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In: Demons and the Devil in Ancient and Medieval Christianity
In: Iconoclasm and Iconoclash
Author: Nienke Vos

In this article, three relatively recent works of popular spirituality are discussed with a focus on the appropriation of the Apophthegmata Patrum, the sayings of the desert fathers (and mothers). It is shown that such appropriation implies a complex dynamic of breaching and bridging as the critical, “breaching”, voice of the desert is called upon to bridge the gap between antiquity and modernity. The process of appropriation implies both the selection of specific texts and a favourable reading of the same. It is also informed by the formal training as well as the personal experience of the respective authors: Henri Nouwen, Anselm Grün, and Kathleen Norris. As the oscillation between ressourcement and aggiornamento is brought to bear on the congenial transplanting of ancient wisdom to the (post-)modern world, it becomes apparent that in these spiritual bestsellers the more problematic aspects of the desert are hardly ever breached themselves.

In: Religion and Theology
Author: Nienke Vos


This article presents a reflection on the function of liturgical scenes in hagiography. First, it considers two models representing the interface between liturgy and hagiography: ‘hagio­graphy in the liturgy’ (Rose) and ‘liturgy in hagiography’ (Rouwhorst). The former addresses the incorporation of hagiographic material in liturgical sources as well as the performative potential of both the liturgy and hagiographic texts. The latter focuses on liturgical material in hagiographic writings and, by extension, on hagiography as a Fundgrube for liturgical traditions. Both models highlight the important notion of performance. Next, through the lens of these two models, the article discusses four samples of hagiography: its treatment of Martyrium Polycarpi and Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis as well as the section on Vita Pauli and Vita Macrinae both juxtapose a liturgically stylised prayer and a narrative passage. Finally, my interpretation of the material is guided by the perspective of the text’s recipient, asking what the inclusion of liturgical scenes in hagiography might have effected. I suggest that an audience primed in liturgical experience would have responded intensely to the depiction of transforming rituals in sanctifying texts. Thus, the liturgical scenes in hagiography offer a gateway to emotional connection with the content of the text, thereby helping the readers/listeners participate in the saintly story, a process that mirrors the transformative potential of the liturgy.

In: Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals
In: Saints and Role Models in Judaism and Christianity
In: Rituals in Early Christianity
In: Rituals in Early Christianity
This collection of essays approaches the role of demons and the devil in ancient and medieval Christianity from a variety of scholarly perspectives: historical, philosophical, and theological as well as philological, liturgical, and theoretical. In the opening article Gerd Theissen presents a wide-ranging overview of the role of the devil, spanning the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and patristic literature. The contributions that follow address texts on the devil, demons, and evil, and are drawn from ancient philosophy, the New Testament, early Christian apologetics, hagiography, and history. Covering primarily the patristic period, the volume also contains articles on medieval sources. The introduction discusses the different angles of approach found in the articles in an effort to shed fresh light on this familiar but also uniquely troubling theme.