(2) 124. LIEKE SMITS. In addition to the eleven roles of God, Dat boec der minnen contains a second part on fifteen stages of spiritual love. Together they survive in manuscripts from the Low Countries and adjacent regions in present-day Germany, where the treatise was composed.6 In his overview of medieval mystical literature, Kurt Ruh argues that the author must have been a “learned pastor, probably a monk, addressing nuns and beguines”.7 In the following discussion I refer to the author and translator with male pronouns and to the reader with female pronouns, although the possibility of a male readership cannot be excluded. As an early example of vernacular devotional prose, Dat boec der minnen is more or less contemporary with the writings of mystical authors like Mechtild of Magdeburg, Beatrice of Nazareth, and Hadewijch. Moreover, the text offers an early vernacular exegesis of the Song of Songs. While it is not a scriptural commentary in the strictest sense, the second part of the treatise on the fifteen stages of love runs through verses 1.1 to 2.7 of the Song, giving it a commentary-like character. Notably, Dat boec der minnen was written before translations of or commentaries on the Song of Songs circulated in Middle Dutch.8 Together with the writings of female mystical authors mentioned above, it made the Song’s complex imagery available to a vernacular audience. Despite its noteworthy position in the early development of Middle Dutch spiritual literature, the treatise has gained limited scholarly attention. Johanna Marie Willeumier-Schalij made an edition of a manuscript now in The Hague as part of her dissertation in 1946, on which my discussion of the text relies; it is the only complete edition of the first part of the treatise on the eleven roles of God. Her elaborate introduction places Dat boec der minnen within the context of its literary tradition and examines its language. She shows, for example, that the author built on a mystical tradition popularized especially by Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermones super Cantica canticorum and De diligendo Deo, but also employed by Latin authors including Augustine and Richard of St Victor, and the vernacular Marienlieder.9 More recently, Wybren Scheepsma has The text, also known as Die Rede von den 15 Graden, was probably written around the middle of the thirteenth century in or around Cologne, in the Ripuarian dialect. Schoemann suggests that a manuscript from the Cologne area was taken to the Low Countries by a pilgrim (1930, p. 66). As Ruh argues, the word ‘translation’ is misleading when it comes to medieval texts from Dutchand German-speaking regions, since there were no strict language boundaries (1984, pp. 95-96). On the Ripuarian text, see Dolfel 1861; Schoemann 1930; Garbe 1969; Honemann 1989; Ruh 1993, pp. 233-244. 7 “‘Das Buch der Minne’ ist die Schrift eines gelehrten Seelsorgers, wohl eines Mönchs, der sich an Klosterfrauen und Beginen richtet, um sie in der wahren Gottesliebe zu unterweisen.” Ruh 1993, p. 233. 8 For an overview of the Song of Songs and its commentary tradition in Middle Dutch, see Scheepsma 2007. The ‘Bible translator of 1360’ only translated the Song of Songs after 1384. An earlier isolated example is the Expositio in Canticis canticorum, written by the Benedictine abbot Williram of Ebersberg (d. 1085) and translated into Middle Dutch c. 1100 at the Abbey of St Adalbert in Egmond, which contains a running translation of the Song of Songs. The first commentary originally composed in Middle Dutch is rhymed, and written around the middle of the fourteenth century. 9 See also Schoemann 1930, pp. 28-60. 6.
(3) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 125. discussed Dat boec der minnen in several publications, setting it amongst other commentaries on the Song of Songs and literature written for religious women.10 The treatise’s history of reception, moreover, has received little scholarly attention. In a recent article, on which the present study builds, I explored the intended reception of the text.11 Dat boec der minnen encourages the reader to interiorize its imagery in a process of spiritual transformation, offering a relational spirituality. Within the study of religion and spirituality, the notion of relationality has various meanings.12 It can be broadly understood as the notion that God is a personal being with whom we can have spiritual contact and an individual, even intimate relationship. For the purpose of this study, I define relationality more particularly as a type of devotion that explores, cultivates, and deepens the relationship between God and the individual. Dat boec der minnen does so through the means of role-play: with each role, the devotee is invited to imagine herself in a different relationship with God. This type of relational spirituality has been studied with respect to some well-known and widespread roles played by Jesus in devotional literature, such as that of mother, or bridegroom.13 However, Dat boec der minnen includes several lesser-known roles, such as God visiting the soul as guest, as described above. Moreover, the author treats these roles systematically and sequentially, using them as a structuring element in the text. These unique features make this treatise an interesting case study for how this relational approach to God, involving a number of different imagery-rich roles, functioned for medieval female readers. Their reading can be labelled as lectio spiritualis, derived from lectio divina. While the monastic practice of lectio divina is closely bound to the text and its levels of meaning, lectio spiritualis, practiced by monks but especially suited for nuns, novices, and laypeople, can also be performed in the absence of text and concerns itself more with the devotee’s inner reflections, associations, and emotions.14 In this article I examine the reception of the relational imagery and role-play in Dat boec der minnen by placing it within the wider context of spiritual reading, as well as spiritual texts that circulated between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, the period in which this treatise was read. It will become clear that God’s eleven roles guided the reader in her spiritual transformation, by gradually leading her towards an intimate relationship with God, and through encouraging self-reflection. The treatise also offers interesting perspectives on medieval spiritual reading in general, as it encourages the reader to engage in a spiritual dialogue with the text. In order to gain more insight in the text’s reception history, we will first turn to the manuscript tradition. Scheepsma 2005, pp. 64-66; Scheepsma 2007, pp. 92-94. Smits 2017. Besides pointing out some aspects that are explored further in the present study, I explored the emphasis on the interiorization of experience and warnings against indulging the bodily senses in Dat boec der minnen. 12 Waaijman 2007, pp. 13, 39, 63, 72-73, 79-80, 102-103, 112-113. 13 For the most notable publication on Jesus as mother see Bynum 1977; for Christ as bridegroom see, inter alia, Matter 1990, Astell 1995, and Gregory 2016. 14 Stock 2001, pp. 101-114. 10 11.
