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Illuminating passages from the Dark Ages in Germany Jan 2, 2005
Gertrude of Helfta, also known as Gertrude the Great or St. Gertrude, was one of earliest Christian mystics and a stigmatist who lived in a Benedictine monastery in present-day Germany from 1256-1301. This book comprises a substantial introduction from the translater, which provides information about the life and tiems of Gertrude. Gertrude's tstimonies are divided into three chapters, referred to as books.
The first book has no name, and was most likely dictated to a contemporary of hers. It is the briefest of the three sections, and primarily provides details about Gertrude's virtues, and the high opinion many had of her advice during her life time, most likely in order to give greater credence to the next two books, which ofer more specific advice from Gertrude and describe visions she received.
The second book, is titled "The Memorial Abundance of Divine Sweetness," and the third book is titled "Herald of Divine Love." The second book appears to be written directly by Gerturde, and the third, again appears to be dectated to another person. These sections play greater attention to specific advice that Gertude believes she recieved from Jesus, but rather than being a book solely concerned with words for advice directly (as is the writing style of mystics like Theresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena), she also dedicates much space to describing visions that she had form reflections on the Passion of Christ and scenes from the Nativity. A greater abundance focuses on images form the Passion, in which she analyzes the importance of colors and positions in the image.
Gertrude is one of the earliest Christian writers to encourage devotion to the heart of Jesus, and the reflection of the great power of his love as represented by the image of his heart. although some of the book is exhortive in nature and provdes guidance for development of spirituality in love, much of the book is concerned with the relevance of images from the life of Jesus and the lessons they give us, which would make it particularly ideal reading for Lent. her images and advice are frequently referenced mostly to passages in the Bible, but ocasionally refer to teachings of the early fathers of Christianity as well.
Much of the advice of Theres of Lisieux is prefigured in Gertrude's writings, such as the idea that any act can be opffered up to God. And that it is not the greatness of the acts that matter, as much as the intention within which they are pursued. She believes that people who pursue works of labor in the world are equally as capable of being holy and pleasing God as those who dedicates themselves to a contemplative life. She stressed the importance of charity and humility in life, and seeking refuge in God's love; the heart of God (messages later echoed by Margaret Mary and Faustina).
In addition to images, and behavioral advice, on how one should proceed to increase one's cultiattion of virtues, the book contains many prayers, such as a prayer for the sleepless, and devotions in which she uses psalms to meditate on different attributes of Jesus. I was suprised however, with the amont of prayers that have been atrributed to her for the dying and the souls in purgatory, that no such devotions were listed in here.