CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP

Last week, we looked at an extraordinary passage in a letter by the Flemish mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp. In her letter, Hadewijch said that most of us think we should get a reward – from God or from other people – for carrying the cross with Christ:

We do not live with Christ, and we do not carry that cross with the Son of God, but we carry it with Simon who received pay because he carried our Lord’s cross (Matt. 27:32).

This passage really made me think. How often do I say, “Do you see, God, everything that I’m doing for you? Have you noticed how hard I’m working?” How often do I hope that other people notice (just a little bit) how spiritual or helpful or humble I am? Pretty often, it turns out. But if we’re seeking recognition for carrying the cross, we’re not really being crucified with Christ. There’s only one reason to carry the cross, Hadewijch says, and that is for love.

That cross which we must bear with the Son of the living God is the sweet exile that we bear for the sake of veritable Love, during which we must await with longing confidence the festival when Love shall manifest herself and reveal her noble power and rich omnipotence on earth and in heaven. In this she shows herself so unreservedly to him who loves that she makes him beside himself; she robs him of heart and mind, and causes him to die to himself and live in devotion to veritable Love.

Love – and not external rewards – is what makes us willing to suffer with Christ and also to do good works:

And thus we must always persevere with renewed ardor: with hands ever ready for all works in which virtue is practiced, our will ready for all virtues in which Love is honored, without other intention than to render Love her proper place in man, and in all creatures according to their due. This is to be crucified with Christ . . .

Have you been crucified with Christ today?