(4) 126. LIEKE SMITS. Manuscripts and Readership Four manuscripts of the treatise survive, two of which are from the German region bordering the Low Countries. One manuscript, now in Prague, may have been copied before 1350.15 J.B. Schoemann argues that this version is closest to the now-lost original; the rhyme, present in parts of the treatise in all manuscripts, is best preserved here, indicating that the language of the scribe was close to that of the author.16 The text is edited, only fragmentarily, by W. Dolfel.17 On its first folio the book contains the following ownership mark: “Diz buch ist der sustern zu kampe in der klusen intgegen boparden uber gelegen in tryrer bistum.” In Kamp, situated in the Lower Rhine area south of Koblenz in the diocese of Trier, a convent of female tertiaries was located: this book belonged to them in the fifteenth century.18 It is possible that it was copied by the tertiaries themselves, or was at least a local production. A similar manuscript in Middle Low German currently in Bonn is known to have been copied in the second half of the fifteenth century in the Rhine-Ruhr region.19 Edited by Manfred Fedtke, it contains a version of Dat boec der minnen which omits almost all of the roles of God, leaving only the passage on Jesus as bridegroom.20 Based on linguistic analysis, Willeumier-Schalij posits that the treatise was transmitted from the Rhineland to Flanders before arriving in the northern Low Countries.21 A composite manuscript made up of two distinct parts in a fourteenthcentury binding, now in The Hague, was the basis for Willeumier-Schalij’s edition. Dat boec der minnen is the first text, dating between c. 1275 and c. 1325;22 Prague, Strahovská Knihovna, MS DG IV 17. For the dating, see Dolfel 1861, p. 144; WilleumierSchalij 1946, cxii; Garbe 1969, p. 10. Schoemann offers a later date, placing it in the first half of the fifteenth century (1930, p. 4). For a description of the manuscript, see Schoemann 1930, pp. 4-6. 16 Schoemann 1930, pp. 9-10. 17 Dolfel 1861. 18 Ibidem, p. 144. These same tertiaries appear in earlier inscription. Schoemann quotes the Annales Trevirenses II, 18, 253a by Brewer, in the year 1378: “Per id tempus Campium, quod apud Boppardium, ordinis olim S Augustini, nunc professionis Franciscanae, virginum monasterium est, e duarum mulierum praestanti pietate ortum et vicinii praedii agricolarum ope suscitatum, hoc demum anno Cunonis (Bischof von Trier) iudicio et auctoritate probate feminarum istic ultro sex includentium disciplina sacrae Trevirensis Ecclesiae insertum ditioni” (quoted in Schoemann 1930, p. 5). 19 Bonn, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, MS S 2060. For a description of the manuscript, see Schoemann 1930, p. 8; Geiss 2015, pp. 330-331. 20 Fedtke 1966. 21 Willeumier-Schalij 1946, xvii-xviii, cxiv-cxxxii. The language of the The Hague manuscript has characteristics from both the western and eastern Low Countries. 22 The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 73 G 30, ff. 1r-48r. For a description see Schoemann 1930, pp. 7-8; Willeumier-Schalij 1946, pp. cviii-cxii. See also Stooker and Verbeij 1997, p. 431. Both the binding and the script have been dated variously: Willeumier-Schalij 1946, De Vreese 1962, p. 145, and Kienhorst 1999, p. 53 offer dates between c. 1275 and c. 1300 for this section of the manuscript, while Prof. Erik Kwakkel (University of British Columbia, Vancouver) suggests a later date of c. 1325 (kindly offered via personal email correspondence on July 14 2017). 15.
(5) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 127. the second part was copied in the second half of the fourteenth century and contains Dat boec der IX velsen, a Middle Dutch translation of Von den neun Felsen written by the lay mystic Rulman Merswin (1307-1382).23 The manuscript was owned by female tertiaries from one of the two communities in Weesp, called the ‘Oude hof’ and ‘Jonge hof’; both belonged to the circle of the Modern Devotion. The Oude hof had an especially extensive book collection.24 Founded in the late fourteenth century as a lay community of Sisters of the Common Life, it adopted the Third Rule of St Francis soon afterwards, before 1400. The Jonge hof also started as lay community, in 1428, and in 1555 likewise joined the Third Order of St Francis. The manuscript, older than both of these convents, must have been originally produced for a different community. A second manuscript containing the Middle Dutch text originating from the late fifteenth century, and now in Berlin, is a vernacular miscellany containing several sermons and treatises, including Ruusbroec’s Vanden vier becoringhen, sermons by Eckhart, two sermons on the Song of Songs, and another belonging to the so-called Limburgse sermoenen.25 The manuscript was owned by and probably copied at the Augustinian convent Our Lady of Nazareth in Geldern, as the ownership mark reads: “Dit boec hoert tot Gelre, in dat beslaten nonnen cloester geheiten Nazareth”. The community started out as a house for lay sisters in 1418 and adopted the Augustinian Rule soon afterwards. The canonesses owned an extensive book collection, many of which, including mystical texts, they copied themselves.26 Besides these complete copies, two excerpts of the treatise survive from c. 1490 and c. 1500. Both describe Jesus in his role as shepherd and attribute the text to the mystic Tauler.27 Moreover, a transcript from a now-lost library catalogue of the Grote Convent in Doesburg suggests that this community also owned a copy of the treatise.28 Originally a beguinage, the community was drawn under the influence of the Modern Devotion in the late thirteenth century and joined the Third Order of St Francis around the middle of the fifteenth century. It is not known when the manuscript was produced or entered the community. Merswin lived in Strasbourg and belonged to the so-called Gottesfreunde (Friends of God), a group of lay mystics inspired by the writings of Eckhart; see Scheepsma 2014; Scheepsma, Van Vliet, and Warnar 2018. On the second part of this composite manuscript, see Scheepsma 2018, pp. 119-126. 24 See Stooker and Verbeij 1997, pp. 423-435. 25 Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. germ. qu. 1084, ff. 72r-122r. For a description see De Vreese 1900, pp. 123-130; Costard 2011, pp. 384-395. 26 Costard 2011, pp. 26-143. Anna Dlabačová argues that this literary productivity was connected to the Franciscan Observant movement (Dlabačová 2014, pp. 188-191). 27 MS Ghent, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS 966, ff. 81v-83r; Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS LTK 327, ff. 32r-35r. For the Ghent manuscript, see Lieftinck 1936, pp. 48-56; Stooker and Verbeij 1997, p. 330. For the Leiden manuscript, see Lieftinck 1936, pp. 57-64. 28 Janse 2001. 23.
(6) 128. LIEKE SMITS. We can conclude from this brief overview of the few surviving manuscripts containing Dat boec der minnen that it continued to be read into the late medieval period. All surviving manuscripts come from female communities, either lay or religious. This directly corresponds with the author’s statement in the prologue of the text that there are two manners of good living.29 The first manner is carried out by those who live and work in the world while serving God (which might refer to beguines); the second by others who have renounced the world and live a contemplative life devoted to God’s Word, like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. The presence of manuscripts in houses of tertiaries, especially those in the sphere of the Modern Devotion, indicated a particularly Franciscan interest in the treatise, and moreover, it circulated in Middle Dutch, marking a further regional relevance. Having examined the manuscript tradition, the remainder of this article will focus on the contents of the first part of Dat boec der minnen, namely on the eleven roles of God. In the following I will first show how the multitude of images found in the text accords with the tradition of bridal mysticism, and how the text could appeal to different types of medieval readers. Eleven Roles of God and the Imagery of the Song of Songs The first part of Dat boec der minnen describes the eleven roles in which God visits the soul in the following order: guest (gast), pilgrim (peregrijn), merchant (coepman), husbandman (huisman), physician (vizikere),30 warrior (kempe), master (meyster), king (coninc), shepherd (herde), brother (brůder), and bridegroom (brudecome). This sequence is not found elsewhere in medieval literature, although the individual roles were known, all having Biblical origins. While the decision to list eleven roles is probably not a coincidence, the text gives no explanation for this number.31 Employing a multitude of images to describe God was especially strong in the tradition of bridal mysticism based on the Song of Songs. As Willeumier-Schalij already indicated, most of the images that the author uses can be found in other texts that draw on the Song, especially commentaries, in both Latin and the vernacular.32 The mystic Mechtild Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 1.16-25. The Berlin manuscript gives arcetere instead of vizikere. 31 While the The Hague manuscript gives a numbered enumeration of the eleven roles at the end of the foreword, this list is absent in the Berlin manuscript, where the number eleven is nowhere mentioned. Interesting in this respect is Schoemann’s suggestion that the original text was a short version on which the Bonn manuscript was based (1930, pp. 26-28). This manuscript gives extended versions of some of the fifteen degrees, and omits the first ten roles, only describing Jesus as bridegroom. If this was indeed the original form, someone (the original author, according to Schoemann) extended the text by adding ten roles, which is a more common number for medieval enumerations. 32 See Willeumier-Schalij 1946, lvi-lvii, where she quotes as an example a passage from the popular Middle Dutch commentary Bedudinghe op Cantica canticorum: “Die mynnende siel noemt den brudegom somtiit: haren ghemynden Ende dat om groetheit daer mynnen Somtiit haren conync 29 30.
