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«RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES: SUBJECTIVITY AND ALTERITY IN THE CHANSON DE ROLAND by Normand Raymond Bachelor of Arts, Laurentian University, 2001 Master of ...»

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This obedience to God`s will is implicit in the double injunction to “till the soil” and obey the Law, which have been interpreted by Augustine as indications of man’s need to orient his being towards God: “Car même que l’homme travaille la terre pour la rendre belle et féconde, ainsi Dieu travaille l’homme pour le rendre saint, à condition que l’homme ne s’éloigne pas de lui par l’orgueil qui est apostasie… Parce que l’homme est un être changeant dans l’âme et le corps, il ne peut être formé pour devenir saint et bienheureux qu’à condition de se tourner toujours vers Dieu qui est le bien immuable”. Augustin ‘De Genesi ad litteram’, in Bible Chrétienne. Vol I, Commentaires, Éditions Anne Sigier, Sainte-Foy Québec, 1989, p. 46.

Tob, en effet, ne qualifie pas une beauté esthétique ou une valeur interne. Tob exprime la capacité de la creature à remplir les espérances de son Créateur. Par conséquent, la bonté est caractérisée par l’ordre dans le désordre (le ‘sans ordre’), un ordre établi par Dieu et qui devient opérant, pour ainsi dire, grâce au partenaire humain de Dieu 15.

Secondly, despite the fact that these two passages represent Yahvistic and Sacerdotal theologies respectively, they both emphasize a type of primordial unity. All human beings have descended from a first, original pair of beings. I believe that something of this unity of being is exactly what Adam is hinting at when he states: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”16. Likewise, all descendants from this original pair, will be, bone of their bones, and flesh of their flesh17. That Adam would manifest joy at seeing this fellow creation, this “second self”, is evident in the very words he utilizes to describe her.

I would contend that what the biblical narrative is suggesting, aside from any kind of split in humanity along lines of sexual diversity, is that all future differences, whatever they may be, originate from this one fundamental somatic homogeneity18. All future creatures are bounded to this one original couple. From these two bodies, from these two forms, all other bodies and human forms shall descend. There is male and there is female. There is Adam and Eve and all of the humans to come. Yet all of this diversity is one.

I would like to suggest that this diversity is unified both in terms of its being, and by its theological orientation. The meaning of the original unity of Adam and Eve in God’s Creation, André LaCocque/Paul Ricoeur, Penser la Bible, texte d’André LaCocque traduit de l’américain par Aline Patte et revu par l’auteur, Éditions du Seuil, collection Essais, Paris, 1998, p. 20.

Gn 2, 23.

As the exegete H. Renckens s.j. has noted: “ Il y a diverses races humaines, mais dans l’ensemble de la création de l’humanité s’impose comme une unité : elle forme un groupe bien délimité. … Ce qui fait un seul couple, un home et une femme. Ils sont à l’origine de toute l’humanité”. La bible et les origines du monde. Genèse 1-3, traduit du néerlandais et adapté par A. de Brouwer, Desclée, Bruxelles, 1964, p. 153.

What Renckens has called the “ligne de pensée monogéiste de l’histoire du paradis”. La bible et les origines du monde. Genèse 1-3, p. 153.

that meaning which is suggested in the Book of Genesis, will be echoed and re-echoed in further biblical narratives stressing the uniform moral dimensions that arise from just such a unity. 19 To these, one must add the presence of theological dimensions, wherein faithfulness of service and devotion to God are represented in terms of an unbroken and unbreakable bond of marital unity20. Not only do Adam and Eve form a pair, but the fruits of this coupling already-always belong to Christ-God, to whom obedience and faithful service are required. These “genetic” passages in Genesis suggest that the unity to be conceived through Adam and Eve is that of Creation itself, and of the human genealogy (the type that is so obviously evidenced in the Sacerdotal or Evangelical narratives) that descends from this original unity, or oneness, of Adam and Eve.

Another manifestation of this view (one that was to have important theological consequences for the history of Christian thought) is to be found in the philosophical considerations of oneness and belonging put forth by many of the early Church fathers. These views often implicitly channel the Pauline conception of the world (Creation as re-Creation given by the new covenant brought forth by Christ) as a body. A body wherein all of the parts are related, all are equally functioning, and all are equally signified in principle by their Evidenced, for instance, in Christ’s response to the Pharisees regarding questions of divorce and re-marriage. See Mt 19, 3-6.

This is certainly the way that Paul interprets Genesis in the following passage: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”. Ep, 5, 21belonging to the oneness of the Creator21. Because of Paul’s view of the “body of Christ”, and not forgetting the Genesis account of Creation, many of the early Christian thinkers conceived of the world, and of the whole of Creation in organic, or organicist terms. This view is not to be confused with a pantheistic one, since God as head of the body/creation creates the body/creation himself as a hierarchy22, one in which, moving through the different ranks of angels, of human beings, to the sphere of the lesser creatures, one finally reaches the base constituents of the created world. Philosophically, this plethora of creation was thought to have been made possible because of God’s excessive goodness23. Not only are all human beings descended from the original pair of beings, but furthermore, all human beings are situated somewhere along the great chain of beings created by God, and therefore, by way of their participation in this “body”, find some degree of blessedness or redemption. As of yet, we are still far removed from the vicious dichotomizing that is to be found in the “Chanson de Roland”.

