The tact of preparation calls for the contact of communion. Then, the bodily signs achieve their goal. The bodies which prepared for union consummate it in incorporation[1]. By a liturgical act which leads Christ to his perfect end, he "saves face"[2] by incorporating the Church to himself. By going to the very end of a behavior inspired by the divina pietas, he "saves the face" of God by saving the face of humans. When the "ritualized bodies" of the Bridegroom and the bride are united at the table of communion, the rite of eucharistic interaction is perfectly achieved.


What are the fruits of this sacramental union praised by The Herald of God’s Loving-Kindness? To account for them, once again we will follow the text very closely, first considering it at the level of the inner paradigm constituted by the relationship Jesus-Christ-Gertrud of Helfta. Then, we will try to highlight the fruits by looking at other actors, seeking to understand who is affected by Gertrud’s communion to the Body and Blood of Christ. We are thus led to distinguish two effects of eucharistic communion: one having a "salutary and eschatological" nature which unfolds and specifies motives of encouragement to communion, as mentioned in a previous conference. The other effect has an "ecclesial" nature, in which the role of the sacrament, understood as sacramentum unionis (to follow Saint Bonaventure), is “to unite better (to Christ and his members) those who are already united to him”[3]. The first effect corresponds in part to what Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the res significata et contenta, and the second to what he calls the res significata et non contenta[4].







Among all the adjectives given by the Herald to the sacramentum, vivificum is her favorite[5]. It is difficult to know if Gertrud received it from the tradition or if she is at the origin of it. We almost never find this word in Saint Thomas Aquinas. However, in the tractate on the Eucharist in the Summa Theologica, there is a reference to Saint Cyril with a close expression: vivificativum. And it is precisely to consider the effect of the sacrament from the point of view of what it contains (res significata et contenta): "God's life-giving Word (Vivificativum Dei Verbum) by uniting Himself with His own flesh, made it to be productive of life (vivificativam). For it was becoming that He should be united somehow with bodies through His sacred flesh and precious blood, which we receive in a life-giving blessing (vivificativam) in the bread and wine."[6] It is exactly in that sense that one must understand vivificum sacramentum in The Herald. By receiving it, Gertrud lived and revived "by the power of the divine and human natures" (a virtute humanitatis simul et divinitatis, Book 3,18,6 p.72. L3,18,6,6-7) of Jesus Christ, "as a dried plant flowers again under a refreshing rain" (L4,39,3,14-15).


Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the Eucharist, vivificum sacramentum, life-giving sacrament, has two effects: "it is given by way of food and drink. And therefore this sacrament does for the spiritual life all that material food does for the bodily life, namely, by sustaining, giving increase, restoring, and giving delight"[7]. Without denying this statement, the passages of The Herald related to the Eucharist[8] reveal that for Gertrud, the "delight" goes far beyond the other benefits of restoring. The restoring effect of the Eucharist, understood as a medicine for sin and carelessness, is, on the contrary, almost absent from The Herald. It surfaces only three times at the moment of the consecration (L3,14,4; L4,39,1; L4,40), and three times at the moment of the communion (L4,23,2; L4,28). Is it because in Gertrud’s thought, the purification of sins and carelessness is better situated in the "preparation" and especially in the "bath of confession"? For actually, even if The Herald rarely alludes to it, it was certainly very usual for the nuns of Helfta on the days when they were to receive communion (L3,14,4). The presentation of the seven sacraments in L3,60 seems to confirm this conception, to the extent that the medicinal aspect of the sacraments does not appear in it, except for confession which frees from sin. This gives a sacramental vision more focused on the end already given than on the means to reach it. It also explains the apocalyptic, eschatological, and "surrealist" form of Gertrud’s way of writing. She saw the future in the present of the liturgy. And finally, this is not without any effect on the influence of sacramental life even on the body (L3,12,2,5-9; L3,50,1,10-11; L4,55,6)[9], thus avoiding an unwarranted dichotomy between the spiritual and carnal dimensions of humanity.





