The Grief of God: Images of the Suffering Jesus in Late Medieval England

By Ellen M. Ross | Go to book overview

Preface

For the medieval Christians considered in this book, the blood flowing from the wounds of Jesus Christ is the love of God literally poured out onto all humankind. Divine compassion rains down upon humanity in the shedding of Jesus Christ's blood, and viewers are invited, as The Prickynge of Love expresses it, to enter into the joy of the Godhead through the bloody wounds of Jesus' flesh. Drawing on artistic, literary, and devotional sources in late medieval England, I explore the transformative power of Jesus' wounded body as it manifests divine presence and love in the world.

The Crucifixion was not an event of the past for the authors and artists considered here; rather, it was a living sign of God's merciful love for humanity. I analyze how medieval persons were brought to new understandings of their relationship to God and to neighbor by encountering the bleeding flesh of the wounded Jesus. I further examine the lived, performative spiritualities by which believers imitated the suffering of Jesus. The spiritual authority gained by imitating the enfleshed God -- through sacramental life, prayers for the dead, liturgical role-playing, and even christological self-wounding -- enabled medieval Christians to function as powerful advocates for those who were seeking divine mercy.

My study explores the theological complexity and emotional sophistication of medieval piety. My concern is not with medieval theology per se but with analyzing the religious and cultural dimensions of medieval portrayals of the

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