(1878-1965), as a young man, assembled contemplative
writings into a most beautiful anthology he published in
1909 that he called Ekstatische
Konfessionem, Ecstatic Conversations.
Into it he poured the spirituality of Hassidic Jews, of
Sufi, of the Friends of God, of Julian of Norwich. For
in contemplation all religions become one, or, as Julian
says in her Middle English 'oned', rather than
'noughting', cancelling each other out, the stuff of
wars. Yet, as we study these contemplatives (not
choosing the word 'mystic', too aloof from us), we shall
find there is a division. The Torah and the Gospel are
rooted and grounded in earth and clay, in flesh and
blood reality, in the beginning the Word creating all,
then becoming flesh and blood, dwelling in our midst,
the Incarnation, theology being the love of God and
equally of our neighbour. Pseudo-Dionysius (Thomas
Aquinas cited him over a thousand times believing he was
the Dionysius the Areopagite of Acts), instead, was a
Neoplatonist Syrian, who spoke of the 'dark cloud of
unknowing' in which God is to be found, as if attaining
the Buddhist Nirvana, Pseudo-Dionysius even inventing
the word 'hierarchy'. We shall find the Cloud
Author, who translated and put Pseudo-Dionysius'
negative theology into practice in his contemplative
treatises, to be resisted by the likes of Julian of
Norwich and Margery Kempe. The struggle is between
elitist Plato and democratic Christ; between philosophy
and its gender apartheid on the one hand, the Gospel and
its inclusion of women on the other. That paradoxical
dialectic caused a springtime in the Christian theology
of prayer, a rich flowering and harvesting, down the
The ecstatic conversation amongst these contemplatives transcends space and time and gender and order, in dialogue between Augustinians, Benedictines, Brigittines, Carmelites, Carthusians, Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Hieronymites and lay people.The contemplative theology they conveyed was not the trauma of 'shock and awe', the sterile and paralysing apartheid of power, but instead the serotonin-enhancing awareness of the humility of the creature in the presence of the greatness, mercy and love, the might, wisdom and love, of the Creator. Amongst them illiterate women such as Umiltà of Faenza, Angela of Foligno, Catherine of Siena, and Margery Kempe could participate equally, dictating their theology to nuns and priests become their disciples, St Catherine even being proclaimed Doctor of the Church and then, with St Birgitta, Patron of Europe. Judaism and the Gospel celebrated littleness, the smallest Hebrew letter, yod, that beginning the names of God, Jesus and Jerusalem, and meaning hand, another letter, kaph, meaning the palm of the hand, while God is born ignominiously as a baby in poverty in a stable in Bethlehem, dying on a gallows cross as a common criminal. Not only does it involve composing with words, but also their being written into books, such books being inscribed first on parchment, then on paper, first as manuscript, then in print, and bound between covers. The Beguines and the daughters of Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding will support themselves by binding such books. It is a tangible concrete linguistic theology where letters are things and also numbers, God creating the world with the Word, in number, weight and measure, 'Amen' being that which is said, which therefore is. It is opposed, as Augustine found, leading to his conversion, to Greek Neoplatonism's abstractions and hierarchies.
shall find Aelred of Rievaulx, the Ancrene Wisse
Author, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton and the Cloud of Unknowing
Author, writing to anchoresses, generally using
Pseudo-Dionysius, while the women to whom they write
have the example of Scholastica's 'holy disobedience' to
her twin brother Benedict, the resulting dialogue of
bass and treble voices permitting 'ecstatic
conversations'. One such 'ecstatic conversation' is that
Augustine and Monica, another, between Richard Rolle
and Margaret Kirkby, another,
and Elsbeth Stägel. In the
withdrawal from the world, the stripping away of
external things, in these holy conversations, God is
found - and shared. This 'cell of self knowledge and of
God' was medieval psychiatry, was the soul-healing,
rather than killing, was the Gospel, the 'Good News',
that gave happiness. In the Gospels, Jesus seeks times
of solitude and prayer, then returns to the world to
carry out healing. He himself prayed the Psalms and the
prophets, such as Isaiah. He taught the Lord's Prayer,
which so echoes the Virgin's Magnificat, again bass and
treble voices, of gender inclusion. When I was a novice
I was told that his 'greatest gifts, apart from himself,
are the Psalter and the Lord's Prayer'. Monasteries and
anchorholds, for men and for women, created structures
for that withdrawal for prayer, but with the
concommittant responsibility for the healing of the
souls, minds and bodies of all people of all walks of
see, for instance, the illiterate lay woman, Margery
Kempe, having read to her contemplative materials
concerning Marie d'Oignies, Richard Rolle and Birgitta
of Sweden. When the printing press was introduced in
England, these contemplative texts were promptly readied
for wider publication, with that intent, particularly by
Brigittine Syon Abbey, but at the same time came the
Reformation, causing texts being readied for
type-setting to be blocked, as was the case with the
Westminster Manuscript of Julian's Showing of Love, or
even whole editions, every single volume, as was the
case with Elizabeth Barton's 'Grete Boke', and even
Elizabeth Barton OSB herself, destroyed, in her case by
hanging at Tyburn in 1534. Similarly, the Bishop of
Cambrai had destroyed all known copies of the Beguine
Marguerite Porete's Speculum
Simplicium Animarium, the Mirror of Simple Souls,
then she herself had been burnt at the Sorbonne in 1310.
These crucial texts were seen in England as a threat to
the State, allied with the Church, first as seeming to
be Lollard for permitting women a theological voice,
then as Catholic in opposition to the Church of England,
while in France, first Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the
University of Paris, opposed these texts, particularly
those by women, and then they were seen by the State and
Church as partaking of the 'Quietist' heresy, finally
the atheist French Revolution condemned nuns to the
guillotine, seizing their contemplative 'superstitious'
writers followed in Christ's footsteps, both in books,
in the Gospel, and in reality, on pilgrimage,
re-imagining the events that had taken place at
Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the Nativity, the Crucifixion.
Later, cloistered women were discouraged from those
pilgrimages, only the lay Birgitta of Sweden and Margery
Kempe being able to do so, the others imaging them in
their cells. We shall find images of pilgrims in
Christina of Markyate, Walter Hilton and Augustine
Baker. The Pseudo-Dionysian disciples, among them
Meister Eckhart and the Cloud of Unknowing author, however,
discouraged the nuns' affective imaging of Holy Land
events. Convents would become, quite literally at the
French Revolution, prisons. Countering their negativity,
William Flete, Alfonso of Jaén, Adam Easton, a Norwich
Benedictine and the Cardinal who effected Birgitta's
canonization, and Augustine Baker praised women's
contemplative writings and laid down rules for their
acceptance as prophetic where their visions led to
charity, to the love of God and neighbour. These
'ecstatic conversations' on the part of hermits and
anchoresses led to great joy, even laughter, as we see
in Richard Rolle, John Whiterig, the Cloud of Unknowing
author and Julian of Norwich.
first present the contemplatives who were read in
England and throughout Latin Christendom, the precursors
and models for our own, Augustine with Monica, Jerome
with Paula and Eustochium, Arsenius, Boethius,
Pseudo-Dionysius, Benedict, Scholastica and Gregory. We
shall also present the later influences upon the English
contemplatives of Continental Hildegard of Bingen
(influenced by Anglo-Saxon Lioba), Marguerite Porete,
Angela of Foligno, Mechtild of Hackeborn, the Friends of
God, Henry Suso and Jan van Ruusbroec, Birgitta of
Sweden and Catherine of Siena, from texts present in
English manuscripts. We lack Mechitild of Magdebourg's
entry into this tradition until Lucy Menzies' fine
translation of her.
the second part of this book, our truly English
contemplatives, Christina of Markyate, Richard Rolle,
John Whiterig, William Flete, the Cloud of
Unknowing Author, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich
and Margery Kempe, are presented, giving also their
textual transmission in manuscripts written out by
Brigittine and Benedictine nuns and recusants. Our
touchstone will be the Amherst manuscript in which a
Carmelite monk (perhaps Prior Richard Misyn), copies out
for Margaret Heslyngton and perhaps, earlier, for a
Carmelite anchoress, such as Dame Emma Stapleton,
daughter of the Sir Miles Stapleton who is the executor
of the Countess of Suffolk's Will leaving Julian of
Norwich a legacy, magnificent contemplative texts. It
contains writings by Richard Misyn, Richard Rolle,
Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Jan van Ruusbroec,
Henry Suso, Birgitta of Sweden, and, in another
manuscript by the same scribe, Mechtild of Hackeborn.
section discusses English nuns in exile at the
Reformation, among them first the Brigittines, then the
Benedictines, Dame Margaret Gascoigne, Dame Gertrude
More, Dame Catherine Gascoigne, Dame Barbara Constable,
Dame Bridget More, Dame Clementia Cary, Dame Agnes More,
as they carried out Father Augustine Baker's suggestions
for editing and publishing in manuscript and in print
the medieval contemplative texts, for treasuring these
as their own monastic dowry and for sharing it with the
these texts in their original languages in sequence
(like James Joyce's Birth of Mrs Purefoy's Baby in the
'Oxen of the Sun' chapter to Ulysses, where we are regaled with the
nine centuries of the English language, alongside the
nine months' gestation of her child) so that this guide
may be not only one to contemplation but also be a
linguistic study through time, as is Fernand Mossè's
most useful Handbook
of Middle English.
an epilogue we see this tradition alive today in the
writing about and editing of these texts by Evelyn
Underhill and Lucy Menzies, by Father Robert Llewellyn
and Revd John Clark, these both Anglican priests, in the
careful editorial publishing by Catholic James Hogg of
the University of Salzburg, and in the practice of
Julian and Ruusbroec's spirituality by Don Divo Barsotti
of Settignano, and other labourers in the vineyard.
Italian has the word 'intrecciato', meaning things being
linked and braided together, being Lucretius' and John
Livingston Lowes' 'hooked atoms'. We shall find this
here in this anthology, strands being 'Arsenius', or
'pilgrim' or 'treadling', the little white stone with
one's name, or the hazelnut in the palm of one's hand,
or the whole cosmos shrunk into one ray of light.
I was staying at Kilcullen, County Kildare, in Ireland,
amongst Catholic nuns, one of whom explained to me that
England is 'Mary's Dowry'. I had come to work with
Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., the editor of the
extant manuscripts of Julian of Norwich. Together we
discussed the opening of the Westminster Cathedral
Manuscript of Julian, in which Mary's Advent
contemplation, 'O Sapientia', of her as-yet-unborn
Child, is mirrored in Julian's contemplation of Mary,
and which in turn is mirrored in ourselves reading
Julian and thus mirroring her in ourselves and through
her, the Virgin and Child. Three times in Luke Mary
treasures all these things in her heart. A Carthusian
monk enters his cell through an ante-room called the
'Ave Maria', because of the significance of Mary and
thus presents an anthology of the contemplative
writings, those written out in England, and then in
exile from England, being treasured and copied out in
turn by generations, across space and time, becoming the
'English Mission' to win back Mary's lost Dowry. Its
Italian edition will be presented in parallel text, both
in English and in Italian.
Christmas Day, 2007
and Constantine, Monica and Augustine, Jerome, Paula
and Eustochium, Arsenius, Boethius,
the Areopagite, Benedict, Scholastica and Gregory
Helena (†327) and Constantine (†337)
A. Helena and Constantine, Monica and Augustine, Jerome, Paula and Eustochium, Arsenius, Boethius, Dionysius the Areopagite, Benedict, Scholastica and Gregory
of Bingen, Marguerite Porete, Angela of Foligno,
Mechtild of Hackeborn, Dante Alighieri, the
Friends of God, Henry
Suso, Jan van Ruusbroec, Birgitta of Sweden,
Catherine of Siena
Lorica, 'The Cry of the Deer'
of the Rood'
Christina of Markyate, Richard Rolle, John Whiterig, William Flete, Walter Hilton, the Cloud of Unknowing Author, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe
A. The Brigittines Orcherd of Syon, Mirroure of Oure Lady
The Benedictines: Dames Margaret Gascoigne, Gertrude
More, Catherine Gascoigne, Barbara Constable,
Clementia Cary, Father Augustine Baker, Serenus
I. THE PRECURSORS
A. Helena and Constantine, Monica and Augustine, Jerome, Paula and Eustochium, Arsenius, Boethius, Dionysius the Areopagite, Benedict, Scholastica and Gregory
et us begin with the Empress Helena,
mother of the Emperor Constantine. The official account of her
life speaks of her as an Eastern princess, but in Celtic
Britain the legends persist that she was a Christian British
slave. She became Constantius' concubine and, A.D. 274,
Constantine's mother. She was repudiated by the Emperor
Constantius in 292, next treated with honour by Constantine
when he was proclaimed Emperor, at York, in 302. Christianity
was adopted by the Empire in 312. It could well be that his
mother, like African Augustine's, had much to do with
Constantine's conversion to Christianity. Constantine would
establish the seat of Empire not in Rome but in Byzantium,
Constantinople, on the shores of the Black Sea. Orthodox art
before and after its iconoclastic phase, shows the Madonna and
Child dressed in imperial garb, in Roman togas. This
iconography doubly refers to Mary and Jesus, Helena and
Constantine, palimpsested the one on the other. Both times,
when iconoclasm is overturned, it is in turn carried out
similarly by Empresses, Irene in 787 and Theodora in 843, as
we witness in the British Museum's icon, the 1400 'The Triumph
of Orthodoxy', showing the Regent Empress Theodora with her
four-year-old son the Emperor Michael presiding at the
restoration of the use of icons.
