God must give us a renewed mind (from Vale Millies)

by Hadewijch

English version by Mother Columba Hart
Original Language Dutch

God must give us a renewed mind
     For nobler and freer love,
To make us so new in our life
     That Love may bless us
And renew, with new taste,
     Those to whom she can give new fulness;
Love is the new and powerful recompense
     Of those whose life renews itself for Love alone.
-- Ay, vale, vale, millies --
     That renewing of new Love
-- Si dixero, non satis est --
     Which renewal will newly experience.

-- from Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) , by Mother Columba Hart

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

God must give us a renewed mind
     For nobler and freer love,


There is something about this opening line that carries both hope and... relief. As we go through life, often struggling through our encounters, we develop psychic survival patterns as ways to cope and move forward. These patterns of thinking and perception may be entirely necessary at the time, or at least they are the best we can imagine in the confusion of the moment, but then we become trapped by the mental patterns we ourselves have devised. These habits of mind often imprint so deeply that we forget they are there and we imagine they are reality itself. Our behaviors, what we think is possible, who we think we are, all result from these self-created patterns of the mind.

When the spirit seeks freedom, liberation, salvation, it is from precisely this: the rigid and over-patterned awareness. Growth requires space, new ground, fresh air, possibility. The mind must be renewed.

For us to recognize or receive or realize a "nobler and freer love," to discover that something that will "make us so new in our life," the mind itself must rest and reset. It must become clear and open, a new space ready for the possibility of new awareness.

This is the renewing power of meditation and prayer.

We become ready to receive the mystic's love. For those of us shaped by the modern world, it is difficult to read the word "love" and understand it. It's a word that's bandied about but with little meaning beyond infatuation or loyalty. But when mystics utter the word "love," we are in the rush of the most profound flood of transformative energy. It is an experience of the Divine, the healing, unifying touch upon the awareness, in which we recognize that all is one, all is beauty, and all is within one's heart.

Within the phrases of this poem, there is a sense of letting go as we are renewed. When we translate that first Latin phrase -- Ay, vale, vale, millies "Ay, farewell, farewell, a thousand times" -- we are saying goodbye over and over again. The following line seems to say we are letting go, again and again, of Love itself... yet it keeps coming back to us, repeatedly renewing us, comforting and filling us anew with is own presence as this most "powerful recompense." So the renewal itself endlessly renews itself, making this divine Love a perpetually new experience. We have the image not of trapping or acquiring this new experience but, instead, of a force that flows through us, continuously passing through us, while all the mystic can do is remain open.

Si dixero, non satis est "If I speak, it is not enough." Can words truly describe it?



Recommended Books: Hadewijch

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete
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