THE CONTINENTAL MEDIEVAL
Introduction || St. Lioba || Hildegard of Bingen || Mechtild of Magdebourg
The Helfta Cistercian Nuns || Marguerite Porete || Meister Eckhart
Tauler || Henry Suso || Jan van Ruusbroec || Bibliography
Hans Memling, St John
Writing Revelation. St John's Hospital, Bruges.
Reproduced by permission, Memlingmuseum, Stedelijke Musea, Brugge, Belgium
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
From the Lucca Manuscript, lectured on in Florence by Sr Angela Carlevaris, 1999
ildegard of Bingen,
and other women like her, such as Hrotswitha of Gandesheim
(A.D. 932-1000) and Herrad of Landesburg, followed in this
learned Benedictine tradition established in German-speaking
countries from England, 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.
Ah! Lord God! Who has written this book? I in my weakness have written it, because I dared not hide the gift that is in it. Ah! Lord! What shall this book be called to Thy Glory? It shall be called The Flowing Light of My Godhead into all hearts which dwell therein without falseness.
And so the soul puts on a shift of humility, so humble that nothing could be more humble. And over it a white robe of chastity, so pure that she cannot endure words or desires which might stain it. Next she wraps herself in a mantle of Holy Desire which she has woven out of all the virtues.
Thus she goes into the wood, that is the company of holy people. But still the youth does not come. He sends her messengers, for she would dance. He sends her the faith of Abraham, the longings of the Prophets, the chaste modesty of our Lord Jesus Christ and the whole company of His elect. Thus there is prepared a noble Dance of Praise.'
When we are sick we wear our wedding garments, but when we are well we wear our working clothes.
In a vision she sees a
poor maiden going to the wedding feast, and Our Lady garbs
the maiden in a cloak upon which is written one of Mechtild
von Magdebourg's poems.
P. Odo Lang OSB, Librarian, Einsiedeln Abbey, which owns Mechtild Manuscript, Cod. 277(1014)
Foto: Frau Liliane
In this being of God where God is above all being and all distinction, I was myself, I desired myself, I knew myself, wanting to create the man that I am. And for this reason I am my own cause according to my being which is eternal, but not according to my being which is temporal.
It must be observed that God created heaven and earth and all they contain at the same time . . . but all things did not appear at the same time.
All that is not within Being, but beside or outside Being, is not.
Evil is opposed to being, therefore the devil does not exist and the 'sinner, the son of the devil, is nothing'. Every creature is something finite, limited, distinct and particular, and this is no longer love. But God is the love that embraces all things.
To attain God one must abandon oneself. Never has a man abandoned himself so much in this life that he did not find room to abandon himself still more.
I take a basin with water
and place a mirror into it and stand it under the sun. Thus
it is also with God and the soul which reflects God yet
which does not take from God.
Under the Godfriends page on your site and at the bottom of the essay on Eckhart you have the words:
"Meister Eckhart's teachings were examined for heresy, because of their 'subtlety'. Like John Wyclif he was allowed to die rather than be executed."
Ursula Fleming, the founder of the Eckhart Society, persuaded a group of prominent people within the Dominican Order and outside it to request the General Chapter of the Dominican order which met in Walberburg 'to examine the possibility of issuing an official declaration of Orthodoxy of Meister Eckhart and rescinding the condemnation of some of his teaching contained in the Papal Bull "In agro dominico 27 March 1329."'
In 1983 The Master of the Order instituted the Eckhart Commission.
In 1986 the commission reported back saying that a reconsideration of the teaching of Meister Eckhart was justified. It also said that Eckhart does not need rehabilitation in the canonical sense of the word, since his person, his doctrine, his apostolate or his spirituality were not really condemned.
Although no reconsideration of Eckhart's teaching has been formally undertaken by the Holy See, the present Pope, in 1987 at an important audience, strongly recommended Eckhart's teaching.
Another story tells of how the Friends of God visited Pope Gregory XI in 1377 to plead for peace in Christendom, at the same time that St Birgitta made that plea and in whose writings the term 'Friends of God' is very frequently used. The 'Friends of God' gained entry through offering a most beautiful Swiss clock to the Pope. (Was it the prototype for Henry Suso 's 'Computer of Wisdom'?) Both the Delegation of the Friends of God and St Birgitta accurately prophesied the Pope's death of 1378. These Friends of God also attempted, but failed, to establish a monastery for themselves, called Gruenenworth.
This is what St Augustine says 'Pour out so that you may be filled; go out so that you may enter'.
Therefore you should be silent; then the Word of this birth can speak in you and be heard in you; but, indeed, if you want to speak, he must be silent. We cannot serve the Word better than by being silent and listening.
Jan van Ruusbroec writing his text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, beneath the trees of Groenendael, his scribe transcribing these same words to parchment folios.
hile Meister Eckhart was German
and Henry Suso was Swiss, Jan van
Ruusbroec was Flemish in the region where the Beguines
largely began, and where Marguerite
Porete , particularly, flourished. Ruusbroec countered
heresy in his writings, set up a monastery at Groenendael,
near Brussels, where he would write his treatises initially
onto tablets of wax known as diptyches under the trees and
which became The Sparkling Stone
(the work that is to be found in the same manuscript as is
Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love in the British
Library and is transcribed in another booklet), and A
Mirror of Eternal Blessedness and other works. Later his
writings and those of Marguerite
Porete and Birgitta of Sweden
were to be attacked by Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the
University of Paris, but during his lifetime Ruusbroec was not
subjected to the Inquisition as were the other Friends of God.
Consequently his writings display a splendid serenity.
Nevertheless, the Friends of God and Ruusbroec were in
communication, exchanging their writings with each other, and
it would be Ruusbroec who would influence Gerharte Groote, and
Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ , and beyond them
the mystic Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, and the Reformation
Protestants Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus. Their
writings would continue to be quoted by English Benedictine
nuns in exile in France in their own contemplative
writings and their texts also reached Spain, influencing there
St Teresa of Avila and
St John of the Cross.
The Revelations of Mechthild of Magdebourg or The Flowing Light of the Godhead Translated from the Manuscript in the Library of the Monastery of Einsiedeln. Trans. Lucy Menzies. London: Longmans, Green, 1953.
Medieval Women's Visionary Literature. Ed. Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Jan van Ruusbroec. Vanden Blinckenden Steen. Ed. Lod Moereels, L. Reypens. Tielt en Bussum: Lannoo.
Life and Sermons of Dr John Tauler. Trans. Susanna Winkworth. London: Smith, Elder, 1857.
of Western Spirituality', Paulist Press, volumes on Margaret
Ebner, Mechthild von Magdebourg, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite
Porete, John van Ruusbroec, Henry Suso, John Tauler
JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE
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