Title Background

Christ’s Leap and Mary’s Clean Catch in <i>Piers Plowman</i> B.12.136-44a and C.14.81-88a.

Christ’s Leap and Mary’s Clean Catch in Piers Plowman B.12.136-44a and C.14.81-88a.

Behind the striking personification allegory of these passages lies the advent of Christ, expressed through his Incarnation and Nativity, with the imagery of leaping having originated in patristic exegesis of Cant. 2:8. That the Incarnation brought into the world love which raised human scientia to the level of divine sapientia associates Christ’s leap with the establishment of the Church, since clergy derives its validity from its relationship to Christ. Like Honorius Augustodunensis, WL emphasizes Christ’s passing over the worldly (the hills of Cant. 2:8 representing the Pharisees) to reveal himself to the humble. The clerks who find love lodged in cleanness are pastores, the word later to be revealed as a pun on the shepherds of the Nativity and the clergy of the Church. Clennesse in B. 12.141 / C. 14.86 shows WL having transformed the virtue from ecclesiological to Marian significance, by which cleanness catching love describes the institution of the clergy via the Nativity of Christ.