• “The night I sailed for China, March 3, 1893, my life, on the human side, was broken, and it never was mended again. But He has been enough.” – Amy Carmichael

Marguerite Porete (+1310)

Marguerite Porete , like Mechtild of Magdebourg, was a Beguine. She, too, was influenced by the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius. She wrote her magnum opus, The Mirror of Simple Souls, presenting Pseudo-Dionysius ‘ negative theology as a dialogue between the Soul who sends to a distant Emperor, God, her portrait, and Love and Reason. In the text she states that in such a state of contemplative love of God the soul has no need of masses or prayers or of anything else. She also gives the Pseudo-Dionysian principle of evil as nought, as nothing, as non-existence. First her book was publicly burned by the Bishop of Cambrai at Valenciennes, then she was tried in Paris by the Inquisition and herself burnt at the stake, the people weeping because of her great learning and goodness. The theology faculty at the Sorbonne had united against her, amongt them Nicholas of Lyra , the converted Jew, whose commentary on the Apocalypse would influence Magister Mathias and through him Birgitta of Sweden. A friend struggled to protect her, calling himself the Angel of Philadelphia, but was forced to recant and burn his habit and belt, living the rest of his life in a monastic prison. Later we hear of Jean Gerson attacking both Marguerite Porete, whom he misnames as Marie of Valenciennes, for ‘her incredibly subtle book’, and Jan van Ruusbroec. Some copies of her manuscript survived, including three translated into English, one of which is in the same manuscript as is the earliest extant Julian’s Showing of Love manuscript in the British Library, the Amherst Manuscript , which is written by a Lincolnshire scribe circa 1435-1450, perhaps earlier, and which emphatically states that this version of Julian’s text, the Short Text, was written out in 1413 when she was still alive. The contents of this manuscript, apart from its initial two texts which are translations made by Richard Misyn, a Lincoln Carmelite, for an anchoress, Margaret Heslyngton, from texts written by Richard Rolle in Latin for other women contemplatives, one of them also an anchoress named Margaret, may represent Julian’s own contemplative library. The Amherst Manuscript includes as well the Henry Suso excerpts from the Horologium Sapientiae and the Jan van Ruusbroec , Sparkling Stone. It is possible that Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of Simple Souls, present in this same manuscript, was a part of Julian’s own anachoritic library and that it influenced her. She departs from Marguerite Porete, however, in being actively concerned for her even-Christians, rather than Quietist.

 

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