(7) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 129. of Magdeburg wrote about similar roles of Jesus. She asked Jesus to come to her as a trustworthy physician to his child, as her dearest friend in her distress, as a trustworthy father confessor to his dear friend, as a faithful brother to his dear sister, as a trusted father to his dear child, and finally as her dearest bridegroom.33 In the first few roles the relationship that the reader envisions with God is pleasant, yet still fleeting and distant, after which it gradually intensifies to a level of intimacy. Correspondingly, the descriptions of the first few roles are rather short, while the latter ones are more elaborate. How was this sequence read? Dat boec der minnen itself gives some information about the intended function of the multitude of images. At the end of the prologue, after quoting Augustine’s Confessiones 1.5 where he asks God to come into his heart and make him forget everything belonging to the world, the author states: “But you should know that God does not reside in every person in the same manner, nor in every soul.”34 This is reminiscent of Bernard of Clairvaux’s sermons on the Song of Songs, in which he explains how the abundance and variety of images should be read. According to Bernard, Jesus takes on different roles, which resemble the sequence in Dat boec der minnen, in order to cater to the ‘various desires of the soul’: For the various desires of the soul it is essential that the taste of God’s presence be varied too, and that the infused flavour of divine delight should titillate in manifold ways the palate of the soul that seeks him. You must already have noticed how often he changes his countenance in the course of this love-song, how he delights in transforming himself from one charming guise to another in the beloved’s presence: at one moment like a bashful bridegroom manoeuvring for the hidden embraces of his holy lover, for the bliss of her kisses; at another coming along like a physician with oil and ointments, because weak and tender souls still need remedies and medicines of this kind, which is why they are rather daintily described as maidens. […] Sometimes, too, he joins up as a traveller with the bride and the maidens who accompany her on the road, and lightens the hardships of the journey for the whole company by his fascinating conversation […]. At another time he comes to meet them as a wealthy father of a family “with bread enough and to spare” in his house; or again like a magnificent and powerful king, giving courage to his timid and poverty-stricken bride, stirring up her desire by showing her the ornaments of his glory, the riches of his wine-presses Ende dat om siinre hogher waerdicheyt Somtiit haren vrient Ende dat om siinre goetdadicheyt Somtiit haren broeder Ende dat om siinre onverscheidenre vrienscap tusschen hem beden Somtiit haren harde want si siin crancke cudde pleect te hoeden Somtiit enen meyster van medecinen Ende dat om siinre salven ende olyen willen Somtiit een voetgangher Ende dat daer om want hi gaen en comen wil na siin wel behaghen Ende somtiit noemt sien enen vader des ghesins ende een heer want hi overvloedighe hoven wiingaerden ackeren ende scatten in sinen ackeren ghevonden heft.” This text has since been studied and edited by Kees Schepers in 2006, who has shown that it is a translation of the anonymous Latin Glossa tripartita super Cantica. 33 Mechtild of Magdeburg, Das fließende Licht des Gottheit VII. 35, ed. Neumann, pp. 282-283. 34 “Mar dat zous tu weten dat god nyet in ghelijker manyeren en is in allen den ghenen dar hi in is. noch oec in eenre yegheliker zyele.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, 2.3..
(8) 130. LIEKE SMITS. and storehouse, the produce of his gardens and fields, and finally introducing her into his private apartments. […] And so he never ceases, in one way or another, to reveal himself to the inward eye of those who seek him, thus fulfilling the promise that he made: Be assured I am with you always, to the end of time (Mt 28:20).35. As Bernard explains in this passage, the human soul has numerous desires, which is why Jesus presents himself in different guises to the inward eye. Moreover, as he explains in another sermon, not only does one soul desire various images, but different souls also have diverse needs: All of us do not run with equal ardour in the fragrance of all the perfumes; some are more eager for the study of wisdom, others concentrate on doing penance in the hope of pardon, others again are inspired to practice the virtues by the example of Christ’s life and behaviour, while yet others are roused to fervour more by the memory of his Passion.36. Bernard’s ideas correspond with the monastic reading culture of his time. The Benedictine Peter of Celle (c. 1115-1183) describes reading as choosing between different kinds of bread: Reading displays a steaming oven full of different kinds of bread, so that from them each person who hungers and thirsts for justice may be refreshed with the kind he chooses. In the breadbox of sacred reading are breads baked in an oven, breads roasted on a grill, or cooked in a frying pan, bread made with the first fruits and sprinkled with oil, and barley cakes. So when this table is approached by people from any walk of life, age, sex, status, or ability, they will all be filled with the refreshment that suits them.37 “Oportet namque pro variis animae desideriis divinae gustum praesentiae variari, et infusum saporem supernae dulcedinis diversa appetentis animi aliter atque aliter oblectare palatum. Denique advertisti in hoc amatorio carmine quoties mutaverit vultum, et in quanta multitudine dulcedinis suae coram dilecta dignatus sit transformari; et quomodo nunc quidem instar verecundi sponsi sanctae animae secretos petat amplexus, et osculis delectetur; nunc vero in oleo et unguentis medicum exhibere appareat, nimirum propter teneras et infirmas animas istiusmodi adhuc indigentes fomentis et medicamentis: unde et delicato adolescentularum nomine designantur. [...] Nunc rursum quasi viator quispiam itinerantibus sponsae simul atque adolescentulis sese associans, iucundissimus confabulationibus suis a labore viae omnem relevant comitatum […]. Item aliquando ocurrens, quasi praedives aliquis paterfamilias, qui in domo sua abundet panibus, immo tamquam rex magnificus et potens, qui sponsae pauperis videatur pusillanimitatem erigere, provocare cupiditatem, demonstrans illi omnia desiderabilia gloriae suae, divitias torcularium ac promptuariorum, hortorum et agrorum copias, demum etiam introducens eam in ipsa secreta cubiculi. […] Atque ita non cessat, sive hoc, sive illo modo, interno iugiter apparere conspectui quaerentium se, ut sermo impleatur quem dixit: Ecce ego vobiscum sum usque in consummationem saeculi.” Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica canticorum 31.III.7, ed. Leclercq, Rochais, and Talbot, I, pp. 223-224; transl. Walsh 1976, pp. 129-130; emphasis mine. 36 “Nec currimus aequaliter omnes in odore unguentorum; sed videas alios vehementius studiis flagare sapientiae, alios magis ad paenitentiam spe indulgentiae animari, alios amplius ad virtutum exercitium vitae et conversationis eius provocari exemplo, alios ad pietatem passionis memoria plus accendi.” Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica canticorum 22.IV.9, ed. Leclercq, Rochais, and Talbot, I, p. 135, transl. Walsh 1976, p. 21. 37 “[Lectio] spirantem clibanum panibus plenum ostendit, ut de quo genere panum volerit esuriens et sitiens iustitiam reficiatur. Continet in arca diuinae lectionis coctos in clibano, coctos in craticula, 35.