Helena, now Empress, visited the Holy
Places, such as Bethlehem,
Jerusalem and Sinai, determined where their churches would be
built, and she and her son officially established for
Christendom the cult of the Cross. However it is likely that the
present Mount Sinai is not the true Sinai of Exodus but a
mountain Helena decreed by fiat as Mount Sinai and that
declaration is taken on faith by pilgrims to this day. Eusebius
of Caesaria (260-339), their contemporary, wrote the account of
Constantine and Helena's pilgrimages and building programmes in
the Holy Places. Eusebius emphasizes Constantine as undertaking
the excavations on Golgotha and building the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre in 335. Later legend will have this archeology and
architecture be Helena's. Eusebius affirms Helena's actions in
this area in connection with the Bethlehem cave and basilica and
with that on the Mount of Olives. He touchingly describes how
she wished, quoting Psalm 132.7, to 'worship at the place
whereon his feet have stood.' He also describes how
While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds as I have described, she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting his Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct.
Monica (†387) and Augustine (†430)
Augustinus, was born in Africa in A.D. 354 at a time when
the Roman Empire was crumbling. He grappled with the
conflicting beliefs of that uncertain era, coming to reject
Neoplatonism and Manicheanism for Christianity, being
converted in a garden outside Milan through reading Paul's
Epistle. And his mother's tears. He had been a Professor of
Rhetoric, of Literature, he now professed Christ, the Word.
Edith Stein has written a beautiful dialogue between Ambrose
and Augustine in her Three Dialogues. Augustine was baptised
by Ambrose in 387. Returning to Africa he became Bishop of
Hippo, dying as the Vandals were besieging his beloved
cathedral city. In his Confessions he writes his
spiritual biography, much as Julian does in her Showing
of Love. In it he
explains that sin is the tending to non-being, to diverging
from God's Creation. In its Book XI Augustine presents a
heady discourse upon Time and Eternity, based upon Ambrose's
And so our discussion went on. Suppose, we said, that the tumult of man's flesh were to cease and all that his thoughts can conceive, of earth, of water, and of air, should no longer speak to him; suppose that the heavens and even his own soul were silent, no longer thinking of itself but passing beyond; suppose that his dreams and the visions of his imagination spoke no more and that every tongue and every sign and all that is transient grew silent - for all these things have the same message to tell, if only we can hear it, and their message is this: We did not make ourselves, but he who abides for ever made us.
or was Helena the only European woman to visit the Holy Places in Africa and Asia during this period and to write letters describing her experiences. Let us also look at the Roman matron and widow Paula and her virgin daughter Eustochium. Paula and Eustochium wrote an important, joint, and most joy-filled letter to their friend in Rome, Marcella, published as Jerome's Epistola XLVI/46, in which they described their pilgrimage in A.D. 385 to the Holy Places, to Africa, to Israel, before settling down for the rest of their lives with Jerome in Bethlehem, financially supporting him and assisting his labours with translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, the Vulgate text to which Egeria did not have access. We often see paintings of scarlet-clad Cardinal Jerome in his study at his labours, but his womenfolk are forgotten and omitted from those canvesses, except in two, one now in the National Gallery in London, but which was at San Girolamo in Fiesole, which shows the widowed Paula, at her side her most beautiful virgin daughter, Eustochium, and another by Francisco Zurburan and Workshop now in the National Gallery in Washington, and originally painted for the Hieronymite Order founded by Alfonso of Jaén's brother, and to which belonged the famous Sor Juana de la Cruz in Mexico City.
Paula movingly contrasts the wealth of
Rome and the poverty of Bethlehem:
Paula's pilgrimage, like Egeria's, is a mapping out in time and space, using the Bible to understand the lands of the Bible. But Paula adds to Egeria's knowledge of the Bible in its Old Latin translation and her curiosity about Greek and comparative liturgy, her own knowledge not only of classical Latin but also of Greek and the Hebrew she is avidly studying. Helena, Egeria and Paula all use time and space, the book of the Bible and geography of the Holy Land as their Internet upon which to weave a web of links to sanctity, retrieving what is hallowed and hallowing.
Twenty years later, Jerome was to write another letter, his Epistola CVIII/108, praising Paula, and in it recapitulating the description of the pilgrimage that she had made. We learn much about Paula in Jerome's voluminous writings. He tells of her luxurious Roman life, her wealth, and her very great status. She, who had once always dressed in silks, and who had been used to being carried about Rome by her eunuch slaves so that her feet might never touch the ground, who was descended from Agamemnon, and whose husband was descended from Aeneas, had joined Marcella's group of high-born, wealthy Roman ladies, who together attempted to follow a life of monastic severity. Jerome became their teacher, expounding the Scriptures to them. But he quarrelled with Church officials in Rome most bitterly and found it expedient to return to Bethlehem. Paula and her daughter, Eustochium, joined him there, Paula leaving behind the rest of her children weeping on the quay. In the Holy Land Paula studied Hebrew so that she might sing the psalms, the chief early Christian devotional practice, in their original language and assist him in his translation work. She lived for twenty years in Bethlehem, dying there in A.D. 404. Paula and Eustochium's letter to Marcella pleads with their old friend that she leave Rome, called in the letter a 'Babylon,' and come to Jerusalem and its Holy Places. A noted Jerome scholar remarks that this letter is 'written in the name of Paula and her daughter but manifestly by Jerome himself, to Marcella,' then goes on to say, 'It is an idyllic piece, relating spiritual serenity and contentment . . . and stands in striking contrast to the querulous, vituperative note' of Jerome's typical writings. We find other male scholars making the same statements of Heloise's letters, that they are Abelard's, yet that they are in a totally different style than his.
The letter in question is Epistola XLVI. It describes Paula's pilgrimages to all these Holy Places in such a way as to have Marcella participate in their sacred journeying, mentally, and vicariously, in her imagination. Paula and Eustochium begin their letter by stating that, although the Crucifixion may have made Jerusalem an accursed place, there is ample scriptural justification for Christians to return to that holy city. Paula relies not only on the Scriptures and upon her growing knowledge of Hebrew but also upon Cicero for her arguments, describing both St. Paul speaking of his need to return to Jerusalem and Cicero speaking of his need to learn one's Greek not only in Sicily but in Athens, one's Latin not in Lilybaeum but in Rome. She adds, in a capstone to her argument, that Jerusalem is 'our Athens.' She then quotes Virgil's First Eclogue on the great distance of the British Isles from Rome in noting that Christian Gauls and Britons all make haste to come, not to Rome, but to far Jerusalem. Jerome is also fond of this phrase, but states it the opposite way: ' Et de Hierosolymis et de Britannia aequaliter patet aula coelestis: regnum enim dei intra nos est,' Epistola LVIII. Chaucer may have had it in mind with his Wife of Bath, who so often speaks of Jerome. Jerome writes the letter in 404 after Paula's death, giving Paula's vita to her virgin daughter, Eustochium. In contrast to Paula's letter to Marcella, Jerome's account of the pilgrimage Paula made is almost barren of references to classical authors. He does, however, mention the ' fables of the poets', de fabulis Poetarum , in giving the tale of Andromeda chained to a rock, as happening at Joppa, which he notes was also the harbor of the fugitive Jonah. He had earlier cited some lines of the Aeneid concerning the Greek Isles. But, unlike Paula, he does not show off his classical learning. He is here being more Christian than Ciceronian. (We recall his dream in which he is chided, or chides himself, by being told, 'Thou art not a Christian. Thou art a Ciceronian.' But it is full of descriptions of her great piety and of her deep emotional participation in the past drama of the present places which she visits. He feminizes her. He is writing in her praise as had Valerius in that of Egeria. The letter waxes most sentimental about her parting from her family members, describing her as torn between the love of her children and her love for God.
Epistola CVIII/108 notes Paula's deep, affective piety at
the Cross and the Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and at the cave
and church in Bethlehem, which she had not particularly
stressed herself. He amplifies her previous words to
Marcella and speaks of her as prostrating herself before the
Cross, almost seeing upon it the hanging body of the Lord,
as she prays, and as kissing the stones, the one which the
angel had rolled away and the one in the Holy Sepulchre on
which the Lord had lain. Then he describes her entering into
the cave of the Nativity,
weeping and as if seeing the Virgin wrapping the Child in
swaddling clothes and placing him in the manger between the
ox and the ass written of in the Prophets, the Magi adoring
him, the star shining above, the Mother nursing the Child,
the shepherds coming by night and seeing the Word which was
made flesh as John wrote in the beginning of his Gospel:
n principio erat verbum et
verbum caro factum est.'
One should note that Jerome, Paula and Eustochium lived in the adjacent cave, which one can still see today, reached by a passage from that of the Nativity, beneath the sanctuary in the Empress Helena's Bethlehem basilica.
Jerome's account in Epistola CVIII/108
ends by saying, and unconsciously echoing Valerius concerning
His book was treasured up for centuries, only falling out of favour at the Age of Reason. King Alfred translated it into Old English, Jean de Meun translated it into French, Chaucer translated it into Middle English. Queen Elizabeth I translated it into Elizabethan English. Dante, Chaucer and Julian of Norwich all used its concepts and were all deeply influenced by it. Boethius' Consolation is a key to understanding medieval poetry and Christian theology. It is also a 'golden book' as Edward Gibbon called it, that can be of use to disordered souls in our own moment in time.
The work is written in sections, divided between Prose and Poetry. Medieval manuscripts of the text are richly illuminated, presenting Boethius in prison, mourning on his bed, and visited by the Lady Philosophia, and from her Dante derived his consoling figure of Beatrice.
Book II, Poem 8 Philosophia: Love rules the earth and the seas, and commands the heavens.
Book III, Prose 1 Philosophia: I am about to lead you to true happiness, to the goal your mind has dreamed of. But your vision has been so clouded by false images you have not been able to reach it.
Poem 1 Philosophia: Just so, by first recognizing false goods, you begin to escape the burden of their influence; then afterwards true goods may gain possession of your spirit.
Poem 3 Philosophia: The only stable order in things is that which connects the beginning to the end and keeps itself on a steady course.
Poem 9 Philosophia: You [God] who are most beautiful produce the beautiful world from your divine mind and, forming it in your image, You order the perfect parts into a perfect whole.
Prose 12 Philosophia: Then it is the supreme good which rules all things firmly and disposes all sweetly (Wisdom 8.1). Boethius: I am delighted not only by your powerful argument and its conclusion, but even more by the words you have used. And I am at last ashamed of the folly that so profoundly depressed me. Philosophia: Then can God do evil? Boethius: No, of course not. Philosophia: Then evil is nothing, since God, who can do all things, cannot do evil. Boethius: You are playing with me by weaving a labyrinthine argument from which I cannot escape. You seem to begin where you ended and to end where you began. Are you perhaps making a marvelous circle of the divine simplicity? Philosophia: As Parmenides puts it, the divine essence, is 'in body like a sphere, perfectly rounded on all sides'.
Book IV, Prose 6 Philosophia: Consider the example of a number of spheres in orbit around the same central point: the innermost moves toward the simplicity of the center and becomes a kind of hinge about which the outer spheres circle; whereas the outermost, whirling in a wider orbit, tends to increase its orbit in space the farther it moves from the indivisible midpoint of the center. If, however it is connected to the center, it is confined by the simplicity of the center and no longer tends to stray into space. In like manner whatever strays farthest from the divine mind is most entangled in the nets of Fate; conversely, the freer a thing is from Fate, the nearer it approaches the center of all things. Therefore, the changing course of Fate is to the simple stability of Providence as time is to eternity, as a circle to its center.
Book V, Prose 6 Philosophia: Eternity is the whole, perfect, and simultaneous possession of endless life. The meaning of this can be made clearer by comparison with temporal things, For whatever lives in time lives in the present, proceeding from past to future, and nothing is so constituted in time that it can embrace the whole span of its life at once. It has not arrived at tomorrow, and it has already lost yesterday; even the life of this day is lived only in each moving, passing moment. But God sees as present those future things which result from free will. If you will face it, the necessity of virtuous action imposed upon you is very great, since all your actions are done in the sight of a Judge who sees all things.
Gothic Architecture, Norwich Cathedral
But Abelard, while a monk at St Denis, denounced Dionysius's identity as fraudulent. Meanwhile, the Victorines also discovered and used the Dionysian corpus of writings. Cardinal Adam Easton, the brilliant Benedictine of Julian's Norwich, owned the complete works of Pseudo-Dionysius, in a fine thirteenth-century manuscript giving some of the Greek text as well as all the Latin translation, the invocation to the Trinity being most beautifully illuminated with a gold-leafed, intertwined 'T' at folio 108v. That manuscript is today, Cambridge Ii.III.32. Meanwhile, the Cloud of Unknowing Author (but whom I suspect to have been Adam Easton writing to Julian), translated the Mystic Theology into Middle English as Deonise Hid Diuinite for a woman contemplative. To do so he converted the Trinity into an invocation to divine and feminine Wisdom.
