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Mechthild of Magdeburg
Mechthild of Magdeburg

God Is Hopelessly in Love

Monday, October 23, 2023

In season eight of Turning to the Mystics, James Finley points to the guidance Mechthild of Magdeburg offers to people in relationship with God:

We turn to the guidance that Mechthild of Magdeburg offers in The Flowing Light of the Godhead. Through what we know about her life, she’s mentoring us and modeling for us this Christlike life. Mystics such as Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, and the author of the Cloud of Unknowing all share their way as mystically awakened Christians. They try to offer guidance to help us discern our awakening, with instructions such as how to recognize our awakening starting, how to conduct ourselves, and so on. Mechthild doesn’t do that….

Mechthild shares this deepening love between herself and God, but she doesn’t share it by talking about it. She lets us in on it with the language of intimacy and bears witness to it. As we read her book, insofar as we’re touched by the beauty of what she’s saying about the deepening of this love, we’re being guided by her. The very fact that we’re touched by it and its beauty reveals that we’re also being drawn into this love—or we wouldn’t be touched by it. That’s how she guides us. That’s the intimacy of her teaching.

Finley describes how we might connect with Mechthild’s emphasis on love:

In a way, Mechthild is playing a violin with just one string on it, which is love. But the more we listen to it, it’s the beauty of the whole orchestra. It’s the beauty that permeates the reverberations of all the various aspects of this. Even though she just stays on point, never leaving this love, she makes stunning statements about love. We wonder, “Where did that come from, seriously?” When we sit with her, we learn these endless variations are unfolding in us. It’s endlessly evocative and she helps us to be sensitized to surrendering ourselves over to that flow of love….

God says to her that he’s so freely chosen to be so hopelessly in love with her, that he quite honestly doesn’t know if he could handle being God without her. And she says back to God, “Take me home with you. I’ll be your physician forever!” [1] The power of these words is that, as we’re reading them, we know they are true of us. We know that God has freely chosen to be so hopelessly in love with us, and that God doesn’t know if God can handle being God without us in our brokenness…. It circulates back around, and we give back to God the gift that God longs for, which is us!…

To sit with Mechthild and to read her is to be taken by the beauty of what she says. It is to sit in silence and ask God to deepen our capacity to realize how the love of which she speaks is already unfolding within us, and how to be faithful to that, and to carry it through the day.


[1] Mechthild, The Flowing Light of the Godhead 3.2.

Adapted from James Finley and Kirsten Oates, “Turning to Mechtild of Magdeburg,” in Turning to the Mystics, season 8 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast, MP3 audio. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, Snow Reflection on Pond (detail), 1973, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Loïs Mailou Jones, Jeune Fille Français (detail), 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Loïs Mailou Jones, Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

Mechtild looks into our eyes with peace and knowing of the Beloved – we look back into her eyes having beheld the same Beloved.

Story from Our Community:  

I have struggled with Christianity—in particular the Catholic Church, all of my adult life. I’m devastated by the abuse by priests of women and children, the horror of residential schools, and the endless religious wars with “God on our side.” Yet the heart of Christianity, as revealed by … all of the mystics throughout the ages—is still present. Is it possible for organized religion to love as Christ loves? I have my doubts. Is Love still present in our world? Of that I am sure—the proof is in the flowers, trees, the wind, and the innocence of children. —Marie A.

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