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The Cosmic Mystery of Christ: Imagining Atonement in Medieval Poetry


Justin Jackson


Presented at the CiRCE National Conference 2022.

In this Plenary, Dr. Jackson will focus on the ways in which several medieval poets focus on union with Christ. It is an act that appears to be radically exterior to us (the realm of the Uncreated) and yet intimately interior, closer to us than perhaps we are even to ourselves. I want to explore the ways in which poets like Dante, the Pearl-Poet, Julian of Norwich, and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing attempt to imagine a world absent a strict dichotomy of nature versus supernature (as will be developed in the work of various 16 th -century Thomists). What does this sort of vernacular theology look like? And how do they imagine in in their own tongue (as opposed to Church Latin or Greek, languages which had a storehouse of theological terminology) the Union of Christ to the Church, to the believer? What we find is poetry of intimacy, closeness, inter-penetration, participation—one where we know not where nature ends and grace begins.