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Twentieth-Century Women Mystics

God Is the Beloved

Sunday, July 17th, 2022

This week’s Daily Meditations feature writings of twentieth-century women mystics. Each one shares her experience of God as unconditional and unsurpassed love from her unique background. Father Richard Rohr believes this is true for all mystics:  

People who know God well—mystics, hermits, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found as an abusive father or a tyrannical mother; God is always a lover greater than we dared hope for. How different from the “account manager” most people seem to worship. God is the lover who receives and forgives everything. 

When we go into the Presence, we find someone not against us, but someone who is definitely for us! Mystics recognize someone else is holding them. People who pray always say, “Someone is for me more than I am for myself.” Prayer is being loved at a deep, sweet level. I hope everyone has felt such intimacy alone with God. I promise it is available to all. Maybe a lot of us just need to be told that this is what we should expect and seek. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek. It feels presumptuous. We can’t trust that such a love exists. But it does.

Father Richard has found great inspiration over the past several years in the writings of Jewish mystic Etty Hillesum (1914–1943). In her letters from the Westerbork transit camp, Hillesum describes the solace she finds in God’s continual presence:

You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer. I have been terribly tired for several days, but that too will pass. Things come and go in a deeper rhythm, and people must be taught to listen; it is the most important thing we have to learn in this life. I am not challenging You, oh God, my life is one great dialogue with You. I may never become the great artist I would really like to be, but I am already secure in You, God. Sometimes I try my hand at turning out small profundities and uncertain short stories, but I always end up with just one single word: God. And that says everything, and there is no need for anything more. And all my creative powers are translated into inner dialogues with You. The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches. [1]

References:

[1] Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941–1943; and Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996), 332.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed.(New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2003), 131, 134, 135.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 11 (detail), 2022, photograph, Colorado, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 4 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Florence Morning (detail), photograph, used with permission.  Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s image appears in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: She sees the leaves in the ice, gathers the small, unnoticed things, and cherishes her findings. We accept the mystic’s invitation to sit and ponder.

Story from Our Community:

I was walking up the street in our town. Ahead of me I saw a woman sitting on a bench, and another woman standing nearby holding a leash. A boxer (dog) had his front paws on the woman’s shoulders and was nuzzling her right ear. She was giggling. He looked towards me, jumped down, and peacefully walked towards me. I knew I was next in line for his loving embrace. God was in that moment, showing me that there is always enough love and time. —Irene C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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