Tag Archives: saints

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 3: Saintly Sancho Panza, a Christ Symbol

sanchopanzastatue

Sancho Panza is a very complex character. At first, I envisioned him as a manifestation of the fool archetype. He reminded me a lot of the fool in King Lear, cloaking wise perspective amid jokes, puns, and antics. But as I read on, the image of Sancho broadened and he appeared more and more as a saint. It could even be argued that he is a symbol of Christ himself.

First, consider that Sancho rides an ass and not a horse. When we remember that Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we have an initial parallel between the two.

Sancho describes himself as a man of peace, embodying saintly and Christ-like attributes. He also emphasizes his capacity to forgive others unconditionally, just as Christ was able to forgive.

“Senor, I am a man of peace, meek and quiet, and I can put up with any affront because I have a wife and children to support and bring up; so let it be likewise a hint to your worship, as it cannot be a mandate, that on no account will I draw sword either against clown or against knight, and that here before God I forgive the insults that have been offered me, whether they have been, are, or shall be offered me by high or low, rich or poor, noble or commoner, not excepting any rank or condition whatsoever.”

(p. 109)

Shortly afterwards, Sancho describes to Don Quixote how he was given the sign of the cross on his back, and how he endured the suffering with the same acceptance as Christ and other saintly martyrs.

“They gave me no time to see that much,” answered Sancho, “for hardly had I laid hand on my tizona when they signed the cross on my shoulders with their sticks in such a style that they took the sight out of my eyes and the strength out of my feet, stretching me where I now lie, and where thinking of whether all those stake-strokes were an indignity or not gives me no uneasiness, which the pain of the blow does, for they will remain as deeply impressed on my memory as on my shoulders.”

(p. 111)

At the wedding in Cana, Christ famously turned water into wine. In this text, Sancho Panza also exchanges water for wine, strengthening the correlation between him and Christ.

… but as at the first sup he perceived it was water he did not care to go with it, and begged Maritornes to fetch him some wine, which she did with right good will, and paid for it with her own money; for indeed they say of her that, though she was in that line of life, there was some faint and distant resemblance to a Christian about her.

(p. 131)

It is also worth noting the similarity here between Maritornes and Mary Magdalene. Both were women of “ill repute” who exhibited true spiritual values of compassion and caring.

So far, I find Sancho Panza a much more interesting and multifaceted character that Don Quixote, but I still have a way to go in the book. Thanks for stopping by, and as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

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“Sonnet 43 – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Murillo - Virgin of the Rosary

Murillo – Virgin of the Rosary

OK, I know this poem is a little clichéd, but it is Valentine’s Day so I figured I would read it this morning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

While on the surface this seems like the sappiest of love poems, there is something spiritual going on that is the heart of the poem. What Browning is expressing is love for God as opposed to love for another human being; although, I suppose you could argue that she is seeing the manifestation of God within her lover, but I will avoid going down that rabbit hole.

As I read the first line, I picture a woman, possibly a nun, meditating on God while counting on rosary beads. If you begin from this point, the entire poem becomes a meditative reflection on a devotee’s love for the Divine. This is affirmed by the capitalization of the key words referring to God: Being, Grace, Right, and of course God.

For me, the most interesting line is: “I love thee with a love I seemed to lose / With my lost saints.” It appears that Browning is expressing that religious dogma has failed and that the true path to God, and to the experience of God’s love, is through direct prayer and meditation. Praying to the saints as mediators between oneself and God pales in comparison with directly connecting to the divine spirit.

Browning concludes the sonnet with “if God choose, / I shall but love thee better after death.” I sense a deep longing in this line, a longing to become united with God. There is such passion, I cannot help but envision Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The passion that is experienced when connecting with the Divine on a deep level is akin to the ultimate transcendent sexual experience. It is the greatest moment to which one can aspire.

Bernini - Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Bernini – Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

While I am not a Catholic, I can relate to the feeling expressed in this poem. Interaction with the Divine Spirit, through whichever path you choose, is the most powerful experience one can have. It is what keeps me searching spiritual pathways and traditions. I hope that one day I too may experience that perfect moment of bliss where I become one with the Divine.

Have a blessed Valentine’s Day!!

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