Isaac the Syrian vs. Mechtild of Magdeburg

Why is this day unique in the annals of Lent Madness 2017? It is the ONLY non-weekday battle of the season. Yes, we’re amazing at math. Thus the first Saturday of every season includes the one and only weekend battle of Lent Madness (trust us – we’ve done the math).

Yesterday Henry Beard Delany romped to a first round victory over Aelred of Rievaulx 78%  to 22%. He’ll go on to face the winner of Anselm of Canterbury vs. Florence Nightingale in the Saintly Sixteen.

Enjoy your Sunday devotions on the First Sunday in Lent (make sure to tell everybody at coffee hour just how much you love Lent Madness) and we’ll get back to voting first thing Monday Morning as John Wycliffe takes on Moses the Black!

Isaac the Syrian

Isaac the Syrian, also know as Isaac of Nineveh, was born around 630 in eastern Arabia. At a young age he entered a monastery, where he dedicated himself to asceticism—a practice of withdrawing from the world in order to build a deeper spiritual life. Having spent countless hours studying in the monastery’s library, he became a renowned theologian.

After spending years as a monk, Isaac was consecrated Bishop of Nineveh, but he didn’t enjoy his new office and abdicated five months later. He then relocated to the wilderness of Mount Matout, where he lived as a hermit in solitude for many years. It is said that he ate only three loaves of bread and some uncooked vegetables each week. Old and blind, he eventually retired to the Assyrian monastery of Shabar in Mesopotamia, where he died and was buried.

Isaac was a prolific writer whose sermons about the inner spiritual life and the work of the Holy Spirit are considered key to understanding asceticism in the early church. His manuscripts in Syrian Arabic have survived for many centuries in Greek, Arabic, and Russian translations. His teachings about God’s providence, faith, prayer, obedience, and neighborly love have inspired generations of Christians and continue to be translated and published in many languages.

Because he avoided weighing in on the theological debates of his day, he is venerated and appreciated in many different Christian traditions, including the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the (non-Chalcedonian) Oriental churches. His feast is celebrated on January 28.

Collect for Isaac the Syrian
God of unsearchable wisdom, we thank you for the spirited life of our brother Isaac the Syrian, who wrote and prayed in companionship with you alone. Help us, like Isaac, relentlessly seek your wisdom and adore your face as you show it to us in the faces of our neighbors, family, friends, and all those who may be different from us. Amen.

-Hugo Olaiz

Mechtild of Magdeburg

Born to a wealthy Saxon family around 1210, Mechtild of Magdeburg received the first of the daily visions that would come to her for the rest of her life at the tender age of 12. She called these her divine “greetings” from the Holy Spirit.

Leaving her family in 1230 “in order to dwell in the love of God,” she joined a Beguine community in Magdeburg, Germany. These intentional communities of the faithful stressed imitation of Christ’s life through religious devotion, voluntary poverty, and care of the poor and sick.

Dwelling in community in Magdeburg for forty years, Mechtild received spiritual instruction from the Dominicans. Mechtild’s confessor, Heinrich von Halle, encouraged her to write down her spiritual experiences and visions. From about 1250 until 1270, she wrote six of her seven volumes series, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of the Godhead).

Mechtild’s descriptions of her daily visions are filled with passion. Besides being written by a woman when most women were neither literate nor educated, Mechtild composed her work in middle-low German while most religious literature was being written in Latin.

Mechtild’s devotional poetry is reminiscent of both love poetry and folk songs. Her books offer an account of the ecstatic, passionate experience of personal daily greetings from the Holy Spirit, in addition to her courageous condemnation of vices practiced by the clergy of her day. Mechtild’s writings were distributed widely during her lifetime and brought her much criticism— but her work was also deeply admired by and influential for other medieval mystics. Her writings indicate that Mechtild’s life was complicated by serious illnesses. In approximately 1270, blind and living alone, she was taken in by the convent of Helfta near Eisleben for the final years of her life. While in this community, the nuns cared for her, and she dictated her seventh book.

