The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons

The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons

The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons

The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons

Excerpt

Die deutsche Mystik has connotations in German that the English term German mysticism cannot really convey. Perhaps we can grasp something of the richness, the force, the distinctiveness of die deutsche Mystik by thinking of it as the German mysticism. Though there were mystics of importance in other eras of German history, the mysticism found in the German-speaking lands between about 1250 and 1470 was unique. The mystical texts that are our living witnesses to this outpouring of the Spirit must surely be reckoned as among the greatest contributions of German culture to the world. They form one of the supreme spiritual traditions of Western Christianity.

This German mysticism was a movement both extensive in time and varied in authors, themes and intentions. Although some of the most important figures, like Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa, also wrote in Latin, it was in the creative turn to the vernacular that the German mysticism found its distinctive voice. The German spiritual writers of the late Middle Ages were not alone in finding their mother tongue a more suitable instrument to express, or better suggest, the ultimately indescribable mysteries of the mystical life— the same was being done in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain and especially England—but they had no rivals in the depth and the richness of the spiritual literature they produced.

Like many other spiritual movements of the late Middle Ages, the German mysticism is also distinguished by the prominent role taken by women, not only in the religious orders and spiritual circles (such as the "Friends of God") that fostered the pursuit of Christian perfection, but also in the actual composition of many of the great masterpieces. (How much of Suso's The Life of the Servant is due to his disciple Elsbeth Stagel is a question that can probably never be . . .

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