The Feast of St. Agnes
Today the church tells the story of Agnes. The story of Agnes is a dark story, and Christians have been telling it for 1600 years. Agnes was a beautiful girl who attracted many suitors, though she rebuffed them all because she wanted to remain a virgin, and be faithful to God alone. As a result, Agnes suffered a cruel death which violated her sexuality. She was twelve years old.
So what are we to make of this story? The early church Fathers praised Agnes’ courage and chastity, and remarked upon her name, which means ’pure’ in Greek and ‘lamb’ in Latin. In the Gospel reading for today Jesus encourages us to ‘become like children,’ and perhaps what is important to us in Agnes’ story is the exemplification of a certain kind of innocence and purity of heart that Kierkegaard describes as ‘willing one thing’.
Recently, I’ve been reading Le très-bas or in its English translation, The Very Lowly by Christian Bobin. This is the first time I’ve ever read anything by this French Catholic author. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of Christian Bobin for that matter. The Very Lowly is a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. But it isn’t like any biography I’ve ever read before. Les très bas reads more like poetry even though it’s written in prose. Honestly, it isn’t like any book I’ve ever read before.
Le très-bas is described on the book’s back cover as “exquisite and moving.” It is very much both of those things and I have found myself reading it as lectio divina. Savoring the depths of its insights as a meditative exercise while basking in its strikingly beautiful language.