Saturday, August 9, 2014

De Materie, Part II Hadewijch, Libretto

The text is one of the visions of Hadewijch, a 13th-century Dutch mystic poetess, and expresses her passionate vision, both spiritual and erotic, of union with Him. The composition is organised to mirror the architectural plan of the cathedral of Reims in France. The intervals of time between the chords of the pianos, tuned percussion and guitars, which ring through the canvas at set points, have the same proportional relationship as the distance in space between the cathedral’s pillars.


Hadewijch:      ... thereupon, I was hopelessly thrown upon my own poor resources.

One early morning at Pentecost, attending matins sung in church, I received a vision. My heart, my veins, and all my body shook and trembled with desire. As so often before, I felt intensely and frightfully touched, and I was afraid that I would not satisfy my Love, but my Love did not allow me to die, to die grieving. Gradually, my passion became so terrible and painful that all my bones seemed to break one by one, and my blood flowed more swiftly than ever. My desire is inexpressible, both words and people fail, and what I could tell about it would be absurd to anyone who never learned Love’s effect and who was by Love neglected. This at least I can say: I longed to enjoy my Love to the fullest; to know and taste Him through and through; His human nature united with mine, and mine received in His. I did hope I would have the strength to let myself fall into completeness, so as to prove in turn to be inexhaustible for Him, pure; I alone would be satisfactorily virtuous in all virtues. Therefore, I wished deep inside that He, with His divinity, would elevate me into a unity of our minds, without withholding anything from me. For this gift I prefer above all other gifts I ever chose: to satisfy in unending submission. For this is the most perfect thing: to grow enough to become God with God—because it is endurance and pain, misery and unprecedented sorrow, and one has to let all this come and go without succumbing, and without feeling anything but marvellous love, embraces, and kisses. Thus I wished God would be for me, as I for Him.

Chorus: While it became unbearable to me, I saw a giant eagle flying toward me from the altar, and he said to me: “If you desire to be one with God, prepare yourself.” I knelt, and my heart beat in my throat, worshipping His greatness. I know very well that I was not ready for this, and God knows it too, always to my grief and sorrow. The eagle flew back to the altar, saying: “Righteous and almighty Lord, now prove your power in the unity with You, in Your heavenly bliss.” Then he came back and told me: “He who came will return, but places where He never came, He will not come.”

Then He came from the altar, showing Himself in the form of a child, such as He looked in the first three years of His life. He turned to me, and out of the ciborium He took His body with His right hand, and with His left He took a goblet that seemed to come from the altar, but I do not know that for certain. Then He came to me, now in the clothes and in the form of the man He was the day when He first gave us His body, enchanting and beautiful, with a ravishing face, and with the humble attitude of someone who already belongs to another. Then He gave Himself to me in the form of the Sacrament, and afterwards He gave me to drink from the goblet: it seemed and tasted as usual. Then He came very close to me, took me in His arms, and pressed me to His chest. All my limbs felt His, to their total satisfaction, as my heart and my humanness longed. I felt truly satisfied and saturated. I had just the power to bear this for a while, but soon I lost sight of this handsome man, and I saw Him fading and melting away, until I could no longer feel Him next to me, or perceive Him within myself. At that very moment, I felt that we were one together, without any difference. All this was real and tangible—as one really tastes and feels the Sacrament, or the way lovers, taking pleasure in seeing and hearing each other, can get lost. After this, I stayed one with my Love, melting with Him, until nothing was left of me. I was beside myself in exaltation, and in my mind I was raised up to a place where many different hours were shown to me.

Excerpts from Hadewijch, Book of Visions (13th century)

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