The exact date of her death in the late 1200s is unknown. Around 1290, Dominican friars of the Halle community translated the first six of her books into Latin. The feast of Mechtild of Magdeburg is November 19.

Collect for Mechtild of Magdeburg
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant, Mechtild of Magdeburg, through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life. Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-Beth Lewis

Isaac the Syrian vs. Mechtild of Magdeburg

  • Mechtild of Magdeburg (77%, 5,394 Votes)
  • Isaac the Syrian (23%, 1,570 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,964

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Isaac the Syrian—Unknown artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Mechtild of Magdeburg—Unknown Artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

252 Comments to "Isaac the Syrian vs. Mechtild of Magdeburg"

  1. Oliver--Nine Years Old's Gravatar Oliver--Nine Years Old
    March 4, 2017 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild because (I don’t know why) she is a girl and was blind.

    • Karen Mills's Gravatar Karen Mills
      March 4, 2017 - 11:42 am | Permalink

      I love to follow your comments, Oliver. Keep it up!

    • Nancy Oliver's Gravatar Nancy Oliver
      March 4, 2017 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Well Oliver- they were both blind- but it’s nice you didn’t exclude her because she was a girl-but instead you liked the diversity. I voted for her too- and I also don’t know why- I didn’t like either choice- just like November for me.

    • Beth Owen's Gravatar Beth Owen
      March 4, 2017 - 4:33 pm | Permalink

      I’m with Oliver

    • Grace Cangialosi's Gravatar Grace Cangialosi
      March 4, 2017 - 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Not to be too picky, Oliver, and I’m glad to see you back, but weren’t you 9 last year?
      I also voted for Mechtild.

  2. Kim Rossi's Gravatar Kim Rossi
    March 4, 2017 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    Good reasons Oliver – I liked her because she was a girl, but I am also a girl and that might have had something to do with my decision. Good to have you back!

    • Elizabeth Oliver's Gravatar Elizabeth Oliver
      March 4, 2017 - 10:11 am | Permalink

      My favorite thing about Mechtild (and possibly the reason she’s not Saint Mechtild) is that she referred to local clergy at one point as pigs feeding at the trough. Read Enduring Grace by Carol Lee Flinders for a good description of her (and six other incredible churchwomen)

      • Michael Shea's Gravatar Michael Shea
        March 4, 2017 - 11:07 am | Permalink

        I liked Mechtild also. I loved the “pigs feeding at the trough” comment — Go Girl!

    • Barbara Price's Gravatar Barbara Price
      March 4, 2017 - 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I voted for Mechtild because I felt sorry for her being blind and having a name like Mechtild. It sounds like someone clearing their throat. I also like her comment about clergy – being one, I know how true it can be.

      • Virginia W. Nagel's Gravatar Virginia W. Nagel
        March 4, 2017 - 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Well, being handicapped should not be a reason. My husband and I are both deaf, live products give lives, pay our taxes, have 3 kids (all can hear), five grandchildren and now a baby greatgrand….and I am a priest too…so I don’t see handicaps or ordination as being inherently worthy of pity parties.

        • Linda c Dunn's Gravatar Linda c Dunn
          March 5, 2017 - 10:41 am | Permalink

          One must look at these persons as a reflection of their times as well as their faith. In her era Mechtild would have been extraordinary in that she was literate; and generally put aside as she aged and became vision challenged. That the order revered her and gave her place and later a scribe for her last work is a reflection of her outward expression of her great inner faith.

          • MommaG's Gravatar MommaG
            March 5, 2017 - 2:05 pm | Permalink

            I agree and thus my vote is Mechtilde also!

        • Nancy Oliver's Gravatar Nancy Oliver
          March 5, 2017 - 3:41 pm | Permalink

          But Isaac the Syrian was also blind- so the disability shouldn’t give anyone the advantage. I have 2 deaf sons. I never cut anyone any slack – they can still do chores and help like everyone else- they are adults now and independent- One of my deaf sons has 2 children. But neither of them are saints!!

