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Archive for July, 2016

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.                                       (I Peter 4:8-11)

wisdom of the beguinesThe Beguines were groups of women who exemplified the Christian characteristics here spoken of by the apostle Peter. These groups of devout women began forming over 800 years ago (12th Century) in the Low Countries and spread across Europe. They were not nuns but groups of women committed to living and worshipping and working together to follow Christ by deepening their own faith and serving the poor.

The Beguines did not take vows but made their own rules. They were all encouraged to read and study. They were expected to support themselves. Some came with rich inheritances that they shared with everyone. Others learned trades, especially in the cloth industry.

Beguines came from every social class – nobility and aristocrats, middle class and merchants, widows, daughters of knights, urban poor and rural poor. They spanned all ages, fourteen to eighties or beyond. They were self-supporting and independent.

The Beguines were known for their deep spirituality. Their communities, known Flemish beguinageas “beguinages” could be single homes or compounds set up as small communities complete with hospitals, churches, businesses, farms, and homes. These were safe places for women to live, earn an income, and minister without interference. The picture on the right is a typical Flemish beguinage.

Beguines were passionate about their ministry. They were good business women, active in their communities and sought to use their income to help the poor. They grew their own food and raised sheep and made their own garments. A few were involved in banking and trade. Many were called as “preachers” to reform the corrupt Church.

Some Beguines lived among the lepers but most Beguines concentrated on having an infirmary in the beguinage. This was their most important building. Poor women and children and the sick and homeless could be brought to the infirmary for their care. In the infirmaries the ones brought in could receive shelter, food, medicine, religious fellowship, and some were even taught a trade or other business so that they could move on and live self-sufficiently. Young girls were rescued from prostitution and taught a trade so that they could live a new life free from exploitation.

The independent lifestyle of the Beguines helped them to work with the poor and marginalized without having to be under the control of local bishops or noblemen. They did not want to be like the nuns who were often not allowed to leave the cloisters. The Beguines wanted the freedom to choose to work among the poor in their own way. They were wise enough however to travel outside of the beguinage in groups of two or more for reasons of safety and protection of their reputations.

Besides caring for the poor, many Beguines also served as preachers, actors, and writers. Beguines were not preachers in the formal sense, but like preachers they brought the Word of God to the spiritually hungry and destitute. Beguines believed that there is a Heaven and a Hell and they were passionate about rescuing sinners from Hell. They knew that their acts of mercy to the poor to aid them physically was pleasing to God, but they also knew that this life is finite. Along with physical comfort must come the preaching of the Gospel. This the women did wherever they went.

Another type of preaching the Beguines engaged in was in the form of criticizing the corrupt Church. During the Middle Ages the hierarchy of the Church became very selfish and opulent. High offices were bought not earned. The funds from the sale of the offices enriched the pope and allowed him to live in luxury that did not seem right for the “shepherd” of God’s sheep. Illiteracy and debauchery were rampart among the clergy. Many Beguines called the church leaders back to a holier life.

Because the Beguines did not preach formally, they turned to other ways to share the Gospel. One of these ways was through drama. Going to plays was a favorite pastime during the Middle Ages. The Beguines took advantage of this. They reenacted the life of Christ before large audiences. In this way they could “preach” to the people encouraging them to repent of their sins and turn to God and then to live better lives.

We are fortunate to have an outstanding collection of the writings of the Beguines. They wrote autobiographies, mystical treatises, tracts, and many letters to friends and followers. They wrote poetry. Some also wrote music to set their poetry to.

A few Beguines did write books, but many just put their various writings into collections. Some had friends who would record their words and deeds. Copies were made and passed around. Most of the Beguines treasured their Psalters, a book used for private prayer that included the Psalms and other portions of Scripture.

The Beguines were sometimes accused of being heretics. There were many reasons for this. Often their mystical writings were misunderstood. As long as the writings were not completely against the Church’s teachings the Beguines were left alone. But the Church leaders were angry when the Beguines taught the people that they did not need an intermediary but could have a personal relationship with God on their own. This went against the Church’s teaching that a priest was always needed for people to approach God. The Beguines often met and prayed together without priests and this angered the Church officials. The Church at that time considered their belief heresy, but today most Protestants would agree with the Beguines.

