Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ida of Lewis: Mystic of the Golden Age

The Belgian Abbey of La Ramée.
For October 29, the Menology describes one of the more notable women mystics of the Cistercian Golden Age:

At Ramege, Belgium, Blessed Ida of Lewis, Virgin, illustrious for her miracles and prophesies. Among other favours she had the happiness of receiving the Child Jesus from the hands of God the Father, of embracing him, and of pressing Him to her heart. On another occasion, the Holy Virgin herself placed him in her arms; but soon she had a Psalm to intone, and hence, in all simplicity, she besought the little Jesus to look after Himself, because, according to Rule, she was obliged to Chant in ceremony. And the gracious Child hung on to her neck; then, when she had intoned, she received Him upon her knees. In due time, she departed to heaven, leaving beautiful souvenirs of her piety, humility and admirable perfection.

Ida of Lewis or Leeuwen, not to be confused with Ida of Nivelles of the same house or her contemporary at La Ramee, Beatrice of Nazateth, is one of the more notable mystic women of the Cistercian Golden Age, a time when it seems that no abbey was complete without a full complement of visionaries. The Nunraw Menology gives her life as follows:

Even from her childhood she loved study and received an excellent education probably from a group of Beguines. This love of books was further enhanced after she enter the Cistercian convent of La Ramee, where her excellence as an artist of calligraphy found full scope in the convent's scriptorium.

She was endowed with mystical graces many of which centered around the Blessed Sacrament. Subject to many physical illnesses, she spent long periods in the infirmary which she offered as a holocaust of love in a spirit of abandonment and pure faith.

She seems to have spelled her name Y-D-A and she found in it a spiritual significance: "Y is a sharp letter, D is for Deus (God), A is for Amor (love). So Y-D-A (herself) must be sharp, quick, efficient and acute in the love of God."

At the time of her death, which took place on a Sunday as she had desired, she asked the nun attending her to cover her face; but afterwards the nun withdrew the covering, and Ida's whole countenance shone with a glorious light.
Cistercian Women Saints.

At other times, beams of light were said to have come from Ida’s eyes, face, or whole body. Living with such a mystic, or several, sometimes proved disconcerting for other members of the community. Merton records an anecdote to this effect in his biographical sketch of Ida:

Frequently, however, she received the Sacred Host from the hand of the priest, and descended the altar steps in such a dazed and ecstatic condition that she wandered out of her place in line and could not find her way back. When the sisters had passed around the altar and paused, on the other side, to receive the Precious Blood, through a glass tube, administered in a chalice by the deacon, Ida was already too far gone to be able to complete her Communion. In the end, she had to be supported and led back to her place in choir. Now since there were two or three others who were affected in the same way, in this community, the thing became rather a nuisance. The good order of the community was threatened, and it was a great distraction to those who had to struggle to keep recollected and make their Communion in the ordinary way, fighting dryness and lamenting their incapacities, to have to come back from the altar supporting a bevy of happy, irresponsible and completely intoxicated mystics. Consequently the Superioress ordered that any nun who could not receive Communion more or less according to the Cistercian usages would have to do without it.