Benedict (†547), Scholastica (†before 547) and Gregory (†604)
regory the Great (c. 540-604) wrote an account of the Life and Miracles of St Benedict (c.480-547), casting these in the form of Dialogues between himself and Peter, a fellow monk. In these Dialogues there is a most moving account of Benedict and of his twin sister Scholastica and how she is able to force her brother to break his Rule and stay over night at her convent at Subiaco so that they may converse all night upon God. She prays to God for a storm which he grants. Three days later she dies.
That account is followed by one of Benedict's vision of God as greater than all his Creation. He is standing in prayer at a window of a great tower, apart from his sleeping disciples, when suddenly there is a great light, greater than that of the sun. As he marvels he suddenly sees as it were the whole world collected into one ray of light before his eyes.
Gregory and Peter discuss that vision, Gregory explaining that to the soul who sees the Creator all Creation becomes small, 'animae uidenti creatorem angusta est omnis creatorem'. He goes on to explain that it is not that the world contracts, but that the soul, seeing God, expands above the world, becoming greater than itself. 'Quod autem collectus mundus ante eius oculos dicitur, non caelum et terra contracta est, sed uidentis animus dilatatus, qui, in deo raptus, uidere sine difficultate potuit omne quod infra deum est'. And he further discourses upon the interior light and that of the eyes in this vision. The male abbot has experienced Mary's Magnificat in his prayers. 'My soul doth magnify the Lord'. Smallness become largeness; darkness, light; humility, power.
Gregory's Dialogues was, of course, a staple in Benedictine circles. The lovely dialogue, within the Dialogues, following upon this one of Benedict's vision of God, was of the twin brother and sister, and which is sung antiphonally on the feast day of Benedict and Scholastica by Benedictines, celebrating the breaking of their sacred Rule. And that served to make Benedict's following vision concerning prayer the more memorable.
Christina of Markyate refers to Benedict's vision, where she sees in a flash of light the whole world.
And Julian of Norwich refers to it - and especially in connection with the Virgin at the Annunciation and Nativity,
and with the hazelnut passage,
and then again and again fugally throughout her text.
whose anchorhold at St Julian's Church is under the
Benedictines of Carrow Priory, who are in turn under the
Benedictines of Norwich Cathedral Priory, is seeped in
Benedictinism. It is possible that her Benedictinism is taught
her by the brilliant Norwich Benedictine Adam Easton. It is
even possible that Adam Easton might be her brother, might
even be her twin.
Lioba, Hildegard of Bingen, Marguerite Porete, Angela of
Foligno, Mechtild of Hackeborn, Dante Alighieri, the
Friends of God, Henry Suso, Jan van Ruusbroec, Birgitta
of Sweden, Catherine of Siena
Her life tells, among others, this story: 'She had a dream in which one night she saw a purple thread issuing from her mouth. It seemed to her that when she took hold of it with her hand and tried to draw it out there was no end to it. . . When her hand was full of thread and it still issued from her mouth she rolled it round and round and made a ball of it .' An old and prophetic nun was asked about the meaning of the dream and explained that it referred to Lioba's wise counsels spoken from her heart. 'Furthermore, the ball which she made by rolling it round and round signifies the mystery of the divine teaching, which is set in motion by the words and deeds of those who give instruction and which turns earthwards through active works and heavenwards through contemplation, at one time swinging downwards through compassion for one's neighbour, again swinging upwards through the love of God.'
The image of the
ball of purple thread in Lioba's hand is similar to Julian's
hazel nut in the palm of her hand.
From the Lucca Manuscript
Deus creavit mundum
non facio illi iniuriam,
sed volo uti illo.
ildegard of Bingen, and other women like her, such as Hrotswitha of Gandesheim (A.D. 932-1000) and Herrad of Landesburg, followed in the learned Benedictine tradition established in German-speaking countries from England, such as with St Leoba, which gave women the status of Christian equality with men. Hildegard composed music and wrote treatises on medicine, on Benedict's Rule, a play, many letters, and visionary mystical works which she also illuminated in a manner that is deeply compelling. But, unlike Lioba, she was not a pleasing person. Until the age of forty she kept to her bed. Richardis, her friend and fellow nun, then persuaded her to embark on her career as writer of letters to the leaders of Church and State in her day and to compose her mystical treatises. When Richardis left her to become an abbess at another monastery Hildegard was furious, demanding her return. Richardis, obediently, died. Hildegard ruled her monastery by means of tyrannising over her nuns with her migraines - about which she writes in her medical works and whose effect she illuminates in her mystical treatises. She is an example of a genius who is less than charitable. One admires her work, but not her desire for control. She has significant prophetic messages for us today.Hildegard, Ordo Virtutum
In real life there was such a prodigal daughter, Richardis von Stade, the much loved fellow nun who had colluded with and nursed Hildegard in her illness of not only the customary migraines but even bouts of blindness and paralysis at the time when she sought to leave Disibodenberg in order to found Rupertsberg. Richardis had encouraged Hildegard in her writing of Scivias, begun in 1141. Perhaps she recognized that this was psychotherapy for her abbess. The partly completed text of Scivias, Bernard's interest in it, and Richardis' family influence enabled Pope Eugenius III to grant papal recognition to Hildegard at the Synod of Trier and also made possible the move to Rupertsberg. At this time the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa had a secret interview concerning prophecy with Hildegard, the Sibyl of the Rhine, at his royal palace at Ingelheim. It is very likely that these clustered actions took place through the influence of Richardis von Stade and her powerful family in their attempt to save Hildegard's life.
Then Adelheid was elected abbess of Gandesheim in 1152, Richardis having been elected abbes of Bassum in 1151. Hildegard had bitterly opposed Richardis' election which would take her way from her, and she ungratefully took the case to her family and to the pope. Adelheid's election was not so disturbing to her. The Archbishop of Bremen, Richardis' brother, have been forced to write to Hildegard to break the news to her of Richardis' sudden death on 29 October 1151. He told her that his sister when dying had stated her intention of returning to Hildegard and Rupertsberg. Hildegard, answering his letter, described Richardis in words that echo and mirror those of the Ordo Virtutum and its surrounding text in the Scivias; there are also echoes of another letter written to a woman who had abandoned being a nun and to whom Hildegard had referred as a prodigal son. In all these writings Hildegard stressing her outrage at women's disobedience, used the Benedictine emphasis upon Ordo, even to the extent of paraphrasing Benedict's Rule, while describing the serpent, the devil, in Virgilian terms borrowed from the Aeneid, Book II, to give vent to her personal emotions.
Perhaps within that rage is Hildegard's envy of Richardis' freedom. Her headaches and invalidism could indicate suppressed fury. She herself tended to recover from serious illness through being disobedient. She had been presented to Disibodenberg as a child of eight, and took her vows of perpetul virginity and obedience very early in life. Obedience, Ordo, is central to her life and art. Yet her writings are full of sexual curiosity and lore, this material granting her writings some of their most powerful images. Yet she disobeyed Disibodenberg in founding St Rupertsberg. Yet she herself would defy St Paul against women preaching, and she would herself preach at Trier - like Mary Magdalen's legendary preaching in Provence. Mary Magdalen being perceived in monasticism as having been the first contemplative, the model for monastic life - though Hildegard oddly compared her love for Richardis to that of Paul for Timothy. Yet she would even, in 1178, when she was eighty, defy the Church concerning the burial of a young nobleman and would face six months of excommunication. Yet her music disobeys, to its glory, the acceptable and expected intervals of Gregorian chant. Not for nothing did Goethe, who knew her work, echo her love of viriditas with his Faustian 'Grey, dear Friend, is all theory,/ And green is life's golden tree'.
In the play,
but only in play, not in reality, the Anima/ Richardis returns
to Queen Humility/ Abbess Hildegard, the ugly shouted words of
the Devil giving way to the chanted symphony of the Virtues
and the returned Soul - an alternative and comedic ending to
the tragic story. The scenes of the Soul and of the chained
Devil are splendidly illuminated in the now lost Scivias
codex. It could well be that had it not been for
Richardis' disobedience, first to the concept of women's
helplessness, then to the concept of her dependency upon
another, and finally Richardis' choice of death as freedom
from Hildegard's tyranny, the writings, the music and the
illuminations we so treasure today could not have come into
being. They are like the pearl of great price: they
inscribe, chant and illumine the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us
now conclude with Hedwig's vision of Hildegard walking in
the cloister which she had built, singing her own sequence
O virga ac diadema.
Mechtild of Hackeborn (†1298)
ertrude of Hackeborn was elected Abbess of Helfta in 1251 at nineteen. Her sister, Mechthild of Hackeborn, like Mechtild of Magdebourg, wrote visionary works. And so did another nun who entered the convent, Gertrude the Great. Their visions are largely based on Bernard and the Song of Songs and filled with eroticism and the Body of Christ, in particular, his Sacred Heart. Julian is to borrow some of that imagery in her Showing of Love for the scene where Christ shows her the wound in his side, as he had earlier shown it to Doubting Thomas, to affirm his love for his Creation. The scribe of her Amherst Short Text Showing of Love also is the scribe of Mechtild of Hackeborn's Book of Ghostly Grace in Middle English. The seventeenth-century English Benedictine nuns in exile consciously took Helfta as their model, the very young Helen More taking the name in religion of 'Gertrude' with that awareness.
Angela of Foligno (†1309)
ngela of Foligno, a Franciscan tertiary, who did not really choose to live in a physical cloister or a physical cell, spoke of the fruits of contemplation as being where one's soul becomes a room, a cell, in which one finds the All Good, finds the entire Creation. This account, written down at her dictation by Fra Arnaldo, her confessor and spiritual director, often clandestinely, gives: 'anima mea est una camera . . . est ibi . . . omne bonum'.
Et aliquando dum eram in praedictis dixit mihi Deus: Filia divinae sapientiae, templum Dilecti, delectum Dilecti. Et: Filia pacis, in te pausat tota Trinitas, tota veritas, ita quod tu tenes me et ego teneo te. Et una operationum animae est, quod intelligo cum magna capacitate et cum magno delectamento quomodo Deus venit in Sacramento altaris cum illa societate (IX: p. 215)/.
Et ego frater scriptor quaesivi ab ea si illa acies, postquam acies erat, si habebat aliquid mensurae in longitudine aliqua vel in latitudine aliquo modo. Et ipsa respondit quod non habebat aliquam mensuram in longitudine vel latitudine, sed erat ineffabiliter. (IX: p. 211)./
(Oportet quod homo cognoscat)
Iterum cum quaereretur ab ea quare oportet haberi paupertatem, dolorem et despectum, respondit: Oportet quod homo cognoscat Deum et seipsum.
Cognitio Dei praesupponit cognitionem sui hoc modo, ut videlicet homo consideret et videat quem offendit; postea consideret et videat quis est ipse qui offendit. Ex qua secunda consideratione et visione datur gratia super gratiam, visio super visionem, lumen super lumen.
Ex his incipit devenire ad cognitionem Dei. Et quanto amplius cognoscit, tanto amplius diligit; et quanto amplius diligit, tanto plus desiderat; et quanto plus desiderat, tanto fortius operatur. Et ista operatio est signum et mensura amoris; quia in hoc cognoscitur si amor est purus et verus et rectus, si homo diligit et operatur quod dilexit et operatus est ille quem diligit.
Sed Christus, quem diligit, habuit, dilexit et operatus est illa tria donec vixit; ergo qui eum diligit, debet eadam semper diligere, operari et habere sicut Christus ea habuit, ut habetur supra./
Perhaps Franciscan Angela of Foligno helped shaped Dominican Catherine of Siena's and Benedictine Julian of Norwich's concept of a 'Cell of Self-Knowledge'. Certainly the English Benedictine nuns in exile at Cambrai and Paris were copying out her text as well as Julian's. A small manuscript by them, Bibliothèque Mazarine 1202, titled 'Colections', finished 23 July 1724, on pages 21-22, gives:
n a certain time while I
pray'd in my Cell, these words were sayd
unto me interiorly by God.
ante Alighieri, like Julian, lived in the fourteenth-century, and was as deeply influenced as was she by these three mystic theologians. He embedded the principle of Love, spoken of by all three, as the controlling force of his Commedia as it is of the Cosmos, ' l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle'. And in Vita Nuova XII, he had described God as Love saying to him, 'Ego tamquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentie partes; tu autem non sic.' [I am as at the centre of the circle, equidistant from all parts, but you are not'.]
It is not likely that Julian was
influenced by Dante except, perhaps, through Cardinal Adam
Easton, who quotes from him in his own writings. What is
important is that they share the same principles derived from
these preceding mystic theologians, participating in a past
'Internet' of God's Wisdom. Common also to many of these
mystics, these Friends of God, is the sense of drawing apart, as
to Mount Tabor with Christ, only to descend the Mountain again
to be with all people in God's image, to be both chosen and
universal, to treasure these things in their heart as had Mary,
their task to seek Wisdom, amongst women and amongst men, and
with her to be part of God's sweet ordering of the cosmos.