Twenty-six passages related to the Eucharist present sacramental communion as an experience which brings pleasure and delight. It is an impressive illustration of what Gertrud asserts as early as the second chapter of The Herald: "I do not remember having ever enjoyed (fruitionem) such fulfillment (of union and sweetness) except on the days when you invited me to taste the delights of your royal table" (Book 2,2,2 p.104. L2,2,2,20-22). Right after the narrative of her conversion, (Book 2,1) readers are led to the eucharistic banquet, the privileged place where the pietas reveals itself. So from the beginning of The Herald, we find sacramental communion considered from the point of view of "fruitio". Gertrud will never turn back. To the very last chapters of Book 5, the eucharistic table attracts her unfailingly. Fruitio on the stage for the days of communion, and fruitio in the wings for the days of abstention, were freely granted to her to renew in her the joyful delight of being united with God.


There is more to it, and that is where Saint Gertrud’s theological discourse differs again from Saint Thomas Aquinas’s. As long as the "fruitio" is considered as a possible effect on the person who receives communion, The Herald is close to the Summa. But it is different when it considers the effect of communion on Jesus Christ himself. Distancing itself from the Summa, it is then closer to the revelation itself, especially in its "aesthetic"[10] aspect. Actually, what is the point of humans being affected by God, if God himself is not affected by humans? If God is indifferent to what is happening on the stage of humanity, why did he come on it? Why did he become flesh? Why did he choose to stay on the stage, under the sacramental form, rather than enjoining humans to seek him, outside the world and outside their bodies, in the wings of absence? The Herald answers all these existential questions by the revelation itself: the joy of God is to find delight with the children of men (Pro 8:31 quoted in Book 3,18,11 p.75. L3,18,11,12-13 and Book 3,77,1 p.218. L3,77,1,8-9). Speculative intelligence cannot be satisfied with this answer except by becoming a contemplative intelligence. By renouncing the explanations of worldly wisdom, readers of The Herald are called to know the holy folly of pietas Dei, as Gertrud herself did. Here are some examples:



a)  Book 3,18,17 p.77:


On a day of sacramental communion, the Lord said to Gertrud:


"Know that I longed for you with my whole heart'. Then she said, 'Lord, what glory does your divinity delight (delectatur) to gain from my chewing your spotless sacraments with my unworthy teeth?' The Lord replied, 'The love of one’s own heart makes a friend’s words delightful; thus I consider that, out of my own love, I delight (delector) to take pleasure in certain things for which my chosen have sometimes little taste".


You have noticed the vocabulary of desire and delectatio, joined to a sacramental sensualism, a distant after effect of Berenger’s heresy. But does that mean that we should make anthropomorphism responsible for all that? Is not the desire here expressed along the same line as Jesus’ desire, when he said to his disciples: "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15)? And is not the delectatio of the same vein as Wisdom delighting with the children of men? In both cases, God himself is moved and chooses to be so. For his glory and his joy, he created humans desirable and delightful to the extent of willing to be in the state of sacramental death inside them.


b)  Book 3,50,2 p.157-158:


The title of this chapter is very significant: "The delight of the Lord’s senses in her soul" (De delectatione sensuum Domini in anima). It narrates a dialogue between Gertrud and the Lord, on a day of sacramental communion:


"‘What, oh most courteous lover, (Gertrud said), can you find in me, the dregs of creation, in which you could take any pleasure (delecteris)?’ The Lord replied: 'The gaze of my divinity takes pleasure in a manner beyond human understanding (inaestimabili modo delectatur) in looking upon you, whom I created, in your many and various gifts of my graces, so acceptable to me in every way. My divine hearing too is affected (afficitur) as if by the most delightful musical instruments in all and from all the words of your mouth with which you cajole me, whether praying for sinners or for souls in purgatory, whether correcting some people, or teaching, or offering some word in whatever way to my praise. Even if no further profit results in someone from this, none the less from your good will and intention directed at me it echoes with a sweet sound in my ears and moves to the depths the inmost being of my divine Heart. Also your hope, by which you sigh for me, exhales the delight of a most pleasing perfume (suavissimi odoris delectamentum) to my sense of smell. All your groans and desires, too, taste sweeter to me (dulciter sapiunt) than all spices. Your love, too, offers me the pleasure of a most delightful embrace (delectamentum suavissimi amplexus)" (p.158).


