Collection of Letters: Detail
- Guda, magistra of St. Thomas of Andernach (?)(!1)
Elisabeth, humble handmaid of Christ, sends every debt of prayer and love in Christ Jesus to her most beloved kinswoman and venerable mistress G. Most beloved! I admonish you to walk in the way of contemplation of God with all the attention of your mind, and run after the footsteps of the most dazzling Lamb who goes before you in all humility and patience. Strive to be patient against every adversity. The higher you are, the more you should lower yourself in all things. Humility is a great virtue; with it, one attains to a crown. The more humble you are, the more the height of glory will follow you. Have discretion toward those subject to you; beseech, rebuke, reprove. Indeed, discretion is the mother of all virtues.(!3) It is absolutely necessary for all people who are called master or mistress to have discretion about themselves and others. Again the divine voice, the voice of your Spouse, shouts to you and to all who are under your rule, and admonishes you to walk in the way of His contemplation, just as He has done before you. Walk just as He walked. Do not turn to the right or to the left but follow His footsteps with all humility, patience, and obedience. Be without discord, without detraction, murmuring, and envy, and guard yourselves from other things of this kind so that you will be like newborn infants, reasonable without guile, living justly and piously in this world (1 Pt. 2:1-2). “Be holy,” says the Lord, “because I am holy” (Lv. 19:2). He also says, “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Walk like daughters of the light (Eph. 5:8) and beloved daughters of your Father who lives on high and looks upon the lowly. Love justice, obedience, patience, and humility. Love each other with all gentleness; lovingly bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Be compassionate and merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful. Give offense to no one lest your ministry be slandered (2 Cor. 6:3). None of you should do to another what she would not want for herself. Honor your mistress and love her with all gentleness and a sincere heart, for the Lord says, “The one who spurns you, spurns me, and the one who hears you, hears me” (Lk. 10:16). So pay attention to and reflect upon the divine admonitions. Let your ears hear them, receive them with a cheerful heart and thanksgiving.
This, too, is the voice of your Spouse, “I will not rest, except upon the humble and quiet one who trembles at my word.” Again He says, “My delight is to dwell among the human race” (Prv. 8:31). In turn, the bride of the Lamb says, “Show me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture, where you recline at mid-day” (Song 1:6). And again, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, He who pastures among the lilies” (Song 6:2). What does this mean that He reclines and rests, pasturing among lilies? They are the chaste virgins, well ornamented with charity, chastity, prudence, and humility. The more chaste the virgin, the more humble should she be. Rejoice with gladness, daughters of Jerusalem, because God has chosen you as His heirs. Correct yourselves with all the attention of your heart. He will protect you under the shadow of His mercy and nourish you with the breasts of His consolation, until the day arrives and the shadows give way (Song 2:17, 4:6). He will lead you to the Jerusalem on high and say, “Enter, daughters of Sion, and see the King of kings, wearing the diadem with which His Father crowned Him on the day of His betrothal, the day of His heart’s joy.” When was that day of His heart’s joy? It was when He went out as a strong giant to contend against the king of the underworld, and He overpowered him and despoiled him, taking with Him into glory those whom He had redeemed by His blood. In the same way may it be done for us so that we may be with Him and He with us in eternal life. Amen.
Be well and pray to the Lord for me that He will create the temple of the Holy Spirit in me and accomplish in me what is pleasing to Him.
