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The Thirst of God

Contemplating God's Love with Three Women Mystics

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Westminster John Knox Press
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"There is a rich tradition of wonderful women and other contemplatives who are great resources for thinking differently about Christianity. They emphasize divine love, human compassion, and the radical possibilities of contemplative practices. They were not afraid to criticize the church and indeed thought of their challenge as crucial to their faith. We do not have to lose faith in the beautiful wisdom of this story of intimate and compassionate love, dwelling among us and within us."
—from the acknowledgments and note to readers

To those seeking a more open, progressive approach to Christian faith, the Christian past can sometimes seem like a desert, an empty space devoid of encouragement or example. Yet in the latter years of the Middle Ages a quiet flowering of a more accessible, positive approach to Christian belief took place among a group of female mystics, those who emphasized an immediate, nonhierarchical experience of the divine.

In this enlightening volume, Wendy Farley eloquently brings the work of three female mystics—Marguerite Porete, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Julian of Norwich—into creative conversation with contemporary Christian life and thought. From alternatives to the standard, violent understandings of the atonement, to new forms of contemplation and prayer, these figures offer us relevant insights through a theology centered on God's love and compassion. Farley demonstrates how these women can help to refresh and expand our awareness of the depth of divine love that encompasses all creation and dwells in the cavern of every human heart.

Wendy Farley is Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality and Rice Family Professor of Spirituality in the Graduate School of Theology, University of Redlands. .
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"Mechthild, Marguerite, and Julian are some of the neglected treasures of Christian theology. Accept Farley's invitation to journey with them into the depths of God's love!"
— Amy Plantinga Pauw, Henry P. Mobley Jr. Professor of Doctrinal Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

"While historians have recovered these great Beguine mystics, Wendy Farley is the first constructive theologian to channel these women's wisdom from their medieval context into ours. She reads them so glowingly, so tenderly, so needfully, that she lures the reader-whether undergraduate, seminarian or scholar-into a contemplative activity: a loving adventure of love itself."
— Catherine Keller, Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew University, and author of The Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement

"This fierce and tender book enacts the teaching of great medieval writers on divine love—of Mechthild, Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich. We call these writers "mystics," but it would be better to recognize them as story-tellers of every passionate life with God. Certainly Wendy Farley tells their teachings with passion, giving her voice—giving her compassionate desire—to their inheritance."
—Mark Jordan, Harvard University

"Written in an engaging, available style, Wendy Farley's The Thirst of God ushers us into the worlds of three women theologians from the Middle Ages—Marguerite Porete, Mechthild of Madgeburg, and Julian of Norwich. It also tells the story of the Beguines, lay sisterhoods that began in the 12th century whose communities were called 'schools of love.' This ground-breaking book just might make you think differently about the hard-edged dogmatism that has often characterized Christian thought. It might encourage you to engage in contemplative practices. Most of all, it invites you to reclaim the most essential of all theological truths—that we are loved by God. Even the footnotes in this book are not to be missed!"
—Joanna Adams, Presbyterian Minister

"In an age where disillusionment with the institutional church is rampant and the message that 'love wins' is thought to be a new idea, Wendy Farley invites us into the minds and hearts of three mystics who, centuries ago, lost their lives in service to this very conviction. Farley explores the thought and passions of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite de Porete, and Julian of Norwich, inviting her readers into their belief that, though the teachings of the church are of some value, our experiences of the Trinity's capaciousness override any doctrines of sin, salvation, and judgment that compromise on the unconditional love of God.I know of no work circulating today that more ably and beautifully reclaims 'heretical' ideas from the past as remedies for the hatefulness and hypocrisies of the present. In my view, Farley in this book joins hands with these three courageous and faithful women in the healing work of Lady Love."
—Cynthia L. Rigby, Austin Presbyterian Seminary

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