Preface of the Epiphany
PRAYER (traditional language)
PRAYER (contemporary language)
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.
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HADEWIJCH OF BRABANT
POET & MYSTIC, 13th c.
While little details of her life are known outside of her writings, Hadewijch may have been born in the southern part of the Flemish province of Brabant around 1200. Through her "Letters", it is suggested that she functioned as the head of a beguine house prior to 1250. There, she experienced opposition that drove her to a wandering life. Among this evidence, Hadewijch herself even reflects on the possibility of a future imprisonment or exile after she writes on being exiled from other beguines named Sara, Emma, and Margriet. Her writings suggest she received an education in Latin and French, as well as an expansive knowledge of religious figures including Saint Augustine.
Minne is Hadewijch's central concept, and it acts as the focal point of her belief system. Scholars have debated as to what minne refers to, and some views identify the word as a conception of a divine entity. Hadewijch describes the love as something so powerful that she feels as though she could have died without being given a special power to withstand it by God. Hadewijch's minne is a nuanced form of love because it cannot come without a secondary power being conferred to tolerate its energy; at the same time, minne is not simply a state of being for Hadewijch, because it must be achieved through specific deeds because its presence is not a given through the deeds and charity of the desirer. The attainment of minne is always in question, as well, because although Hadewijch writes about her experience in minne, her stanzas often address the believer to put their "trust in love" which suggests minne is an unreachable end and not an experiential state.
Hadewijch refers to a masculine lover throughout her letters and poems, but the masculine gender changes to the feminine when she describes the power of God. In one passage she writes:
Hadewijch writes that she is "man" but that the God she is writing of is also a He. Through her writings, she maintains that the love that exists within and from God is a She. Hadewijch writes that the divine "He" is not the experience that she desires because she instead wants to be entwined with the "she" (the love). Hadewijch's mysticism becomes an experiential devotion that does not directly desire God, but the experience of Love that exists within all, and is thus Godly in its own conception because of her gendered distinctions. Through the use of gendered pronouns, Hadewijch also gives judgment-centered agency to both Love and God for they both have the ability to reject the believer due to their own conditions. As a result, Hadewijch's mysticism gives agency, dualism, and gender transferal, to her God.
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English translations of some of her poems are available online.