The Power of God’s Mercy

In both The Incestuous Daughter and The Jealous Wife, a lesson of God’s power and mercy is conveyed to its readers. In both texts, a sinful person if forgiven and accepted into heaven because God (and Mary) deem them worthy to go to heaven.  Even though both the daughter and the wife are murderous and sinful, because of either their own prayer for forgiveness or a loved one’s devotion they are accepted by God into heaven.  The over arching theme in both poems is that of God’s mercy.  In The Jealous Wife, Mary’s battle with the fiends is evidence of God’s power by speaking out and explaining to them that they do not choose who they take to hell, God does.  Similarly, The Incestuous Daughter depicts the sinful daughter as wearing chains of the devil around her neck and being accompanied by four fiends, until the bishop speaks of God’s mercy in front of them and the chains fall away.  Once the words of the bishop are heard, the daughter feels them in her heart, sheds tears, and the fiends and chains flee.  Both descriptions of the fiends fleeing demonstrate the power of God.  In both texts, God holds a higher power than the devil and chooses who goes to hell.

The lesson of God’s mercy in these exempla is especially relatable because like most exempla, the characters are not given names.  To appear as a type of “everyman” or universal person, the characters are referred to as “daughter” or “wife” rather than a specific name.  This technique of universality suggests that everyone is a sinner but everyone is also able to receive God’s mercy.  This would help readers understand that like the daughter, one should sincerely ask for forgiveness even if the Catholic sacrament is unable to be performed and like the wife, even without asking for forgiveness God has the power to choose if you go to heaven or hell.  Both pieces encourage the act of asking for forgiveness especially when it comes to emotion.  The sincerity of the request for forgiveness is just as important as the act of praying for forgiveness.  It is only when the word reaches the daughter’s heart and she sheds a tear and feels the mercy of God that the fiends flee.  Emotional importance is also demonstrated through the devoted husband in The Jealous Wife.

1 thought on “The Power of God’s Mercy

  1. Nice work here, Erin–I find your final sentences especially important:
    “Both pieces encourage the act of asking for forgiveness especially when it comes to emotion. The sincerity of the request for forgiveness is just as important as the act of praying for forgiveness. It is only when the word reaches the daughter’s heart and she sheds a tear and feels the mercy of God that the fiends flee. Emotional importance is also demonstrated through the devoted husband in The Jealous Wife.”

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