How can you believe the lives of the saints?
The lives of the saints are incredibly beautiful. The girls run away from their homes, making fun of the suitors and fathers, the fire does not take their bodies, the young men refuse to kill and smile when they are led to death. The corpses of the saints disappear from the tombs. Pigeons bring flowers and leaves of the trees that send messages from the Lord to God's elect. Their graves move in space.
Holy virgins. Fragment of Ghent altar painting. Brothers van Eycky, XVth century
No, to believe that Jesus walked on water, you can still. This is God. But the saints are closer to us in time. They are just like us humans, they are not even in the Bible.
Is it possible to believe that the body of the saint walked and preached without a head?
Do you believe the people who claim to seriously believe these stories?
Lives are stories about the lives of Christians, who from generation to generation, most often verbally, passed people to each other. Like every story transmitted through time, the story of the saint has undergone changes.
To make the meaning of the story, its most significant moments preserved in generations, these moments were encoded into symbols.
The symbol appeared as a way to replace something complex that cannot be accurately preserved under conditions when not all the letter is still available – in an accessible and bright way.
What is easier is to explain the girl’s complex and deeply personal relationship with herself and with the Lord, the structure of her inner world, the reasons for which she understood at some point: you need to come to your parents and say directly: “I won’t marry because dedicated herself to Christ ", show those, according to Dostoevsky, the contradictions and the lines of soul and thought with which she saw – to be a martyr to her; or to say: “three birds flew into the window one after another — a pigeon with an olive branch, an eagle with a wreath and a raven with a snake, which meant chastity, height of spirit, and sadness”?
Sometimes the reason for the appearance of a bright symbol was not the desire to briefly identify the complex, without detracting from its depth. People's mind tends to expressive images.
How to show the fierce desire with which the preacher went, despite the persecution and fear of execution, on foot and easily dressed in other countries?
We can say that he was walking, despite the fact that he had already been executed – his head was cut off.
Yes, folk thought was not embarrassed by such images.
We do not know for certain whether the martyrs sang songs when they went to their execution, but we guess: of course they sang. We love them, so we sang.
Husepe Ribera. Holy Inessa. XVII century.
Tradition reports on Saint Agnes. A young girl grew up in her parents' house and wanted to devote her life to God without getting married. But she was so beautiful that the son of the local prefect wanted to marry her. Of course, Agnes rejected his offer, for which they began to interrogate her, and, finding out that Agnes was a Christian, they began to force sacrifices to the gods. For refusal, the girl was placed in a brothel. As soon as the saint was stripped, her hair instantly grew and covered the whole body. When one of the men wanted to touch her, he lost the desire and, disgraced, he left the brothel. The son of the prefect touched the girl and died.
In most of the lives of the girls strikingly beautiful. In the folk view, outer beauty is a sign of inner beauty; The positive character of any fairy tale, any were beautiful.
In women's lives, the frequent (almost unchanged) motive is the inclination to marriage, opposition to the father and family, the clan (Focla the Iconian, Barbara Iliopolskaya, Saint Eugenia, Saint Juliana).
Young celibate saints are inclined to marry along with their father most often a representative of the government or the son of a representative of the government (a father-government bond). Coercion to sex and marriage in living thought is associated with the powerful of this world, with earthly authorities.
It is important that each life exists not only as a work of art, not only as an aesthetically beautiful text. This is always an acute social story. They reflect how early Christians treated paganism, the family, money, property, health, power, and so on.
Often – the transition from the inclination to marriage to the inclination to the sacrifice of the pagan gods. We see a bunch of "sex – power – paganism."
The hair of the saint grew back in an instant. In our materialistic view – a clear miracle. Hair in the national consciousness has always been a symbol of strength (long braids for women, a beard for men). The girl protests against encroaching on her virginity, her subjectivity so violently, with such force that her body miraculously conceals her hair.
In men, the attraction disappears (read, the erection disappears) and they leave the brothel with shame. Explicit mockery of traditional masculinity. The strongest of the world, men, are defeated by their own weapons, they are betrayed by the subject of their own pride – trying to shame a girl, they are ashamed of themselves. The girl is in foreign walls, on foreign territory is not ashamed: the son of the prefect (a man, a representative of power) touches her – and dies.
Next, Agnes resurrects the hapless groom and, like a witch, is thrown into a fire. A bonfire refuses to flare up, and the saint is killed by the sword.
Bonfire refuses to flare up – again a miracle, "this can not be." Maybe if the fire does not inflame because the fire is needed in order to burn the witch. In the popular mind. The saint cannot be killed by what the witches are killing, the clergymen (the cult, however, spoke earlier in this life – when the heroine was asked to make sacrifices to the gods, and now suddenly they want to be burned at the stake – what a contradiction, but the life could be edited for centuries) . Therefore, the girl, as a noble warrior, kills the sword.
A Muslim girlfriend asked me why preachers of antiquity used obviously unbelievable images – angels in the clouds, stairs to heaven? That is why.
Images do not exist in the lives only "for beauty", they always refer to some fact from reality. Hair grows because the girl violently resists violence, the fire does not take her because she is holy, not a witch.
Reading the lives, we simultaneously learn the stories of the living and living people and read those contradictions, those bright, aiming images that made the Christian world so different from the pagan world.
It is important that each of the saints has days of remembrance. The saints are not just illustrations of the fact that the desire for truth will tear a person out of his paternal home, from a violent marriage, from a quiet, resigned existence. The saints are living and living people. We remember them, we draw and store their images, not also deprived of symbolism. They left us, but they are still with us. We do not “pray to the saints,” as Protestants and Muslims say, we pray with the saints, remember their birthdays and days of death.
Also in the Church there is a custom in which many saints are attributed to the area of human existence, with which they patronize. In the popular consciousness, this has been broken as “Saint Antipas cures teeth,” for example.
The meaning is that the saint burned his life trail of fire in one or another sphere of human existence, showing a glaring contrast between the customs of the world and the customs of the future – the customs of people involved in the experience of the Church. He does not treat his teeth – he is the most vivid example of how a person involved in the experience of the Church relates to physical and health, to the health of his neighbor.
How many friends we have, how much we are not alone, if from the ancient pictures our peers look at us – they are joyful with the same joy as we do.
How many sisters each girl has, who resist the fact that they see her only as an object of lust or someone's future womb.
How many brothers each young man has who does not want to admit that without demonstrating “male power”, without adherence to the idols of this world, he is nobody.
How joyful, pure our time is – every day of the year – the day of remembrance of one of our dear comrades in Christ, to be worthy.
The church is not a text consisting of instructions, prohibitions and events in chronological order. This is a fundamental point. The church is not an intertext. Church – people, community of people. Eyes of friends looking at us from icons.
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