From Bernard McGinn "Hadewijch, Vision 7" in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
One Pentecost at dawn I had a vision.
I wished, inside me, that he would satisfy me with his Godhead in one spirit...For that is what it means to satisfy completely: to grow to being god with God
Matins were being sung in the church and I was there. And my heart and my veins and all my limbs trembled and shuddered with desire. And I was in such a state as I had been so many times before, so passionate and so terribly unnerved that I thought I should not satisfy my Lover and my Lover not fully gratify me, then I would have to desire while dying and die while desiring. At that time I was so terribly unnerved with passionate love and in such pain that I imagined all my limbs breaking one by one and all my veins were separately in tortuous pain. The state of desire in which I then was cannot be expressed by any words or any person that I know. And even that which I could say of it would be incomprehensible to all who hadn't confessed this love by means of acts of passion and who were not known by Love. This much I can say about it: I desired to consummate my Lover completely and to confess and to savour in the fullest extent--to fulfil his humanity blissfully with mine and to experience mine therein, and to be strong and perfect so that I in turn would satisfy him perfectly: to be purely and exclusively and completely virtuous in every virtue. And to that end I wished, inside me, that he would satisfy me with his Godhead in one spirit (1 Cor 6:17) and he shall be all he is without restraint. For above all gifts I could choose, I choose that I may give satisfaction in all great sufferings. For that is what it means to satisfy completely: to grow to being god with God. For it is suffering and pain, sorrow and being in great new grieving, and letting this all come and go without grief, and to taste nothing of it but sweet love and embraces and kisses. Thus I desired that God should be with me so that I should be fulfilled together with him.
When at that time I was in a state of terrible weariness, I saw a great eagle, flying towards me from the altar. And he said to me: "If you wish to become one, then prepare yourself." And I fell to my knees and my heart longed terribly to worship that One Thing in accordance with its true dignity, which is impossible--I know that, God knows that, to my great sadness and burden. And the eagle turned, saying, "Righteous and most powerful Lord, show now the powerful force of your Unity for the consummation with the Oneness of yourself." And he turned back and said to me, "He who has come, comes again, and wherever he never came, there he will not come."
Then he came from the altar, showing himself as a child. And that child had the very same appearance that he had in his first three years. And he turned to me and from the ciborium he took his body in his right hand and in his left hand he took a chalice that seemed to come from the altar, but I know not where it came from. Thereupon he came in the appearance and the clothing of the man he was on that day when he first gave us his body, that appearance of a human being and a man, showing his sweet and beautiful and sorrowful face, and approaching me with the humility of the one who belongs entirely to another. Then he gave himself to me in the form of the sacrament, in the manner to which people are accustomed. Then he gave me to drink from the chalice in the manner and taste to which people are accustomed. Then he came to me himself and took me completely in his arms and pressed me to him. And all my limbs felt his limbs in the full satisfaction that my heart and my humanity desired. Then I was externally completely satisfied to the utmost satiation.
At that time I also had, for a short while, the strength to bear it. But all too soon I lost external sight of the shape of that beautiful man, and
I lost external sight of the shape of that beautiful man and I saw him disappear to nothing, so quickly melting away and fusing together that I could not see or observe him outside of me, nor discern him within me
I saw him disappear to nothing, so quickly melting away and fusing together that I could not see or observe him outside of me, nor discern him within me. It was to me at that moment as if we were one without distinction. All of this was external, in sight, in taste, in touch, just as people may taste and see and touch receiving the external sacrament, just as a beloved may receive her lover in the full pleasure of seeing and hearing, with the one becoming one with the other. After this I remained in a state of oneness with my Beloved so that I melted into him and ceased to be myself. And I was transformed and absorbed in the spirit, and
They penetrate each other in such a way that neither of the two distinguishes himself from the other, they abide in one another in fruition, mouth in mouth, heart in heart, body in body, and soul in soul
I had a vision
One sweet divine nature flows through them both and being in each other they are both one and they remain completely one -- yes, and remain so forever
I remained in a state of oneness with my Beloved, so that I melted into him and ceased to be myself
what 'soul' is. Soul is a being that can be beheld by God and by which, again, God can be beheld. Soul is also a being that wishes to content God … The soul is a bottomless abyss in which God suffices to himself;
And I was transformed and absorbed in the spirit
and his own self-sufficiency ever finds fruition to the full in this soul, as the soul, for its part, ever does in him. Soul is a way for the passage of God from his depths to his liberty; and God is a way for the passage of the soul into its liberty, that is, into his inmost depths, which cannot be touched except by the soul's abyss.
And in this unity into which I was taken and where I was enlightened,
We were one without distinction...just as a beloved may receive her lover in the full pleasure of seeing and hearing, with the one becoming one with the other
I understood this Being and knew it more clearly than, by speech, reason, or sight, one can know anything that is knowable on earth
For earth cannot understand heavenly wisdom. Words enough and Dutch enough can be found for all things on earth, but I do not know any Dutch or any words that answer my purpose. Although I can express everything insofar as this is possible for a human being, no Dutch can be found for all I have said to you, since none exists to express these things, so far as I know
Where the abyss of his wisdom is, he will teach you what he is, and with what wondrous sweetness the loved one and the Beloved dwell one in the other, and how they penetrate each other in such a way that neither of the two distinguishes himself from the other. But they abide in one another in fruition, mouth in mouth, heart in heart, body in body, and soul in soul, while one sweet divine nature flows through them both and being in each other they are both one and they remain completely one -- yes, and remain so forever.