  3. Ruth W.Davis's Gravatar Ruth W.Davis
    March 4, 2017 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    Tough choice. I could have voted for either, but Mechtild got it.

    • Ellen Mintzmyer's Gravatar Ellen Mintzmyer
      March 4, 2017 - 11:05 am | Permalink

      I agree. This may have been the most difficult choice for me in all the voting I’ve done over the past years. They both did so much for the contemplative life. Thank God for both of these saints.

  4. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 4, 2017 - 8:15 am | Permalink

    Another easy one for me. I voted for the activist over the Ascetic. Especially this year, this is no time to withdraw to contemplate. We must demonstrate Christ to authorities of fear.

    • Mindy Duryea's Gravatar Mindy Duryea
      March 4, 2017 - 8:24 am | Permalink

      Interesting. I voted for her too but it seem like they both withdrew and lived contemplative lives.

    • Roxann Morin's Gravatar Roxann Morin
      March 4, 2017 - 8:29 am | Permalink

      I agree wholeheartedly. While there is an important place for both, it is vital to lead by word, action and example, particularly now. Thank you for voicing so succinctly what I was thinking.

    • Richard Gatjens's Gravatar Richard Gatjens
      March 4, 2017 - 8:54 am | Permalink

      Well, Lee, you helped me make my decision. Tanks for the insight!

    • Carolyn D. Mack's Gravatar Carolyn D. Mack
      March 4, 2017 - 8:55 am | Permalink

      I so agree! She shows a deeply spiritual life ought to be connected to service in the world.

    • March 4, 2017 - 9:01 am | Permalink

      My wife is a deacon and is very active in immigration issues. As a result of her efforts (along with many other people), our community (Oak Park, IL) has declared itself a Sanctuary City. Yet she would be the first to say that activists need contemplatives. Those who withdraw from the world, by their prayers, give those engaged in the world the power to stand up to injustice and to effect change. God works through all his children in each way that he has called them.

      • kesmarn's Gravatar kesmarn
        March 4, 2017 - 9:54 am | Permalink

        What a terrific comment. Thanks so much!

      • Lynn's Gravatar Lynn
        March 4, 2017 - 10:12 am | Permalink

        That is a very terrific comment – thank you!

      • Mary Taggart's Gravatar Mary Taggart
        March 4, 2017 - 10:39 am | Permalink


        • Patty Park's Gravatar Patty Park
          March 4, 2017 - 11:44 pm | Permalink

          Go Deacons! I was influenced by her poetry, songs and care for others

      • Trey's Gravatar Trey
        March 4, 2017 - 11:54 am | Permalink

        Lovely comment. Thank you. I have a soft spot for ascetics because I just can’t imagine being one. Yet the wisdom they acquire from that intense one on one with God is so valuable for the rest of us. I voted for Isaac the Syrian also because he had the courage and conviction to abdicate his bishopric. What a wrenching decision it must have been. I’ll remember him the next time I face one of those decisions. And… the Syrians need a champion right now.

        • Richard's Gravatar Richard
          March 4, 2017 - 7:17 pm | Permalink

          I agree and I voted for him also, but it seems like we are in the minority.

          • Marti's Gravatar Marti
            March 4, 2017 - 8:37 pm | Permalink

            I think that his Collect is very meaningful in todays environment.

          • Robin's Gravatar Robin
            March 4, 2017 - 8:44 pm | Permalink

            It was hard to choose. I’m all for action vs contemplation. I was drawn to Isaac because his writing has stood the test of time inspiring faith and brotherly love. It’s all about love.

      • Marjorie Kemp's Gravatar Marjorie Kemp
        March 4, 2017 - 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Harlie, wish that many more cities would become Sanctuaries. Here in Tx. they’re trying to get ride of any and stop the institution of others. I don’t feel That is what God would be wanting from us.

      • April Wallace's Gravatar April Wallace
        March 4, 2017 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

        That’s so wonderful!

