Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-c.1280) was a Beguine, which is to say a member of the women’s movement of the middle ages. Beguines were neither nuns nor married but created a third lifestyle living together in community, making a living with their hands as a rule and dedicating their lives to serving the young, the sick and the poor in particular.
Mechtild wrote a journal that she kept most of her adult life and named it “Flowing Light of the Godhead.”* In it she had lots to say about the Via Positiva and Play.
“I, God, am your playmate!
I will lead the child in you
In wonderful ways
For I have chosen you.
Beloved child, come swiftly to Me
for I am truly in you.” (47)
“Maiden, you ought to dance merrily, dance like my elected one!
Dance like the noblest, liveliest, richest Queen!” (48)
Her response is to demand that Divinity lead the dance:
“I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me. If you will that I leap joyfully then you must be the first dance and to sing! Then, and only then, will I leap for love. Then will I soar from love to knowledge, from knowledge to fruition, from fruition to beyond all human sense. And there I will remain and circle for evermore.” (50)
Mechtild’s God loves to play. She writes:
God leads the child he has called in wonderful ways. God takes the soul to a secret place, for God alone will play with it in a game of which the body knows nothing. God says: “I am your playmate! Your childhood was a companion of my Holy Spirit….Come, Love! Sing on, let me hear you sing this song! Sing for joy and laugh for I the Creator am truly subject to all creatures.” (54f)
Meister Eckhart also envisions a playful Divinity when he says:
“Now I shall say something I have never said before. God enjoys the Godself. In the same enjoyment in which God enjoys herself, she enjoys all creatures. With the same enjoyment with which God enjoys himself, he enjoys all creatures, not as creatures, but he enjoys the creatures as God. In the same enjoyment in which God enjoys himself, he enjoys all things.”
For the mystics then, Play is not just a special human attribute but intrinsic to Divinity also. Like Joy is.
*Citations are from Sue Woodruff, Meditations with Mechtild of Magdeburg (Santa Fe: Bear & Co, 1983).
Eckhart citation is from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 76.
Banner Image: “Beguines from the city of Goes [Holland] at the church.” Painting by Cecil Jay. Wikimedia Commons
Be with just one phrase from the mystics above. Let it wash over you. Speak to you. Listen. Listen deeply.
Is your God a playful God? (The Punitive Father God never is….)
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.