to material, from gazing on images of a God made visible in the splendor of natural beauty to looking at the natural world itself, and finding there God s presence and promise of salvation. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780801452536

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