Lent Madness: George Herbert vs. John Chrysostom

George Herbert vs. John Chrysostom is an intriguing match-up in the final contest of the R0und of the Elate Eight. Poet vs. Preacher. Though, of course, on any given day you could toss a coin to determine which one was the poet and which one the preacher. It’s a battle of the eloquent to determine who will face Theresa of Avila in the Final Four.

The aforementioned Theresa advanced by scoring a decisive victory against Hildegard of Bingen 67% to 33%. Click to view the updated tournament bracket: Lent Madness 2010

Legends & Kitsch!

Not much in the legends department for George Herbert. That’s what you get for being a 17th century priest and poet. To add insult to injury, whenever you google him you get a lot of information about George Herbert Walker Bush. But you CAN purchase George Herbert stuff at the gift shop in Bemerton, England, where he served as rector. Poems on notecards, books about Herbert’s life, copies of “The Country Parson.” The kitsch factor is, unfortunately, low.

One curiously bizarre legend surrounding John Chrysostom became widespread in 16th century Europe. Known as the Penance of John Chrysostom, it relates that when John was a desert hermit he was approached by a royal princess in distress. Believing, at first, that she was a demon, John refused to help her. Eventually the princess convinced him that she was a Christian and she would be devoured  by wild animals if he would not let her into his cave. He let her enter, carefully dividing the cave into two halves, one for her and one for him. Despite these precautions, a carnal sin was committed. Trying to hide it, the distraught hermit tossed the princess off a cliff.  Realising the hideous nature of his crimes, John vowed that he would never rise from the ground until his sins were forgiven. Thus he lived like a beast for many years, crawling on all fours and eating wild grasses and roots. In time, the princess reappeared, alive, and suckling the saint’s baby, who miraculously pronounced his sins forgiven.

John is also associated with the bee. Besides his nickname (Chrysostom means golden or honey-tongued) he once said, “The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.” You’ll spot many images and icons of John with this symbol.

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