(9) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 131. As noted by Giles Constable, such concerns were especially important to those addressing a wider audience, such as confessors and preachers. Penitentials and confessionals urged confessors to consider the professions of penitents, whether fighters, mercenaries, beggars, masters, priests and other clerics, merchants, or judges.38 Preaching manuals likewise listed different social groups that must be taken into account; one of the earliest was the Summa de arte praedicatoria by Alan of Lille.39 This practice was continued in the thirteenth century, for example in the Sermones vulgares by James of Vitry (d. 1240) who listed twenty-nine groups of people, and beyond into the Late Middle Ages.40 According to a thirteenth-century preaching manual listing different societal groups, “not only the sermons but also the sentences and the complete manner of speaking and style of writing should vary according to the variety of persons.”41 The eleven roles in Dat boec der minnen seem to have been similarly designed to accommodate different types of readers and their various desires of the soul. There is diversity not only in the images that are used, but also in the length, style, and complexity of the text’s passages. This does not, however, mean that the reader can lightly choose to embrace God in whatever role she pleases; the appropriate role is connected to the reader’s spiritual progress. In the description of Jesus as bridegroom, the author warns that not everyone can call herself bride: Learn, spiritual soul, at which level you are, and do not pride yourself. For it is great pride when a young maiden imagines herself to be a concubine, and a concubine imagines herself to be queen. Alas, for also queens imagine themselves to be the perfect dove. I believe that this dove, this perfect one is the bride, who has come so far that she lacks no virtue.42. As this passage indicates, each of Jesus’ roles also implies a role for the reader or soul, such as bride, hostess, patient, or pupil. In this relational approach coctos in sartagine, aspersos oleo panes primitiarum, tortas de hordeo, ut cuiuscunque professionis ad mensam istam uenerit, cuiuscunque aetatis, cuiuscumque sexus et ordinis, cuiuscumque capacitatis, congrua sibi refectione omnes satientur.” Peter of Celle, De afflictione et lectione 12, ed. Leclercq, pp. 234-235; transl. Feiss, p. 135. On Peter of Celle and varietas, see Carruthers 2009, pp. 44-45; Carruthers 2013, pp. 153-154. 38 Constable 1995, p. 328. 39 In the chapter ‘To whom preaching should be proposed’ he lists “the faithful, unworthy and obstinate, minors, the luxurious, poor, rich, soldiers, orators (oratores), doctors, prelates, princes, cloistered and religious men, married, widowed, and virgins.” Quoted in Constable 1995, p. 329. 40 Ibidem, p. 330. 41 Paris, Bibl. nat., MS n.a.l. 1537, f. 1v; quoted in Constable 1995, p. 329. 42 “Leert ghi gheystelike zyelen an welken grade ghi zijt. ende verheffet u nyet. Want het groete hoeveerdicheyt is dat dye iunghe dyerne waent amie wezen. ende die amien wanen coninghinnen zijn. O wi want oec die coninghinnen wanen dat zi zijn de volcomen duve. Ic wane dat deze duve deze volcomene zi de brut. dye zo varre comen is, dat hare ghene doight en ghebrekt.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, pp. 25.31-26.3..
(10) 132. LIEKE SMITS. to Jesus, the reader continuously redefines not only Jesus but also herself, emphasizing different aspects of their relationship in a process of spiritual transformation. From this brief survey, it appears that the first part of Dat boec der minnen on the eleven roles of God could be read in one sitting, briefly informing the reader of the spiritual stages she must go through, with the different roles speaking to the various desires of the soul. Another way of reading the treatise, and probably the intended manner, would be to meditate and ruminate on a specific role, only proceeding to the next one when the reader deems herself ready. This way the treatise would also be read sequentially, but the process would be spread out over a longer period. In any case, the reader would be encouraged to reflect on the connections between God’s roles and her own process of spiritual transformation. Moreover, she is instructed to receive God into her soul, each time in a different manner and to deepening degrees. This emphasis on the soul as a dwelling place for God raises the question of the kind of space in which the reader should visualize her encounter with God. A brief survey of the wider literary tradition of receiving God into the house of the soul will shed light on this question and will clarify the ways in which Dat boec der minnen could function as a foundation for devotional meditation. Receiving God into the Heart or Soul Dat boec der minnen draws on the literary tradition of texts instructing the reader on how to receive God into the house of the heart or soul, sometimes called Hertzklosterallegorien or binnenhuisallegorieën, found in religious literature in Latin and the vernaculars of the Low Countries and bordering German region.43 This tradition is rooted in the early medieval period,44 and became widespread in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, probably under the influence of bridal mysticism. It was not only part of devotional and mystical treatises but also of sermons, such as the Speculum ecclesiae, the oldest known collection of model sermons for lay people from the Rhine-Ruhr region.45 De doctrina cordis is a similar Latin example, written by the Dominican Hugh of St Cher (d. 1263) possibly for a beguine audience in the diocese of Liège.46 In his text it is not God who works in the soul, but the reader herself who must do the work to prepare her heart for Jesus’ visit, which is presented through metaphors of household chores. Bridal imagery is used especially at the end of the treatise There is a vast amount of literature on this tradition. See inter alia Ohly 1977, pp. 128-155; Falkenburg 2001; Renevey 2003; Klinkenberg 2007; Rudy 2007. 44 E.g. the two eight-century texts De domo Domini and De camera Christi; see Bischoff 1984. The heart as house as an iconographic motif also occurs in the visual arts of the fifteenth century, particularly those made by and for women. Jeffrey Hamburger has discussed several images of the heart as house made by German nuns (1997, pp. 137-175; 1998, pp. 383-426). 45 Klinkenberg 2007, p. 132. 46 Renevey 2003. 43.
