Marriage – not for the Church Fathers!

This year I have managed to arrange my essays in such a way that I have written about virginity twice. It’s a subject that normally makes people blink twice and I take great pride in having virginity research documents on my computer…

I have not been looking at modern interpretations of virginity but rather that of late antique Christians. Did you know virginity was THE hot topic of the fourth century with pretty much every church father of that period writing about it (ie. Augustine, Basil, Jerome, Gregory, John Chrysostom)? Nope, neither did I until I started researching. The role of the consecrated virgin (ie. ‘forever’ virgins rather ‘just not got round to having sex yet’ virgins) fits within the ascetic movements, with virginity being seen as a way to constrain the body further alongside fasting, prayer and so on.

Anyway, as fascinating as I find this topic – and asceticism in general – its not always quite so much fun actually writing the damn thing. Some of the stronger admonitions against marriage kept me amused (I am weird, I admit this now). Yes, guys if you are married – what were you thinking? Should have just stayed a virgin (and if you aren’t a virgin and aren’t married – get out of here o.O , you terrible person you).

I joke. But have some choice quotes from the church fathers to amuse you.

Gregory of Nyssa

“Nay, all the dearly-prized blisses, and transports, and comforts of marriage end in these agonies of grief. The hilt of a sword is smooth and handy, and polished and glittering outside; it seems to grow to the outline of the hand ; but the other part is steel and the instrument of death, formidable to look at, more formidable still to come across. Such a thing is marriage. It offers for the grasp of the senses a smooth surface of delights, like a hilt of rare polish and beautiful workmanship; but when a man has taken it up and has got it into his hands, he finds the pain that has been wedded to it is in his hands as well; and it becomes to him the worker of mourning and of loss.” – Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity

St. Jerome

“What troubles matrimony involves you have learned in the marriage state itself; you have been surfeited with quails’ flesh even to loathing; your mouth has been filled with the gall of bitterness; you have expelled the indigestible and unwholesome food; you have relieved a heaving stomach. Why will you again swallow what has disagreed with you? The dog is turned to his own vomit again and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. 1 Peter 2:22 Even brute beasts and flying birds do not fall into the same snares twice.” – Jerome, Letter 54 (writing to a widow)

Don’t get married guyz, Jerome would not approve!



Long Weekend in Glasgow Part 2

Saturday we slept in (what a surprise) and eventually went out for a wee wonder in Glasgow’s West End. We pottered around two book shops and then went for a hot chocolate and cake. I managed to resist buying anything from the bookshops but I had a really good browse and its really lit the fire in me to read an actual physical book sometime soon. The tea shop – Thcai Ovna – was gorgeous, even if its humongous selection of speciality teas was wasted on both L and I, as neither of us are tea drinkers. However, I lapped up the atmosphere – lots of candles and dangley things and cool looking people playing Cards Against Humanity in the corner. Also, the carrot cake was “so bloody moist darling, it was absolutely spiffing.”
We then headed down to Glasgow University Student Union for the ultimate Valentine’s Day film – Battle Royale. Yep, I bet you got that one pegged to. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it is a Japanese movie, based on a manga, which many people compare to the Hunger Games. A class of ninth graders (so 14 years old) are chosen to fight to the death on a deserted island. Sounds familiar right? Despite the similarities in structure it did have a different tone; there was no real explanation of the background but all the relationships were pre-existing which added a different dynamic. We then returned home and….watched another film. The ‘Normal Heat’ is a tv film with an excellent cast (Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts) based on the 1985 Larry Kramer play of the same name. It explores the AIDs crisis in its early years in New York (yes, we decided to have an over wrought emotional valentines day full of death and destruction.)
And there was even a film on the next day too! Somewhat out of character for me as I never normally watch movies. L wanted to go to see Big Hero 6 for her 21st, so 15 or so twenty somethings trooped to the cinema to watch a children’s movie in and amongst many a family. IT IS SUCH A GOOD FILM. Like seriously, I was laughing, I was crying – totally go see this kids movie. Lots of feels. To combat such a rush we all went back to L’s and drank (or not, in my case) and were merry. Then back on the train home at 9am on Monday morning in time to lead a seminar at 2pm.
Image Sources linked from pictures

Long Weekend in Glasgow Part 1

Well I’ve just been on a lovely long weekend to Glasgow. It began as all good weekends should; dashing around the kitchen to try and bake a cake while simultaneously packing and finishing the washing up. The washing up suffered unfortunately and I left a few dishes in the sink for my housemates…

So 3 dresses packed, new rail card brought and cake with still warm icing awaiting a good squishing (it adds to the flavour no?) I was off on the train up to Glasgow. I hoped to make a decent inroad into my new testament essay, but like most productive train journey plans, disaster struck – my laptop ran out of charge. And my bag with printed out seminar reading was slightly out of reach above someone else’s head. So, of course, the only possible answer was to spend the rest of the journey listening to music. Oh the trauma.

After meeting L and her boyfriend at the station we wondered back to her flat through the city. How nice it was to be back in a city. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like living in Durham but I am totally a city girl at heart so being surrounded by tall buildings and the hustle and bustle of people is very relaxing. L has a lovely flat with high Edwardian (or maybe Victorian) ceilings – however, as a result of this, her living room justly deserves the name ‘cold frozen waste land’. I thought she was joking. She was not. So we just bundled under the blankets and spent the evening chatting, yawning and watching ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ – awesome film!
Image Sources linked via pictures



I spent several Saturday’s ago enjoying a change of pace at the beautiful Lindisfarne, or Holy, Island. Having got up at the ungodly hour of 7 (yes, I am a student!) I was slightly worried that the day would just go downhill from there – I am not a morning person. I was right, however, as two of the other exec and I rushed onto the bus 5 minutes late to be greeted by EVERYONE staring at us in silence. Yes, that is right, I was organising the trip and everyone else got there before us. Talk about awkward.

As soon as I arrived at the island all bad feeling were swept away. Or at least they were once my somewhat uninspired first thought of ‘its surprisingly flat’ was aired. Slightly flat, however, does not describe the castle which rises into a craggy peak at one end of the island – the ruined Lindisfarne priory and the small village were on much lower ground.


The castle itself was originally a garison, although not one that saw action; even its two week moment of excitement was a completely peaceful takeover during the civil war. Now however it can be viewed by visitors in its last incarnation as an Edwardian holiday home. Its full of lots of interesting bits and bobs which were picked up by the owner in antique sales. My particular favourite was a wooden storage unit from a church with an iron kettle like pot for the wine, a cupboard for the communion bread and apparently a storage place for a cross on the back. There is also an absolutely gorgeous baramoter which I could have spent the whole day staring at. Although as the volunteer guide pointed out – they rather over estimated the amount of the Spanish armada, if there had been that many we would all be speaking Spanish!


After frolicking along the beach in the bitter winds and picking up shells in a beautifully hippy fashion we went over to the ruined priory. There I faced great laughter after I excitedly proclaimed that ‘this is where the gospels were written!’ Meaning of course, not that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had gotten into a row boat and headed to Lindisfarne to write their gospels, but rather the Lindisfarne Gospel. This is an illuminated gospel written in the 8th century and is exceptionally well preserved – nowadays they only turn the pages once every 6 months – so good luck in seeing much of it in person. It is fascinating to be faced by such a tangible peace of history.


All in all a lovely day out and much recommended – just remember to check out the tide times before you head out! 1511121_1557152834542615_4642846862111799721_n

Thank you to my friend Thea for the photos.