The Grief of God

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

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Between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries images of a wounded and bloody Christ proliferated in England, appearing in sermons, drama, church decorations, and spiritual treatises. Some scholars see these graphic portrayals of suffering as signs of a new emphasis on Jesus's humanity, while others see renewed emphasis on a terrifying God of vengeance. Ross, however, argues that these explanations have misunderstood the nature of medieval attitudes toward the suffering Christ. Analysing a wide range of textual and pictorial evidence, she finds that in their encounters with the wounded Jesus - the Saviour whose blood nurtures, feeds, and heals human persons - medieval believers found the God of mercy and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 214 pages
  • 161.5 x 238.3 x 20.6mm | 567g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 24 pp halftones
  • 019510451X
  • 9780195104516

Back cover copy

Graphic portrayals of the suffering Jesus Christ pervade late medieval English art, literature, drama, and theology. These images have been interpreted as signs of a new emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. To others they indicate a fascination with a terrifying God of vengeance and a morbid obsession with death. In The Grief of God, however, Ellen Ross offers a different understanding of the purpose of this imagery and its meaning to the people of the time. Analyzing a wide range of textual and pictorial evidence, the author finds that the bleeding flesh of the wounded Savior manifests divine presence; in the intensified corporeality of the suffering Jesus whose flesh not only condemns, but also nurtures, heals, and feeds, believers meet a trinitarian God of mercy. Ross explores the rhetoric of transformation common to English medieval artistic, literary, and devotional sources. The extravagant depictions of pain and anguish, the author shows, constitute an urgent appeal to respond to Jesus' expression of love. She also explains how the inscribing of Christ's pain on the bodies of believers at times erased the boundaries between human and divine so that holy persons, and in particular, holy women, participated in the transformative power of Christ. This interdisciplinary study of sermon literature, manuscript illuminations and church wall paintings, drama, hagiographic narratives, and spiritual treatises illuminates the religious sensibilities, practices, and beliefs that constellate around the late medieval fascination with the bleeding body of the suffering Jesus more

Review quote

The material of Helen Ross's book is compelling and not less so for its distance from us. Ellen Ross has some good remarks to make on the technique of remembrance which leads from contrition to compassion to longing.- Peter Cramer - Revue D'Histoire Ecclesiastique 94#1-99show more