Is there any better way to honor the creature than showing the Creator in contemplation before it? And all the more as he contemplates it by applying all his senses. Christ the Lord has not lost anything of the sensitivity of Jesus of Nazareth. On the contrary, he made it perfect by his death and resurrection. Paraphrasing one of Pascal’s thoughts, one could say that in the Eucharist, Christ made humans forever sensitive to the Heart of God, and God sensitive to the human heart[11]. The human fructio and the divine delight are one in Christ.


c)  Book 4,38 (p.410-413) L 4,36 :


"On the Feast of the Ascension, as the Saint prepared herself in the morning to offer the most tender love and devotion to our Lord, at the hour of his Ascension, he said to her: “Give me now all the testimonies of joy which you are prepared to give me at the hour of my Ascension; for all the joy which I then experienced will be renewed in me, as I am about to enter into you by the august and holy sacrament of the altar.” (Book 4,38 p.410-411. L4,36,1,5-9).


A note in the Sources Chrétiennes edition gives this commentary: "The Eucharist completely renews the Pascal mystery. The Lord re-lives, as it were, the joys of his Ascension in the sacramental encounter"[12].


Other pages of The Herald, already quoted, could be added to these to witness the delectatio of the Lord in sacramental communion: the parable of the king’s son in Book 3,77 (p.218-219), and the one of the Bridegroom pining for embraces and kisses in L5,28,2, are among the most expressive ones. It would be good to go back to them.






The eucharistic orientation of The Herald, as well as its language, lead us now to consider Gertrud’s mysticism in her sensitivity. Others did it before us. Pierre Doyère, especially, showed how "Saint Gertrud’s spiritual and mystic life, ...essentially christological,...and lived in a perspective of Incarnation, ... invites theologians to seek an explanation of the spiritual senses somewhat different from Origen’s distinction about the structure of the soul. Her life suggests a kind of harmonious osmosis between the activity of the body senses and the knowledge of the invisible, in the ultimate unity of the human composite. This would let us found, on the diversity of the body senses themselves, a diversity in the 'sensation of the divine', as it is conceived by the doctrine of the spiritual senses itself"[13].


Without going further in this seeking, considering our reflection up to now we would like to draw the attention on what one could call the eucharistic structuration of sensitivity in The Herald. Our previous conferences have led us on that way. Gertrud’s sensitivity, as well as the Lord’s, is undoubtedly satisfied only on the days of sacramental communion. It means that for Saint Gertrud, each of the senses finds its nourishment in the Eucharist, but according to an order which follows the order of the celebration. All the senses are called to be moved (commovere) in the presence of the Mystery, but the door is not open at the same time for each of them. They do not appear simultaneously on the stage. Here we have to recall a "lesson" that Gertrud received from the Lord, on a day of communion:


"Another time, during the distribution of the sacrament, she strongly desired to see the host and was prevented from doing so by the crowds of those approaching the altar. She understood that the Lord was gently inviting her and saying, 'The sweet secret that concerns us must be unknown to those who are far from me. But you – if it pleases you to know – draw near and experience the taste of that hidden manna, not by seeing but by eating (non videndo sed gustando)" (Book 3,18,18 p.77. L3,18,18).


The "lesson" of this passage means that the sweet secret (suave secretum) of the Eucharist is more directed to the taste then to the seeing (non videndo sed gustando). It seems that Pierre Doyère did not see this perspective in the sacramental pietas which is discretely present in all The Herald, though never systematically exposed. Nevertheless, by noticing that "the touch is the most important sense for the bridal mysticism", he had already started in the way which allows us to consider the taste as the inner touch par excellence. The "hidden manna" cannot be touched, but it can be tasted. In the chewing of the pictures (Book 2,24,1 p.172-173. L2,24,1,15), as well as in the chewing of the sacrament (Book 3,18,18 p.77), its sweet secret (suave secretum) is shared only with the one who knows how to taste it.


