Posted by: anna | December 11, 2009

another Oda

Also from Miss Dunbar is the story of the Norbertine nun Oda of Rivroëlle:

B. Oda (5), April 20, V. M. 1158. Prioress of Rivroelle, in Hainault. Daughter and heiress of Wibert and Thescelina, who arranged a marriage for her befitting their rank and wealth. The ceremony was intended to be solemnized with great magnificence ; numerous guests assembled, an immense concourse of people crowded the church and the streets. The service began ; the priest asked the bridegroom three times, according to custom, whether he would take this woman, etc. Three times he promised to be a dutiful and faithful husband. The same question was then asked of the bride for the first time. Everybody listened, but not a word was heard. The silence became embarrassing. A matron who had the privilege of standing close to the bride exhorted her in a low voice not to be afraid to speak, and reminded her that her silence was disrespectful to her parents and to her fiance. The priest then asked for the second time, whether she accepted Simon for her husband. Oda replied that she would not have him or any other mortal man, as she had already chosen Jesus Christ for her husband. Simon, seeing himself rejected, left the church and returned to his own house with all haste. Wibert and Thescelina were very angry, and Oda, fearing that they would still insist on her marrying this man or some other, disfigured herself by cutting off her nose with a sword. On this account, the Church places her among the martyrs. She soon afterwards took the veil, and eventually became prioress of a Praemonstratensian convent of Rivroëlle, attached to the monastery of Gode Hoge (Bona Spes), which was at that time governed by the Abbot Otho, and he, after some years, promoted Oda to be prioress.

This story certainly shows determination – not to say desperation – for the religious life from Oda! From a modern perspective, it practically begs for a ‘historical novel’ treatment. Evidently her parents and the echelons of society in which she moved felt that a life devoted exclusively to God was a great waste. Are things so different now? And if we do not have to make such dramatic sacrifices, the questions is what do we have to give up, and what are we willing to give up, to live a life nearer to God? And lest sacrifice and giving up sound like negatives, the positive way of asking the question is, what do we need to make room for, or clear the way for, when we, to quote one of the great Anglican Advent hymns, ‘prepare… in our hearts a home/ Where such a royal Guest may come’?

Holy Saint Oda, pray to God for us.

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