All these writers, Augustine, Boethius, Dionysius, Dante and Julian, are influenced by the Hebraic and feminine figure of God's Wisdom, God's Daughter.
The Friends of
God, Henry Suso, Jan van Ruusbroec
Henry Suso (†1366)
enry Suso was born in Switzerland about 1296, entering the Dominican monastery at fifteen. Five years later, after much guilt and excessive asceticism (including inscribing Jesus' name over his heart upon his flesh with his writing stylus), he was 'converted', giving his heart to the love of Eternal Wisdom. He worked with Meister Eckhart at Cologne after 1320 and wrote the Book of Divine Truth in defense of Eckhart's teachings. Suso was then himself forbidden to teach, though he continued to write, and he wandered about, in close contact with John Tauler, Henry of Nordlingen and other 'Friends of God'. Elsbeth Stägel, a Dominican nun at Töss, wrote his Life and received assistance from him as the 'Servant' on interpreting Eckhart's writings.
Einsiedeln, Cod. 710 (322), fol. 89, Henry Suso and Elsbeth Stagel sheltering under cloak of Sapientia
The Horologium Sapientiae ('Clock of Wisdom', the 'Computer of Wisdom'), was written in 1339. Henry Suso died at Ulm, 1366. Immensely popular throughout Europe this work was translated into other languages.
Henry Suso's Horologium Sapientiae, in British Library, Add. 37,790, fols. 135v-136v, presents part of Chapter Four's dialogue between Wisdom and the Disciple. British Library, Add. 37,790, the Amherst Manuscript, also contains Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls, Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone, and works by Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton and Birgitta of Sweden. It may have been copied out by Richard Misyn himself for the recluse Margaret Heslyngton, and these earlier layers of the manuscript could have even been written as early as circa 1413, and represent Julian's own contemplative library. One may be reading what she once read.
Both Henry Suso and Richard
Rolle stress Jesus ' name, Suso inscribing it upon his own flesh
over his heart with his writing stylus, Rolle wearing it as an
embroidered badge upon his hermit's garb, Charles de Foucauld as
a hermit using a similar practice in our own century. Women were
more likely to centre such a concept upon the heart of Jesus, as
did Mecthild of Hackeborn, whose Book of Ghostly Grace
in British Library, Egerton 2006, is copied out by the same
scribe as that of this Amherst Manuscript, and as did Julian of
There is a Carol sung each Christmas in Germany, said in its legend to have been sung by the Angels when they danced with Henry Suso.
The concluding reference in this text to the Desert Father Arsenius is also to be found in the booklet 'Colections', seized at the French Revolution. Manuscripts of this text by Henry Suso are sometimes illuminated with Henry Suso, who was Swiss, and his translator together gazing upon the medieval form of a computer, an elaborate Swiss clock, presented to us by the figure of God as female Wisdom. The rubrication here follows that in the Amherst Manuscript.
A Brief Formula for the Spiritual Life:
N the fellowship of saints
which as the morning stars
shone in the dark night of this world and as the sun and moon
shed forth the beams of their clear knowledge you shall find some who
surpassingly were perfectly grounded not only in active life and virtue but
also in contemplation, of whose teaching and example you may take
the most perfect doctrine and love of true spiritual life. And nevertheless I
willingly and condescendingly to your youth and inexperience shall give you
some principles of spiritual living for a memory to have always
at hand to set you in the right working if you desire
to have the perfection of spiritual life that is to be desired by all men
and if you will and desire to take it up manfully you shall first
withdraw from ill fellowship and harmful company of all men who would
hinder you from your good purpose, seeking always opportunity when and what
time you may retire and there take privy silence for contemplation
and flee from the perils and turbulance of this harmful world. Always it
belongs to you first to study to have cleanness of heart, that is to say
that you keep your sensory perceptions turned into yourself and there you have as much as is
possible the doors of your heart busily closed from the
forms of outward things
and images of earthly things. Truly
among all other spiritual exercises cleanness of heart has the sovereignty,
as a final intent and reward of all the travails that a chosen knight of Christ is to receive.
Also you must lessen your affections from all your business about all the things that might
hinder your freedom from such a thing that in any manner has might and power to bind and
draw down your affection to it. As it is written in Moses' Law, 'Remain living in your own
dwelling and do not go out your door on the day of the Sabbath. Every man shall live by himself and
no man go out through the door of his house upon the Sabbath day'. This is as much as to say
that for a man to dwell with himself is to gather all the various
thoughts and affections of his heart and have them knit together into
one true and sovereign good, that is God. And to keep the Sabbath is
to have your heart free and unburdened from all fleshly affections that might
defoul the soul and from all worldly cares and business that might distress
it and so rest sweetly in peace of heart as in the haven of silence and
the love and feeling of his Creator God. Above all other things, let
this be your principal intent and business, that you always have your soul
and your mind lifted up to contemplation of heavenly things, so that
frail earthly things be left, to be continually drawn up to
the things that are above and what thing so ever it be that is different
from this, though it seem great in itself as chastising of the body, fasting,
vigils, and such like exercises of virtue, they shall be taken
and considered as secondary and less worthy and only so much expedient
and profitable as they profit and help to cleanness of heart. And there
fore it is that so few go on to perfection for they waste their time and their
strength in mean things that are not greatly profitable and the due
remedies they leave and discard. But if you desire to know the
right way to fulfil your intent you shall sovereignly desire
to continual cleanness of heart and rest of spirit and tranquillity and
to have your heart lastingly lifted up to God.
Disciple: Who is he who in this mortal body may always be knit to
that spiritual contemplation?
Wisdom: There may be no
deadly manner always fasten and
set into this contemplation but from this cause, as said earlier,
that you may know. Where you shall fasten and solemnly set the
intention of the spirit and to what mark you shall always draw
the beholding of your soul when at that time the mind may
get them he will be glad and when he is distracted and drawn
away then he is sorry and sighs often as he feels himself
separated from that beholding. But if by chance you will ever turn against
me and say that you may not long abide and dwell in one's man's state
you shall know and understand that the power of God may do
and work more than any man may think. Therefore it falls
often that that thing that a man binds him to at the beginning
with a manner of violence and difficulty, afterwards he shall
Liliane Géraud, Zürich
P. Odo Lang O.S.B., Librarian, Einsiedeln Abbey, which owns major Suso manuscript, Cod. 710 (322), also major Mechtild von Magdebourg manuscript
Jan van Ruusbroec (†1381)
Manuscript also translates Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone
into Middle English:
here may no man entere the sayde exercyse be
ffor contemplatyfe lyfe may nought be taught oone be anothere
bot where as god whiche es verrey trowthe manyfestys hym
selfe in spirit. ther all necessaries moste plentevously are lerned
and that is that the spirit says in the Apochalips vincenti
says he schalle gyffe hym a litil white stone and in it a newe
name the whiche no man knowes but who that takys it. This
litel stone promysed to a victorious man it is called. Calcalus.
for the litelnes ther of. ffor yyf alle a man trede it with his fete
yit he is not hurte th er with. This stone it is red with a schyny
nge witness to the lykenesse of a flawme of fyre. litylle and
rownde and be the serkle ther of it is playne and smothe. Be this
litel stone we vndyrstande oure lorde ihesu cryste. whyche by
his dyuynyte is the whitnesse of euer lastande lyght and the
schynere of the ioye of god. Also the myrroure withoute spotte
in the whiche alle thynge hase lyfe. Whosumeuere therefore
of Sweden , like Hildegard of Bingen, began her intense
political and authorial career suddenly in her forties.
Birgitta was widowed in 1344 and at that point commenced her
role as prophet not just to Sweden but to all of Europe. She
had already had visions, and so did others concerning her.
These visions she now wrote down with the help of major
Swedish ecclesiasts, one of them Master Mathias, who had
studied Hebrew under Nicholas Lyra in Paris, an Augustinian
Canon who was associated with Dominicans, and who translated
the Bible into Swedish for her. She spoke of Master Mathias
and of many others in her circle as 'Friends of God'. Her
first agenda was the reform of King Magnus of Sweden, who was
much in need of it. But she was also deeply concerned about
Europe, particularly about the Hundred Years' War being waged
between England and France, and the exile of the Popes to
Avignon. Master Mathias in 1347 was delegated by Bishop
Hemming of Abo to take the document to the Kings of England
and France and to the Pope in which Christ and the Virgin
order them to cease their war and the Pope to return to Rome.
St Birgitta of Sweden (†1373)
Bishop Hemming and St Birgitta, Diptych, Finland
This is what she wrote in a vision about and to King Magnus. In it she sees a lectern and a book. 'For the appearance of the lectern was as if it had been a sunbeam [of red, gold, white]. . . . And when I looked upwards, I might not comprehend the length and breadth of the lectern; and looking downward, I might not see nor comprehend the greatness nor the deepness of it . . . After this I see a Book on the same lectern, shining like most bright gold. Which Book, and its Scripture, was not written with ink, but each word in the book was alive and spoke itself, as if a man should say, do this or that, and soon it was done with speaking of the Word. No man read the Scripture of that Book, but whatever that Scripture contained, all was seen on the lectern. Before this lectern I see a king . . . The said king sat crowned as if it had been a vessel of glass closed about . . .'
She continues to describe how the king's glass globe is protected by an angel but threatened by a demon . . . 'This living king appears to you as if in as it were a vessel of glass, for his life is but as it were frail glass and suddenly to be ended'. She continues by speaking of how this king knowingly sins but that if he repents he can be saved by the angel from the fiend. Beside him is a dead king above whom is writing describing his lust, his pride, his avarice. . . but the writing is blankly gone from the part that should have proclaimed his love of God.
'Then the Word speaks from the lectern, saying "[What you see is the Godhead's self. That you cannot understand the length, breadth, depth and height of the lectern means that in God is not found either beginning or end. For God is and was without beginning, and shall be without end "]. Also the Word spoke to me and said "[The Book that you see on the lectern means that in the Godhead is endless justice and wisdom, to which nothing may be added or lessened. And this is the Book of Life, that is not written as the world's writing, that is and was not, but the scripture of this Book is forever. For in the Godhead is endless being and understanding of all things, present, past and to come, without any variation or changing. And nothing is invisible to it, for it sees all things "]. That the Word spoke itself means that God is the endless Word, from whom are all words, and in whom things have life and being. And this same Word spoke then visibly when the Word was made man and was conversant among men'. She adds to the King that she is giving him the Word's words, adding that 'few receive and believe the heavenly words given from God, which is not God's fault, but man's'.
Later, she writes 'I saw an altar and a chalice with wine and water and bread and I saw how in a church of the world a priest began the mass, arrayed in a priest's vestments. And when he had done all that belonged to the Mass, I saw as if the sun and moon and the stars with all the other planets, and all the heavens with their courses and moving spheres, sounded with the sweetest note and with sundry voices.'
St John writing the Apocalypse, Hans Memling, St John's Hospital, Bruges
In another vision, at the end of her life, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she sees the judgement of her wicked son Charles where her prayers and her tears for Charles cause the devil to have amnesia concerning her son's sins. First the book in which the fiend has written them down suddenly has blank pages instead of writing, then the sack in which he has placed them is empty when turned inside out, then the devil himself forgets them totally from his memory and goes wailing off to Hell, cursing Birgitta.
Much of Birgitta's visionary imagery comes from law courts, for her father was the King of Sweden's law man and her husband was likewise a law man. She both prophesied and wrote following the Black Death of 1348 when Doomsday, Judgment Day, seemed particularly near. She told King Magnus that the Black Death would happen, then left for Italy, Sweden being too dangerous for her. Birgitta set up her household in Rome, living in prayer and constantly receiving visions, having male secretaries assist her, one of them a Spanish Bishop, Alfonso of Jaén. In the last year of her life she journeyed to the Holy Land, preaching on her journey in Naples and Cyprus, prophesying the 1452 Fall of Constantinople. Her massive book of the Revelationes, which is really Julian's title of 'Showings', was copied out in illuminated manuscripts, then in print, and treasured throughout Europe.
At her death in
1373 Alfonso of Jaén, Queen Joanna of Naples, Queen Margaret
of Sweden, the Emperor Charles of Bohemia, and Cardinal Adam
Easton of England, a Benedictine from Julian's Norwich, all
sought Birgitta's canonization as a saint.
ope Gregory XI sent Alfonso of Jaén to Catherine of Siena at Birgitta of Sweden's death. At that point Catherine, who had previously been illiterate, proceeded to write important letters to Popes and Emperors, Kings and Queens and even to the condottiere Sir John Hawkwood, on the need for peace. We do not think of her as part of the Dominican-inspired Friends of God movement across Europe but this act clearly places her in that context. Pope Urban VI wanted her to have Birgitta's daughter, Catherine of Sweden, accompany her to carry out diplomacy on his behalf with Queen Joanna of Naples.