Unfortunately, some Church and civil leaders were envious of the Beguines – and lusted after their property, their successful businesses, or their large following of people. It was not unusual to declare a group of Beguines heretics and seize their property and turn the women out in the cold or force them into cloisters. Several Beguines were burned at the stake, later to be exonerated.

Another attack came from the town guilds. The Beguines produced excellent cloth, for example, and sold it at a reasonable price. This was too much unwanted competition for the guilds who would try to get rid of the Beguines on trumped up charges of heresy. The guilds could find themselves unsuccessful because the Beguines were good citizens and paid the taxes on their income. The town officials came to depend on the taxes paid by the Beguines and would let them continue their businesses.

During the French Revolution the Beguines were nearly annihilated when the government seized all of their property. Many Beguines were tortured and killed along with thousands of other priests and nuns during the attack on the Church.

Last BeguineNo matter how many attacks came against the Beguines, they managed to survive into the twenty-first century; the last “traditional” Beguine, Marcella Pattyn, died in 2013. It is unfortunate that this simple, happy, and useful way of life has come to an end.

The Beguines left us a great legacy. We have preserved for us beautiful art work, songs, poetry, and writing. Most of all the Beguines gave us an example of serving Christ by helping the poor and marginalized. They showed wisdom, courage, and strength as they worshiped God as they felt called. They would have been great in any century!

 

 

 

 

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pentecost“And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”  (Acts 2:17)

On this blog site I have covered women in church history throughout the ages. There are stories of women from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the early centuries, the Reformation, the great missionary age and more. I have not written many stories of women who lived during the Middle Ages. Even for the ones I have written about (such as Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, and Birgitta of Sweden), I have only touched on certain aspects of their lives. I emphasized their charitable works and their piety; I left out much about the mystical aspects of their lives including their dreams, visions, and ecstatic experiences.

The subject of dreams, visions, and other ecstatic experiences has been troublesome to me as I suppose it is for many other Christians. This summer I have decided to write the stories of Medieval women saints. Hildegard, Catherine, and Birgitta and many other godly women served Christ in amazing ways. They left their marks on church history. They deserve to have their stories told in spite of what may be considered their controversial experiences.

So, let’s deal with the subject of dreams and visions. They are real experiences. What do we make of them? Where do they come from? Are there still supernatural dreams and visions today?

Dreams, visions, and ecstatic experiences come from three places: God, ourselves, or the devil.

In the Bible we see the stories of many people who had dreams or visions. God gave these experiences to people to teach them something, save them from harm, or to provide a prophecy for them to give to His people. Some examples are:

  1. Jacob’s Ladder – This dream was very important because God was confirming His promise of the land that He would give to Abraham and his descendants. (Genesis 28:10-22)
  2. Joseph’s Interpretation of Pharaoh’s Dream – God gave Pharaoh this dream (Genesis 41:28) so that preparations could be made to save lives. Because he interpreted the dream, Joseph became the number two man in Egypt.
  3. Many prophets such as Daniel had dreams. Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream made him the number two man in Babylon, an experience similar to Joseph’s.
  4. Angels appeared to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph (3 times), the women at the tomb, and Philip in the New Testament.
  5. Peter had a dream while at Cornelius’ house. He was shown in no uncertain terms that the Gentiles were to be included in the family of God.
  6. Christ appeared to Saul on his way to Damascus. An angel appeared to Paul while he was in prison.
  7. Stephen was arrested by the Jewish leaders for teaching about the Way. They did not like what they heard and condemned him to death by stoning. As he was nearing death, God gave Stephen a vision of the “Son of Man” at the right hand of God in heaven. (Acts 7:56).john on patmos
  8. John had a vision while on the island of Patmos. While imprisoned there he wrote down the visions that he received from Jesus concerning the things “which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John” (Revelation 1:1, 9, 10).