If this sensitive lesson can be extended to the entire Herald, as we think, we would find again in Saint Gertrud’s eucharistic experience (which is not different from the eucharistic experience of the Church itself), the symbolic abridgement of the whole apostolic experience. As a matter of fact, one can say that the public ministry of Jesus to his disciples was first directed to their eyes and ears, before being directed to their hands and mouths. Before hearing: "take this all of you, and eat it, this is my body", the disciples heard: "Come and see". In the Christian pedagogy, as in the eucharistic mistagogy, seeing and hearing come before touching and eating. The Word which gives itself to be heard (the liturgy of the Word), then to be seen in the sacramentum of the covenant (elevation), lets himself be taken and tasted by the Ecclesia, as the vivificum sacramentum, only at the moment of communion. In other words: one must be faithful to the "follow me" of the first hour, when the exteriora (ears and eyes) are concerned, as the disciples were, as they left everything to follow Jesus, to reach the "follow me" of the last hour, when the interiora are concerned, and when the obedience of the disciples goes as far as taking the body and making it enter the place where the Master wants to abide: inside humans, by the act of the eucharistic chewing. The wide embrace of the vision must go through the narrow embrace of the chewing, so that humans can see God as God wants to be seen. The apostolic and the eucharistic experience join in the experience of any love, as Jesus dares to confide in Gertrud :


"Too great a closeness sometimes hinders friends, so that they see one another less clearly. For instance, when someone is united with another, as usually happens with kissing and embracing, the pleasure of seeing one another is impeded for a while" (Book 1,17,1 p.94. L1,17,1,4-8).


Let us comment on what has just been quoted: the more love unites, the more it makes lovers close; the less they see one another, the more they taste one another. The logic of this sensory and apostolic pedagogy, not without any link with the mystagogy which has its summit in the eucharistic communion, opens onto an availability of humans for God, in the way of Mary’s own availability. This is the ultimate goal of the pietas Dei: to make the whole Ecclesia, and each of her members, the Temple in which God delights.





If the attention of the readers does not slacken, if they willingly enter into the play of the images of the pietas Dei, they understand that the whole dynamism of the eucharistic celebration as presented in The Herald, seeks and succeeds in giving to humankind its true figure: Mary, the one who in her flesh consented to the Word of God to the point of giving him birth so that in him the world might be saved and might praise the glory of God. There is a perfect continuity between the mystery of Mary welcoming in her flesh the Word of God, and the mystery of the Church receiving in communion the sacrament of the Word made flesh. Both Mary and the Church open themselves without reservation to the overflowing of the pietas which "saves the face" of God in the flesh of the world. The "Amen" of the Church at the moment of communion is the faithful echo of Mary’s "Fiat", on the day of the Annunciation. The Word, who by the power of the Holy Spirit entered the body of the Immaculate, is the same Word who, in the sacrament of his body and blood, joins the Church of the baptized. He wants to be at the heart of the world, as he wanted to be forever in the heart of Mary.


This royal enthronement of the Son of God, of which Mary is the perfect figure, was lived by Gertrud in her heart at the moment of communion. It is not by chance that The Herald uses the same image to present the radiance of the only Son of the Father delighting in the immaculate heart of the Virgin his Mother (Book 4,3 p.308-313. L4,3,4), and the splendor of Jesus Christ in the heart and soul of his beloved Gertrud, at the moment of communion (Book 3,18,6,7-9 p.73-74; Book 3,37,1 p.129-130. L3,37,1,31ss). The virgin of Helfta and the virgin of Nazareth are both the very pure crystal which contains gold, the symbol for the Son of God. In both of them can be performed "such marvelous and delightful works, beyond what could possibly be imagined" (Book 3,37,1 p.130. L3,37,1,35-36), the delightful joys which satisfy the Holy Trinity and all the saints (Book 3,18,6 p.73. L3,18,6,9-11; Book 3,37,1 p.130. L3,37,1,36-40). The whole mystical Body itself is associated to the sharing of the fruit in this banquet of joy (Book 3,18,6 p.73. L3,18,6,11-25). The nun, with her heart made Eucharist, is here at the peak of her mission. Between her and Mary, there is now only likeness through imitation. It is a likeness in acts. Both are made Eucharist by the penetration of the same Mystery in them. The whole Ecclesia, symbolized in Mary, receives a new figure in Gertrud, as the Lord himself testified on a day of communion:


I give "myself, wholly, and completely, with all my divine power, just as when my Virgin Mother conceived me[1]" (Book 3,36,1 p.128. L3,36, 1,2-4).


