St. Christina the Astonishing and the Holiday Stinkiness
Alright, let’s face it. Is this the time of year, just after Thanksgiving, when you start dreading the impending “Holiday (Don’t call it Christmas) Season?” You know, the season of nightly news stories about how schools won’t allow the display of Christian symbols, the already beginning onslaught of commercialism and advertising, the atheist sloganeering that degrades an event so sacred, and all the politically correct puffery about how to speak of the Holy Celebration of The Birthday – Christ’s Mass – without actually saying it.
It’s almost intolerable and almost ruinous, like the odor of the hydro-treated petroleum distillates of Goo Gone® invading a warm and apple-cinnamony glowing kitchen. Pee-yew!
How to rise above it all? Well, there’s a unique, if not peculiar, saint who would probably react the way I’d like to react in the middle of holiday nonsense, St. Christina of Liége, also more appropriately named, St. Christina the Astonishing. She frequently tried to escape, well, worldly stinkiness.
St. Christina the Astonishing was born in 1150 and left an orphan at the age of fifteen with two elder sisters. She astonished her community at a most unexpected time.
“When she was about twenty-two Christina had a seizure, was assumed to be dead, and in due course was carried in an open coffin to the church, where a Mass of requiem was begun. Suddenly, after the Agnus Dei, Christina sat up, soared to the beams of the roof, and there perched herself. Everyone fled from the church except her elder sister, who, though thoroughly frightened, gave a good example of recollection to the others by stopping till the end of Mass. The priest then made Christina come down (it was said that she had taken refuge up there because she could not bear the smell of sinful human bodies). She averred that she had actually been dead; that she had gone down to Hell and there recognized many friends, and to Purgatory, where she had seen more friends, and then to Heaven.” [Butler’s Lives of the Saints]
That’s right, she levitated at her own funeral. She did some other astonishing things too – fleeing into remote places, climbing trees and perching on tiny branches, scaling towers and rocks, and crawling into ovens. Why? She could not bear the smell of sin. Interesting gift, no?
“Used with permission from the artist, Cynthia Large.”
There are many accounts of saints levitating, flying off the ground in deep meditations of ecstasy because they were so close to God spiritually: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Gerard Majella, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John Bosco, St. John Joseph of the Cross, St. Peter Claver, and St. Thomas Aquinas, to name several.
Some think of it as the body moving physically closer to Heaven because the soul is already so in communion with God’s will. Some physicists have suggested that levitation is the result of the mind tapping into the quantum vacuums zero point energy, whatever that is exactly.
Whatever it is, it happens and it has been well-documented in the lives of the saints. I don’t expect I’ll fly up to the rafters if I see some tasteless advertisements, but I definitely will stop and smile at the astonishing ideas any time the stinkiness threatens to lower my spirits.
“A Pelican in the Wilderness” Used with permission from the artist, Cynthia Large.”
I have already warned my husband that if he sees me standing by the kitchen window wistfully staring at the tops of trees like I’m about to go out and climb them, or if he finds me sticking my head in the oven and lingering there just a little too long like I might try to crawl into it, or if I stand up from the table and run out into the woods and hide behind some rocks, it’s only because I’m pretending to be St. Christina, trying to forget about the world and get closer to Heaven.
He’ll probably understand.
There is much more to her story. Enjoy this essay, “Christina’s Life,” by the artist, Cynthia Large, to read more about St. Christina of Liége and to visit the gallery of Cynthia’s other beautiful works, or to purchase prints of them.