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Mechthild of Magdeburg
Mechthild of Magdeburg

God’s Passionate Love

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Father Richard writes about God’s desire for loving intimacy with us:

Saint Bonaventure taught that we are each “loved by God in a particular and incomparable manner, as in the case of a bride and groom.” [1] Francis and Clare of Assisi knew that the love God has for each soul is unique and made to order, which is why any “saved” person feels beloved, chosen, and even “God’s favorite.” Many people in the Bible also knew and experienced this specialness. Divine intimacy is always and precisely particular and made to order—and thus “intimate.” [2]

The inner knowledge of God’s love is itself the Indwelling Presence, and it is also described as joy (John 15:11). Which comes first? Does feeling safe and held by God allow us to deal with others in the same way? Or does human tenderness allow us to imagine that God must be the same, but infinitely so? I do not suppose it really matters where we start; the important thing is that we get in on the big secret from one side or the other.

Yes, “secret,” or even “hidden secret,” is what writers like David (Psalm 25:14), Paul, Rumi, Hafiz, Bonaventure, Julian of Norwich, and many mystics called it. And for some sad reason, it seems to be a well-kept secret. Jesus praises God for “hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them only to the little ones” (Matthew 11:25). Well, what is it that the learned and the clever often cannot see?

The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes the experience for us: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, changing the rules “for me,” nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and also, of course, necessary suffering. This is the mystical vocabulary of the saints. [3]

The beguine mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1207–c. 1282) wrote about her experience of God’s passionate love and desire. She records a dialogue between her soul and God:

The soul begins:

Ah, Lord, love me passionately, love me often, love me long. For the more continuously You love me, the purer I will be; the more fervently You love me, the more beautiful I will be; the longer You love me, the holier I will become here on earth.

God responds:

Because I Myself am Love, I will love you continuously.

Because I long to be loved passionately, My desire is to love you fervently.

Because I am everlasting and eternal, I will love you long…. [4]

When I shine, you will reflect my radiance,

When I flow, you will flow swiftly,

When you breathe, you draw into yourself My Divine Heart.

When you cry for Me, I take you into My arms.

When you love Me, we are united as one.

Nothing can separate us, for we abide together joyfully. [5]


[1] Bonaventure, Breviloquium 5.1.5, in Works of St. Bonaventure, vol. 9, trans. Dominic V. Monti (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2005), 172.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, preface to Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), xviii.

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 163, 164–165.

[4] Mechthild, The Flowing Light of the Godhead 1.23, 1.24, in Meditations from Mechthild of Magdeburg, ed. Henry L. Carrigan Jr. (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 1999), 9. 

[5] Mechthild, Flowing Light 2.6; Carrigan, 23.

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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