The Ordination Shift
It is now official: the coldest spring in fifty years. I am not the only gardener with sulking seedlings; I've had to restart some squash and cucumbers, because the early plants objected so strenuously to the cold and the wet that it became clear they would never grow properly.
A rather too-obvious analogy could be drawn with religious institutions, but I will draw it anyway. I'm reading a fascinating and extremely sensible book called The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West Gary Macy OUP 2008 (New York), which points out that ordination meant something entirely different in the first millennium than it did in the second, when—these are not his words but mine—in the twelfth century the criteria for ordination were changed and ordination itself redefined to fit in with Paschasius' now-accepted and imposed magic cookie theology.
So much of the noise surrounding women's ordination has been spurious, as Macy points out in his careful discussion. There has been anachronistic application of standards regularized as late as 1947 to first millennium ordinations.
This radical change of the goal posts, as it were, goes hand-in-hand with many other historical tendencies that started even before Charlemagne, however. Re-reading Peter Brown's Rise of Western Christendom concerning Columbanus and Boniface has reiterated for me how the arrogance of these preachers from the north, who did not seem to care if their interpretations had any continuity with what historically was the case (especially in regard to the Desert Fathers and Mothers), laid the groundwork for the destruction of the paradise notion of Christianity which had hitherto prevailed, and for the distancing of heaven and objectification of Christ, and the massive psychological shift in general from a theology of beholding to one of solipsism. It is all too eerily like what Margaret Barker describes happened to the First Temple, its destruction by Josiah; and if that weren't enough, Brown includes a document that shows that Charlemagne indeed thought of himself as the new Josiah, and that his purpose in life was to impose conformity in all things religious, no matter how disconnected they were with older forms of Christianity, or how much they reflected magic, not sacrament, or the rituals associated with expressing an appropriate human relationship with the ecology, which it often took for magic.
It is, of course, quite a complex picture, but what is clear is that Paschasius didn't arrive out of a vacuum: he and his 'theology' (read magic) mark, rather, the birth of a grotesque that was, perhaps, the inevitable spawn of the misalliances that had gone before.
I've now finished drafts of five and seven-eights chapters of the new book, which I have sent off, with not a little fear and trembling, to the publisher I hope will do the book. I'm looking forward to writing the last of the historical chapters, the one that discusses the above issues. That will bring me to the end of Part I, and since Part II is much more my own interpretation based on the two ways of knowing model, I'm hoping that I can finish the book by the end of the summer, if not the end of the year.
So, dear Readers, please keep me in your prayers and if you have any issues you'd like me to address in the book, I'd like to hear about them.