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Dissolving with Lazarus: Late Ancient Liturgical Bodies in Pieces
University of Oslo.
2017 (English)In: Studia Theologica, ISSN 0039-338X, E-ISSN 1502-7791, Vol. 71, no 2, p. 173-198Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The day before Palm Sunday, early Christians celebrated the biblical figure of Lazarus. This article surveys late ancient liturgical compositions for this feast. It explores the way in which the authors described the disintegration and reintegration of Lazarus’ body. His death and reinvigoration surely point towards the resurrection of Christ; yet the detailed and morbid displays which these liturgical texts create suggest that the authors worked with more complex pallets. I argue that we should resist the temptation of a simplistic reading of the Byzantine liturgical past. Scholars are currently rediscovering the subtleties of Byzantine literary composition, but religious texts are still largely viewed as simple, didactic and naïve. Lazarus actually appears as a grotesquely dynamic corpse. At the same time his body is just as ordinary and human as any of the people who heard the macabre stories. He was them. This makes the liturgical works into texts about the churchgoers’ decay. I suggest that the authors projected the chilling imagery of dissolving bodies with an aim similar to that of modern writers of grotesque literature; it speaks to the ambivalent awareness of human mortality. The homilists and hymnographers addressed the abject embodied experiences of their congregation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 71, no 2, p. 173-198
National Category
Humanities and the Arts
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-389976DOI: 10.1080/0039338X.2017.1384757OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-389976DiVA, id: diva2:1340106
Available from: 2019-08-01 Created: 2019-08-01 Last updated: 2019-08-01

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Arentzen, Thomas

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