Catherine had been the twenty-fourth child of a Sienese dyer. Everyone had wanted her to marry but she refused, having made a vow of chastity, and instead sought to enter the Dominican Third Order, which only admitted women who were widows. She won. As a Dominican Tertiary she cared for the sick and dying, including criminals condemned to death in Siena. She was surrounded by disciples, one of them an English hermit, William Flete, whose work, The Remedies Against Temptations, Julian quotes and uses in the Showing of Love, another a lawyer Cristofano Di Ganno, who later translated Birgitta's Revelations into exquisite Italian, another a painter, Andrea Vanni, whose delicate portrait of her survives, indeed in the very place of her major visions in San Domenico, Siena.
Andrea Vanni, St Catherine of Siena, San Domenico, Siena
The young Catherine of Siena immured herself in her room in prayer - and later wrote or rather, dictated, of that time as her 'Cell of Self-Knowledge'. Besides her Letters she had also written, or, again, rather dictated, the Dialogo, the Dialogue between God and his Daughter, Catherine's Soul, in which he tells her that his Son is the bridge between God and man, a bridge that is like a stair, beginning first with the affections, then love, then peace. He adds that his Son's 'divinity is kneaded with the clay of your humanity like one bread'. This work, likely through Cardinal Adam Easton of Norwich who knew all three women, influenced Julian's Showing of Love, her 'Revelations'. A most beautiful manuscript of the Dialogo was translated into Middle English for the Brigittine nuns of Syon Abbey and called the Orcherd of Syon. It was printed by Wynken de Worde, Caxton's successor, again with that title, in 1519. It is illustrated below. Its exemplar may well have been a manuscript Adam gave Julian.
¶And here foloweth the fyrst/ chapytre of this boke. Which/ is how the soule of this mayde/ was oned to god & how then she/ made .iiii. petycyons to oure/ lorde in that tyme of contem/placyon and of the answere/ of god and of moche other do/ctryne: as it is specyfyed in the/ kalender before. Capt.1.
that is reysed up
with heuenly and
ghostly desyers & af-
feccyo ns to the worshyp
of god & to the helthe
of mannes soules with a greate . . .
The Orcherd of Syon (Westminster: Wynken de Worde, 1519), Catherine of Siena's Dialogo in Middle English, its colophon: 'a ryghte worshypfull and deuoute gentylman mayster Rycharde Sutton esquyer stewarde of the holy monastery of Syon fyndynge this ghostely tresure these dyologes and reuelacions . . . of seynt Katheryne of Sene in a corner by itselfe wyllynge of his greate charyte it sholde come to lyghte that many relygyous and deuoute soules myght be releued and haue comforte therby he hathe caused at his greate coste this booke to be prynted'./
Her confessor and biographer was Raymond of Capua who became head of the Dominican Order. Pope Urban VI leaned heavily upon her for his own survival. Severely anorexic, she died at the age of thirty-three, collapsing under the weight, she said, of the Church.
II. Medieval Irish and English Contemplatives
world is the world of prayer. When Julian would have
been enclosed in her Anchorhold one of the prayers said
was a later, abbreviated version of the following:
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
of the Rood' (VIII century)
The Ruthwell Cross, Scotland
The Roman Empress Helena, who likely came from York, where her son had been proclaimed Emperor, had commenced the practice and contemplation of pilgrimage to the Holy Places, to be followed in turn by women such as Paula, Eustochium, Fabiola, Marcella, Egeria and others. Emperor Constantine had himself been converted to Christianity, and converted the whole Roman Empire with him to Christianity, because of his Christian mother Helena and because of the dream vision he experienced (A.D. 312) of the Cross seen by him in the sky, prior to his victory over a pagan enemy. Northumbria's King Oswald (A.D. 634), a successor to King Edwin, then erected a cross prior to the Battle of Heavenfield in imitation of the Emperor Constantine.
The Anglo-Saxon Ruthwell Cross, reflecting Constantine and Oswald's crosses, allows those who see and read it to contemplate in turn each place concerning the life of Christ, Nazareth, the Egyptian Wilderness, the Jordan Wilderness, Galilee, and Jerusalem, culminating with the Crucifixion. It is a map of the Holy Places that pilgrims may read. The runes of the 'Dream of the Rood' inscribed about their edges, their margins, describe the writer, likely Cædmon, dreaming of the Cross speaking to him, narrating of the wood and blood and of the sacred burden it had once borne; then, in Cynewulf's longer version, of its being turned into the sacred reliquary bedecked by the Emperor Constantine with gold and rubies at Constantinople. Jerome, whose works were read at Whitby, had practiced contemplating upon the Crucifix, becoming himself as naked as the naked Christ, in his 'imitatio Christi'. So here does Cædmon, if he is its author, in his contemplation meet with the blood-stained wood of the Roman gallows (Anglo-Saxon 'galgu') erected once to hang Jesus, the Christ, the King of the Jews. So does Cædmon's poem, and its Cynewulfian revision, today have us converse as pilgrim visionaries with the ignoble gallows and imperial reliquary of God.
The poem is shaped in two forms, both
used in Anglo-Saxon Riddles. It begins with the dreamer saying
'I saw', then has the inanimate object speak, telling its
observers, its poet and its readers, 'I am'. There are such
Anglo-Saxon Riddles spoken by 'Book', by 'Cross', etc. In a
sense it, too, is the mocking titulus placed above the
Cross, 'Jesus, King of the Jews'.
version is given from the manuscript left by an Anglo-Saxon
pilgrim in Vercelli, Italy, the rubricated lines being those
given in the runes on the Ruthwell Cross.
ear, while I tell of the best of dreams . which came to me at midnight
when humankind kept their beds.
It seemed that I saw the Tree itself . borne on the air, light wound round it,
brightest of beams, all that beacon was . covered with gold, gems stood
fair at its foot, and five rubies . set in a crux flashed
from the crosstree. Around angels of God . all gazed upon it,
since first fashioning fair . It was not a felon's gallows,
for holy ones beheld it there . and men, and the whole Making shone for it
Trophy of Victory . I, stained and marred,
stricken with shame, saw the glory-tree . shine out gaily, sheathed in
decorous gold; and gemstones made . for their Maker's Tree a right mail-coat
Yet through the masking gold I might perceive .
what terrible sufferings were there
It bled from the right side . Ruth in the heart
Afraid I saw that unstill brightness . change raiment and colour,
again clad in gold or again slicked with sweat . spangled with spilling blood.
I, lying there a long while . beheld, sorrowing, the Healer's Tree
till it seemed that I heard how it broke silence, best of wood, and spoke:
'It was long ago-I still remember . back to the holt where I was hewn down;
From my own stock I was struck away . dragged off by strong enemies
wrought into a roadside scaffold . They made me a hoist from wrongdoers.
The soldiers on their shoulders bore me . until on a hill-top they raised me
many enemies made me fast there . Then I saw, marching toward me,
Mankind's brave King . He came to climb upon me. I dared not break nor bend aside . against God's will, though the ground itself
shook at my feet. Then the young warrior, Almighty God, mounted the Cross, in the sight of many. He would set free mankind.
I shook when his arms embraced me, but I durst not bow to ground,
stoop to Earth's surface . Stand fast I must.
I was reared up, a rood . I held the King, Heaven's lord, I dared not bow . They drove me through with dark nails: on me are the wounds
Wide-mouthed hate dents. I durst not harm any of them.
They mocked us together . I was all wet with blood sprung from the Man's side . after he sent forth his soul. Many wry wierds I underwent . up on that hilltop; saw the Lord of Hosts stretched out stark . Darkness shrouded the King's corpse.
A shade went out wan under cloud pall . All creation wept,
keened the King's death . Christ was on the Cross.
But there quickly came from afar . many to the Prince .
All that I beheld had grown weak with grief . yet with glad will bent then
meek to those men's hands . yielded Almighty God.
They lifted Him down from the leaden pain . left me, the commanders
Standing in blood sweat . I was sorely smitten with sorrow
wounded with shafts . Limb-weary they laid him down.
They stood at his head . They looked on him there .
They set to contrive Him a tomb . within sight of his bane
carved it of bright stone . laid in it the Bringer of Victory
spent from the great struggle . They began to speak the grief song,
sad in the sinking light . then thought to set out homeward;
their most high Prince . they left to rest with scant retinue.
Yet we three, weeping, a good while . stood in that place after the song
had gone up from the captains' throats . Cold grew the corpse, fair soul house.
They felled us all . We crashed to ground, cruel Wierd,
and they delved for us a grave . The Lord's men learnt of it, His friends found me.
It was they who girt me with silver and gold. . .
Markyate, Richard Rolle, John Whiterig, William Flete,
Walter Hilton, the Cloud
of Unknowing Author, Julian of Norwich, Margery
She tells Roger of her vision of Christ giving her his Cross to hold and Roger speaks amidst the Latin in Old English:
That decision is preceded by a vision,
one that looks back to Gregory's Dialogues on Benedict
and forward to Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Siena. In the
Dialogue following that concerning Scholastica and Benedict in
loving discourse upon heavenly matters all night, Benedict is
seen one night in prayer, and at the same instant the whole
world to shrink as into one beam of light. Here Christina sees
the Queen of Heaven and all the angels.
'Thy body, sweet Jesus, is like a book all written with red ink; so is thy body all written with red wounds . . . grant me to read upon thy book, and somewhat to understand the sweetness of that writing and to have liking in studious abiding of that reading'
'More yit, swet Jhesu,
thy body is lyke a boke written al with rede ynke; so is thy body al written with rede woundes. Now, swete Jhesu, graunt me to rede upon thy
boke, and somwhate to undrestond the swetnes of that writynge,
and to have likynge in studious abydynge of that redynge. And
yeve me grace to conceyve somwhate of the perles love of Jhesu
Crist, and to lerne by that ensample to love God agaynwarde as
I shold. And, swete Jhesu, graunt me this study in euche tyde
of the day, and let me upon this boke study at my matyns and
hours and evynsonge and complyne, and evyre to be my
meditacion, my speche, and my dalyaunce.'
here are strong similarities between the contemplations of an Oxford-educated Benedictine, likely named John Whiterig, who had become a hermit on to the Island of Farne, 1363, dying there in 1371, and Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love. When a student at Durham College (for he mentions being saved from drowning in Oxford's Cherwell River), he would have overlapped with Adam Easton, a student at Gloucester College, both colleges established for educating young Benedictines at Oxford. The Durham Benedictines first settled at Wearmouth and Jarrow in memory of St Benet Biscop and St Bede, then were invited in 1083 to Durham where they served at the shrine of St Cuthbert, who had died on Farne in 687. St Godric visited St Cuthbert's cell on Farne before becoming himself a hermit at Finchale (1065-1170). Lindisfarne, at some distance from the island of Farne, also continued as a monastic site until the Reformation, though like Whitby with gaps following Viking arrivals. Durham typically kept two monks on Farne, where they supported themselves by fishing and lived intense lives of prayer.
The Ruins of Lindisfarne
In the following, the Latin text derives from 'The Meditations of the Monk of Farne', ed. David Hugh Farmer, OSB, Studia Anselmiana 41 (1957), 141-245; the English translation from Christ Crucified and Other Meditations, ed. David Hugh Farmer, Trans. Dame Frideswide Sandemen, OSB (Leominster: Gracewing, 1994). The complete paperback book is available: UK, ISBN 0 85244 266 1; USA, ISBN 0 87061 202 6. Dame Frideswide Sandeman well represents the continuing tradition of Julian's association amongst contemplatives, for she is a Benedictine at Stanbrook Abbey, which was founded from Cambrai, where exiled English nuns, including several descendants of St Thomas More , under the guidance of Dom Augustine Baker , OSB, had studied, copied and contemplated upon such texts, including Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, eventually preparing it for publication in 1670, with Dom Serenus Cressy, OSB, as ostensible editor. Benedictinism is about Eternity, more than time, a contemplative choral dialogue of men and women across centuries. P. Franklin Chambers drew attention to the similarities between the two contemplative writers, John Whiterig and Julian of Norwich, in his Juliana of Norwich: An Introductory Appreciation and an Interpretative Anthology (London: Gollancz, 1955). The manuscript transcribed is Durham B.iv.34, fols. 5v-75, and which is the only extant manuscript with this text.
David Hugh Farmer mentions the self-identification of the Hermit of Farne with St John the Evangelist on the Isle of Patmos, to whom he addresses a 'Meditacio Eiusdem ad Beatum Iohannem Ewangelistam'.
Hans Memling, 'St John Writing Revelation,' St
John's Museum, Bruges
Reproduced with permission, Memlingmuseum, Stedelijke Musea, Brugge, Belgium
John Whiterig, while Hermit on Farne, also began to write a poem in praise of St Cuthbert, perhaps dying before it could be finished.
Parallel passages in Julian of Norwich's
Showing of Love will be added more completely at a later
date, noted here with 'Julian '. My profound thanks to Catherina
Lindgren, Sweden, and to Iain Bruce, Oxford, for making these
texts available. The passages that follow can be read by both
contemplatives and scholars, and perhaps contemplatives and
scholars could even change places with each other to the profit
of both modes of thought and of being.