The authorship of these poems is disputed. They are likely either from the hand of Hadewijch herself, as part of a later development of her thought, or written by a close, contemporary disciple given the close linguistic similarities. Mark Jansen (1991) posits that Mengeldichten 17-24 are by Hadewijch but that 25-29 are not.
In the intimacy of the One,
Those souls are pure and inwardly naked,
without images, without figures,
As if liberated from time, uncreated,
Freed from their limits in silent latitude
Mengeldichten 17, in A History of Women in the West: Silences of the Middle Ages, p. 478.
The authorship of these poems is disputed. They are likely from a later disciple of Hadewijch, (known as Hadwijch II), rather than by her own hand, although they contain many themes in common with her uncontested works. Mark Jansen (1991) posits that Mengeldichten 17-24 are by Hadewijch but that 25-29 are by a later disciple.
All things are too small to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
I reach for the Uncreated
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there.
the world's things
Then the Naked
can grow wide,
Jane Hirshfield, ed., Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women.
The Flemish Beguine Hadewijch, is perhaps the most sublime exponent of love mysticism in the Western tradition. This deeply emotional, visionary, and bridal form of mysticism contends that God allows himself to be experienced as love by a person who ardently desires to be united with God in this life
Harvey D. Egan, An Anthology of Christian Mysticism, p. 225.
Little is known about Hadewijch, one of the greatest women of the "New Mysticism". Her intensely personal writings reveal that she was of noble birth, highly educated, an ecstatic, a profound mystic, and a subtle and daring mystical theologian - but little of the particulars of her life...She was highly esteemed one century later by the great mystic and theologian John Ruusbroec...His contemporary, Jan Van Leeuwan - also a not insignificant theologian and mystic - deemed her the equal of any of the evangelists! Yet only in the twentieth century have her mystical riches come to be appreciated on a broad scale.
Harvey D. Egan, Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition, p. 113.
It is difficult to discover precise details about this Flemish woman mystic who has left us a considerable body of writings, composed of Poems, Visions, and Letters, but we do not have a written account of Hadewijch’s life. She is considered one of the creators of Dutch lyrical poetry, and it is thought that her works were written some time during the second quarter of the thirteenth century...It seems she was a Beguine, a “mistress” or spiritual guide to an unorganized group of Beguines to whom she speaks with authority...Given Hadewijch’s knowledge of Latin and French and her use of courtly imagery, it is thought that she came from a noble family, probably from somewhere around Antwerp or Brussels, for she writes in the dialect of medieval Brabant. Influenced by the love mysticism of Bernard of Clairvaux and others, her work represents an “experiential radicalization of the theology of love.” Love is her spouse, her companion, her Lady Mistress, her God. Love is a person to whom one can speak, a lady, a queen whose strength and richness are praised. But love is above all Divine Love whose gifts inebriate and whose strength makes her experience all the rage and fury, the suffering of love when love becomes inaccessible.
Ursula King, Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies.
In her later poems, Hadewijch uses striking language and metaphysical themes that were to be further developed by the German mystic Meister Eckhart. She speaks of nakedness and void, of the shedding of the will, of all images and forms in order to attain “pure and naked Nothingness,” so that union with God is no longer experienced as the highest stage of beatitude but as a plunge into boundless unknowing, into the “wild desert” of the Divine Essence. To reach the divine summit, nothing must remain to encumber the spirit: “The circle of things must shrink and be annihilated so that the circle of nakedness can grow and extend in order to embrace the All.” Hadewijch’s language expresses the superabundance of spiritual experience, reflecting her participation in the trinitarian mysteries. She celebrates the divine names: Presence in the Son, Overflow in the Holy Spirit, Totality in the Father. Union with the three persons of the Holy Trinity in active and contemplative life leads to ultimate Unity, to the repose and silence of the soul in the depths of God. There exists an abyss between this experience of spiritual plenitude and her efforts to say something about it Words are utterly insufficient here, yet they must be used to communicate something of the “blessedness of being lost in the fruition of Love” to those who are capable of receiving such a message.
Ursula King, Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies.
Hadewijch used elements of the poetic tradition of troubadour poetry, which celebrated romantic love, to construct her ecstatic renderings of yearning for the beloved. Hadewijch has been the subject of much recent study in the fields of feminist theology and historiography.
A group of poems was found along with Hadewijch's manuscripts, written in what appears to be another hand and bearing a more advanced vocabulary than the other poems. Since scholars have long disputed the authority of these poems, they have been set off from Hadewijch's known works and their author is referred to as 'Hadewijch II', who may have been Hadewijch or one of her acquaintances.