It is God who created the different realms, natures, orders, and beings. Yet it is at this point that one of the potential markers of differentiation appears. God creates the elements of creation, and if these different elements share in this participation in unequal measures, this is the result of the imperfection of these elements with respect to God, and not a result of God Himself.

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell”. Co 1, 16-19.

This was certainly Augustine’s view, and it is safe to suppose that it was probably the dominant view during the pre-Thomistic medieval period: “Le souverain bien, au-dessus duquel il n’y a rien, c’est Dieu, et par là c’est un bien immutable, donc vraiment éternel et vraiment immortel. Tous les autres biens ne sont que par lui mais ne sont pas de lui. En effet, ce qui est de lui c’est ce qu’il est lui-même, mais les choses qui ont été faites par lui ne sont pas ce qu’il est ». Augustin, ‘La moral chrétienne’, in Œuvre de Saint Augustin, 1ère série : Opuscules, texte de l’édition bénédictine, introduction, traduction et notes par B. Roland-Gosselin, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1949, p. 441.

The unity of Creation, and its essentially positive nature, were explained in this way by Dionysus the Areopagite:

“All Communion –in a word, all that is comes from the Beautiful and Good, hath its very existence in the Beautiful and Good, and turns towards the Beautiful and Good. Yea, all that exists and that comes into being, exists and comes into being because of the Beautiful and Good”. Dionysus the Areopagite, ‘On the Divine names’, in Translations of Christian Literature. Series I. Greek texts, edited, with an introduction and notes by C.E. Rolt, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1957, p. 100.

Simply put, the world created by God, and the elements within that world, cannot have or possess the same degree of perfection as God. This significant difference between God and man has been made evident, for instance, in the writings of Didymus the Blind, who suggest that man is made in the image of God when he strives to imitate or attain him and his plan, and not by way of his physical/existential composition which is unlike the uncreated “composition” of God`s.

Man`s very being indicates his inferiority to the uncreated, eternal God:

Or il a été montré que l’homme n’est pas image en tant qu’il est compose, car l’homme intérieur est une essence incorporelle et inintelligible, et l’homme extérieur a un corps dote d’une forme. Il faut donc comprendre autrement le fait qu’il ait été créé à l’image et à la ressemblance de Dieu. Dieu qui a fait l’univers, qui est chef et guide de toutes choses- car étant créateur il est aussi chef et roi- et qui a fait l’homme de telle sorte qu’il commande aux bêtes sauvages, aux troupeaux et aux volatiles qui ont été créés à cause de lui, veut dire que l’homme est son image en ce qu’il participe à son pouvoir de

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Hence, from the divine cause of Creation to the immanent subject as its effect, there is a degree of difference. Likewise, within the order of Creation, there are orders and degrees of perfection. Angels possess a higher degree of perfection than do human beings. Human beings possess a higher degree of perfection than do the beasts. The beasts are higher than plants etc….

Likewise, the angels possess greater beauty than do human beings, who, in turn, surpass the beasts.

By way of such comparisons across the spectrum of the great chain of beings, it is possible to state that the greater beauty of the one represents a difference with respect to the Sur la Genèse, tome I, introduction, édition, traduction et notes par Pierre Naudin, Les éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1976, p. 145-147.

other. One thing is differently beautiful from another, just as one thing is differently constituted from another. Obviously, in the great scheme of things, all of the created elements pale in comparison to God. Consequently, that imperfections should appear in the great chain of being is a direct consequence of the very hierarchy of creation in its relation to the Creator. For, it is impossible and illogical for something created by God (hence the Christian emphasis on Christ’s having been begotten, and not created) to share in the degree of perfection (or Being) that is God’s alone. From such a position, the Judeo-Christian cosmology holds that that which more immediately resembles God in its created being is more perfect than that which less immediately resembles God in its created being. It is therefore apparent that, within a Christian philosophical framework, there is some justification for stating that there are degrees and differences in beings as created beings, and furthermore, that these differences are grounded in the very act, the very intent, of creation by the Creator. It would also follow as a consequence, that a being that strove to emulate God, by recognizing his sovereignty and his Truth, that is to say, by faithfully subjecting himself to this Truth, remaining faithful to It, would more likely be said to resemble the perfection of that Truth to a higher degree than would a being who did not strive to be so faithful. We shall see the consequences of this position in sections 1.4 and beyond.

–  –  –

So far, we have seen that Christian theology does not propose any kind of religious differentiation that would justify the moral dichotomizing that is so prevalent in the “Chanson de Roland”. This is the case since we are still dealing with things and beings as Created things and beings, or, in other words, we are still at the level of theological speculation as a type of sub species aeternitatis. As a consequence, I would contend that since there are differences within the great chain of beings, there simultaneously arises the possibility for comparisons to be drawn from one end of the created spectrum to the other. However, we have to view these comparisons in a manner that is quite different from the type of comparisons that are so common in the “Chanson de Roland” (comparisons that we will analyze in greater detail in chapter 12). Those comparisons are vehemently, insidiously negative, and work in such a way as to pejoratively present Saracen existence. The cosmological comparisons, on the other hand, are made possible by the contemplation of the chain of beings, and they are not meant to imply any kind of denigration or rejection.

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