MEDITACIONES CUIUSDAM MONACHI APUD FARNELAND QUONDAM
However much else you may know, if you do not know this, I count all your learning for naught, because without knowledge of this book, both general and particular, it is impossible for you to be saved. So eat this book which in your mouth and understanding shall be sweet, but which will make your belly bitter, that is to say your memory, because he that increases knowledge increases sorrow too.
May this book never depart from my hands, O Lord, but let the law of the Lord be ever in my mouth, that I may know what is acceptable in thy sight.
isce ergo homo Christum, cognosce Saluatorem tuum, corpus etenim eius pendens in cruce uolumen expansum est coram oculis tuis; uerba uolumina huius sunt actus Christi, dolores et passiones eius. Omnis enim Christi accio nostra est instruccio, litere seu carateres uoluminis huius vulnera eius sunt, quorum quinque plage quinque sunt uocales, cetere uero consonantes libri tui . . .
Quidquid scis, si hoc nescis, nichil reputo quod scis; quia sine sciencia huius libri uniuersali uel particulari inpossibile est te saluari. Comede ergo uolumen hoc, quod dulce erit in ore tuo et intelectu, sed amaricabit uentrem tuum, id est memoriam, quia qui addit scienciam addit et dolorem . . .
Non recedat, Domine, liber uoluminis huius de manibus meis, sed ut lex Domini iugiter sit in ore meo, ut sciam quid acceptum sit in oculis tuis.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 53, fols. 29v-30
'Thy body, sweet Jesus, is like a book all written with red ink; so is thy body all written with red wounds . . . grant me to read upon thy book, and somewhat to understand the sweetness of that writing and to have liking in studious abiding of that reading'
'More yit, swet Jhesu, thy body is lyke a boke written al with rede ynke; so is thy body al written with rede woundes. Now, swete Jhesu, graunt me to rede upon thy boke, and somwhate to undrestond the swetnes of that writynge, and to have likynge in studious abydynge of that redynge. And yeve me grace to conceyve somwhate of the perles love of Jhesu Crist, and to lerne by that ensample to love God agaynwarde as I shold. And, swete Jhesu, graunt me this study in euche tyde of the day, and let me upon this boke study at my matyns and hours and evynsonge and complyne, and evyre to be my meditacion, my speche, and my dalyaunce.'
Richard Rolle, Meditations on the Passion
Vowels are the soul, consonants the bones and flesh of words.
Spinoza on Hebrew
On Jesus shadowed in Isaac:
Thou art Isaac, who didst make laughter for us by offering thyself to God in sacrifice upon a mount called Calvary. Thou art the ram, caught by the horns amidst the briers, and sacrificed in place of the son; for that which thou hadst assumed succumbed to death, but thou who didst assume it couldst not succumb. And yet thou art not two but one; according to thy human nature thou didst die and wast buried, according to thy divinity thou didst remain unhurt. And thus, O good Jesus, thou didst make laughter for us amidst tears and music for us in thine own lament.
Fourteenth-Century Icelandic Manuscript, Bible in Icelandic, Abraham sacrificing Abraham, stopped by angel grabbing his sword, ram caught by horns in thicket. Árni Magnússon Institute, Reykjavik, Iceland.
u es Isaac, qui risum nobis fecisti, quando te ipsum tradidisti sacrificium Deo super unum moncium qui Calvarie dicitur. Tu es ille aries inter uepres herens cornibus, qui pro filio immolatur: quia quod assumpsisti morti succubuit, sed qui assumpsisti morti succumbere non potuisti; et non duo tamen sed unus, qui secundum humanum naturam mortuus es et sepultus, et secundum Diuinam mansisti illesus. Risum igitur, bone Ihesu, nobis in lacrimis suscitasti, et musicam in luctu tuo.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 2, fol. 7
Julian on Christ and
On Jesus shadowed in Jacob
Thou hast beguiled the devil, through whose envy death entered into the world; and this thou didst do so wisely and fittingly, that life rose up from thence whence death had sprung, and he, who by a tree had gained his victory, was likewise by a tree overcome.
. . . delusisti diabolo, cuius inuidia more introiuit in orbem terrarum: et tam prudenter hoc fecisti et conuenienter, ut unde mors oriebatur inde uita resurgeret, et qui in ligno uicerat per lignum quoque uinceretur.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 3, fol. 7
On Jesus shadowed in Joseph
Thou shalt no longer be called Jacob, Lord, but Joseph shall be thy name, which is interpreted 'increase' or 'joining'. Either meaning is more fitting, because thou hast increased thy people exceedingly, and thou wast thyself joined to us, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, that that man could in very truth say unto thee: 'This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh'.
on vocaberis ultra Domine Iacob, sed Ioseph erit nomen tuum, quod augmentum siue apposicio interpretatur; qui utraque nominis interpretacio optime tibi conuenit, siue quia auxisti populum tuum uehementer, siue quia appositus es nobis quando Verbum caro factum est et habitauit in nobis, ita ut dicere ueraciter poterit homo tibi: Hoc nunc os ex ossibus meis, et caro de carne mea.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 3, fol. 7v
Remember us then, O Lord, when it shall be well with thee, for thou art our brother and our flesh; suggest to the Father that he should fill the sacks of thy brethren - fill them, I mean, with that wheat which, once it had fallen into the ground and died, brought forth much fruit, and filled every living creature with blessing. Thou who knowest no ill-will towards thy brethren, grant us our measure of wheat. For we have no other advocate who has been made unto us justice and sanctification, and whom the Father always hears for his reverence, but thee, good Lord, who art the propitiation for our sins. Remember then, O Lord, when thou standest in the sight of God, to speak well on our behalf. Ask thy Father to give me that wheat which with desire I have desired to eat before I die.
emento nostri ergo, Domine, dum bene tibi fuerit, quia caro et frater noster es, ut suggeras Patri two quatinus impleantur sacci fratrum tuorum illo dico frumento, quod dum semel cadens in terra mortuum fuit, multum fructum attulit et omne animal benediccione repleuit. Qui igitur nescis inuidere fratribus illius, tritici mensuram impertire nobis. Non enim alium habemus Aduocatum, qui nobis factus est iusticia et sanctificacio, quem semper audit Pater propter suam reuerenciam, quam te, bone Domine; et tu propiciacio es pro peccatis nostris. Recordare ergo, Domine, dum steteris in conspectu Dei, ut loquaris pro nobis bonum. Postula Patrem tuum ut michi donet triticum, quod desiderio desideraui manducare antequam morior.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 4, fol. 8
Julian on Christ as our
I wish for no other wheat but thee: give me thyself, and the rest take for thyself. For what have I in heaven, and what have I desired more than thee on earth? Whatever there is besides thee does not satisfy me without thee, nor hast thou any gift to bestow which I desire so much as thee. If therefore thou hast a mind to satisfy my desire with good things, give me nought but thyself. For my desire would not be pleasing in thy sight, if I longed for something other than thee more than thee.
liud nolo triticum nisi temetipsum: da michi ergo teipsum, et cetere tolle tibi. Quid enim michi est in celo, et quid plus quam te optaui super terram? Certe quicquid est preter te non michi sufficit preter te, nec est munus apud te quod tantum desidero sicut te. Si ergo uelis replere in bonis desiderium meum, nichil aliud michi des nisi temetipsum. Non enim coram te cupiditas mea placeret si aliquid aliud, quod tu non es, plus quam te optaret.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 5, fol. 8
od for your goodness give to me yourself. For you are enough to me. And I may ask nothing that is less, that may be full worthy of you. And if I ask anything that is less, ever I shall want, but only in you I have all. And these words 'God of your goodness' are very lovely to the soul and very close to touching our Lord's will. For his goodness comprehends all . . .
Julian of Norwich,
Prayer, Showing of Love, Westminster Manuscript
On Jesus Shadowed in Moses
Thou art the brazen serpent hung upon the gibbet, a remedy to all believers against the bites of the devil. Thou art the lonely sparrow upon a house-top, and thou hast found a nest for thyself which is the Virgin's womb. Thou art the scapegoat, and hast carried our sins into the wilderness of eternal oblivion, so that as far as the east is from the west, so far should our iniquities be from us. Thou art the lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world . . .
u es ille serpens eneus suspensus in patibulo, in quem credentes curantur omnes a morsu diabolico. Tu es enim ille passer in tecto solitarius, et nidum tibi inuenisti, qui Virginis est uterus. Tu es hircus emissarius, qui peccata nostra tulisti in desertum obliuionis perpetue, ut quantum distat ortus ab Occidente longe fierent a nobis iniquitates nostre. Tu es agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi . . .
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 6, fol. 8v
. . . all things work together for good; not only good works, but even sins. For example, one of the elect who is somwhat elated on account of an outstanding virtue is tempted by the devil to impurity and allowed to fall, so that the memory of so shameful a sin may for the future preserve him from pride, and give him rather, what is safer, a fellow-feeling for the lowly.
. . . omnia cooperantur in bonum, hiis qui secundum propositum uocati sunt sancti, non tantum bona opera sed eciam peccata. Verbi gracia: aliquis electus a diabolo temptatur per luxuriam, qui ex aliqua uirtute qua forte pollet aliqualem habet elacionem, permittitur cadere, ut quam uile se meminerit flagicium perpetrasse: de cetero numquam habeat materiam superbie, immo, quod est tucius, humilibus consentire.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 9, fol. 10
Julian, 'All Shall Be
On Jesus Shadowed in Jonathan
Let us by no means bring to naught in our city the likeness of those whom we have made to our own image and likeness, but rather let thy wisdom prevail over the malice into which they have falled through their proud self-love, desiring to become like gods, knowing good and evil. Let it reach from thee, the end, for thou are both beginning and end, unto the end of all creation, that is to say man, who was created last of all, and let it dispose all things sweetly.
uos ad ymaginem et similitudinem nostram fecimus,
eorum ymaginem in ciuitate nostra nullo modo ad nichilum
redigamus; sed pocius uincat sapiencia tua maliciam eorum,
in quam proprie superbiendo impegerunt, cupientes fore sicut
dii, scientes bonum et malum. Attingat ergo a te fine, qui
principium es et finis, usque ad finem tocius creature,
hominem uidelicet qui ultimo creatus est, et disponat omnia
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 11, fol. 11
Julian, on God in the
City of the Soul, on Wisdom
Thou art Christ, Son of the living God, who in obedience to the Father hast saved the world.
u es Cristus Filius Dei uiui, qui precepto Patris
Despenser Retable, Norwich Castle, Contemporary with Julian
I see thee, O good Jesus, nailed to the cross, crowned with thorns, given gall to drink, pierced with the lance, and for my sake . . . upon the gibbet of the cross.
uideo te, Ihesu bone, cruci conclauatum, spinis coronatum, felle potatum, lancea perforatum, et omnibus membris super crucis patibulum propter me diuaricatum.
. . . being thyself most beautiful, for me thou hast desired to be accounted as a leper and the last of men;
. . . cum speciosus sis, ut leprosus et uirorum nouissimus pr me reputari uoluisti;
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 13, fols. 11v-12v
In thy head I perceive wondrous multiplicity of suffering, for in all thy five senses thou didst feel indescribable Pain. Thou didst see thyself crucified and hanging between thieves, thy friends deserting thee, thine enemies gathering round, thy mother weeping, and the corpses of condemned criminals strewn round about; whatever met thy gaze was a source of pain and sorrow, of horror and dismay.
n capite tuo admirabilem penarum intueor multitudinem, quia per omnia organa quinque sensuum inena rrabilem sensisti dolorem. Te ipsum enim uidisti crucifixsum atque pendentem in medio latronum, amicos uidisti fugere, inimicos appropinquare, matrem uidisti flere, atque cadauera dampnatorum in circuitu iacere, et quicquid uisu traxisti pena fuit et dolor, tremor et horror.
Thou didst hear threats, murmuring, sarcasm and taunts from the bystanders; threats, when they cried out: 'Away with him, away with him; crucify him'; murmuring, when they said: 'He saved others, himself he cannot save', and some had said before that: 'He is good', while others said: 'No, he seduceth the multitude'. Sarcasm, when the soldiers, being their knees, greeted thee with: 'Hail, king of the Jews'; for sarcasm is a covert sort of mockery, when one is ironically called something by the scoffer, other than what he believes to be true. They believed him indeed to be a criminal rather than the king of the Jews, and yet they spoke the truth although with false intent. Thou didst hear taunts, when they said: 'Vah! Thou who dost destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it!'
udisti timorem et susurrium, subsannacionem et derisum ab hiis qui in circuitu stabant. Timorem, inquam, audisti quando dixerunt: Tolle, tolle, crucifige eum. Sussurium audisti quando dixerunt: Alios saluos fecit, seipsum non potest saluum facere, et ante quidam dixerunt quia bonus est, alii autem non, sed seducit turbas. Subsannacionem tunc audisti quando geniculantes dicebant Aue rex Iudeorum, quia subsannacio oculta est derisio, cum aliud uidelicet aliquis uocatur ironice quam a deridente fore creditur. Credebant enim eum pocius maleficum quam regem Iudaeorum, et tamen uerum dicebant quamuia menciendo. Audisti, Domine, derisum quando dicebant: Vah qui destruit templum et in tribus diebus reedificat.
