Lent, Day 5

LOOK: (1) “St. Juliana of Nicomedia, the devil at her feet,” from a Picture Bible made at the Abbey of Saint Bertin, Saint-Omer, France, ca. 1190–1200. KB, 76 F 5, fol. 32r. Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library), The Hague, Netherlands. (2) “St. Juliana of Nicomedia binding the devil,” from the Passionary of Weissenau, made in Germany, 12th century. Codex Bodmer 127, fol. 44v. Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cologny, Switzerland.

St. Juliana of Nicomedia and the devil
St. Juliana binding the devil

Saint Juliana (ca. 286–ca. 304) was a Christian from Nicomedia in present-day Turkey—the eastern capital of the Roman Empire in her day—who suffered martyrdom under the Diocletian persecutions. Legend has it that she engaged in some serious combat with the devil, so in art she is sometimes shown beating him with a club, binding him with a rope or chain, or otherwise incapacitating him. Bam!

[Related post: “Stomp (Artful Devotion)”]

LISTEN: “Satan, Take Your Hands Off Me” by Essie Mae Brooks, on Rain in Your Life (2000)

. . .
Satan, take your hand off me.
I’m in God’s hand.
Jesus, my Jesus,
Has got his arm,
They wrapped all around me,
And the world can’t do me no harm.
. . .

Born in 1930, Essie Mae Brooks is a gospel singer-songwriter from Houston County, Georgia. Rain in Your Life is her debut album, which was followed up by I’ve Been Washed in the Water in 2002.

These two projects were financed by the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who bear those traditions. Cofounder Tim Duffy realized, while studying folklore in college, that preservationists tended to focus on documenting and archiving rather than on taking care of the artists themselves, and he wanted to take a more people-centered approach. So he and his wife Denise launched the foundation in 1994, seeking to empower and sustain folk and blues musicians in and around Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and beyond.

Music Maker provides tour booking, management, and recording services to its artists in addition to grants, but more than that, it offers ongoing support that helps artists pay their bills. The organization focuses on the most vulnerable musicians: those over fifty-five who live on less than $25,000 a year.

To learn more, you can listen to the 2019 NPR segment “Capturing the Undersung Blues People of the Rural South” (or, from 2014, “Preserving American Roots Music Begins with Keeping the Lights On”). And visit the Music Maker website to explore more artists.

“Satan, Take Your Hands Off Me” by Essie Mae Brooks is featured on the Art & Theology Lent Playlist on Spotify.

Resist (Artful Devotion)

Prayer by Arcabas
Painting by Arcabas (French, 1926–2018)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

—James 4:7

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SONG: “Way Down in the Hole” by Tom Waits, on Franks Wild Years (1987)


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 20, cycle B, click here.

“The Pleasure Principle” by Raymond Oliver

Who are you? Why do you not let me live
As I please? And how could your caress, so rough,
Be kinder than my smooth alternative?

Your steel-brush strokes are forcing me to slough,
Daily, my fleshy growths of appetite,
But still they come; I cannot have enough.

I would forever scratch my itches, light
At first, then harder at the thickened sore;
But you would give me radical delight,
Gouging my itches till I have no more.

“The Pleasure Principle” is published here with the permission of Southern Humanities Review, where the poem first appeared in Spring 1974.

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In this poem, sinful desires are characterized as skin sores whose itchiness is temporarily relieved when scratched—but the scratching also makes the sores become irritated and enlarged and even more vile-looking, and the itch comes back not too long after.

The speaker addresses God, first in a posture of defensiveness. God has presumably broken into his conscience, convicting him of sin, and he responds with a string of accusatory questions to the effect of, “Who do you think you are, coming into my life, telling me what I can and can’t do? How could abiding a constant itch be more satisfying than giving in and scratching?”   Continue reading ““The Pleasure Principle” by Raymond Oliver”