Mystics for Advent Part 2: Richard Rolle of Hampole

An English hermit and mystic, Richard Rolle was born at Thornton, Yorkshire around 1290. He was educated at Oxford and in Paris before entering into the life of a hermit on the estate of his friend John Dalton of Pickering. After years of intense contemplation, he took to wandering across England, settling at Hampole where he assisted the spiritual development of the nuns in a nearby Cistercian community. He died there on September 29, 1349. As one of the first spiritual writers to use the “vernacular” English, his writings were widely read during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. His works include letters, commentaries on the scripture, and treatises on spiritual perfection. Among these are De Incendio Amoris  (The Fire of Love) which recounts his mystical experiences. He describes evidence of his mystical communion with God as sometimes characterized by a physical warmth in his body, a sense of wonderful sweetness, and heavenly music that accompanied him as he chanted the psalms. In terms of the Advent season, Rolle expresses the coming of God in Jesus in terms of the revealing of Uncreated Light and the consuming fire of “God With Us”.

God’s Love

O Holy Spirit, Who breathes

where You will, breathe into me

and draw me to Yourself.

Invest the nature You have shaped,

with gifts so flowing with honey that,

from intense joy in Your sweetness,

this clay might turn from lesser things,

that it may accept (as You give them)

spiritual gifts, and through pleasing

jubilation, it may melt, entirely,

in holy love, reaching finally out

to touch the Uncreated Light.

 

Invitation to the God

Sear my inmost being

  with Your fire, and my heart

will burn on Your altar forever.

Come, I beg You, O sweet

and true glory! Come, O most

desired sweetness! Come,

my Beloved, Who are my whole

consolation, to my soul — now languishing

for your sake and inclined to You —

and slip into it with most

sweetly flowing love. Set ablaze

with Your heat every penetrable

place of my heart and, by filling

its inmost places with Your light

feed the whole with the honey-flowing

joy of Your love, in order

to snatch up in new, noetic

union this mind and body.

 

Advent celebrates the reality that we are not alone. God comes to us, often in the most unexpected ways.

Love’s Effect

Love, moreover,

does not suffer

the loving soul

to continue apart,

exiled inside itself.

Rather, love carries

that soul beyond

itself and nearer

the Beloved,

so that the soul

would rather

be there, joined

to that it loves,

than where the body

(which depends

on it for feeling

and for life) languishes.

 

Our next Mystic for Advent will be Origen of Alexandria. Just as Richard Rolle emphasizes the Advent mysteries of Joy, Origen presents us with the Advent mysteries of Hope.

Note: The words of Richard Rolle are presented in verse form by Scott Cairns in his book,   Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life, Paraclete Press, 2007.

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the blog masters of New Westminster Anglican Blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome. 

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One Response to Mystics for Advent Part 2: Richard Rolle of Hampole

  1. Thanks so much for this, Steve. I’m an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Sheffield (UK), Adviser in Spirituality to Bishop Steven Croft and living not too far from Hampole. I love the mystics and, as Community Leader of Contemplative Fire (www.contemplativefire.org and see for Toronto and Niagara http://www.contemplativefire.ca/) is committed to recover the mystical theology and spiritual practice of earlier centuries in the body of Christ. I’d love to know how your work here over Advent is being responded to in your diocese. Do connect up with Contemplative Fire if it resonates.
    Solidarity and belssings in the festival of incarnation,
    Philip

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