Thou didst taste bitterness, O Lord, when they gave thee gall for thy food, and in thy thirst gave thee vinegar to drink. Thy nostrils, O Lord, breathed in the stench of the corrupting corpses of executed criminals lying round about. Thy sense of touch felt fierce pain in thy head, for the crown of thorns pierced it so grievously that thy blood flowed down in torrents through thy hair even to the ground. And so, good Lord, whatever thou didst look upon was terrible, whatever thou didst hear was horrible, whatever thou didst taste was bitter, whatever thou didst smell was putrid, and whatever thou didst touch was painful.
ustasti Domine amarum, quando in escam tuam dederunt fel et in siti tua potauerunt te aceto. Per nares, domine, traxisti fetorem ex cadaueribus putridis morte punitorum, que in circuitu iacebant. Per tactum uero in capite sensisti asperitatem, quia corona spinarum in tantum pungebat capud tuum ut cruorem habunde per crines in terram currere faceret. Bone ergo Domine, quicquid uidisti fuit terribile, quicquid audisti fuit horribile, quicquid gustasti fuit amarum, quicquid odorasti fuerat fetidum, et quicquid tetigisti fuit ualde asperum.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 14, fols. 12-12v
One thing, O good Jesus, I would know of thee; namely what reward will be bestowed on thee for all that thou hast suffered for us, since we have nothing that we have not received from thee. All gold is but as a grain of sand in thy sight, and silver would be accounted much in compensation for thy passion.
num a te, Ihesu bone, scire uellem, qua uidelicet mercede donaberis pro hiis que passus es pro nobis, cum nos nichil habeamus nisi quod a te accepimus. Omne enim aurum in conspectu tuo arena est exigua, et tamquam lutum estimabitur argentum in recompensacione tue passionis.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 15, fol. 12v
Julian on Passion
Speak, Lord, for thy servants listen, ready to receive the engrafted word which is able to save their souls. If thou desirest to know this plainly, call thy husband, that thou mayest understand aright. Let him who hath ears to hear, hear what Christ saith now to the churches.
oquere, Domine, quia audiunt serui tui, parati suscipere institum uerbum quod potest saluare animas eorum. Si hoc aperte scire desideras, uoca uirum tuum ut recte inteligas. Qui ergo habet aures audiendi, audiat quid modo ecclesiis Christus dicat.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 16, fols. 13-13v
I know well, O Lord, that thou desirest my whole self when thou askest for my heart, and I seek thy whole self when I beg for thee.
cio Domine, scio, totum me cupis cum cor meum petis, et totum te desidero cum te ipsum postulo.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 18, fols. 13v-14
. . . even if he at times out of his goodness enters under our roof to abide with us. This he does especially according to that operation whereby he enables us to taste the first-fruits of the Spirit, by breaking for us a little of the bread which is himself, and saying: 'Taste and see that the Lord is sweet'.
. . . et si aliquando propter suam bonitatem intret sub tectum nostrum ut maneat nobiscum, secundum illam maxime operacionem qua nos facit probare de primiciis Spiritus frangens nobis modicum de pane seipso et dicens: Gustate et uidete quoniam suauis est Dominus.
Thou canst, O good Jesus, most clearly be recognized in the breaking of this bread, which no one else breaks as thou dost. For thou dost visit the soul with such joy, and fill it with such ineffable delight and indescribable love, that for one who loves such favours the enjoyment of so gracious a visit from such a guest, were it only for the space of a day, would surpass all physical love and a whole world full of riches. This is not surprising, since it is a sort of beginning of eternal joys, a sign of divine predestination and pledge of eternal salvation; it is a grace rendering us pleasing to God, and bestows on us a new name, which no one knows save he who receives it, and apart from the sons and daughters of God none can have a share in it.
iquidissime, Ihesu bone, cognosci poteris in fraccione panis, quem nemo alius sic frangit sicut tu. Quam enim sic uisitas animam iubilo, et ineffabili uoluptate ac inenarrabili reples amore, ut delicias amanti delectabilius foret tanti hospitis tam iocunda frui uisitacione, saltem per diei medium, super omnem amorem mulierum et totum orbem terrarum diuiciis repletum. Nec mirum cum sit de eternis gaudiis inicium aliquod, argumentum Diuine predestinacionis, et arra salutis perpetue, gratia gratum faciens et nomen nouum, quod non nouit quis nisi qui accipit, cui non communicat alienus a filiis Dei et filiabus.
John Whiterig, Meditacio ad Crucifixum, Chapter 20, fol. 14v
Catherine of Siena, The Orcherd of Syon (Dialogo), London: Wynken de Worde, 1519
Giovanni di Paolo, St Catherine Receiving Stigmata, Santa Cristina, Pisa, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Perfection Book II.21-23,
transcription from British Library, Harley
6579, fols. 84-89, translation by John P.H.
' I. am
no3t .I. haf
no3t. nou3t .I. aske ne covete bot þe luf of ihu '
British Library, Harley 6579, fol. 88v.
An introduction as to how a soul should behave
in purpose and in practice if it wants to come
to this reforming, through the example of a
pilgrim going to Jerusalem; and the two kinds
evyrþeles for þu coueteþ for to
haue sm maw writynge by þe whilke þu mi3tes
þe gaþ nei3en to þt reformynge & schal
say þe as me þinkiþ bi þe grace of oure lord
ihu þe shortest & þe rediest helpe þat I
knowe in þis wirkynge. And how þt schal be
.I. schal telle þe by exaumple of a good
pilgrym vpon þis wise: þer was a man þat
wold gon to ierusalem & for he knewe not
þe weye he come to an oþ man þt he hopyt
knewe þe way & asked wheþer he mi3te
come to þat cite & þat oþ man seide to
him þat he mi3te not come þeder withoute
grete disese & mikil trauale for þe wey
is longe & periles and grete . of þefes
& robbers & many oþer / [fol. 84v]
lettynges þat ben þt fallen to a man wiþ
goyng . & also þare mony saie weies . as
it semiþ ledand þederward . Bot men alday
are slayn & dispoiled & mown not
comyn to þt place þt þei covete. Neveþeles
þer is .o. wey þe whilke whoso takiþ hit
& holdiþ it . he wolde undirtake . þy he
schude come to þe cite of ierusalem ne
schulde now les his lif ne be slayn . ne dye
for defaute: ne schulde often be
robbed & yuel betyn . & suffren
unkel disese in þe goyngr & bot he
schulde ay him his lif safe. þan saiþ þe
pilgrim if it be so þat I may have my lif
safe & come to þt place þt I coveite:
.I. charge not what meschef .I. suffre in þe
goynge & þerfore say me what þu
wil & sothly .I. bihote for to don afor
þe: þt oþ answered & saye þus . lo .I.
sait þe in þe ri3t wey. þis is þe wey. &
if þu kepe þe lesyinge þt .I. kemis
have some kind of practice by which you could
approach that reforming more quickly, I shall
tell you by the grace of our Lord Jesus what
seems to me the shortest and promptest aid
that I know in this work. And how that shall
be I will tell you in this manner, through the
example of a good pilgrim.
was a man wanting to go to Jerusalem, and
because he did not know the way he came to
another man who he thought knew it and asked
whether he could reach that city. The other
man told him he could not get there without
great hardship and labour, for the way is long
and the perils are great, with thieves and
robbers as well as many other difficulties to
beset a man on his journey; also there are
many different ways seeming to lead in that
direction, yet people are being killed and
robbed daily and cannot come to the place they
desire. However, there is one way, and he
would undertake that anyone who takes and
keeps to it shall come to the city of
Jerusalem, and never lose his life or be slain
or die of want. He would often be robbed and
badly beaten and suffer great distress on his
journey, but his life would always be safe.
Then the pilgrim said: 'If it is true that I
can keep my life and come to the place I
desire, I do not care what trouble I suffer on
the journey, and therefore tell me what you
will, and I promise faithfully to do as you
say'. The other man answered and said this:
'See, I am setting you on the right road. This
is the way, and be sure to keep the
instructions I give you'.
What so you
heres or sees or felis þt schulde lette þe
in þi wey abide not wiþ it wilfully: tary
not for it restfully. behold it not. like it
not. drede it not. bot ay fo forþ in þi wey
& thinke þt þu wantes be at
Jerusalem'. For þt þu covetes þt þu
desires. & no3t elles bot þt. & if
man robbe þe . & dispoile þe bete þe
scorne þe . & dispise þe: ferse not
agayn if þu wilt hav þi lif. Bot holde þe wt
þe harme þt þu has & go forþ . as no3t
were. þt þu take no more harms. And also if
man wil tary þe wiþ tales & fede þe wt
lesynges. for to drawe þe to mirþis &
for to lese þi pilgrimage: make def ere
& answer not agayn & sey not elles
bot þt þu wuldes be at Jerusalem. And if men
proffer þe 3iftes & wil make þe riche wt
werdly gode tente not to hem: þinke ay on
Jerusalem. And if þu wil holde þis wey &
ben as I hafe sayde: promise & take þi
lif þt þu schal not be slayn. bot þou schal
come to þt place þt þu/ [fol. 85] coveites:
hear, see or feel that would hinder you on
your way, do not willingly stay with it, and
do not tarry for it, taking rest; do not look
at it, do not take pleasure in it, and do not
fear it; but always go forth on your way and
think that you want to be in Jerusalem. For
that is what you long for and what you desire,
and nothing else but that; and if men rob you,
strip you, beat you, scorn you and despise
you, do not fight back if you want to have
your life, but bear the hurt that you have and
go on as if it were nothing, lest you come to
more harm. In the same way, if men want to
delay you with stories and feed you with lies,
trying to draw you to pleasures and make you
leave your pilgrimage, turn a deaf ear and do
not reply, saying only that you want to be in
Jerusalem. And if men offer you gifts and seek
to enrich you with worldly goods, pay no
attention to them, always think of Jerusalem.
And if you will keep on this way and do as I
have said, I promise you your life - that you
shall not be slain but come to the place that
oure propositions. Jerusalem is as mikel for
to seyen as si3t of pes & bitokneþ
contemplacion in perfit luf of god. ffor
contemplacion is not ellis bot a si3t of ihu
whilk is vrey pes. þan if þu coveit for to
com to þis blessednes of vrey pes & ben
a traw pilgrym to Jerusalemward: þaw3 it be
so þt .I. wase neuer þare: neverles as
ferforth as .I. kan .I. schal setes þe in þe
to our spiritual propositions, Jerusalem is as
much as to say sight of peace and stands
for contemplation in perfect love of God, for
contemplation is nothing other than a sight of
Jesus, who is true peace. Then if you long to
come to this blessed sight of true peace and
to be a faithful pilgrim toward Jerusalem -
even though it should be that I was never
there, yet as far as I can - I shall set you
in the way that leads toward it.
of þe hi3e wey in þe whilk þu schalt gon is
reformyng in feiþ & in þe lawes of holy
kirke as .I. hafe saide beforn. for trust
sikirly þaw3 þu haue synned hard here bifore
. if þu be now reformed bi þe sacrament of
penaunce after þe lawe of hilikirke þt þu
art in þe ri3t wais. Now þan siþen þu in þe
siker weye: if þu wile spedyn in þi goyngs
& make gode jurndres: þe behoviþ to
holden þese two þonges often in þi mynde.
meknes & luf. þt is '.I. am no3t . .I.
have no3t .I. coveit no3t. but on' þu
sschalt hafe þe menynge of þese woedes in
þin entent & in habite of þi soule
lastendly: þaw3 þu hafe no3t specially þose
wordes ay formed in þi þou3tes: for þt nediþ
not. meknes seiþ .I. am no3t .I. hafe no3t.
lufe saiþ .I. coveit n3t bot on. & þt is
ihu: þese two strenges wel festned wt þe
mynde of Jerusalem makiþ gode acorde in þe
harpe of þe soule. When þei be craftely
touchid wt þe fingres of resoun: for þe
lower þu smytes up on þt in þe hi3er sonniþ
þt oþer: þe lesse þu felist þt þu art or þt
þu hast of þi self þruw3 meknes: þe more þu
coveites for to hau of ihu in desire of luf:
.I. mene not only of þt meknes þt a soule
feliþ in þe si3t of his own syn or holines
& wrecchednes of þis lif: or of þe
worþines of his euencristen: for þaw3 þis
meknes be soþfast & medicinable:
norþeles it is twistous & fleschly as in
segnses./[fol. 85v] not clene ne softe ne
lofli. So .I. mene also þis meknes beynge þt
þe soule feliþ þrw3 grace in si3t &
beholdyng of þe endeles beynge & þe
wondeful godnes of ihu & if you mowe not
seen it 3it wt þi gostly i3e: þt þou trows
it: ffor þrw3 si3t of his beynge eiþer in ful
feiþ or in felyng þu schalt holden þi self
not only as þe most wrecche þt is. but also
as no3t in substaunce of þi soule: þaw3 þu
hever don syn: And þt is lufly meknes: for
in of ihu þt is
soþfatch al: þu art ri3t no3t: And also þt
þu þinke þt þu hast ri3t no3t: So tht as a
come as no3t Were in as of þi
self: for doo þ
þu hast þe luf of ihu.
