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.
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