The Lord had already made it known to one of her friends:


"There is nowhere on earth where you can find me more lovingly than in the sacrament of the altar, and consequently in the heart and soul of this woman who loves me, to whom I miraculously direct all the delight (totum delectamentum) of my divine Heart" (Book 1,3,3 p.47. L1,3,3,30-33).


As a matter of fact, Jesus knows that her heart is freely at his disposal. Her heart is like Mary’s, and it is ecclesial. It is like a vase that he can "pour in and pour out whenever he wishes, for whomever he pleases" (Book 3,30,2 p.104. L3,30,2,10ss). Saint Gertrud offered it to him "with her entire will" (Book 3,30,2 p.103. L3,30,2,3), on the day when he said to her:


" 'Give me your heart, beloved'. When she gladly did so, it seemed to her that the Lord laid it to his own divine Heart like a water pipe (in similitudine canalis) and thus reached the earth. By this means he spread the streams of his boundless loving-kindness far and wide (per quod emissiones suae incontinentis pietatis large diffundebat), saying: 'Look, from now on I always take delight (delector) to use your heart as a water pipe (canali). Through it I may pour out to all who work to receive the pressure of that infusion, that is, who with humility and trust ask you for the broad streams of divine consolation from the honey-sweet torrent of my Heart" (larga fluenta de torrente mellifui Cordis mei profundam), (Book 3,66,1 p.187)[14].


There would be much to say on this passage. Let us just keep in mind for our next point, the rich vocabulary of “liquidity”. We already know that The Herald takes from this vocabulary the basic metaphors of the divina pietas in its act of revelation. It is through these images that we are now led to consider the ecclesial effect of communion as the vivificum sacramentum.







Saint Bonaventure’s notion of sacramentum unionis, though not present in The Herald, is certainly closer to Gertrud’s vivificum sacramentum than Augustine’s sacramentum unitatis[15]. For her as for Bonaventure, the union with the members of Christ depends on the union with Christ himself. Several parables of The Herald bear witness to this. We will present the ones which seem the most characteristic to us:



1 -  THE TREE OF THE TRINITY (Book 3,18,5-6 p.71-73) :


This long narrative has the advantage of presenting in the genre of the parable, a whole eucharistic celebration lived by Gertrud, a day when she was receiving communion. We can find in it:

. a liturgy of the word (#5, lines 1-11): taking her inspiration from 1 Sam 18:18, Gertrud compares herself to “a little offshoot” very close to the Divine Heart.

. a penitential liturgy (#5, lines 11-19): “because of her faults of negligence”, the little offshoot “was lying like a tiny burnt-out coal”. Gertrud then prayed Jesus to present her “to be reconciled to God the Father”. He washed her in the water and the blood flowing from his Heart. “She grew in strength” and became “a vigorous green tree whose branches were divided into three, like those of a lily”.

. a liturgy of offering (#5, lines 19-27): the Son of God offered this tree to the Holy Trinity, who granted it to bear the fruits of divine omnipotence, wisdom, and goodness.

