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By Cate Gunn

Ancrene Wisse and Vernacular Spirituality within the heart a long time is an creation to the Ancrene Wisse—an vital thirteenth-century advisor for recluses who, for non secular purposes, withdrew from secularity so one can lead an ascetic and  prayer-oriented lifestyles. This quantity considers the large spiritual context during which the Ancrene Wisse used to be written and broadens that context via addressing problems with readership, drawing comparisons among lay piety and sermons, and hard many of the long-held perspectives on Ancrene Wisse’s particularly lady readership, articulating a spot for the monastic vintage within the constructing literature of vernacular spirituality.

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The sacrament of the Mass was understood to be a re-enactment of the passion and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as the words used recalled the Last Supper; those who received the Eucharist were partaking in his death, and so in his resurrection. Eamon Duffy points out that this ‘implied an enormously high doctrine of priesthood’,6 a consequence expressed by Francis of Assisi: ‘How holy, and virtuous, and worthy should not a priest be; he touches Christ with his own hands . . 9 After the consecration, the Host could be raised and the presence of God gazed at and adored:10 most lay people may not have taken communion more than once a year, but whenever they attended Mass they believed themselves to be in the real presence of God.

34 42 02Wisse Pt 1 13/12/07 9:49 Page 43 ANCHORITES AND BEGUINES The attraction of a way of life that was independent of marriage needs to be balanced by an appreciation of the spirituality and religiosity of these women; economic factors are not sufficient to explain the rise of the women’s religious movement in the thirteenth century. 35 Hoornaert, in his introduction to the rule of the Bruges Beguinage, argues that it is time to abandon the romantic notion that these women were widows or young waifs and strays seeking a refuge from the world: ‘The contrary is true.

The more painfully they part, the more He gives her. ’19 Nevertheless, Mechthild approached the altar with a reverence and awe amounting to fear; she chastized her fellow beguines for taking communion ‘out of blind habit’: ‘Now I, who am the least amongst you, must feel shame, sweat and tremble. ’21 The association between the sacrament of the altar and the death of Christ on the cross allows this dwelling on the bloody 33 02Wisse Pt 1 13/12/07 9:49 Page 34 THE RELIGIOUS CONTEXT fleshliness of the sacrifice; the bloody lamb was also present in a vision Mechthild had of John the Baptist celebrating Mass, when the wafers were transformed into a bleeding lamb hanging from a red cross.

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