SOULS: This Book Has Come From God by Mechthild of Magdeburg

This Book Has Come From God by Mechthild of Magdeburg

The Soul Praises Herself for Many Things
She is Given Two Angels and Two Evil Devils.
With Twelve Virtues She Does Battle Against the Flesh

From The Flowing Light of the Godhead

All the days of my life before I began this book and before a single word of it had come into my soul, I was one of the most naive persons ever to be in religious life.  I knew nothing about the devil’s malice; I was unaware of the frailty of the world; the duplicity of people in religious life was also unknown to me.  I have to speak of God’s honor and for the sake of the book’s teaching: I, unworthy sinner, was greeted by the Holy Spirit in my twelfth year, while I was alone, with such an outpouring that I could never, ever after that endure letting myself be led into a clear venial sin.  This precious greeting occurred every day and lovingly spoiled for me all worldly sweetness, and it is still increasing day by day.  This happened over thirty-one years.  About God I knew nothing more than what the Christian faith teaches and I strove with constancy to keep my heart pure.  God himself is my witness that I never in will or desire asked him to give me these things that are written in this book.  Also, I never imagined that such things could happen to a human being.  As long as I was with my relatives and my friends, to whom I was always the favorite, I had no knowledge of these things.  Long before this I had had the desire to be despised through no fault of my own.  Then for the sake of God’s love I moved to a town where no one was my friend except for one person.  I was afraid that because of him holy contempt and God’s pure love would be withdrawn from me.  But God nowhere abandoned me and let me experience such delightful sweetness, such holy knowledge, and such incomprehensible wonders that I found little enjoyment in Earthly things.

Then for the first time my spirit was brought up through prayer between Heaven and the air.  I saw with the eyes of my soul in Heavenly bliss the beautiful humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I recognized in his sublime countenance the Holy Trinity – the eternity of the Father, the suffering of the Son, the sweetness of the Holy Spirit.  Then I saw an angel, to whom I was entrusted through baptism, and my devil.  Our Lord said:

I shall take this angel from you
And shall give you two others instead.
They shall take care of you in these wonders.

When the soul looked at the two angels, oh, how completely was she unnerved in humble impotence, and she prostrated herself at the feet of our Lord, thanking him and urgently protesting that she was quite unworthy that princes such as this should be her chamberlains.  One of the angels was from the Seraphim, and he is an igniter of love and a holy beacon for tender souls.  The other angel was from the Cherubim: he is a keeper of the gifts and orders wisdom in the loving soul.

Then our Lord allowed two devils to come forth.
They were exalted masters, taken from Lucifer’s school,
And had seldom come out.

When the soul looked upon the terribly hideous devils, she shivered a little, commended herself to our Lord, and quite freely accepted them.  The one devil is a deceiver with beautiful angelic garments.  Oh, what a lot of false cunning he presented to me at first!  Once during mass he came down from on high and said: “I am so beautiful; don’t you want to worship me?”

The soul replied: “God alone shall one worship in all good things and in all distress!”

He said: “Don’t you want to look up and see who I am?”  Then in the lower air he displayed a beautiful sham radiance, which has seduced many a heretic, and said: “In the throne room upon this seat you alone shall be the most exalted virgin, with me the fairest youth next to you.”

But she replied: “A person would not be wise to take the worst when he could easily achieve the best.”

He said: “Since you do not want to surrender yourself to me – you are so holy and so humble – then I shall worship you.”

She said: “No grace shall be given to you because you worship a foul cesspool.”

Then he showed her the five wounds painted on his feet and hands and said: “Now you well see who I am.  If you will live according to my advice, I shall give you great honor.  You should tell people about this special favor; then much good would come of it.”

She said – and his idle talk annoyed her greatly; nevertheless, she listened to it freely so that she might become more shrewd – “You are telling me that you are God.  Well then, tell me, who is that who is the Son of the living God now here in the true priest’s hands?”  He then wanted to depart, and she said: “By the almighty God, I admonish you that you now listen to me: I well know your intentions.  If I were to tell everyone the secrets of my heart, things would be quite nice for me in the short term.  But then you would intently strive to make the fun end badly.  You would do this so that I might fall into doubt, sadness, unbelief, impurity, and thereafter into everlasting anguish.  Another reason you are doing this is so that I might imagine that you come to me thus because I am so holy.  Ha!  You old archdeceiver, as long as God stands by me, all your efforts are for naught.”

