It’s not unusual when reading a critic’s review of a biography to come across phrases like”mere hagiography.” These phrases suggest that hagiography is just pious myth, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Hagiography, or “holy writing” is the genre of devotional Lives of the Saints. And for Christians, the lives of the saints aren’t just a nice add-on, but are built into the life of the Body of Christ.
To read a Life is to contemplate an icon of Christ’s Gospel. And these icons have three authors: God, the subject, and the writer. I have a special love for Lives which were written by other saints, like:
- The Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius
- The Life of Moses by St. Gregory of Nyssa
- The Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure
- The Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary by St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
It’s no surprise that these saintly writers are able to perceive the work of God’s grace in the lives of their predecessors. They participate both in the holy life of their subject, and through their writings in the authorship of God himself.
Do you have a favorite Life of a saint? Share it in the comments below.