Gertrude of Helfta – No greater love

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Saint Gertrude of Helfta (1256-1301), Benedictine nun
Exercises VII, None (trans. Thomas Alder Pope; SC 127, p. 281f. rev.)

« No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends » (Jn 15,13)

It is you, O Love, O divine self-oblation, who hold my Jesus fastened to the cross, and under your hand he bows his sacred head and dies for very love. But what do you do, O heavenly spirit of self-oblation? And to whom do you turn for aid? You know no rest until you have succored us in our misery. The love from which you spring is boundless, everlasting… O Love, you fasten yourself on the heart of my Jesus, so that in his loving surrender of himself for us, it is all pierced through and torn. O Love, it is enough. Do you not see that my Jesus, nailed to the cross, has given up his spirit? Life has forsaken his most blessed body. He is dead, truly dead, that I might have abundant life. He is dead, that the Father might adopt me as his beloved daughter. He is dead, to open to me the gates of everlasting life…

O death, you bring forth fruit of life eternal; O mighty death, render mine calm and sure. You, O death, are life eternal; beneath your solemn shadow I dare to hope (cf. Ps 36,8). O death, bestow on me one feeble spark of eternal life, and let it burn in me for ever. O glorious and most fruitful death, death on which hangs all my salvation: you are the sure covenant of love whereby I have been redeemed, the inviolable pledge of my reconciliation to God. O triumphant death, from you there shines forth a love incomparable in earth or heaven.

O death, you work of goodness, you are a source of sweet trust to my heart. O death, lavishing on us all your love, you contain everything that is good. Be my guardian that my own death may be to dwell sweetly beneath your shade (cf. Sg 2,3). O merciful death, you are my blessedness, my allotted portion (Ps 16,5), my redemption and rich inheritance.

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