The general principles that we can discern about dreams from God in the Scriptures are:

  1. God gave these dreams and visions at important times.
  2. God also gave the interpretation of the dreams.
  3. The dreams often confirmed promises that God had made.
  4. The dreams were often sent to protect His children.
  5. The dreams were sent to give instructions. The dreams center on God, Christ or important acts of God. Dreams such as John’s were prophetic.

The dreams in the Bible were supernatural experiences given by God. We take them by faith and learn from them.

The question now is: Did supernatural dreams cease with the end of the Apostolic Age? Does God still speak to people through dreams and visions?

As mentioned above, there are three sources of dreams or visions: God, ourselves, or Satan. We agree that the dreams in the Bible were given by God. What about today?

Many Christians believe that the supernatural experiences, such as healing, tongues, and prophecy ceased at the end of the Apostolic Age. Visions and ecstatic experiences would all fit in this category. So it will not come as a surprise that many would say that the visions experienced by Hildegard, Catherine, and Birgitta were either from themselves or from the devil.

There are many good books on dreams. For our purposes in this writing, let us just say that some dreams are the result of what we have been thinking about or experiencing. In the context of mysticism, we could say that the saints were meditating on Scripture or Bible stories or other spiritual topics so much that they dreamed about them when they slept. This would be a purely natural explanation. Those who say that God no longer gives supernatural dreams would be comfortable with the explanation that dreams come from ourselves.

When it comes to visions, many believe that any supernatural vision comes from Satan. As a child I was told a popular story about Martin Luther. (I don’t know if it was true or not, but it illustrates the point.) Apparently Luther had a vision of Christ and was reported as saying, “Get thee behind me Satan!” In other words, the Reformers believed that the visions of Jesus or Mary that many Roman Catholics were receiving were from Satan. They did not believe that God spoke to people in this way. They believed that we must turn to the Scriptures alone for knowledge of God.

So we are back to the question – what are we to think of the visions and dreams experienced by the women mystics during the Middle Ages?

Before we make a judgment, here are some things to consider:

  1. Not everyone during the Middle Ages had a Bible to read. For many centuries the Scriptures were inaccessible to most people.
  2. During the Middle Ages piety was seen more as something you do, not just what you believe. Emphasis was placed on good works as proof of your faith (James 2:24-26).
  3. Women during the Middle Ages were not allowed to attend seminary or to become teachers of the Scriptures. It was thought that women were too stupid or sinful to understand the Bible. Many women sought spiritual experiences as a fulfillment of their desire to grow closer to God. The church tolerated mysticism during the Medieval Age.
  4. During the Middle Ages dreams and visions were more a part of the everyday practice of religion than today.
  5. In fact, there were women such as Hildegard of Bingen who lived such a pious life, full of wisdom and good works, that when they had a dream or vision it was given credibility by the people.
  6. No matter how strange it may seem to twentieth century western materialistic Christians, do the dreams fit the principles stated above? Do they confirm the Word of God? Do they result in godly characteristics or actions?

Even during the Middle Ages people had differing opinions about dreams and visions. Contemporary attitudes toward Margery Kempe (1373-1438) are a good example. Margery had many followers who believed every word she said. There were also skeptics who felt that she was just a fake. Some went so far as to say that she had a demon. We see that there has always been a question about dreams and people were trying to discern the legitimate ones from the false ones.

If God gives dreams and visions at various times in history, then we would expect to see Him doing that today. In fact, I believe that we do see this.

DreamsAndVisionsIn his book, “Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?”, Tom Doyle recounts the testimonies of Muslims who were introduced to the Christian faith through a vision or dream about Jesus which he calls “visitations”. I have no doubt that these experiences are real since the Muslim converts risk their lives by converting to Christianity. No one would act on a dream to that extent unless it was real.

Rev. Doyle gives us some guidelines on how to recognize legitimate dreams/visitations from Jesus that I believe can help us as we consider the dreams of the Medieval Mystics.