(11) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 133. in its description of the encounter with the heavenly bridegroom. Denis Renevy has argued that, through its language of interiority, this treatise plays a role in identity formation by shaping the reader’s “sense of self and interiority”.47 Allegories of the heart can also be found in Middle Dutch literature, in some cases growing increasingly detailed throughout.48 One example is the Middle Dutch text on ‘how to prepare the bedroom for the bridegroom’ found in a late fifteenth-century manuscript from an Augustinian convent (probably from Geel in Brabant) which has been studied and edited by Kathryn Rudy.49 Its rubric places the text firmly in the tradition of bridal mysticism: “How you should prepare the bedroom of your heart and decorate your noble soul for the glorious visit of your bridegroom, when you will be received and crowned by him as a glorious bride in eternal glory.”50 The text gives a detailed description of the interior and decoration of the room, such as the sheets, a mirror, and the colour of the walls and objects, and assigns meaning to everything. Another example is Hendrik Mande’s fifteenth-century Middle Dutch meditation Hier beghint een devoet boecskijn van der bereydinghe ende vercieringhe onser inwendiger woeninghen (Here Begins a Devout Book on the Preparation and Decoration of the Dwelling of Our Heart), which gives a detailed description of a house containing a ‘bridal suite’ and a garden, which was read in circles affiliated with the Modern Devotion.51 Dat boec der minnen’s emphasis on God visiting the soul encourages the reader to envision the soul as a space for spiritual dialogue, similar to the heartas-house tradition. This connection is strengthened by certain passages in the treatise mentioning architectural elements or interiors. For example, when discussing God as husbandman, the author speaks of a spiritual orchard and wine cellar, and the section on Jesus as king provides an elaborate allegory around the soul as his throne. Moreover, in the second part of the treatise when discussing the eleventh stage of contemplation, the author offers an allegory based on Cant 1.15-16: “Behold you are fair my beloved and beautiful, our little bed is flowery. The beams of our house are of cedar, our rafters are of cypresses.” The author explains: “In this house and this bed, which are both stable and pure, the bride invites her beloved.”52 Both thirteenth-century and later medieval readers of Dat boec der minnen were probably familiar with the heart-as-a-house motif. References to hospitality and architectural allegories could have invited the reader to pause and visualize the familiar space in which she imaginatively Ibidem, p. 172. Klinkenberg 2007, p. 139. 49 Rudy 2007. 50 “Hoe ghij die slaepcamer uus herten bereyden selt ende u edel siele vercieren teghen de gloriose toecomst uus brudegoems als ghij van hem ontfanghen ende ghecroont selt worden als een gloriose bruyt in die ewighe glorie.” Rudy 2007, p. 373. 51 Hendrik Mande, Hier beghint een devoet boecskijn van der bereydinghe ende vercieringhe onser inwendiger woeninghen, ed. Moll, I, pp. 293-309. See Brom 1943; Falkenburg 2001, p. 6. 52 “In dit hus ende in dit bedde dye beyde vast ende zuverlijc zijn noedt de brut haren lyeven.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 51.28-30. 47 48.
(12) 134. LIEKE SMITS. performed her role-play, enriching her reading experience. Such a meditative way of reading especially suited the slow, ruminative mode of lectio spiritualis, which required vivid imagination. By focusing on two of God’s roles in Dat boec der minnen, I will show how the text can be understood within the wider spiritual culture of the late Middle Ages, and how the reader is instructed throughout the text to prepare her soul for God’s visits through the practice of spiritual reading. For my discussion I have selected the roles of pilgrim and physician: they are less studied than more well-known roles of king, shepherd, and bridegroom. Moreover, they evoke reflection on the process of spiritual reading itself. As they are part of the first half of the eleven-role sequence, they represent the workings of spiritual roleplay in the earlier stages of the mystical process. God as Pilgrim After having visited as guest, God comes into the soul as a pilgrim with his grace, the author explains, without her knowing it. He quotes from Augustine’s Confessiones: “Lord, I was far away from you, and you were with me, and I did not recognize you.”53 Then he turns to the story of the Road to Emmaus, following Lk 24.13-35: The same is meant by the two young men who went on the road after the Lord’s resurrection, and to whom the kind Jesus came as a pilgrim. You should know that they were far away from him, and he was with them. They were truly far away from him, for they did not recognize him. He was with them. For he taught them, and made their hearts burn. When they spoke afterwards they said: “My goodness, how our hearts burned within us when he spoke to us on the road.”54. The passage from Luke is the main source of the medieval iconography of Jesus as pilgrim. In the Vulgate version of the story the two men ask Jesus: “tu solus peregrinus es in Hierusalem?”, originally meaning “art thou only a stranger to Jerusalem?”; only later did peregrinus come to mean pilgrim.55 Jesus as pilgrim was already a literary motif in the twelfth century, used, for example, “Heere ic was varre ghesceyden van di. ende du waers mi bi. ende ic en bekende di nyet.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 2.19-21. Quoted from Confessiones 3.6. 54 “Dit zelve was an dyen tween iungheren beteykent dye na ons heeren upverstandnisse ghenghen in den weghe ende dye gůdertieren ihesus quam tot hem als een pelegrijn. Wil tu weten dat zi hem waren varre. Ende hi was hem bi. Zi waren hem waerlike varre. Want zi en bekenden hem nyet. Hi was hem bi. Want hi ze leerde. ende dede hare harten bernen. als zi zelve dar na spraken. Deus spraken zi hů bernden oinze harten in oins dů hi ons sprac in den weghe.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 2.21-28. 55 This meaning can already be found in the Rule of St Benedict; see Travis 2004, pp. 193-194, n. 18. In the twelfth century the word was also used metaphorically by Cistercians in place of ‘monk’ to emphasize the desire of the order’s early members to become ‘strangers to the world’, as seen in the work of Bernard of Clairvaux and in the Cistercian Statutes; see Travis 2004, p. 194, n. 18. 53.
(13) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 135. in a sermon by Alan of Lille,56 and became especially popular in the first half of the thirteenth century. Liturgical plays based on the Emmaus story were usually called pilgrim plays: Officium peregrinorum or De peregrino.57 Familiarity with these plays would have added to the performative experience of reading about Jesus as pilgrim in Dat boec der minnen. In the passage on Jesus as pilgrim in Dat boec der minnen, the reader’s soul is compared to the two young men on the road to Emmaus: at first she does not recognize God, but she is inflamed by his words. If Jesus’ words as a pilgrim on the road ignited the hearts of the young men so much, the author wonders, how much more will the bride’s heart be ignited when she is exposed to the eternal Word and the divine beauty of heaven?58 The connection between the Emmaus passage and bridal mysticism is not original to Dat boec der minnen. They were already associated by Bernard of Clairvaux in his sermons on the Song of Songs in his exegesis of verse 1.15-16. The bride has to furnish the bridal suite, inviting her beloved to rest on the bed, for “like the disciples on the way to Emmaus she cannot contain the ardour in her heart, but entices him to be the guest of her soul, compels him to spend the night with her.”59 In this passage, reminiscent of the heart-as-house tradition, Bernard urges the reader to hospitality; she should invite Jesus into her soul, just like Dat boec der minnen asks the reader to receive God into her soul in all eleven roles. Likewise, in his sermon for the third Sunday of Advent, the Cistercian abbot Guerric of Igny (d. 1157) urges his audience to open their hearts, not only to invite Jesus but also to attract him, like the two disciples going to Emmaus, with strong prayer and fervour, into the hospitium cordis (hospice of the heart).60 According to Nicole Bériou, the popularity of the imagery of Jesus as pilgrim can be associated with the mendicant orders, who used it as a spiritual model for their itinerant lifestyle.61 Enclosed women, however, could not travel. Travis 2004, p. 194, n. 18. Gardiner 1971, p. 1. 58 “Nu sprec ic. O zůte ihesus. ontstaken dine scarpe woirt in den weghe alzoe zeere dijnre iungheren harten dien du een pelegrijn wairst. hů zeere zullen dine alre sůtste wort in den vaderlijc lande dijnre brude harten ontsteken. dar zi di ombedect ende claerlike in dijnre godliker scoenheyt zullen zien zunder middel ende hoeren claerlike di zelven dye dar bist dat ewelike woirt.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, pp. 2.28-3.2. 59 “Verum nunc opportunitate, ut putat, inventa, ornatum nuntiat thalamum, lectulumque digito monstrans, dilectum, ut dixi, invitat ad requiem, et cum euntibus in Emmaus cordis ardorem non sustinens, ad mentis pertrahit hospitium, et secum pernocatare compellit.” Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica canticorum 46.I.1, ed. Leclercq, Rochais, and Talbot, II, p. 56; transl. Walsh 1976, p. 241. 60 “Loquitur sponsa: Vox dilecti mei pulsantis: Aperi mihi, soror mea sponsa (Cant 5.2). Aperi mihi cor tuum, et cibabo illud; aperi mihi os tuum, et implebo illud (Ps 80.11). Spiritus enim ante faciem nostram Christus Dominus (La 4.20), non modo invitandus, sed et attrahendus quadam violentia precis vehementiaque fervoris. In hospitium cordis, sicut de duobus discipulis in typum huius rei historia refert evangelii. Et ipse siquidem, non ob aliud nisi ut probet devotionem caritatis tuae, aliquando se fingit longius ire (Lk 24.28) […].” Guerric of Igny, Sermons 3, ed. Morson, Costello, and Deseille, pp. 126-128. 61 Bériou 2008, pp. 171-172, 188. 56 57.
