PASSIONATE SPIRITUALITY: Hildegard of Bingen and Hadewijch of Brabant

Elizabeth Dreyer, Author
Elizabeth Dreyer, Author . Paulist $16.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8091-4304-7
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Ever since Aristotle, Western culture has divorced emotion from reason and body from soul. Thanks to Paul and Augustine, the Christian tradition has associated passion with unbridled and lustful sex and often vilified women as creatures of passion who use the wiles of their bodies to seduce men away from reason. Thus, Christian writers have viewed with suspicion any traces of passion in the religious life. In her spirited, but sometimes pedantic, study, Dreyer, a Fairfield University religious studies professor, ardently restores passion to its central role in the spiritual life. Beginning with the Greeks, she traces the history of the idea of passion in the West, focusing especially on its presence in biblical texts from the Psalms to Song of Songs and the ways in which early Christian writers such as Origen viewed it positively. Dreyer then explores the depths of desire with which two medieval women mystics, Hildegard of Bingen and Hadewijch of Brabant, passionately sought God. The writings of these women reveal not only an intense longing for union with Christ, often expressed in erotic and affectionate language, but also a recognition that their quest is both intellectual and emotional. While Dreyer offers little new about Hildegard or Hadewijch, she uses their lives and work to fervently revive passion in the spiritual life. (Mar. 30)

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