Callings: Mechthild of Magdeburg

This week in Honors was our second week focusing on writings from the Medieval period.  One of the readings was selections from the writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg.  Mechthild joined a Beguine community in Germany and is one of the most well-known medieval German mystics (pg. 150).  In 1269, Mechthild finished a book of visions she had and her reflections on them (pg. 150).  The sections we read from Mechthild’s writing focused on the characteristics Christians should demonstrate, specifically the humility that should be exemplified in leaders (pp. 152-154).

            Mechthild stresses the importance of prayer in her writing.  She wrote, “Whoever wants to follow God in faithful toil should not stand quietly… He should consider what he was in sin, how he is now in virtue, and what can yet become of him if he falls.  He should lament and praise and pray day and night” (pg. 150).  This reminds me of the way Luther talks about Baptism.  “Baptism signifies two things—death and resurrection, that is, full and complete justification… this death and resurrection we call the new creation, regeneration, and spiritual birth” (Martin Luther and the Called Life, pg. 50).  As Mechthild wrote, Christians should be aware of their sin and the consequences sin brings.  However, though baptism, we are washed new and united with Christ.  Luther believed Christians’ identities should be grounded in baptism (Martin Luther and the Called Life, pg. 58).

Mechthild writes about reflecting humbly on her own sins and confessing them before God.  “If we want to overcome our shame with great honors, we must clothe ourselves with ourselves.  So adorned, I seek Jesus, my sweet Lord, and I find him so quickly by no other means as by those things that are repugnant and burdensome.  One should very eagerly step forward with intense desire ashamed of one’s guilt, and with flowing love and humble fear.  The filth of sin disappears from the divine sight of our Lord.” (pg. 154).  Mechthild’s language of filth is similar to Luther’s language of dying in baptism and the drowning of the old, sinful self.  Although she wrote many years before Luther and does not articulate things exactly the same as Luther, I think Mechthild’s writing was close as it focuses on the old self being made new before God.

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