(14) 136. LIEKE SMITS. Instead of a physical journey, they could embark on spiritual pilgrimage. For this purpose, travel reports that describe the journey to and the places in the Holy Land could be used, and were popular, but there were also meditational texts specifically designed for this purpose.62 In her extensive study on these kinds of ‘virtual pilgrimages’ in female convents of the Low Countries, Kathryn Rudy argues that the principal motivation for these spiritual exercises was “to develop an empathetic relationship with Christ” by creating “an experience of accompanying Christ, or even of being Christ.”63 Thus, the spiritual pilgrimage necessitated a performative mode of reading in which the text was enacted in the reader’s imagination. In some of the later Middle Dutch texts explicitly meant for spiritual pilgrimage, Jesus is also referred to as bridegroom. 64 Likewise, the bridal relationship is mentioned in the passage on God as pilgrim in Dat boec der minnen. The pilgrim passage in Dat boec der minnen emphasizes that the Word should ignite the heart, the importance of reading, and explains the scriptural significance of the Road to Emmaus passage. Since antiquity, pilgrimage has been used as a metaphor for the process of reading. It was part of the rhetorical concept of ductus, meaning, in the definition of Mary Carruthers, “the way by which a work leads someone through itself: that quality in a work’s formal patterns which engages an audience and then sets a viewer or auditor or performer in motion within its structures, an experience more like travelling through stages along a route than like perceiving a whole object.”65 This ancient metaphor was still used in the medieval period, for example by the Catalan Franciscan Francesc Eiximenis (d. 1409), who in his preaching manual recommended that preachers memorize their sermons by mentally placing the topics they want to discuss along the pilgrimage road from Rome to Compostella.66 Scholars have compared the reading of some specific types of text to the process of virtual pilgrimage. Meditations on the Passion that invite the reader to accompany Jesus and Mary in their journey through the Holy Land are one example.67 Brian Stock points to the pilgrimage metaphor when discussing Augustine’s ideas about reading, which were influential throughout the medieval period. Augustine distinguished between two types of reader response: aesthetic and ascetic. While the former is aimed at taking pleasure in the text itself, the latter uses reading to reach a higher end, where the reading of the text is only the starting point of a spiritual process involving meditation.68 Turning from the aesthetic to the ascetic, Stock writes, “reading ceases to be a ‘wandering’ from While prayers designed especially for the purpose of spiritual pilgrimage were only written in the late medieval period, the practice itself precedes Dat boec der minnen. Monks where encouraged to perform spiritual pilgrimages from the twelfth century onward (Bériou 2008, p. 189). 63 Rudy 2011, p. 35. 64 A text written or copied by the canonesses of Maaseik; Rudy 2011, p. 131. 65 Carruthers 2010, p. 190. 66 Rivers 1999 and 2002; Carruthers 2010, p. 193. 67 Bartal 2014, passim, esp. pp. 69-70. 68 Stock 2001, p. 30. 62.
(15) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 137. one literary delight to another and becomes a ‘pilgrimage’, in which all textual experiences are directed towards a single goal.”69 Dat boec der minnen encourages the reader to adopt a mode of reading that Augustine would call ascetic. The rich, sensory imagery derived from the Song of Songs should not be seen as a goal in itself but should instead direct the reader towards inner experience, as the text repeatedly warns.70 The author emphasizes interiorization of experience, stating, for example, that because the bridegroom is spiritual, the reader should leave bodily senses behind: The bridegroom comes into our mind and therefore we should renounce the bodily senses, and understand the word of fleshly people spiritually, for the bridegroom is spiritual and so is the bride.71. While the treatise does not explicitly refer to reading as pilgrimage, the reader of the passage on God as pilgrim was supposed to imagine herself on the road together with Jesus as he explains Scripture to her, thus accompanying her in the reading process towards the goal of spiritual transformation. Associations with the devotional practice of spiritual pilgrimage would have added to the performative aspect of the role-play. God as Physician In his fifth role, Dat boec der minnen explains, God comes into the soul as a physician. He has powerful balms and potions, the most powerful of which is his own blood. Eating and drinking Christ leads to a mutual indwelling, as he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me, and I in him.”72 The author quotes Augustine, who heard God describing himself as a food that should be eaten.73 Then he switches to the first person singular, asking God in a prayerlike manner to be “changed into you, so that your beauty replaces our ugliness, your strength our illness, your richness our poverty, your perfection our defectiveness, his life our death, your divinity our humanity, so that you thus devour us, so that we do not remain ourselves but become you.”74 This request clearly formulates the treatise’s aim of spiritual transformation. Ibidem, p. 30. Smits 2017, pp. 137-138. 71 “dy brudecome hy coimt in onze redene ende dar omme müten wi ut gaen ut den vleyselike zinnen ende geystelike verstaen dye woirt dye vleyschelike luden, want die brudecome is gheystelijc ende alzoe is oec de bruut.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 19.18-21. Cf. pp. 5.16-19, 19.6-11, 29.7-30.3 72 “Zoe wye mijn vleysch et ende mijn blůt drinkt hi woint in mi ende ic in hem.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 4.18-19. 73 Confessiones 7.10. 74 “O wi zal dat ymmermeer ghescien. o wi zalt yet scyere ghescyen dat wi di wel zůte ghetrouwe vizikere alzoe eten zullen ende drinken dat wi gheheelanghe in di verwandelt worden. dat dine scoenheyt oinze leelijcheyt. dat dine starcheyt oinze crancheyt. dat dine rijcheyt oinze armůde. 69 70.
