Of the voices of the Godhead

by Mechthild of Magdeburg

English version by Lucy Menzies
Original Language German

O soaring eagle! darling lamb!
O glowing spark! Set me on fire!
How long must I endure this thirst?
One hour is already too long,
A day is as a thousand years
When Thou art absent!

Should this continue for eight days
I would rather go down to Hell --
(Where indeed I already am!)
Than that God should hide Himself
From the loving soul;
For that were anguish greater than human death,
Pain beyond all pain.
The nightingale must ever sing
Because its nature is love;
Whoso would take that from it
Would bring it death.
     Ah! Mighty Lord! Look on my need!

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to the soul --
"Come, noble maid! Prepare thyself,
They Lover comes!"
     Startled but inwardly rejoicing
She said: "Welcome, faithful messenger,
Would that it were ever so!
I am so evil and so faithless
That I can find no peace of mind
Apart from my Love.
The moment it seems that I cool
But a little from love of Him,
Then am I in deep distress
And can do nothing but seek for Him lamenting."
     Then the messenger spoke:
"Thou must purify thyself,
Sprinkle the dust with water,
Scatter flowers in thy room."
     And the exiled soul replied:
"When I purify, I blush,
When I sprinkle, I weep,
When I pray, then must I hope,
When I gather flowers, I love.
When my Lord comes
I am beside myself
For there cometh with Him such sweet melody
That all carnal desire dieth within me:
And His sweet music puts far from me
All sorrow of heart.
     The mighty voice of the Godhead
Has spoken to me in powerful words
Which I have received
With the dull hearing of my misery --
A light of utmost splendor
Glows on the eyes of my soul
Therein have I seen the inexpressible ordering
Of all things, and recognized God's unspeakable glory --
That incomprehensible wonder --
The tender caress between God and the soul,
The sufficiency in the Highest,
Discipline and understanding,
Realization with withdrawal,
According to the power of the senses,
The unmingled joy of union,
The living love of Eternity
As it now is and evermore shall be."

     Then were seen four rays of light
Which shot forth all at once
From the noble crossbow of the Trinity
From the Divine Throne through the nine Choirs.
There none is so poor nor so rich
That he is not met by Love;
The rays of the Godhead illuminate him
With inconceivable light;
The humanity of the Son greets him
In brotherly love;
The Holy Spirit flows through him
With the miraculous creative power
Of everlasting joy!
The undivided Godhead welcomes him
With the glory of His Divine Countenance
And fills him with the blessedness
Of His life-giving breath.

     Love flows from God to man without effort
As a bird glides through the air
Without moving its wings --
Thus they go whithersoever they will
United in body and soul
Yet in their form separate --
     As the Godhead strikes the note
Humanity sings,
The Holy Spirit is the harpist
And all the strings must sound
Which are strung in love.

     There was also seen
That sublime vessel
In which Christ dwelt nine months on earth
In soul and body,
As it ever shall remain
Only without the great glory
Which at the last day
The heavenly Father will give to all
The bodies of the redeemed.
This our Lady must also lack
So long as the earth floats above the sea.

-- from German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others, Edited by Karen J. Campbell

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Recommended Books: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Classics of Western Spirituality)
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Of the voices of