fortitude and David temperance - and commends these to Christian clerics charged with setting their own souls in order.20 Elsewhere, Patrick, in his autobiographical Confession in the fifth century, depicts his own calling and mission as a fairly direct mimesis of the ministry of Paul. Like the apostle, Patrick has risen above a troubled past and received his commission directly from God. He has overcome doubters and scoffers and anticipates persecution in his ministry. He is a virtual slave to his calling. His mission is to all Gentiles. He experiences a vision and a voice drawing him to Ireland (cf. Acts 16.6-10). Patrick even mimics Paul's phrasing: 'I have God as my witness that I do not lie in what I tell you' (cf. Galatians 1.20).21

With greater intertextual complexity, the expanding hagiographical literature of late antiquity similarly looked to read the life and passion ofJesus and the biblical saints into the vitae of holy men and women who shared in Christ's mediation between the divine and human realms. The saint became a proxy of Christ, whose training of the body and mastery of its deeds re-enacted the condescension of divine incarnation and provided an icon for veneration and emulation. Though there are abundant examples in Syriac, Greek and Latin alike, a particularly adventurous one, rich in the interweaving of scriptural images and overtones, is Leontius of Neapolis' Life of the sixth-century ascetic Symeon the Holy Fool. What appears an outrageous lampooning of sanctity, Symeon's asceticism-in-reverse is actually a trenchant commentary on the scandal of the gospel embodied in the ministry of Jesus. Refusing the haven of the desert, Symeon dramatically enters the Syrian city of Emesa dragging a dead dog (a parody ofJesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey) and thereupon assails the cultic centre of the city by overturning tables. He performs lewd acts in public that are nonetheless intertwined with miraculous feats of exorcism, healing and benevolence. The ostensible charade disguises the saint's secret holiness and, when appropriately interpreted as an inversion, betrays the true prophetic witness of Symeon who, like Jesus, heaps scorn upon himself while casting judgment on the complacent earthly city.22

The more sophisticated the 'intertextual' interpretation, the richer the patterns of mimesis. The church's initiatory rituals, for example, constituted an intensive saturation in biblical typology, collapsing themes and interweaving images from Old and New Testaments so as to frame the Christian's baptism as an epitome of the whole antecedent drama of sacred history. The Gospels'

20 Ambrose, De officiis 1.25.117-1.29.142; 1.36.179-1.39.204; 1.43.219-1.45.230 (ed. Davidson, 184-200, 220-36, 242-50).

21 Saint Patrick: Confession et Lettre a Coroticus, eds. Hanson and Blanc, SC 249: 70-132.

22 Analysis and full translation in Derek Krueger, Symeon the Holy Fool.

0 0

Post a comment