(16) 138. LIEKE SMITS. Like that of the pilgrim, the imagery of Jesus as physician has a biblical basis. There are several biblical narratives of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers. Moreover, Jesus likens himself to a physician in Lk 4.23 where he says: “Doubtless you will say to me this similitude: Physician, heal thyself.” In Mt 9.12 (see also Mk 2.17 and Lk 5.31) Jesus says, after being accused by the Pharisees of eating with publicans and sinners: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In Christian writing the notion of health became intertwined with salvation, both being denoted with the Latin word salus.75 Christ as physician, also called Christus medicus, was treated elaborately by Augustine, who stated that Jesus heals us from pride, thus restoring the fallen state of humanity and bringing salvation.76 The passage on Jesus as physician in Dat boec der minnen does not explicitly emphasize sin, but this connection is discussed elaborately later in the treatise. In the Prague manuscript the author announces in this passage that he will later explain what God’s balms are.77 This refers to the second of the following fifteen stages of love, where the ointments from the Song of Songs are explained (Cant 1.1-2): “The one most noble balm is his tolerance which spares the sinners for so long. The other most noble balm is his mercifulness which so lightly forgives sin.”78 The description of Jesus’ role as physician in Dat boec der minnen ends with praise of God and a request for mercy. This praise involves reference to the register of bridal mysticism, with adjectives such as ‘sweet’ and ‘lovely’.79 The connection between the physician and the bridegroom was already made by Bernard of Clairvaux in his Sermones. According to Bernard, the sinner needs a physician rather than a bridegroom, juxtaposing the two roles: But the person who has not yet been raised to this state, who smarts at the remembrance of past deeds and says to God in bitterness of soul: “Do not condemn me,” or who may still be caught up in the snare of his own evil propensities, still perilously tempted, this person needs a physician, not a bridegroom; hence kisses and embraces are not for him, but only oil and ointments, remedies for his wounds.80 dat dine vůlkomenheyt oinze ghebrecklicheyt. dat zijn leven onze doet. dat dine gotheyt oinze menscheyt. dat du oins alzoe verslijndes. alzoe dat wi nyet en bliven wi. mar dat wi worden du.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, pp. 4.31-5.6. 75 McCann 2014, pp. 339-342. 76 Eijkenboom 1960. On the Early Christian development of Christus medicus imagery, see Honecker 1986, pp. 35-37. Honecker’s idea that this imagery was in the later medieval period no longer common to theology but only survived in ‘popular culture’ seems to stem from a neglect of what Jean Leclercq has termed ‘mystical theology’. 77 Schoemann 1930, p. 13 78 “Eyne beste zalve is zine verdraghlijcheyt dye den zundare zoe langhe ghespart. Eyne ander beste zalve is zine ontfarmicheyt dye de zunde zoe lichte verghevet.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. Willeumier-Schalij, p. 29.2-5. 79 “O wye is dan deze du? Eyn heyligh. een zalijch. eyn zůtelijc. Eyn lyeflijc eyn gheweldijgh. eyn wijs eyn utermaten vredelijc gůtlijc heymelijc du.” Dat boec der minnen, ed. WilleumierSchalij, p. 5.6-8. 80 “Qui enim nondum invenitur ita affectus, sed compunctus magis actuum recordatione suorum, loquens in amaritudine animae suae dicit Deo: “Noli me condemnare,” aut forte etiam adhuc.
(17) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 139. Jesus in the role of physician is also closely connected to the Passion. As discussed by Daniel McCann, in the spiritual literature of the High and Late Middle Ages, Augustine’s notion of Jesus as spiritual healer encouraged therapeutic meditations on the Passion.81 Although there is no explicit reference to the Passion narrative, the emphasis on Jesus’ healing blood and flesh in Dat boec der minnen recalls Is 53.5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The crucified Christ as the healer of sinners has a prominent role in contemporary literature, such as the hymn Oratio rhythmica, also called Salve meum salutare, probably written by Arnulf of Louvain (c. 12001250), abbot of the Cistercian Villers Abbey.82 Both the original Latin text and its Middle Dutch translation were widely read in the late medieval period.83 The text guides the reader along the body of the crucified Christ, from his feet to his head. The lyrical ‘I’ speaks to Jesus in a vocabulary that is mainly informed by two roles ascribed to him: bridegroom-lover and healer-redeemer. The request for healing is prominent in the stanza directed at Jesus’ feet, where the reader is positioned as sinner: Oh dear sweet Jesus, heal what is broken in me, and bring together again what has been disseminated, and strengthen it in me with the medicines of all your wounds. […] And, oh sweet Father, I hope you will cure me from my sins. Oh sweet Father heal me with your fresh blood, so that I can be truly healthy. […] For if sick people come to you, and carry your feet in their hearts, they shall part from thee healed, relinquishing their sins because of the kisses of your sweet wounds.84. In the Oratio rhythmica the various roles of Jesus are intertwined, constantly and fluidly intermingling. This results in a role-play slightly more complex than that in Dat boec der minnen, since, just as God, the reader must adopt multiple roles at the same time. The clear separation of roles in Dat boec der minnen is, however, mixed with regular references to Jesus as bridegroom, which are not confined to the description of the eleventh role. Thus, even in the beginning periculose tentatur a propria concupiscentia abstractus et illectus, hic talem non sponsum requirit, sed medicum; ac per hoc non oscula quidem vel amplexus, sed tantum remedia vulneribus accipiet suis, in oleo utique et unguentis.” Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica canticorum 32.II.3, ed. Leclercq, Rochais, and Talbot, I, pp. 227-228; transl. Walsh 1976, p. 136. 81 McCann 2014, p. 336. 82 On the attribution to Arnulf of Louvain, see Stracke 1950. 83 Rudy notes that the text can be found in several Franciscan prayer books, and was read by both nuns and semi-enclosed women; Rudy 2017, pp. 96-97. 84 “O lieve Suete ihesus! maecke ghesont dat in my te broeken is; ende dat verstroyt is, dat vergadert weder; ende maket dat weder sterck si in my metter medecinen alre wonden. […] Ende, O lieve vader, du salst my ghesont maken van mynen sonden als ic hope. O suete vader make my ghesont met dinen versschen bloede, op dat ic waerlyck ghesont wesen mach. […] Want wat siecke menschen totti comen, ende dyn voeten in haere herten draghen, die soelen ghesont van Dy gaen, aflatende di sonden, overmits dat cussen dynre werdigher wonden.” Arnulf of Louvain, Oratio rhythmica (Middle Dutch translation), ed. Stracke, pp. 412-413..
(18) 140. LIEKE SMITS. stages of the process the reader is reminded of the intimate relationship she strives towards. In this respect the treatise is reminiscent of Christus und die minnende Seele, a fifteenth-century Middle High German verse dialogue between Jesus and the soul, read by lay, monastic, male, and female audiences alike.85 The text is accompanied by an image cycle. Jesus and the soul are portrayed as bridegroom and bride in a spiritual ascent towards mystical union. However, some of the imagery is borrowed from daily monastic life involving, for example, aspects of physical health.86 Jesus also figures as instructor, similar to Dat boec der minnen’s role of master. The healing power of Jesus’ wounded body in Dat boec der minnen has a clear Eucharistic undertone, emphasizing the transformative power of receiving the body of Christ. This ties in with the Eucharistic mysticism that was popular among thirteenth-century religious women, which was often connected to illness and healing.87 Visionary women, such as the Cistercian nun Lutgard of Aywières (1182-1246), saw the crucified Christ coming down from the altar during Mass or drank from the wound in his side. In these visions Jesus is consistently imagined as crucified or wounded. It is likely that this was also the way in which readers of Dat boec der minnen visualized him in the role of physician, similar to the portrayal of Jesus in the Oratio rhythmica. The imagery of Jesus as physician and the performative first-person request to be healed by him, raise questions about the restorative potential of spiritual texts. Within medieval humoral theory, activities that have an effect on one’s emotional state, such as reading, can have a therapeutic function.88 The best textual medicine, naturally, is the Bible. The Word as medicine was already promoted by Augustine: Our Lord and God takes care of and heals every ailment of the soul, and so he produced many medicines from the holy scriptures (which you could call the shelves of his pharmacy or drugstore) when the divine readings were being read [...]. There have been many things read, both important and necessary. They are all like that, of course, and yet some things are hidden more thoroughly in the scriptures in order to stretch and test the students, while others are set there openly and ready to hand for the immediate treatment of patients.89. Again, the various needs of different readers are stressed. In the twelfth century, Peter of Celle explained how reading works as a medicine, feeding the soul and controlling bodily passions: Gebauer 2010. Ibidem, p. 198. 87 See Bynum 1991, pp. 119-150. 88 McCann 2014, pp. 340-341; Olson 2005, p. 277. 89 “Deus et dominus noster curans et sanans omnem animae languorem, multa medicamenta protulit de scripturis sanctis, uelut de quibusdam armariis suis, cum lectiones diuinae legerentur [...].Multa lecta sunt, et magna, et necessaria. Quamquam ita sint omnia, sed tamen alia secretius in scripturis absconduntur ut quaerentes exerceant, alia uero in promptu et in manfestatione ponuntur ut desiderantes curent.” Augustine, Sermo XXXII. De Golia et David et de contemptu mundi, ed. Lambot, p. 398; transl. from McCann 2014, p. 343. 85 86.
(19) SPIRITUAL ROLE-PLAY IN DAT BOEC DER MINNEN. 141. Search in reading’s garden for strong herbs to use as medicine against the incursions of bad angels, lest you perish from his poisonous exhalations and inspirations [...]. Reading is the soul’s food, light, lamp, refuge, consolation, and the spice of every spiritual savour. It feeds the hungry, it illuminates the person sitting in darkness, to refugees from shipwreck or war it comes with bread. It comforts the contrite heart, it contains the passions of the body with the hope of reward. When temptations attack, it counters them with the teaching and example of the saints. By it those who have recovered from infirmity are made strong in battle.90. This therapeutic power of reading is implied throughout Dat boec der minnen, with its emphasis on strengthening the soul and interiorization of experience. The therapeutic process of Dat boec der minnen is not merely aimed at curing the reader from sin; it goes further, healing the reader from the state of humanity and transforming her into a perfect bride. Conclusion Dat boec der minnen is unique in its systematic treatment of eleven roles of God. The progression from God as fleeting guest to an intimate lover gradually guides the female reader, as in a pilgrimage, towards a defined goal. Every role he takes leads her a step further in the path of spiritual transformation, and prepares her for the next. The gradual progress from the short didactic passage on God as guest to the elaborate treatment of Jesus as bridegroom suggests that through the practice of spiritual reading the reader will be able to understand increasingly complex texts, becoming intimately acquainted with the words. As such, the reading of the treatise is supposed to cure the reader from her fallen state of humanity, becoming worthy of the status of bride. The repeated references to Jesus as bridegroom ensure that the reader keeps her goal in mind. The progression towards and culmination of their bridal union prepares her for the second part of the treatise, where she ascends further along the fifteen stages of spiritual love. The discussions of Jesus as pilgrim and physician have shown that, beyond roles such as bridegroom, the Saviour could play many other parts in late medieval devotional culture. Readers of Dat boec der minnen would not only have been reminded of the Bible verses from which these images originated, but also of patristic and contemporary literature. Many of the parallels I have pointed out are found in texts that are likewise performative in nature, sometimes involving role-play. Dat boec der minnen can be understood within the context 90 “Exquire ergo in horto lectionis ualentes herbas et medicinales contra immissiones quae fiunt per angelos malos. Ne ueneno eius afflatus et inflatus pereas [...]. Lectio animae est alimentum, lumen, lucerna, refugium, solatium, et condimentum omnium spiritalium saporum. Pascit esurientem, sedentem in tenebris illuminat, fugienti de naufragio aut de bello cum panibus occurrit, contrito corde medetur, passiones corporis condit spe remunerationis, cum tentationes irruunt iterum condit doctrina et exemplo sanctorum, de qua infirmitate conualuerunt fortes facti sunt in bello.” Peter of Celle, De afflictione et lectione 9, 11, ed. Leclercq, p. 234; transl. Feiss, pp. 134135; see McCann 2014, pp. 346-347..
(20) 142. LIEKE SMITS. of affective spiritual literature that is performative and interactive, encouraging imaginative role-plays, vivid visualizations, and the cultivation of an inner space or experience. The discussion of pilgrimage and healing as metaphors for reading offers a perspective on the wider realm of medieval spiritual culture. Not only could reading take the form of therapy or pilgrimage, but a text could also become like an acquaintance and perhaps even a lover through the visualization of its imagery. This indicates a mode of reading in which the text was seen as a reciprocal entity that engaged the reader in an ongoing spiritual dialogue. The reader is encouraged to relate herself constantly to and within the text, querying herself about what spiritual stage she has reached, how she can advance to meet God in his next guise, and how she can apply her spiritual knowledge to the text in front of her. Thus, in the end, a treatise about the roles of God in the soul of the reader draws her attention to herself and her own spiritual role, inspiring reflection and interiorization of experience. Bibliography Primary Sources Arnulf of Louvain, Oratio rhythmica (Middle Dutch translation), ed. by D.A. Stracke, in: “Over het: Ave mundi salutare, in het Diets,” Ons Geestelijk Erf 24 (1950), pp. 409-419. Augustine, Sermones de Vetere Testamento, ed. by Cyrille Lambot, in: Sancti Aurelii Augustini Sermones de Vetere Testamento, id est Sermones I-L secundum ordinem vulgatum insertis etiam novem sermonibus, Aurelii Augustini opera 11.1 (Turnhout 1961). Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica canticorum, ed. by Jean Leclercq, Henri Rochais, and C. H. Talbot, in: Sancti Bernardi opera, 1-2, (Rome 1957-1958). Transl. by Kilian Walsh and Irene M. Edmonds as On the Song of Songs, 4 vols, Cistercian Father Series, 4, 7, 31, 40 (Kalamazoo 1971-1980). Dat Boec der minnen (Die Rede von den 15 Graden), ed. by Johanna Marie WilleumierSchalij (Leiden 1946). Guerric of Igny, Sermons, ed. and transl. by J. Morson, H. Costello, and P. Deseille, Sources Chrétiennes 166 (Paris 1970). Hendrik Mande, Hier beghint een devoet boecskijn van der bereydinghe ende vercieringhe onser inwendiger woeninghen, ed. by W. Moll, in: Johannes Brugman en het godsdienstig leven onzer vaderen in de vijftiende eeuw, 2 vols (Amsterdam 1854), I, pp. 293-309. Mechtild of Magdeburg, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit: Nach der Einsiedler Handschrift in kritischem Vergleich mit der gesamten Überliefering, ed. by Hans Neumann (Munich 1990). Peter of Celle, De afflictione et lectione, ed. by Jean Leclercq, in: La spiritualité de Pierre de Celle (1115-1183) (Paris 1946), pp. 231-239. Transl. by Hugh Feiss as On Affliction and Reading, in: Peter of Celle: Selected Works: Sermons, The School of the Cloister, On Affliction and Reading, On Conscience (Kalamazoo 1987), pp. 131-141..
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