Monday, July 23, 2007

Yet another fabulous woman: Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373)

Those fabulous women show up faster than I can keep up with them!

Today is the feast of Birgitta of Sweden. We are all over the map this week, from the Mediterranean land of Israel yesterday to the Northern climes of Scandinavia today. Actually, just in one day, since Mary of Magdala got displaced and moved to today, thus displacing Birgitta of Sweden, whose real feast day it is. (Not a bad matron saint to have, JohnieB.) Here's James Kiefer's take on Birgitta of Sweden. Manuscript of Birgitta's Revelations, in her own hand (as opposed to the hand of one of her confessors, see below).

I want to pay tribute to Swedish-born, U.S.-dwelling scholar Brita Stendahl, who first introduced me to Birgitta, and to British-born, Italy-dwelling Julia Bolton Holloway, who coined the term "Mystics' Internet" to speak of the 14th century women of Europe who, remarkably in an age where travel and letter-writing were slower and more risky than in later centuries, kept up with each other and enriched each other's visions. And they weren't just mystics. Some, like Birgitta and Catherine of Siena, were church activists and most of them also cared for the poor and sick. Have a look here at what Julia Holloway writes. There is a nice little essay on Birgitta there, too.

And I just realized I forgot Olga and Vladimir, who got displaced on yet another Sunday, July 15. The liturgical calendar is just too, too busy this summer. How's a woman supposed to keep up? I feel a little book coming on: Praying July: A Retreat with Strong and Holy Women. Shall I write it? Little beach or mountain book for people to take on vacation with them.

About that manuscript, above:

From the National Library of Sweden, via the European Library website:
Recently St. Birgitta of Sweden became a patroness of Europe together with two other female saints. St. Birgitta, the only woman canonised in the fourteenth century (1391), was already during her lifetime (1303-1373) one of the most intriguing persons in Europe. Through her revelations - Revelaciones - she tried to influence ecclesiastical life in Rome as well as the politics of the European royal courts. In most cases her revelations were written down in Latin by her confessors, but there are two unique documents in which Birgitta herself has written down two of her revelations in Swedish. The smaller autograph (B) is depicted above. The beginning of the text reads 'fyrst vil iac Þik sighia huru Þik aeru andelik understandilse gifin sea oc hora' i.e. 'First I want to tell you how you are given spiritual understanding to see and hear', which in the Latin version is rendered 'intelligentia spiritualium visionum' i.e. 'the understanding of spiritual visions'. The Latin text is found in the Revelaciones, book VIII, chapter 56. It is the Virgin Mary who turns to Birgitta in an apparition and speaks to her. This particular revelation, probably from 1361, had political implications in Sweden at the time. In the revelation St. Birgitta turns to four instigators, mentioned by name, giving them instructions for a rebellion against the Swedish King Magnus. Later, when the revelation was translated into Latin, some changes to the content had been made in order to suit readers in other parts of Europe. The king’s name, for instance, does not appear in the Latin version. As regards the manuscript itself, at some time the names of the four instigators have been erased. The erasing can clearly be seen at the end of line 11 in the text above.

The highlighting is mine. --JCR


johnieb said...

Indeed; it sounds like it. Why do we notice these Saints so little, other than being female and Swedish?

Jane R said...

Well, it's a busy life and we barely notice our neighbors, let alone saints on a church calendar...

Hey, do you think I should write that little July women saints book?

How was your birthday? Did you really have duck? (and with what wine did you pair it?)

johnieb said...

It was Hunan Duck, and as delightful as ever. I no longer drink wine casually, but my best take would be maybe a nice young Cotes-du Rhone or Minvervois from a reputable maker; Pinot Noir just doesn't seem right, and Butterfly's list simply isn't that sophisticated. I usually drink Tsing Tsao with "Chinese" food: Hunan, Szechuan, Cantonese, etc.

I got a couple of very nice 2002 Nuits Saint-Georges bottles about a month ago, so I'm not sneering at Pinot Noir; I'm maybe getting fussier?

Only July? A slower deeper soak in the riches I'm discovering through you and da Padre and Kiefer and who knows who all else seems like a good approach. Does it sound appealing to me? Surely you are joking.

Thanks for the diversion; I'm waiting on a call from Maman's attending Physician.