Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, 680
Mechtild, Béguine of Magdeburg, Mystic, 1280
Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, in the city of our God. His holy mountain is fair and lifted high, the joy of all the earth. On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place, stands the city of the great king. In her palaces God has shown himself to be a sure refuge.
For behold, the kings of the earth assembled and swept forward together. They saw, and were dumbfounded; dismayed, they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there; they writhed like a woman in labour, as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish. As we had heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God: God has established her for ever.
We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple. As with your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is full of justice. Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of your judgements, O Lord. Walk about Zion and go round about her; count all her towers; consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels, that you may tell those who come after that such is our God for ever and ever. It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.
Why do you glory in evil, you tyrant, while the goodness of God endures continually? You plot destruction, you deceiver; your tongue is like a sharpened razor. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than the word of truth. You love all words that hurt, O you deceitful tongue. Therefore God shall utterly bring you down; he shall take you and pluck you out of your tent and root you out of the land of the living. The righteous shall see this and tremble; they shall laugh you to scorn, and say: ‘This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, but trusted in great riches and relied upon wickedness.’
But I am like a spreading olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever. I will always give thanks to you for what you have done; I will hope in your name, for your faithful ones delight in it.
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger—the club in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few.
For he says: ‘Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols what I have done to Samaria and her images?’
When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says:
‘By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I have removed the boundaries of peoples, and have plundered their treasures; like a bull I have brought down those who sat on thrones. My hand has found, like a nest, the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing, or opened its mouth, or chirped.’
Shall the axe vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood! Therefore the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame; and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. The glory of his forest and his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when an invalid wastes away. The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.
‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Eternal God, who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land and through her holiness and leadership blessed your Church with new life and unity: help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ and to reconcile those who are divided; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.