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Love in top gear

· The accidental meeting between Hadewych and feminine mysticism ·

An accidental meeting, related to chance, this is mine with Hadewych. A meeting that then familiarized me with so much thought and so much feminine mysticism, of all times and places, from Porete (with its European-wide survey of the prequietist heresy of the Free Spirit ) to Clare of Montefalco, Angela of Foligno to Paluzzi, up until Adrienne von Speyr and her intriguing mysteries in which bit by bit I got caught up, and which in many ways marked my studies, my reflection, and, with the many friends of study and faith, my very existence.

Romana Guarnieri in her studio

Among us, at the time of my investigation, Hadewych was unknown even by name. It was a meeting little short of dazzling. The survey itself gripped me: for the first time I became involved in a research on medieval spirituality directly through medieval manuscripts/pamphlets/sixteenth century works, which, given my entirely modern literary education, I had never experienced before.

Ecstasy or sudden inspiration, completely different from that with Ruusbroec, was, therefore, my impact with Hadewych. There was not in her even the shadow of the sober normative treatise, which purports to lay down the rules and put order into a reality so secretive and elusive, so elusive and unpredictable which is - along with poetry and prayer – love, all love, not least the love of God.

No, there is nothing in the dramatic love sung by Hadewych, of that ancient caricature that even today is presented to us by some "guides" - "spiritual directors" having disappeared from the scene - as a thing completely peaceful, straight, almost idyllic, with its "steps" or reassuring "degrees", numbered according to symbolic sequences, preferably ternary - but the number 7 has also always been strong! - And with its forced "stops", rediscovered by the most recent researchers of the holy grail, especially with their own "methods'' (not to say the tricks, infallible ones, like the "Bach Flower Remedies"), which as long as obediently followed using the prescriptions/recipes of conceited "masters" would save us from fatal errors in the obstacle course that is the life of us poor souls, destined, rather predestined, without their protection to break our necks in the whole mad enterprise.

No, thank God! There is none of this in Hadewych, not even when she advises in an authoritarian manner or confides in real tenderness with her friends.

Hadewych is love in top gear. A capricious love, like any love of a woman. Not a theorized love – that is, one lowered down from the mind to the heart – but rather one lived in its full gratuity and disconcerting unpredictability and immediacy, without mediation or controls, and for this reason suspect to the inquisitors who, after having killed - in 1236 - a friend, by their "right" ("legal"?) love" forced her into hiding. It is the love/desire, dear to courtly poetry and the mystics of the thirteenth century, central to modern reflection, from Hegel to Heidegger, up to Levinas.

A solitary love, unfulfilled, possessive, despite the affection for the addressees of her letters and the willingness to share it with the many people in authority with whom she is in relation. A love anxious but extremely firm. Combative, impatient. Fierce, ready to suffer every injustice and persecution. A love told and retold with fury, intractable and intolerant in reproaching the Beloved, dramatically shouted out in a thousand different ways, in sorrow as in joy, always within a very narrow, dramatically incisive, few verses of the same poem: a violent, bold, insatiable love that burns in the marrow of her soul, leaving her unfulfilled, sometimes even destroyed by the disgust of life.

An insecure love, jealous as is all true love, which does not tolerate rivals, domineering, nagging, it gives no respite to those who experience it and to whom it relates. And nevertheless to be shown as an example, able to involve the whole world, as long as it remains exclusive, solus cum solo, if not there is trouble. The love that has subjugated Hadewych is madness, and hell. Impulsive and daring. Totally disinterested, it offers itself in total nakedness.

This is Hadewych. Restless and disturbing. Very modern. This and still more. Too much to be able to say in a simple preface, without annoying the reader emunctae naris, who likes to discover the really important things for themselves.

And the so-called " history " or "doctrine"? And the record, theology, literature and culture? All very beautiful things, very intelligent, a legitimate curiosity, certainly, even noble, I do not deny. But any way ... on Hadewych and her mystery, study and study, we are still left with a handful of news, mostly uncertain, fleeting, stuttered and quickly denied, and inferences/deductions that do not satisfy those who like to move on "the historically established." Hadewych is completely in her writings. It is up to us to bring her to life again.

As for me, reprinted unchanged - now deleted from memory by decades of distraction, entrusted to frail printed pages, they too pieces of history - my introductions that accompanied these ancient versions, semi-clandestine releases, between 1947 and 1950, as a respectable "novelty" in "Fires".

The precious necklace (" fireflies glowing and rural " their founder-director, writing to Antonio Baldini in 1952 called them), recently created for the Morcelliana of Brescia by Don Giuseppe De Luca , was one of his last editorial labours extra moenia: the editions of History and Literature were by this time born, and very soon they came to consume him completely.

Even at that time , with his well-known generosity and expertise, he gave a hand to me the beginner, in both the versions and the introductions, so much so that even after all these years my gratitude still goes out to him. There were many of us – young, less young, up to a Papini many years older than him - to benefit in this way from his spiritual and intellectual richness, generous without limit: pages and pages, sometimes entire chapters of books of others, there is no doubt at all are in his own hand (see the closing chapter of Agostino by Papini or the introduction to their Italian Catholic writers) and it is time that people became aware of and understood even this aspect of him, a secret priest in the culture of our century. After all, men, priests like him I have met so few, indeed no one.

By Romana Guarnieri




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 21, 2020