BL. HENRY SUSO
(c. 1300 - 1366)
[See ‘Henry Suso and God as Feminine’ in ‘Jacob’s Well’. In the following passage from his autobiography, The Life of the Servant, Henry refers to himself in the third person]
From his youth up he had a heart full of love. Now Eternal Wisdom offers itself in the Holy Scriptures very affectionately, as a fair beloved, who adorns herself beautifully in order to be well pleasing to all, speaking gently in the guise of a woman, in order to incline all hearts to herself. At times she says how false other lovers are, but how full of love and faithfulness she is.
His young heart was drawn to her thereby…. She often attracted him and charmed him lovingly to her spiritual love, especially by means of the books which are called The Books of Wisdom [Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus]. When they were read at meals, and he heard the endearments described in them, he felt joy in his heart. Hence he was seized by longing, thinking in his loving heart: ‘You should just for once try your fortune and see whether this noble friend, of whom I hear such great wonders related could be your beloved, for your young unruly heart can scarcely endure to be without a special object of love.’ So he often meditated about her, thinking of her lovingly, and liking her full well with all his heart and soul.
It chanced one morning, when he was at table, that the wise Solomon called out to her, saying: ‘Hear, my son, the wise counsel of your father. If you would enjoy love, you should choose gentle Wisdom as your dear love; for she gives her lovers youth and strength, nobility and riches, honour and profit, great power and an eternal name. She makes him lovely and teaches him to be chivalrous….’ As he heard these beautiful words read aloud, his longing heart thought at once: ‘Alas, what a beloved is this! If she could but be mine, how well I should then be cared for!’ Then strange ideas arose in him, opposing this, and he thought: ‘Shall I love what I have never seen, and without knowing what it is? A handful of having is better than a houseful of hoping! He who builds a high house, and he who loves in vain, often wear themselves out for a scanty meal. It would be well to love this noble beloved if she allows her servants to look after their bodies and be comfortable….’ Another thought contradicted this: ‘It is an old law that suffering and love go together. There is no one who is a lover who does not also suffer, and every lover is a martyr. Therefore it is not unreasonable that one who aspires so high in love should now and then face adversity. Just consider all the misfortunes and cares that the lovers of this world have to endure, whether they will or no….’One day they were reading at table a passage from the Book of Wisdom… he thought: ‘Indeed, how true it is!’ and he spoke to himself boldly: ‘Truly I will be her servant.’ And again he thought: ‘O God, if I could but once see this love, if I could but once exchange a word with her! What does the beloved look like, that has so many lovely qualities concealed within herself? Is it God or man, woman or man, art or wisdom, or what can it be?’