þu hast ri3t no3t. ffor wt
þat precious licour only
will þi soule be fulfilled.
& wt none oþer
of the highway along which you shall go is
reforming in faith, grounded humbly in the
faith and in the laws of holy church, as I
have said before, for trust assuredly that
although you have formerly sinned, you are on
the right road, if you are now reformed by the
sacrament of penance according to the law of
holy church. Now since you are on the sure
way, if you want to speed on your travels and
make a good journey each day, you should hold
these two things often in your mind - humility
and love. That is: I am nothing; I have nothing; I
desire only one thing. You shall have
the meaning of these words continually in your
intention, and in the habit of your soul, even
though you may not always have their
particular form in your thought, for that is
not necessary. Humility says, I am nothing; I
have nothing. Love says, I desire only one
thing, and that is Jesus. These two strings,
well-fastened with mindfulness of Jesus, make
good harmony on the harp of the soul when they
are skillfully touched with the finger of
reason. For the lower you strike upon the one,
the higher sounds the other; the less you feel
that you are or that you have of yourself
through humility, the more you long to have of
Jesus in the desire of love. I do not mean
only that humility that a soul feels as it
looks at its own sin or at the frailties and
wretchedness of this life, or at the
worthiness of his fellow Christians, for
although this humility is true and medicinal,
it is comparatively rough and carnal, not pure
or soft or lovely. But I mean also this
humility that the soul feels though grace in
seeing and considering the infinite being and
wonderful goodness of Jesus, and if you cannot
see it yet with your spiritual eye, that you
believe in it, for through the sight of his
being - either in full faith or in feeling -
you shall regard yourself not only as the
greatest wretch that there is, but also as
nothing in the substance of your soul, even if
you had never committed sin. And that is
lovely humility, for in comparison with Jesus
who is in truth All, you are but nothing. In
the same way think that you have nothing, but
are like a vessel that always stands empty, as
if with nothing in it of your own for however
many good works you do, outwardly or inwardly,
you have nothing at all until you have - and
feel that you have - the love of Jesus. For
your soul can be filled only with that
precious liquor, and with nothing else; and
because that thing alone is so precious and so
valuable, regard anything you have and do as
nothing to rest in, without the sight and the
love of Jesus. Throw it all behind you and
forget it, so that you can have what is best
as a true pilgrim going to Jerusalem leaves
behind him home and land, wife and children,
and makes himself poor and bare of all that he
has in order to travel light and without
hindrance, so if you want to be a spiritual
pilgrim you are to make yourself naked of all
that you have - both good works and bad - and
throw them all behind you, and thus become so
poor in your own feeling that there can be no
deed of your own that you want to lean upon
for rst, but you are always desiring more
grace of love, and always seeking the
spiritual presence of Jesus. If you do so, you
shall then set in your heart, wholly and
fully, your desre to be at Jerusalem, and in
no other place but there; and that is, you
shall set in your heart, wholly and fully,
your will to have nothing but the love of
Jesus and the spiritual sight of him, as far
as he wishes to show himself. It is for that
alone you are made and redeemed, and that is
your beginning and your end, your joy and your
glory. Therefore, whatsoever you have, however
rich you may be in other works of body and
spirit, unless you have that, and know and
feel that you have it, consider that you have
nothing at all. Print this statement well on
the intention of your heart, and hold firmly
to it, and it will save you from all the
perils of your journey, so that you will never
perish. It shall save you from thieves and
robbers (which is what I call unclean
spirits), so that though they strip you and
beat you with diverse temptations, your life
shall always be saved; and in brief if you
guard it as I shall tell you, you shall within
a short time escape all perils and distresses
and come to the city of Jerusalem.
that you are on the road and know the name of
the place you are bound for, begin to go
forward on your journey. Your going forth is
nothing else but the work of the spirit - and
of the body as well, when there is need for it
- which you are to use with discretion in the
following way. Whatever work it is that you
should do, in body or in spirit, according to
the degree and state in which you stand, it if
helps this grace-given desire that you have to
love Jesus, making it more whole, easier and
more powerful for all virtues and all
goodness, that is the work I consider the
best, whether it be prayer, meditation,
reading or working; and as long as that taks
most strenghtens your heart and your working;
and as long as that task most strengthens your
heart and you will for the love of Jesus and
draws your affection and your thought farthest
from worldly vanities, it is good to use it.
And if it happens that the savour of it
becomes less through use, and you feel that
you savour anothing kind of work more, and you
feel more grace in another, take another and
leave that one. For though your desire and the
yearning of your heat for Jesus should always
be unchangeable, nevertheless the spiritual
practices that you are to use in prayer or the
meditation to feed and nourish you desire may
be diverse, and may well be changed according
to the way you feel disposed to appply your
own heart, through grace.
it goes with works and desire as it does with
a fire and sticks. The more sticks are laid on
a fire, the greater is the flame, and so the
more varied the spiritual work that anyone has
in mind for keeping his desire whole, the more
powerful and ardent shall be his desire for
God. Therefore notice carefully what work you
best know how to do and what most helps you to
keep whole this desire for Jesus (if you are
free, and are not bound except under the
common law), and do that. Do not bind yourself
unchangeably to practices of your own choosing
that hinder the freedom of your heart to love
Jesus if grace should specially visit you, for
I shall tell you which customs are always good
and need to be kept. See, a particular custom
is always good to keep if it consists in
getting virtue and hindering sin, and that
practice should never be left. For if you
behave well, you will always be humble and
patient, sober and chaste; and so with all
other virtues. But the practice of any other
thing that hinders a better work should be
left when it is time for one to do this; for
instance in a certain way for a particular
length of time, or waking or kneeling for a
certian time, or doing other such bodily work,
this practice is to be left off sometimes when
a reasonable cause hinders it, or else if more
grace comes from another quarter.
The delays and temptations that souls shall
feel from their spiritual enemies on their
spiritual journey to the heavenly Jerusalem,
and some remedies against them.
you are on the way and know how you shall go.
Now beware of enemies that will be trying to
hinder you if they can, for their intention is
to put out of your heart that desire and that
longing that you have for the love of Jesus,
and to drive you home again to the love of
worldly vanity, for there is nothing that
grieves them so much. These enemies are
principally carnal desires and vain fears that
rise out of your heart through the corruption
of your fleshly nature, and want to hinder you
desire for the love of God, so that they can
fully occupy your heart without disturbance.
These are your nearest enemies. There are
other enemies too, such as unclean spirits
that are busily trying to decieve you with
tricks and wiles. But you shall have one
remedy, as I said before: whatever it may be
they say, do not believe them, but keep on
your way and desire only the love of Jesus.
Always give this answer: I am nothing, I have
nothing, I desire nothing but the love of
Jesus alone. If your enemies speak to you
first like this, by stirrings in your heart,
that you have not made a proper confession, or
that there is some old sin hidden in your
heart that you do not know and never
confessed, and therefore you must turn home
again, leave your desire and go to make a
better confession: do not believe this saying,
for it is false and you are absolved. Trust
firmly that you are on the road, and you need
no more ransacking of your confession for what
is past: keep on your way and think of
Jerusalem. Similarly, if they say that you are
not worthy to have the love of God, and ask
what good it is to crave something you cannot
have and do not deserve, do not believe them,
but go forward, saying thus, 'Not because I am
worthy, but because I am unworthy - that is my
motive for loving God, for if I had that love,
it would make me worthy; and since I was made
for it, even though I should never have it I
will yet desire it, and therefore I will pray
and meditate in order to get it'. And then, if
your enemies see that you begin to grow bold
and resolute in your work, they start getting
frightened of you; however, they will not stop
hindering you when they can as long as your
are going on your way. What with fear and
menaces on the one hand and flattery and false
blandishment on the other, to make you break
your purpose and turn home again, they will
speak like this: 'If you keep up your desire
for Jesus, labouring as hard as you have
begun, you will fall into sickness or into
fantasies and frenzies, as you see some do, or
you will fall into poverty and come to bodily
harm, and no one will want to help you; or you
might fall into secret temptations of the
devil, in which you will not know how to help
yourself. It is very dangerous for any man to
give himself wholly to the love of God, to
leave all the world and desire nothing but his
love alone; for so many perils may befall that
one does not know of. And therefore turn home
again and leave this desire, for you will
never carry it through to the end, and behave
as other people do in the world'.
say your enemies; but do not believe them.
Keep up your desire, and say nothing else but
that you want to have Jesus and to be in
Jerusalem. And if they then perceive your will
to be so strong that you will not spare
yourself - for sin or for sickness, for
fantasies or frenzy, for doubts or fears of
spiritual temptations, for poverty or
distress, for life or for death - but that you
will is set ever onward, with one thing and
one alone, turning a deaf ear to them as if
you did not hear them, and keeping on
stubbornly and unstintingly with your prayers
and your other spiritual works, and with
discretion according to the counsel of your
superior or your spiritual father; then they
begin to be angry and to draw a little nearer
to you. They start robbing you and beating you
and doing you all the injury they know: and
that is when they cause all your deeds -
however well done - to be judged evil by
others and turned the worst way. And whatever
you may want to do for the benefit of your
body and soul, it will be hampered and
hindered by other men, in order to thwart you
in everything that you reasonably desire. All
this they do to stir you to anger, resentment
or ill-will against your fellow Christians.
against all these annoyances, and all others
that may befall, use this remedy; take Jesus
in your mind, and do not be angry with them;
do not linger with them, but think of your
lesson - that you are nothing, you have
nothing, you cannot lose any earthly goods,
and you desire nothing but the love of Jesus -
and keep on your way to Jerusalem, with your
occupation. Nevertheless, if through your own
frailty you are at some time vexed with such
troubles befalling your life in the body
through the ill-will of man or the malice of
the devil, come to yourself again as soon as
you can; stop thinking of that distress and go
forth to your work. Do not stay too long with
them, for fear of your enemies.
A general remedy against wicked stirrings and
painful vexations that befall the heart from
the world, the flesh and the devil.
nd aftir þis
enemies will be much abashed, when they see you so
well-disposed that you are not annoyed,
heavyhearted, wrathful, or greatly stirred against
any creature, for anything that they can do or say
against you, but that you fully set your heart
upon bearing all that may happen - ease and
hardship, praise or blame - and that you will not
trouble about anything, provided you can keep
whole your thought and your desire for the love of
God. But then they will try you with flattery and
vain blandishment, and that is when they bring to
the sight of your soul all your good deeds and
virtues and impress upon you that all men praise
you and speak of your holiness; and how everybody
loves you and honors you for your holy living.
Your enemies do this to make you think that their
talk is true, and take delight in this vain joy
and rest in it; but it you do well you shall hold
all such vain jabbering as the falsehood and
flattery of your enemy, who proffers you a drink
of venom tempered with honey. Therefore refuse it;
say you do not want any of it, but want to be in
' I. am
no3t .I. haf
no3t. nou3t .I. aske ne covete bot þe luf of iћu '
British Library, Harley 6579, fol. 88v.
shall feel such hindrances, or others like them -
what with your flesh, the world and the devil -
more than I can recite now. For as long as a man
allows his thoughts to run willingly all over the
world to consider different things, he notices few
hindrances; but as soon as he draws all his
thought and his yearning to one thing alone - to
have that, to see that, to know that, and to love
that (and that
is only Jesus) - then he shall well feel many
painful hindrances, for everything that he feels
and is not what he desires is a hindrance to him.
Therefore, I have told you particularly of some as
an example. Furthermore, I say in general that
whatever stirring you feel from your flesh or from
the devil, pleasant or painful, bitter or sweet,
agreeable or dreadful, glad or sorrowful - that
would draw down your thought and your desire from
the love of Jesus to worldly vanity and utterly
prevent the spiritual desire that you have for the
love of him, so that your heart should stay
occupied with that stirring: think nothing of it,
do not willingly receive it, and do not linger
over it too long. But if it concerns some worldly
thing that ought to be done for yoruself or your
fellow Christian, finish with it quickly and bring
it to an end so that it does not hang on your
heart. If it is some other thing that is not
necessary, or does not concern you, do not trouble
about it, do not parley with it, and do not get
angry; neither fear it nor take pleasure in it,
but promptly strike it out of your heart, saying
thus: 'I am nothing; I have nothing; I neither
seek nor desire anything but the love of Jesus'.
Knit your thought to this desire and make it
strong; maintin it with prayer and with other
spiritual work so that you do not forget it; and
it shall lead you in the right way and save you
from all perils, so that although you feel them
you shall not perish. And I think it will bring
you to perfect love of our Lord Jesus.
On the other hand I also say: Whatever work or stirring it may be that can help your desire, strengthen and nourish it, and make your heart furthest from the enjoyment and remembrance of the world, and more whole and more ardent for the love of God - whether it be prayer or meditation, stillness or speaking, reading or listening, solitude or company, walking or sitting - keep it for the time and work in it as long as the savor lasts, provided you take with it food, drink and sleep like a pilgrim, keeping discretion in your labor as your superior advises and ordains. For however great his hate on his journey, yet at the right time he is willing to eat, drink and sleep. Do so yourself, for although it may hinder you at one time it shall advance you at another.