Saturday, September 29, 2012

Richard Rolle (1300 - 1349 )

One of the most appreciated English mystic authors of the middle ages. Rolle's lightheartedness blends with profound understanding of the role of sexual longing and sensual imagery in the search for union with God. Living as a hermit for thirty  one years with the help of patrons. The level of financial support that Rolle enjoyed was a new development in the treatment of religious recluses.

Born into a small farming family near Pickering, he studied at the University of oxford, where he was accompanied by a  patron Thomas de Neville, the Archdeacon of Durham  He showed little interest in  scholastic pursuits, instead displaying a devotion to study of the scripture he learned Latin during his time there.Rolle left Oxford at age eighteen or nineteen. Fearing he had ceded too greatly to temptation in his youth, and that he would transgress further, he adopted the life of a hermit devoting himself to study of the word and contemplation.. He had his cell first at Pickering, Rolle, guided by his conscience, was often misunderstood.

Two years and eight months after becoming a hermit, Rolle had his first mystical experience. Around a year later, he felt similarly after listening to a choir.

 In one of his best-known works, The Fire of Love Rolle provides an account of these mystical experiences, which he describes as being of three kinds: a physical warmth in his body, a sense of wonderful sweetness, and a heavenly music that accompanied him as he chanted the Psalms.

Speaking of  his first mystical experience Rolle writes "I felt within me a merry and unknown heat...I was expert it was not from a creature but from my Maker, as it grew hotter and more glad." .

 The book was widely read and described the four purgative stages that one had to go through to become closer to God:  Described as open door, heat, song, and sweetness.

 On the contemplative life, he wrote, "There are many active men better than some contemplatives", though, "the best contemplatives are better than the best actives

 Near the end of his life he became the spiritual director for a Cisterian convent. He wrote The Form of Living and his English Psalter for a nun there, Margaret Kirkby and Ego Dormio for a nun at Tedingham. He died in 1349, the first year of the Black Death in  England, which may have been the cause of his death

No comments: