Mystics for Advent Part One: The Experience of Blessed Angela of Foligno

Advent is a time of year when we visualize coming into the embrace of God through our acts of expectation. In Jesus, particularly during the Advent season, we experience the embrace of God – God coming to us and each of us coming to God. Great traditions of Christian mysticism give us insights into living the Advent life.

Blessed Angela of Foligno lived from 1248-1309. Experiencing a quickening of her faith at one point in her life, she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. Poet Scott Cairns presents accounts of some of Blessed Angela’s mystical God-encounters in the form of verse. These mystic remembrances are particularly meaningful in the context of Advent.  May they resonate for you too.

God is the One who draws me, and God

the One who lifts me to that place.

I could not approach it on my own,

for by myself I would not know

so much as how to desire it, how

to seek it. As it is, I am now almost

continually drawn. And if I’m not, the God will often raise me to it

with no need, apparently, for my consent.

When I expect it least, suddenly my soul

is raised by God and in Him even I

hold dominion, and even I comprehend the whole world. It seems, then, as if I am

no longer bound on earth but utterly

in heaven, and utterly in God.

*   *   *   *

His Blazing Embrace

The embrace of God puts fire to the soul,

by which the soul entire is felt to burn

for Christ, accompanied by light so great the soul

suspects the immensity of God’s appalling goodness.

You won’t get used to it, nor will you know its scope.

The effect of this fire within the should is to render it

certain and secure that Christ is there within it.

And still, what we have said is nothing

compared to what you find in the embrace of God.


Our next mystic for Advent will be Richard Rolle of Hampole (1300-1349) who like Blessed Anglela Foligno expresses God coming to us and our own journey toward God as the kindling of inner fire.


Sott Cairns, Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life. Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2007

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the administrators of NW   Anglican Blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.


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