God is Love

5(12)From Wendy Farley’s The Thirst for God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics [speaking here of the medieval mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg]: “Mechthild uses royal imagery for God (empress, queen, or lord). But because she conceives of power as a form of love, she understands monarchial metaphors in a distinctive way. God’s majesty and omnipotence are qualities related to the divine desire for intimacy with humanity. For Mechthild, it is not sheer power that makes God divine. It is love. This play between love and power is evident in the preface of Mechthild’s book, where God claims authorship of the book. “I made [gemacht] it in my powerlessness [unmaht], for I cannot contain my gift.” This is a paradoxical way of describing divine power. Even God is powerless to contain God, but the distinctive display of power is inspiration and a redemptive word. God is powerless to stop giving gifts to humanity. Because the divine nature is love, to do so would require the unmaking of divinity itself. Theologians such as Augustine and Luther struggle to understand how to reconcile love and justice or divine omnipotence and human agency. This is in part because they think of power as coercive or univocal agency. But for Mechthild, God’s desire for humanity is incompatible with sheer omnipotence, not because God has less power but because it is a different kind of power. God renounces power as “might,” in favor of love. God is able to do precisely what God wants: create humanity for intimacy with the divine life and return it to that state when it falls. The ability to create intimacy is a different power than one that controls empires.”



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