Monday, August 31, 2009

Seven Manners of Holy Love

Beatrice of Nazareth is often associated with the Beguines. Her mother died when she was six years old and she spend a year living with the Beguines and receiving her early education from them.

Only one section of Beatrice’s original writings have survived—a booklet on our love relationship with Jesus entitled Seven Manners of Holy Love. Here she describes seven ways we experience being in love with the Lord. Although we grow from one step to the next, we never completely leave behind our earlier expressions of love.

The first manner or mode is longing love—we simply long for the Lord and cannot get enough of him. Beatrice notes that love is the foundation of our whole relationship with God, not fear. When we truly love the Lord, we find it easy to give up shallow worldly pleasures in order to have him.

The second expression of love is service. Because we truly love the Lord, we want to do anything we can for him. Although we still long to experience his sweet presence, we shift our focus from ourselves to Jesus. If we are maturing as believers, we concentrate less own feelings and more on how we can serve the One we love.

Try as we might, however, we can never serve Christ enough. Thus, the third experience of love is one of frustration. We do all the ministry we can, but we never feel like we have done enough. Indeed, as Beatrice notes, we never will be able to fully express our gratitude for our salvation—so we feel tormented inside.

Eventually that frustration gives way to a fresh experience of Jesus’ love for us. Thus, the forth mode is overwhelming love. This is a wonderful season of life! We feel ourselves wrapped in our Savior’s arms and loved by him.

We can never seem to get enough of that love, however, and eventually we enter into frenzied love . Here we crave more and more encounters with the Lord, says Beatrice. We are overpowered by our passionate desire for the Lord, and sometimes we feel like we are going crazy.

In time our frenzy gives way to the deep, new settled love of Beatrice’s sixth mode: bridal intimacy. This profound love is what we have been hoping for in our whole relationship with Jesus. As the New Testament describes Christ as the Bridegroom and the church as his bride, we experience this on a personal level.

In this lifetime, however, we will never experience the fullness that awaits us. Thus, mode seven is a return to the longing love. Our relationship begins with desire and will continue with desire, so long as we are on this earth. That longing is good, though, because it keeps us growing deeper and deeper in our love for the Lord.

Personal Reflection
Just as human relationships go through stages—described in many books in our day—so our relationship with Jesus follows a similar path. Indeed, if our relationship with the Lord is truly personal, it will of necessity bear some of the same dynamics as our closest human relationships.

Beatrice’s analysis of our love relationship with Christ is insightful. Most readers identify with several, if not most, of her stages. While we may not all experience the same intensity as Beatrice describes, many readers have found comfort, reassurance and fresh hope from Beatrice’s wisdom.

To learn more about Beatrice and to read her original work, see The Life of Beatrice of Nazareth, 1200-1268, translated by Roger DeGanck (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

2009 © Glenn E. Myers


  1. First and foremost I'm astounded by Beatrice's love for Christ and her knowledge of him. She informs her readers that developing love is vital but never loses the focus of love as the foundation. I agree with her when she states, "WHen we truly love God, we find it easy to give up shallow wordly pleasures in order to have Him" i wish it were that easy, but it is realistic that we do sin and fall short of God's glory, but knowing the love of God will make it easier to wtih stand the temptaions of Satan.
    The Seven Manners of Holy Love is something I can apply to my everyday life, for example the second expression of love is service. The maturation as belivers allows us to focus less on ourselves and more on how to serve Christ...

  2. Chapter 3:
    It's wonderful that women such as the Beguines loved Christ so much that they were willing to forego the blessings of an earthly marriage and tie themselves wholly to God. That kind of commitment is just not seen today in a world where commitment and faithfulness don't mean much. I really liked the diologue that Mechthild wrote between a bride's soul and the Lord. It is a perfect example of what we should all be longing to feel and how our relationship with Christ is meant to be.

  3. Beatrice's love for the Lord--and that passion that all the Beguines had--is so refreshing! They know that we all go through hard times in our spiritual journey, but they never lose sight of their first love. That is a wonderful example for us today. It is so encouraging when we are discouraged or sidetracked in our walk with Christ.

  4. The point of Chapter 5 should hit home with a lot of Christians today; we are excited about our walk with the Lord, but when challenges come our way, we back down and are afraid of the pain we are going to feel. I like the idea that it should not be due to our willpower that we continue on, but out of our deep love for the Lord. Continually trusting that He will lead us through our personal wildernesses of pain and temptation.

  5. True love is only a gift of God. Any other love is tainted by our sinful nature. Loving Jesus can be a struggle because He is not usually visibly seen, and the culture around us twists our perception of Him, as does our own sinful heart. But I love the example that Beatrice gives of the service form of love and how it become less about our feelings and we concentrate more on how we can serve the one we love! That pure love which God will give us revolutionizes our lives. There are those who would say that an intimate relationship with Jesus is just emotion and fruitless. But this is where true love is shown- through action! (James 2:26 "faith without deeds is dead")This step is, even though it is close to the beginning of the progression, I think such an important one, where our faith is not about us but about the Lord.

    Question: Are these steps supposed to be in progression? Does Beatrice believe that you could return to these modes in different places of life?

  6. It appears to me that it is a progression, "grow from one step to the next...never completely leave behind our earlier expressions of love." I do not feel that I have never made it past the "frustration" mode. My walk has been focused on service to others (mostly in prisons), and I admit to feeling like Beatrice has written, "We do all the ministry we can, but we never feel like we have done enough....we never will be able to fully express our gratitude for our salvation—so we feel tormented inside." Unfortunately, I believe I remain "tormented," and just keep taking on more and more service oppotunities, never reaching that mode or manner of "overwhelming love." Any suggestions for getting past mode three?