Biographical Sketch: Genovefa, Virgin of Paris - Essay Example

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Biographical Sketch: Genovefa, Virgin of Paris. The woman known as Genovefa, Virgin of Paris is one of the first in a long list of renowned female saints of the Christian church. She was born in Nanterre, which is a suburb just to the west of Paris, in the year 429 AD…
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Download file to see previous pages In 212 the city was named Paris, after a local Gaulish tribe and by the early fifth century it had become a prime target for barbarian raiders who roamed over the former Roman colonies looking for spoils of war. Genovefa’s life story, the Vita Genoveva is recorded in the form of a hagiography, which preserves key features of her life, but the genre typically means that some of the details may not be entirely accurate, since such accounts are usually furnished with a heavy layer of Christian doctrine and an emphasis on the miraculous and exceptional qualities of the subject, for the edification of readers in later centuries. It seems certain, however, that Genovefa was familiar with both Roman and Gaulish cultures, and that she was born into a relatively wealthy family: “The enduring legend that she was a peasant has now been set aside, and she has been located among the Gallic upper classes.” (McNamara and Halborg, 2009, p. 19) The Vita Genovefa reports that her father was called Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia (quoted in McNamara and Halborg, 2009, p. 19), and in a pattern that many saints lives follow, she is discovered while still a child by two venerable and holy men. Bishops Germanus and Lupus were passing through the area while journeying to tackle the Pelagian heresy in Britain and they plucked Genovefa out of a crowd for special attention: “ … and, through the Holy Spirit, Saint Germanus sensed from a distance the most holy Genovefa in the midst of the rushing crowd of both sexes, men, women and children. He asked immediately that she be brought to him…” (Vita Genovefa, quoted in McNamara and Halborg, 2009, p. 20). This miraculous beginning signals the fact that Genovefa is no ordinary child, and it turns out that she is destined to keep herself chaste and be consecrated as a nun. Germanus ascertains that the young Genovefa is willing to promise herself to God, and gives the child a copper coin to wear about her next instead of fine jewels, as a reminder that she is to keep away from earthly temptations and devote herself entirely to God’s service. Miracles are reported to have occurred within the family home, for example, Genovefa’s mother is said to have been struck blind when she prevented Genovefa from attending church, and then Genovefa apparently healed her mother with holy water and the sign of the cross. At an age younger than was customary, Genovefa is duly consecrated as a nun. The story of her life recalls biblical tales such as the calling of Samuel in the old Testament, or of Saint Paul in the New Testament, and there many details are interpreted with the help of verses from the Bible. Even the order in which she appears for consecration is interpreted as an illustration of the Biblical principle of the last becoming first, and the first becoming last, since she sets out as the youngest and last to be accepted, but is brought forward and made to take her vows first, because of her special status as one chosen by God for great things. A significant part of Genovefa’s life is marked by severe physical distress. She becomes ill with paralysis. This gives her the opportunity to experience visions of the afterlife, and tests her faith in God. Physical weakness must surely have been a consequence also of Genoveva’s extreme asceticism, since “From her fifteenth to her fiftieth year, she never broke her fast from Sunday to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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