Then he cried out: “A plague on your magic; just let me get away from you.  I’ll never bother you again.”

The second devil who was assigned to me was a troublemaker and a master of concealed lewdness.  However, God forbade him ever to come to me himself.  Instead, he sent perverted evil people to me as his messengers who spoil good things for me and take what they can of my honor by their words.  He also strives for this: where good people are together and are talking idly in a lewd manner, this cannot help but trouble poor me.  Up to then that had never happened to me.

One night I was at prayer before my first sleep.  This same devil came passing through the air and took a close look at the sinful Earth.  He was huge like a giant.  He had a short tail and a crooked nose.  His head was large like a tub.  Out of his mouth fiery sparks came flying covered with black flame.  He laughed with cunning malice and a horrible raucous voice.  The soul asked him why he was laughing, what he was looking for, and what he was up to.

He answered and said: “I am glad, indeed, since I may not torment you myself, that I find so many who look like angels and are happy to torment you for me.”  Then he continued: “I am the chamberlain of religious persons and I look for two kinds of weakness in them that will separate them from God in an instant.  One is concealed or secret impurity.  Whenever a person in religious life seeks the comfort of the flesh without real necessity and in all his five senses, they become impure; that is, crass and lazy; and true love of God grows cold.  The other is hidden hatred in open discord.  This is a very useful sin for me.  Wherever I find it unrepented overnight, there is a win for me, for it is the foundation of long-lasting malice and the loss of all holiness.”

Then the soul said: “Since by your nature you have absolutely nothing good about you, how can it be that you can give a morally profitable explanation of your evil?”

And he replied: “Wherever I turn, God has me so firmly in his hands that I cannot do anything except what he directs me.”

I, unhappy person, in my early childhood committed such a great sin, that, if I had remained without repentance and without confession, I would have to have stayed in purgatory for ten years.  But now, dear Lord, when I die, I shall cheerfully suffer torment there for love of you.  I am saying this not from reason; love bids me say it.  When I entered religious life and took leave of the world, I looked at my body.  It was fully armed against my poor soul with great fullness of strong power and with the energy of a complete nature.  I saw full well that it was my enemy, and I also saw if I were going to escape eternal death, I would have to strike it down; conflict was inevitable.  I also looked at my soul’s weapon.  This was the glorious passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  With this I defended myself.  I had to remain constantly in great fear and throughout my youth had to deliver great defensive fasting, keeping vigils, scourging with rods, and constant adoration.  These were the weapons of my soul by means of which I so completely conquered the body that in twenty years the time never came that I was not weary, weak, and sick – mostly from repentance and suffering, but also from holy longing and spiritual toil and, in addition, many a different day of sickness from my nature.  There was also the violent force of love, which pressed me so intensely with these marvels that I did not dare remain silent about it.  Still, because of my naiveté, I had much to suffer.  I said: “Ah, kind God, what do you see in me?  You know quite well that I am a fool, a human being sinful and needy in body and soul.  You should be giving these things to wise people; then you would be able to receive praise.”

Then our Lord got very angry with little me and asked me for my judgment:

“Now tell me, are you mine or not?”
“Certainly, Lord, that is what I long for from you.”
“Shall I then not do with you what I want?”
“Yes, Dearest to my heart, gladly; even if I should thus become nothing.”

Then our Lord said: “You shall obey and trust me in these matters, and you shall also become sick for a long time, and I shall take care of you myself; and everything that you need for body and soul I shall give you.”

Then, a wretch trembling in humble confusion, I went to my confessor, told him the whole story, and begged for his advice.  He said I should boldly go forward with a light heart; God, who had been leading me, would certainly preserve me.  Then he gave me a command that often makes me ashamed and causes me to weep because my utter unworthiness is obvious to my eyes; that is, he commanded me, a frail woman, to write this book out of God’s heart and mouth.  And so this book has come lovingly from God and does not have its origins in human thought.

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