Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Madame Guyon (1648-1717)


Guyon's parents brought her up in pious religious training which took place in the home, school and convent. She was deeply influenced by her own reading of Francis de Sales and Madame de Chantal, as well as her interactions with the nuns and teachers. At a young age, she wanted to become a nun but was dissuaded by her sister.

After turning down many proposals, she married a wealthy man twenty-two years her senior. She was 16. Her life was plagued with suffering and constant abuse from her mother in law, husband and maids. The lack of love in the marriage drove her deeper in to pursuit of God. Her pursuit of god's presence and her willingness to embrace suffering formed the pillars of her spirituality.

After twelve years of in the loveless marriage, she was left as a widow of three children after losing her two children and husband in succession.

Guyon believed that in imbracing suffering she would be drawn closer to God's heart. At age 28 after twelve years of marriage, she was left widowed, by this time she had also lost 2 of her four two children.

After her husband's death, Madame Guyon felt herself drawn to Geneva. She left her children in the care of a family member and sought out Father LaCombe. who was to become her spiritual director. Together they began to proclaim entire sanctification through faith in Christ, becoming major voices in the Quietism* movement.

Louis XIV was pivotal in the condemnation of Quietism in Rome. He would not allow similar mysticism in his own capital. Father LaCombe was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. Guyon was herself arrested and subjected to fierce interrogation.

In October 1688, when Guyon was released from prison, she met Father Francis Fénelon who became Her most famous and influential disciple, who latter became the Bishop of Chartres. Through Fénelon the influence of Madame Guyon increased, as her influence increased so did persecution.

Guyon taught that we should learn to pray without ceasing. Whatever one was doing, learn to cultivate the practice of being constantly aware of God's presence. "Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually."

In one of her peoms she wrote: "There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer ... But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known ..."
Guyon defended the belief that salvation wholly is the result of grace, not works. She taught that a person's deliverance can only come from God as an outside source, never from within the person himself or herself.

In 1693 she was arrested for her ideas and again imprisioned in the Bastille. Guyon was finally released in 1703 after more than 7 years captivated and banished from Paris. She went to live with her son in Blois where she lived for fifteen years in silence and isolation until she died in 1717 at the age of 68. She left behind a volume of poetry and number of books, two of the most important being "A Short and Easy Method of Prayer" and her AutoBiography.

* Quietists embraced the ideology of dying to self and living in Christ , reaching a“state of pure contemplation where God flows in and becomes the inward reality initiating His perfect and holy will.” Passivity is understood in the context of actively surrendering to Divinity where pure love, pure faith and pure prayer unite the believer in union and intimacy with God.

2 comments:

Kelly said...

I really enjoyed this post! I've never heard of madame Guyon before.

Whenever my daughter Judith calls her brother Gideon, it sounds like she's saying "Guyon". =)

Brad Culver said...

Cute storyy Kelly.. blessed you enjoyed the post.. hope this will encourage you to find out more about Madame Guyon.. there are links to some writings by her on the blog.. Also her book.. "Communion with God" is a wonderful read... thanx