Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beguines - III (Spirituality)

Having examined some of the historical and societal aspects of the Beguines, I would like to turn to the spirituality this week. I think it' important to remember that this movement had deep spiritual underpinnings and contributed to the mystical flowering of the middle ages.
One writer that comes out of this tradition is Beatrice of Nazareth. To be honest, she was a Cistercian Nun, but she was educated by the Beguines before joining the Cistercians, and for some time it was believed that her Seven Manners of Holy Love written by a Beguine. It has been seen as a good example of Beguine Spirituality.
Beatrice points to seven ways of loving God, alternating between the intense experience of the presence of God and the profound experience of a felt absence of God. I quote some passages below, and then give a link to the whole brief text. It is a lovely way to begin Advent.
From the highest come seven ways of love which work back to the highest. 
This is the first way of love. The first is a desire actively originating from love. Long has this desire to rule in the heart before she can dispel every resistance thoroughly, and she cannot but work with strenght and intelligence, and courageously grow in this.
The second way of love: Now and then the soul has another way of love. Then she serves the Lord for nothing, only from love, without any why and without any reward of mercy or of bliss.
The third way of love: Sometimes the good soul has another way of love connected to much pain and misery. ...She knows all right that this desire is only to fulfil far above her power and above human reason and above every notion ; yet she cannot moderate this desire, or conquer, or quiet. She does everything she can ; she thanks and praises love, she works and drudges because of love, she sighing desires love, she gives herself completely to love. And all that does not give her peace.
The fourth way of love. It happens that love is sweetly been awakened in the soul and happily raises, and that she moves in the heart, without any help of human effort. And so the heart is been tenderly touched by love, and so full of strong desire been pulled inside love, and so hearty seized by love, and so strongly dominated by love, and so lovely contained by love, that she is completely conquered by love.
The fifth way of love. She desires to rest in the sweet embraces of love, in the desirable beatitude and in the satisfaction of what she has from Him. Her heart and her senses seriously look for it and ardently desire for it. In this state she is so powerful of mind, very undertaking of heart and strong of body, so fast in working and busy inside and outside, that it seems to her as if everything that has to do with her works and is busy, even if she is so calm from the outside.
The sixth love: When the bride of our Lord has made progress and has climbed up to greater salvation, she experiences yet another way of love, closely connected and with higher knowledge. She feels that love has conquered all resistance in her, and that she has recovered all shortcomings and has brought her into her power. Without resistance she has mastered herself, so that she knows her heart is safe and she can use it in peace and she can freely lay herself out.
The seventh way of love: ... There, the soul is with her Groom and she becomes totally one spirit with Him, in inseparable loyalty and in mutual love for ever. The soul that, in times of mercy, wanted to do everything for Him shall enjoy Him in eternal glory, where one shall do nothing else but praise and love. May God bring us all to that.
Read the whole text here: Seven Manners of Holy Love
This deep spiritual experience of immersion in the God of Love was at the heart of the spirituality of the Beguines which Beatrice learned as a child when she was educated by the Beguines. Next week, we'll look further into this fascinating movement.

1 comment:

  1. fascinating! I hadn't heard of Beatrice before. I can see why the Beguines made the Vatican so nervous... women doing their "own thing", and basing their spirituality on love instead of heaven, hell, and rules.