The Maturing of Margaret’s Relationship with God

Maragaret’s travails as a saint are pointedly isolated from human supporters. She is put to trial against her attackers, with only Theotimius secretly nourishing her. Not only does she face Olibrius alone, but her family opposes the support she receives from God. Before Olibrius captures her, she is still religiously persecuted. As Theotimius explains, “she was very hateful to her father, but very dear to God” (115). The sentence structure sets up two opposites: Margaret turns away from her father and focuses on God. The sentence builds up God as an acceptable replacement for her father. Margaret’s father is brought up once more, when Margaret prays to heal her wounds. She says “Look upon me and have mercy on me, Lord, for I am alone here and my father abandoned me” (121). Once again, Margaret’s father is used as a foil to her faith in God. The denunciation of her father makes her relationship with God stronger, or more of a necessity. Margaret’s father’s abandonment allows her to put all of her trust in only God, as opposed to human supporters. This strengthens her story as a saint. Part of the sense of mystery surrounding Margaret’s story stems from her character’s solitariness– she performs all of her miracles alone, as a teenager against a powerful prefect and horde of soldiers. Her abandonment by her father and subsequent adoption by God allows her to have a powerful story that pits humans against God. Sarah


 Each time Margaret launches into a prayer, Theotimus addresses her with an epithet: “the holy” or “the blessed.” This structure mirrors the epithets associated with Greek heroes- wise Odysseus, gray-eyed Athena, swift-footed Achilles. Rather than referring to Margaret’s skill or characteristics, her epithets refer to her relationship and favor with God. Margaret’s hero-like status derives from this religious connection, rather than personal valor. Margaret’s prayers never slip into doubt, but they shift in tone. Initially, her prayers convey a sense of helplessness. She asks Christ to deliver her from harm, noting that “I am now, Lord, like cattle in the midst of a field, like a sparrow in a net and like a fish on a hook,” (115).  Margaret associates herself with animals caught in a human trap. She shuns sinning humanity and links herself to the natural world, but loses agency in the process. Despite this initial passiveness, Margaret’s prayers gradually grow more assertive. When she confronts the prefect, she does not ask for salvation, but strength. She declares “Strengthen me, Spirit of life, so that my prayer may travel through the heavens and may ascend before your sight. And send me your Holy Spirit from the heavens, which may come to my aid, so that I may preserve my virginity undefiled and that I may see my enemy, who fights against me, face to face, and so that I may ever be an example and an inspiration to all women who believe in you, for your name is blessed in eternity,” (119). In this prayer, Margaret requests aid in battle. She becomes almost aggressive, mirroring the prefect’s attitude rather than quietly submitting to violence. Margaret demonstrates a peculiar awareness of her destined sainthood— she knows she will serve as an example of martyrdom. When Margaret encounters the dragon, she gains a more balanced tone in her prayer: “When she went in there she blessed all her body with the sign of Christ’s cross and began to bless herself with her hands and to say as follows: ‘Look upon me and have mercy on me, Lord, for I am alone here and my father abandoned me. Do not you abandon me, my Lord, but have mercy on me, for I recognize that you are the judge of the living and the dead. Judge now between me and these devils. See, I grieve in my torments. Do not be angry with me, my Lord, for you know that I will give my soul for you. You are blessed in eternity,” (121).  Just as Margaret recognizes God “as the judge of the living and the dead,” she desires recognition for her suffering. Her prayer does not ask for salvation, but for judgment. In return, she offers her soul. Margaret’s prayers shift from pleading into a negotiation. As she demonstrates her faith, her relationship with God matures. In her final prayers, Margaret’s requests are not for herself, but for others. She asks for forgiveness for those who build churches in her name, keep her book of martyrdom, and light candles with her prayers. These gifts come with certain conditions- the validation of Margaret’s memory. She has shifted her desire for validation and recognition for her suffering from God onto the people around her. Nathalie


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