. a liturgy of communion (#6, lines 1-9). Here is the passage:


"...when she had received the body of Christ, she saw that her soul, in the likeness of a tree as has been said above, had its root fixed in the wounded side of Jesus Christ. Through that wound, as if through a root, she felt in a new and wonderful way as if she were penetrated by the power of the divine and human natures together through each branch, fruit and leaf simultaneously. As a result the fruit of all his way of life on earth gained a new splendor through her, as gold shines through crystal." (p.72)


. a liturgy of universal communion (#6, lines 9-25). This passage comes right after the one just quoted:


"Thence not only the blessed Trinity but also all the saints received the delight of a wonderful joy. In honor of the tree all rose up and as it were bent the knee, one by one they offered their own merits in the shape of crowns, hanging them on the branches of that tree, to the praise and glory of him who, shining through it with new delight, deigned that they should feel joy. But when she prayed the Lord that at least he would now give to all those in heaven, on earth or in purgatory (who would all by right have had the benefit from the fruit of her works if she had not neglected them) the benefit of the fruits bestowed on her by the divine goodness, each kind in which the fruit of the tree appeared began to exude a most potent liquor. Part, flowing onto those in heaven, piled up their joy; part, flowing into purgatory, lessened their pains; part, flowing to the earth, increased sweetness of grace for the righteous and bitterness of penitence for sinners." (p.72-73)


The story of this little offshoot which became a tree is interesting on many levels:


. By telling Gertrud’s eucharistic history, it tells the history of a woman who considered and understood herself only in the Church (in persona ecclesiae, L4,16,6). This little offshoot is as much, and even more, the Church than Gertrud.

. Besides the image of gold shining through crystal, the relationship to Mary, an eschatological type of the Church, is highlighted by the Trinitarian likeness of this tree to the lily having three petals. In The Herald, it symbolizes Mary, "the white lily of the Trinity" (Book 3,19,3 p.83. L3,19,3).

. The images of liquidity are abundant: the vivifying bath in the water and blood coming from the Heart of Jesus; and above all, what we are interested in here, the ecclesial effect of the eucharistic communion under the form of a distillation of fruit, from which flowed a most potent liquor (efficacissimum liquorem desudare) in three parts (defluens is repeated three times), on the inhabitants of heaven by increasing their joy, on those in purgatory by lessening their pains, and on those on earth, by increasing sweetness of grace for the righteous and bitterness of penitence for sinners.



2 -  THE GREEN AND FLOURISHING BRANCHES (Book 4,41 p.419. L 4,39):


This passage narrates what happened during the Eucharist, the Monday after Pentecost. The passage begins at the elevation: “It appeared to her that the sacred Host emitted a number of branches, which were collected by the Holy Spirit and placed in the form of a hedge round the throne of the Ever-Blessed Trinity. From this she understood that the excellence and dignity of this great sacrament supplied fully for all her negligences." (Book 4,41 p.419. L4,39,1,4-10). The theatrical quality of the narrative gets even better at the moment of communion:


" she approached the Holy Communion, the saints rose up before her with honor and joy, and she saw that the light of their merits shone gloriously, even as a shield of gold shines when exposed to the rays of the sun; and the reflection of this light shone into her soul. Saint Gertrud then remained in the presence of God, as if in expectation, because she had not yet obtained the grace of being united to him. At last, after communion, her soul was united to this Divine Spouse with such plenitude, that she enjoyed (plena fruitione) his presence in the most perfect manner possible in this world. Then the branches of which we have already spoken, with which the Holy Spirit had surrounded the throne of the Ever-Blessed Trinity, began to shoot forth green leaves and flowers, even as a plant flourishes after abundant rain, so that the ever-peaceful Trinity found ineffable pleasure (inaestimabili modo delectata) therein, and all the saints experienced new delights." (Book 4,41 p.419-420. L4,39,3).


This parable is a variation on the previous one, with the same kind of metaphor on the vegetal life and liquidity. You have noticed the link between consecration and communion: the former is fulfilled in the latter, as is signified through the branches which appear at the moment of consecration, and shoot forth at the moment of communion. Let us be especially attentive to the ecclesial staging of communion: we can already perceive it in the intentions of prayer which accompany the singing of the Agnus Dei (the first is sung for the whole Church, the second for the faithful departed, and the third for all the saints, Book 4,41 p.419. L4,39,2). But it is even more obvious when the "star" approaches to receive communion. Then the light of the saints’ merits shine on her. The very moment of communion is staged as it were from life, with the usual vocabulary of fruitio. The effect of this communion showers[2] (inundantiam pluviae salutaris) the Holy Trinity with ineffable pleasure (inaestimabili modo delectata), and all the saints with new delights (novae jucunditatis delectamenta).



