Mechtild of Magdeburg

Mystic, Prophet

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Mechtild of Magdeburg
Mystic, Prophet

Mechtild is the most outstanding example of a number of mystics and prophets of the 13th century. It was the time of the crusades; but it was also a period that saw a renewed interest in the beauty of nature and in matters of the spirit.

Mechtild was born to a noble family in Saxony, she was only 12 years old when she had her first 'religious mystic experience', she came to see “all things in God and God in all things”. In 1233, she went to Magdeburg and joined a group of Beguines, women who lived in communities under temporary vows and devoted their lives to caring for the sick and the poor. She developed an overwhelming sense of God’s love, and at the suggestion of her confessor, began to write down her Revelations, which she called The Flowing Light of the Godhead. The themes of love and longing for God, and God’s love and longing for us dominate her writings.

She lived in Magdeburg for many years, probably in the Convent of St Agnes, a Cistercian house that later became a Dominican one and she became a Dominican tertiary (these have similar commitment as nuns, with the exception that they do not retreat from the world into a convent). It is possible that Mechtild became abbess from 1273. So, Mechtild did not allow her mysticism and belief in God to take her away from the world, and she became a trenchant critic of the abuses of the church of her day. This led to some vigorous opposition to her and accusations of heresy. There is no doubt that her position as a woman in a male-dominated society increased the difficulties for her.

In her later years, Mechtild was alone, oppressed and going blind. It was then the monastery at Helfta, under the guidance of St. Gertrude the Great, offered to take her in. She dictated the seventh and last book of her work there. Mechtild proved to be a fountain of spiritual life for the women at Helfta who cared for her until her death.

BORN: 1210 - Saxony, Germany.

DIED: 1297, Monastery at Halfta, Saxony, Germany.