E. humilis ancilla Christi dilectissime cognate sue, ac venerabili magistre G. omne debitum orationis et dilectionis in Christo Jesu. Karissima! admoneo te ambulare cum omni sollicitudine mentis tue in via contemplationis dei, et currere post vestigia agni candidissimi, qui te precedit cum omni humilitate et patientia. Patiens esse stude contra omnia adversa. Quanto sublimior es, tanto humiliare in omnibus. Humilitas enim magna virtus est. Humilitate pervenitur ad coronam. Quanto humilior fueris, tanto sequetur te altitudo glorie. Discretionem tene circa subditas tuas, obsecrando, increpando, arguendo. Discretio enim mater est omnium virtutum. Necesse est valde talibus hominibus, qui magistri nominantur, discretionem habere in se ipsis et in aliis. Et iterum clamat ad te et ad omnes, qui sub regimine tuo sunt, vox divina, vox sponsi vestri, et admonet vos ambulare in via contemplationis eius, sicut ipse precedit. Ambulate, sicut ipse ambulavit, et nolite declinare ad dexteram, neque ad sinistram, sed sequimini vestigia eius cum omni humilitate, patientia et obedientia. Et estote sine discordia, et sine detractione, et murmuratione, et invidia, et ab aliis huiusmodi custodite vos, ut sitis quasimodo genili infantes, rationabiles sine dolo, iuste et pie viventes in hoc seculo. Sancti estote dicit dominus, quia ego sanctus sum. Et iterum dicit: Perfecti estote sicut et pater vester celestis perfectus est. Ambulate ut filie lucis, ut filie karissime patris vestri, qui in altis habitat et humilia respicit. Diligite iusticiam, obedientiam, patientiam et humilitatem. Diligite vos invicem cum omni mansuetudine, onera vestra alterutrum caritative portate. Compatientes estote et misericordes, sicut et pater vester celestis misericors est. Nulli dantes offensionem, ut non vituperetur ministerium vestrum, unaqueque vestrum, quod sibi non vult, alii ne faciat. Magistram vestram honorate, et eam cum omni mansuetudine et sincero corde diligite, et nolite eam spernore et contempnere, quia ipse dominus dicit: Qui vos spernit, me spernit, et qui vos audit, me audit. Nunc igitur attendite et considerate ammonitiones divinas, et eas percipite hilari corde cum gratiarum actione, et auribus percipite. Hec est autem vox sponsi: Non requiescam, nisi super humilem et quietum et trementem verbs mea. Et iterum dicit: Delicie mee sunt habitare inter filios hominum. Et econtra dicit sponsa agni: Indica mihi, quem diligit anima mea, ubi pascis, ubi cubas in meridie? Et iterum: Ego dilecto meo, et dilectus meus mihi, qui pascitur inter lilia. Quid est hoc, quod dicit eum cubare, quiescere, pasci inter lilia? Hec sunt virgines caste, et bene ornate caritate, castitate, prudentia, humilitate. Quanto castior est virgo, tanto humilior sit. Gaudete cum leticia filie Jerusalem, quoniam elegit vos deus in hereditatem sibi, et corrigite vos cum omni sollicitudine cordis vestri. Et proteget vos sub umbra misericordie et enutriet vos ad uberibus consolationis sue, donec aspiret dies et inclinentur umbre. Et adducet vos in Jerusalem, que sursum est, et dicet: Egredimini filie Syon, et videte regem regum in diademate quo coronavit eum pater suus in die desponsationis eius, et in die letitie cordis eius. Quando erat dies letitie cordis eius? Tunc erat, quando egressus est ut gigas fortis, ad preliandum contra regem infernorum, et prevaluit et despoliavit eum, et secum duxit in gloriam, quos redemit sanguine suo. Sic fiet, ut et nos simus cum eo et ipse nobiscum in gloria, in vita eterna. Amen. Valete et orate pro me dominum, et fiat in me spiritus sancti templum, et in me perficiat, quod sibi placeat.
A letter of spiritual advice to a fellow bride of Christ.
(1)The description of the addressee, identified only by the initial G., as Elisabeth’s kinswoman suggest that this letter may have been addressed to Guda of St. Thomas of Andernach. The magistra is the presiding nun in a combined monastery of men and women under the rule of an abbot. (2)This translation is copyrighted by Anne Clark. For permission to reproduce, contact Paulist Press. (3)Cf. Regula Sancti Benedicti, ch.64.
Die Visionen der hl. Elisabeth und die Schriften der Aebte Ekbert und Emecho von Schönau, ed. F.W.E. Roth (Brünn: Verlag der Studien aus dem Benedictiner- und Cistercienser-Orden, 1884), Bk.6, ch.15, p.148-49; trans. Anne L. Clark, The Complete Works of Elisabeth of Schönau (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), 15. (!2)