3 -  THE KING’S VISIT TO THE QUEEN (Book 3,18,24 p.79-80) :


Here, the ecclesial effect is taught by the Lord to Gertrud in a royal and nuptial context:


"Just as when a king lives in his palace, access is not readily granted to everyone but when, vanquished by love for the queen who lives nearby (cum amore reginae prope habitantis devictus), he deigns to descend from his palace into the city in order to visit her, all the citizens and inhabitants of that city, by reason of the queen, enjoy more easily and freely the generosity of his regal magnificence and rejoice in his riches; so when I am vanquished by the goodness and sweetness of my Heart (dulcedine Cordis mei convictus), I bend down through the life-giving Sacrament of the Altar to any if the faithful who is without mortal sin, and to all who dwell in heaven, on earth and in purgatory is granted the increase of an inestimable blessing". (p.80)


This passage confirms the previous ones: we find in it the same cosmological distinction (heaven, earth, and purgatory) to describe the extent of the sacramental contact. The participles devictus and convictus remind us of the theme of "God vanquished by love". We had already perceived its importance in The Herald, when we studied the linguistic context of pietas.



4 -  THE MOST PRECIOUS  ELECTRUM  (Book 3,10,2 p.47-48) :


We already presented this passage when we dealt with the causes for abstention from sacramental communion. Once again, we notice in it the presence of the themes of liquidity and fruitio. The Lord promises to Gertrud, if she receives communion, "to enjoy his most loving sweetness" (amicissima dulcedine mea fruereris), and to be "melted by the fire of his godhead" (ex fervore divinitatis meae liquefacta). She would "flow into him just as gold is fused with silver. From this she would have a most precious alloy (electrum) which she could most worthily offer God the Father to his eternal praise, and all the saints would have most fully their complete reward" (p.47).



Other passages of The Herald show how Gertrud enjoys particularizing some communions for such or such a saint, or category of saints, whose merits she is adorned with. It is the case for Mary, for instance, on the day of her Assumption (Book 4,49 p.432. L4,48,21), for the apostle James (Book 4,48 p.430. L4,47,2), and for the angels (Book 4,54 p.462. L4,53,1). In every case, Gertrud offers to the Lord the vivificum sacramentum as eternal praise and to increase the joy, glory, and beatitude of the saint (or saints) whose feast is celebrated on that day. The Latin formula is approximately in laudem aeternam et in augmentum gaudii et gloriae et beatitudinis (ipsorum). Sometimes, this augmentum aims at the "merits" of the saints themselves, so that one day, on the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul, as she was surprised to see that her communion had increased the merits (de virtute communionis videbatur meritum sanctorum augmentari, Book 4,45, p.426. L4,44,2,5-7)[16] of those princes, she let the Lord teach her through a parable:


"For the queen it is enough to receive the honor of being united to the king, and yet she is even more proud and joyful about the marriage of her daughter. In the same way, all the saints participate in the happiness of the soul who receives with devotion the sacrament of the altar" (L4,44,2,10-14[3]).


The ecclesial aspect of Gertrud’s communions is not limited to the inhabitants of heaven. It is extended to the inhabitants on earth and in purgatory, as testify the first three parables presented. Many times, in other passages, Jesus himself assures her beloved of it. For instance in Book 3,18,4 (p.71), "when she was approaching communion while she greatly desired to be worthily prepared by the Lord, ... he caressed her with these words":


"Look, I am now donning you like a garment so that I can stretch out my tender hand unharmed among rough sinners, to bless them. Also I am clothing you with myself so that you may draw all those whom you bring before my presence in your mindfulness, or rather all those who are like you in nature, to that honor so that I can bless them in accordance with my royal generosity." (p.71)