  1. Is there anything in the dream that goes against Scripture? Is a true picture of Jesus given in the dream? If not, then the dream is false. We must be careful because Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).
  2. Is the person consistent about the specifics of the dream even for a long time afterward? Naturally occurring dreams are easily forgotten: details from supernatural dreams stay with a person.
  3. Is there a purpose to this dream or is it just a stand-alone event? Does the dream move the person to seek to know more about God?
  4. Does this dream draw the person closer to God? In the case of the Muslims, the dreams result in real repentance and committing their lives to Christ. For the Medieval Mystic, does the dream result in more piety or fruit in her life?
  5. For the Muslims, the dream brings definition to their lives. It is part of them and cannot be shaken off. It becomes a part of their testimony. For the mystic in the Middle Ages, does the dream become part of her testimony of God’s greatness and glory?

In the coming weeks we will have the opportunity to look at the dreams and visions of the women Christian mystics of the Middle Ages. Let us keep open minds and consider the times in which they lived. Are their dreams consistent with the principles that we drew from the Scriptures? As we look at these women’s lives, let us not just write them off as frauds or fools. Let us see what we can learn from them.

 

 

 

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It happened in the year 1141 of the Incarnation of God’s Son Jesus Christ, when I was forty-two years and seven months old, that the heavens were opened and a fiery light of great brilliance came and suffused my whole brain and set my whole heart and breast afire like a flame – yet not burning but warming, as the sun warms an object on which it sheds its rays. And suddenly I came to understand the meaning of the book of Psalms, the Gospel, and the other canonical books of both the Old and New Testaments — … in a marvelous way, I had sensed the power and mystery of secret, wonderful visions in myself from girlhood, from the age of five, even to the present time.”   Hildegard of Bingen.

Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.
                                                                                                  Pope Benedict

Over the next few weeks we will look at the lives of Christian women mystics. As stated in last week’s post, Mysticism is hard to define. Christian mystics seek a closer experience of union with God. For mystics this is not just a paranormal experience, but a very real, non-abstract experience. Certainly there were mystics who did some really strange things, but many were quite orthodox in their faith and led pious Christian lives. Hildegard of Bingen is a good example of serious Christian mystic and I am glad that our series on Christian mystics begins with her.

hildegard of bingenHildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) is best known as a twelfth-century abbess with an extraordinary mind and she is known for her visions. Whatever one thinks about the subject of visions and dreams, certainly Hildegard was a wise, talented, intelligent, dedicated, and devout Christian woman who rose above her circumstances to serve God in extraordinary ways. She has been authenticated by the pope in her day (Eugene III) and recently by Pope Benedict.

Hildegard was born around 1098 in Bemersheim, Germany, the daughter of a knight and his pious wife. Since Hildegard was their tenth child they offered her as a tithe to God. It was not uncommon in the Medieval Era for parents to place children in monasteries for their upbringing and eventual profession. When she was only eight years old, Hildegard went to a convent to stay with her Aunt Jutta.

While living with Jutta, Hildegard learned the psalms in Latin and how to sing the monastic hours. Women in religious communities were highly educated. Hildegard had access to the Bible, many commentaries, writings from the church fathers, and even medical texts. Hildegard was also tutored by Volmar, a monk at a nearby monastery. Volmar became Hildegard’s lifelong spiritual director as well as a friend and secretary.

When her aunt Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard was chosen to be the abbess in her place. Hildegard was thirty-eight years old.

There is more information about Hildegard’s life, including the books and playshildegard music she wrote, the music she composed, and her preaching and teaching activities in “Hildegard of Bingen” posted on May 11, 2011, on this blog site.

In this post we will look at one aspect of Hildegard’s theology – The Holy Spirit.

On October 7, 2012 Hildegard of Bingen was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict. In his address to the Synod of Bishops he said:

Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.

Pope Benedict’s sermon sums up Hildegard’s life honestly. He alludes to Hildegard’s prophetic spirit and certainly Hildegard’s visions were the basis for her authority as a teacher in the church. Hildegard made positive contributions to society. In her day she had the affirmation of Bernard of Clairvaux who presented her writings to Pope Eugene III who declared her writings authentic. This made her a celebrity. Pilgrims came from far and wide to hear her speak. She also traveled throughout Germany preaching and writing. Many others  came because she was an herbalist and had a reputation as a healer.

As twentieth century Christians we have a little trouble when people speak of having visions. But during the Middle Ages, visions were not uncommon. We will be looking at Medieval saints who had visions for the next few weeks. In next week’s post we will discuss how visions fit into theology. No matter what we think of visionary activity, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus told us that it is the fruit produced in a person’s life that we are to judge (Matthew 7:16).

Hildegard produced much fruit. Certainly many scholars, religious leaders, historians, and devout believers consider Hildegard an extraordinary woman. Her writings inspired many then and now to deepen their spiritual lives in prayer and service. No matter what century Hildegard had lived in, she would have been considered a devout Christian with amazing gifts.

Barbara Newman in her book, “Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World”, sums up Hildegard’s contributions to church history:

Hildegard was the only woman of her age to be accepted as an authoritative voice on Christian doctrine; the first woman who received express permission from a pope to write theological books; the only medieval woman who preached openly, before mixed audiences of clergy and laity, with the full approval of church authorities; the author of the first know morality play and the only twelfth-century playwright who is not anonymous; the only composer of her era (not to mention the only medieval woman) known both by name and by a large corpus of surviving music; ….

One important contribution of Hildegard’s theology is her praise of the Holy Spirit. Some of her most beautiful work is found in her songs. One example is her “O ignis spiritus paracliti” written to honor the Holy Spirit.

O spirit of fire, bringer of comfort,
Life of the life of every creature,
You are holy, giving life to forms.
You are holy,
anointing those perilously broken;
you are holy,
cleansing foul wounds.
O breath of holiness,
O fire of love,
O sweet savor in our breasts,
infusing hearts with the scent of virtue.

For Hildegard the Holy Spirit is associated with abundant life. The Holy Spirit is also the One Who brings understanding of the Scriptures (John 16:13). He helps believers in their search for knowledge and wisdom.

Another way in which Hildegard expressed her faith was in her art. This picture is called the “Choirs of Angels” and is found in her book Scivias (26 of Hildegard’s prophetic visions).

choirs of angels hildegard

Composer, writer, artist, poet, prophet, theologian, healer, teacher, and monastery abbess, Hildegard is one of the most amazing women in church history. She was able to integrate her thinking about theology, music, and teaching in a way that gives us a holistic picture of life. She truly believed that she was in communion with God. Her visions helped her to understand and appreciate God.

Hildegard worked tirelessly at her calling until God called her home at the age of 82 on September 17, 1179.

Hildegard’s theology of the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.  It is all too common to hear sermons on the Father or the Savior without mentioning the Spirit. Hildegard emphasized the One-ness of God – the complete Triune God.

Hildegard calls us today to pay more attention to the Holy Spirit. Her life was an ongoing conversation with the Holy Spirit. We need that message in our twenty-first century materialistic society. Is the Holy Spirit real in our lives? Is He there helping us daily in our Christian lives? If we really believe that, then like Hildegard we are practicing a form of mysticism. We should not be afraid of it but embrace it as an aspect of a holistic life – body, soul, and spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

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third heavenBoasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man in not permitted to speak. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)

This passage of Scripture is a key verse for Christians mystics. Christian mystics seek a closer experience of union with God. For mystics this is a very real, non-abstract experience just as the “man in Christ” experienced.

Scholars agree that both the definition and the description of mysticism are difficult to explain. It is not magic or paranormal experience. It does not consist of a preoccupation with special revelations or visions. Religious mystics simply want to be closer to Christ and to experience Him in more than just an intellectual way.

There are still mystics today but mysticism was especially popular in the Middle Ages. Why did so many late Medieval women turn to mysticism? It was mostly because of changes that occurred in the Church right after the turn of the new Millennium. (1000 AD) Monasteries for men and women had been popular in the early Middle Ages. Women were able to study the Scriptures and participate in the intellectual environment the same as men. In their cloisters they preached to other women and even served communion at their services.

