This week’s Daily Meditations feature writings of twentieth-century women mystics. Each one shares her experience of God as unconditional and unsurpassed love from her unique background. Father Richard Rohr believes this is true for all mystics:
People who know God well—mystics, hermits, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found as an abusive father or a tyrannical mother; God is always a lover greater than we dared hope for. How different from the “account manager” most people seem to worship. God is the lover who receives and forgives everything.
When we go into the Presence, we find someone not against us, but someone who is definitely for us! Mystics recognize someone else is holding them. People who pray always say, “Someone is for me more than I am for myself.” Prayer is being loved at a deep, sweet level. I hope everyone has felt such intimacy alone with God. I promise it is available to all. Maybe a lot of us just need to be told that this is what we should expect and seek. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek. It feels presumptuous. We can’t trust that such a love exists. But it does.
Father Richard has found great inspiration over the past several years in the writings of Jewish mystic Etty Hillesum (1914–1943). In her letters from the Westerbork transit camp, Hillesum describes the solace she finds in God’s continual presence:
You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer. I have been terribly tired for several days, but that too will pass. Things come and go in a deeper rhythm, and people must be taught to listen; it is the most important thing we have to learn in this life. I am not challenging You, oh God, my life is one great dialogue with You. I may never become the great artist I would really like to be, but I am already secure in You, God. Sometimes I try my hand at turning out small profundities and uncertain short stories, but I always end up with just one single word: God. And that says everything, and there is no need for anything more. And all my creative powers are translated into inner dialogues with You. The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches. 
 Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941–1943; and Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996), 332.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2003), 131, 134, 135.
Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 11 (detail), 2022, photograph, Colorado, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 4 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Florence Morning (detail), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: She sees the leaves in the ice, gathers the small, unnoticed things, and cherishes her findings. We accept the mystic’s invitation to sit and ponder.