We find the echo to these words in Book 3,18,25 and 26 (p.80-81): "entering into the union of the Son of God’s descent to limbo to lay it waste, it seemed to her that she descended to the depths of purgatory. And there, sinking down as much as she could, she understood that the Lord was saying to her, 'In the reception of the sacrament I shall draw you towards me in such a way that you will draw with you all to whomsoever the fragrance of your desires extends, that clings ineffable to your garments". (p.80) What follows goes beyond the most generous expectations of Gertrud and places us before the inexhaustible abyss of God’s loving-kindness:


"...whenever at the reception of the sacrament she longed that the Lord would grant her as many souls from purgatory as the number of parts into which the host was broken in her mouth, and consequently tried to break it up into very many parts, the Lord said to her, 'That you may understand that the effects of my mercy are more than all my works and that there is no one who can exhaust the abyss of my loving-kindness, look, I grant that by the ransom of this life-giving sacrament you shall receive much more than you venture to pray for". (p.81)


[1] The published English translation reads here: « just as my Virgin Mother received me. »

[2] This passage has been understood differently in the published English translation.

[3] This is my translation, as the published version is very much shortened.




[1] . The word incorporatio is in Saint Gertrud’s  Spiritual Exercises: SC 127, p. 72, 1. 190.


[2] . Some of our expressions come from Erving GOFFMAN’s sociological vocabulary. We presented them in previous conferences.


[3] . Pierre-Marie GY, La liturgie dans l’histoire, Paris, Cerf 1990,  p. 259.


[4] . Saint THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa Theologica, 3a Pars, q. 80, a. 4, c.


[5] . Cf. Olivier QUENARDEL, La Communion Eucharistique dans le Héraut de l’Amour Divin de sainte Gertrude d’Helfta, Brepols 1997, pp. 107-113.


[6] . Saint THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., 3a Pars, q. 79, a. 1, c.


[7] . Saint THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., 3a Pars, q. 79, a. 1, c.


[8] . Cf. Olivier QUENARDEL, op. cit, pp. 167-203.


[9] . On the apocalyptic, eschatological, and surrealist form of Saint Gertrud’s language, and on the place of the body in her works, see Maria-Teresa PORCILE, Liturgie CFC, 1990/4, pp. 220-255.


[10] . We use the word in the sense it has for H.-U. VON BALTHASAR, when he comments on the Preface for the Nativity. Cf. La gloire et la croix, T 1, Paris, Aubier 1965, p. 99.


[11] . « It is the heart which feels God, and not reason. This is faith. God is sensitive to the heart, not to reason. » Blaise PASCAL, « Pensée 424 », dans Pensées, Paris, Seuil 1962, p. 192. The English version of Thought 424 has a different text.


[12] . SC 255, p. 303, n. 1.


[13] . Pierre DOYERE, « Sainte Gertrud et les sens spirituels », Revue d’ascétique et mystique 36, 1960, pp. 445-446.


[14] . We have to notice the likeness between this passage of The Herald in which the Lord says he uses Gertrud’s heart as a « water pipe » to pour out on the earth the torrent of his boundless goodness, and Saint Bernard’s sermon for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary: he compares her to an aqueduct which pours out on humanity the water of divine grace. Cf. Sancti BERNARDI OPERA, Sermones II, Romae, Editiones Cistercienses 1968, pp. 275-288. Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary #4, pp.284 and following, in Saint Bernard’s Sermons for the Seasons and Principal Festivals of the Year, vol III. Westminster: The Carroll Press, 1950.


[15] . P.-M. GY (op.cit., p. 259) thinks that Saint Bonaventure’s notion of sacramentum unionis sets the content of Saint Augustine’s expression of sacramentum unitatis « in a sense apparently closer to Dionysus, and reinforces its aspect of union with Christ ».


[16] . We can read in SC 255, p. 323, n. 2 : « For Saint Gertrud, as for classical Latin, the word meritum has a much broader meaning that the French [or English, adds the translator] word ‘mérite’/ ‘merit’. It is at the same time a merit (a right, a title), and what we have done to merit it (for instance a favor we have done to someone), and the consequence of this merit, that is reward or punishment. We could find examples of these various meanings in The Herald».