But in the twelfth century as the Roman Catholic Church began to change, women were denied these opportunities. The organization of the church became very hierarchical and took on a superstructure of male-only leadership. Also important is the fact that a clergy/laity split occurred. Only ordained male priests could do communion. Only they could change the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. (Doctrine of Transubstantiation)

The Roman Catholics put a lot of emphasis on the sacraments. Penance became a necessary sacrament; without it believers could not take communion. Again, only male priests could offer forgiveness in the confessional and give the people their “penance” for their sins. Penance was seen as a way to pay for your sins. Later, Martin Luther and the Protestants would object and stress that Christ’s atoning sacrifice paid for all sins. But during the Middle Ages (and even to today) the sacrament of Penance is required for Roman Catholics.

Since the clergy would not include women, women were no longer allowed to attend universities. Any intellectual studies for women would have to be done on their own. Women turned to other ways to express their piety since they could not participate in leadership positions or dispense the necessary sacraments of Communion and Penance. They developed new ways to express their spirituality. Mysticism became popular and although there were male mystics, many female mystics took on prominence.

It was during this time that the mendicant (begging) religious orders came intoMysticism - Catherine of Siena being. This was the time of Francis of Assisi and the Poor Clares (Founded by Clare Scefi, a follower of Francis of Assisi). The cult of the Virgin Mary began. There was trouble with the papacy. In the late fourteenth century there were two popes – one in Rome and one in Avignon. One mystic in particular, Catherine of Siena, had a part to play in the politics of the papacy.

There was a new emphasis on the humanity of Christ. The religious who wanted to be closer to Christ attempted to participate in His sufferings. With an emphasis on Penance as a way to pay for your sins, extreme fasting and self-flagellation became popular. We should not be surprised then to find that some women mystics expressed their piety in these forms.

The lives of these women will look very strange and sometimes repulsive to twenty-first century Christians. In the Middle Ages especially, self-sacrificing to the point of harming one’s own health was popular. It would be easy for us to judge these women and say that so much self-induced suffering brought on for the purpose of pleasing God was wrong. But we would be forgetting the times they lived in.

We must also take a good look at why we would criticize them. Our society is very indulgent. If these women could have foreseen our century they would be criticizing us! We would look very worldly to them. We should not castigate them without trying to understand the times in which they lived.

Though it is hard to pin down a good definition of mysticism, we can say that it was the attempt to combine thoughts and feelings with the goal of a closer union with God. Many of the thoughts were visions or dreams or contemplations that were often very hard to describe. Feelings were intense – some of sorrow or penitence – but mostly of joyful communion of oneness with God. This was what it was about for mystics; they were looking for religious experience. They wanted to go beyond dogma and actually “experience” God. This may seem strange to us today. We tend to emphasize intellectual knowledge over feelings.

386px-Julian_of_NorwichWhile many mystics certainly swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme of feelings over theology or dogma, most mystics wanted a balanced combination of the two. And above all, we should remember that they loved Jesus Christ, were grateful for their salvation, and wanted to show their gratitude in works of mercy.

It should also be remembered that a very important part of the mystical way was community living. Medieval mystics were not usually living entirely on their own following an individual path. Most were in some type of cloister sharing social obligations and relationships. Most were involved in charitable activities such as feeding the poor or caring for the sick.

In the late fourteenth through early fifteenth centuries many mystics were caring for the dying during the Black Plague. They saw suffering and death all around them as more than 40% of the population succumbed to the black death. Mystics dealt with the harder questions in life – Where is God in all of this? They did not lose their faith, but sought even harder to grow closer to the God Who is sovereign in life and death.

This seems very different to us today, but we can learn much from the women mystics. Some were poor; some were wealthy. Some were cloistered; some were lay persons. They came from many countries in Europe. It is true that some mystics went their own way and did things that even their contemporaries found objectionable. It is unfortunate that when the subject of mysticism comes up we mostly think of the extreme examples.

In the following weeks we will look at the experiences and writings of some Christian mystic women from the twelfth through the eighteenth centuries. In examining their lives and teachings we will try to learn what they can teach us that is relevant for today.

 

 

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