    • Carol Dorman's Gravatar Carol Dorman
      March 4, 2017 - 10:05 am | Permalink

      I agree with Lee. I am amazed that she wasn’t shunned for criticizing the Priests, especially coming from a female. It’s hard to imagine that there was lieniency in exposing the vices of clergy. I would have expected her to have been burned at the stake.

      • Dawna's Gravatar Dawna
        March 4, 2017 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

        She is about the same time as Hildegard of bingen wasn’t she. I think there were a few really strong mystics in that timeframe and maybe a little earlier. I picked her because women mystics just win for me. Although Isaac could well have one if against someone else. Will have to look up their work!

    • Claire C Thompson's Gravatar Claire C Thompson
      March 4, 2017 - 10:13 am | Permalink

      I am with you. Action is mandatory.

    • Rita Griffith's Gravatar Rita Griffith
      March 4, 2017 - 8:55 pm | Permalink

      I also voted against the ascetic. Too many of them were anti-woman in their writings, though I don’t know that Isaac was. Anyway, between a possible anti-woman ascetic and a woman who lived in community for 40 years, I chose the latter.

  5. Charlyn's Gravatar Charlyn
    March 4, 2017 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Tough vote as both had strange history hard to relate to for me. Voted for the Syrian just because he was Syrian although I know the area of Germany where Mechtild is from – Also her name impossible to pronounce

    • Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
      March 4, 2017 - 10:02 am | Permalink

      I had the same thought. With all the demonization of Syrians and middle easterners in general lately, we need to be reminded of the profound spiritual heritage of the middle east.

      • Janene's Gravatar Janene
        March 4, 2017 - 2:48 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I voted for Isaac because he was Syrian. Syria once had many Christians a one time. His writings must have touched many lives

      • Susan Maurine's Gravatar Susan Maurine
        March 4, 2017 - 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Amen! My thoughts exactly!

  6. Jennifer Mackintosh's Gravatar Jennifer Mackintosh
    March 4, 2017 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    Mechtild of Magdeburg cared for the poor and sick which is why I voted for her.

    • Joanna's Gravatar Joanna
      March 4, 2017 - 9:51 am | Permalink

      I voted for Mechtild for the same reason: she was a caregiver in addition to being a writer. I also like the idea of the Beguines–women living and working together to help others!

  7. Judy Hoover's Gravatar Judy Hoover
    March 4, 2017 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    I really have to vote for Mechtild because she railed against abuses by clergy, she wrote in German so the ordinary people could read, because I am partial to the German people and language and because she had those wonderful visits from the Holy Spirit.

    • Catherine D's Gravatar Catherine D
      March 4, 2017 - 8:47 am | Permalink

      Well said!

    • :Pleasants Tinkler's Gravatar :Pleasants Tinkler
      March 4, 2017 - 7:53 pm | Permalink

      What a wonderful well-balanced Christian and an amazing woman in her time (anytime, also).

  8. Linda McMillan's Gravatar Linda McMillan
    March 4, 2017 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    Isaac seemed the more sane one to me. I voted for him.

    • Patricia McMillan's Gravatar Patricia McMillan
      March 4, 2017 - 8:32 am | Permalink

      Love you answer! Me, too.

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:18 pm | Permalink

      LOL! Ever the pragmatist, Linda. 😉

  9. Meg's Gravatar Meg
    March 4, 2017 - 8:23 am | Permalink

    Mechtild had me when she wrote in the language of the people, not in Latin.

  10. Ann's Gravatar Ann
    March 4, 2017 - 8:24 am | Permalink

    Hard to decide, but as a woman I opted to vote for Mechtild. Now I want to read their work – hope I can find good examples of writing from both these intriguing saints.

  11. Mike Bond's Gravatar Mike Bond
    March 4, 2017 - 8:24 am | Permalink

    Isaac the Syrian has always fascinated me. I find his story and work compelling. And we have a monastery named for him close by. The monks are involved in creating Icons of great beauty and meaning.

  12. March 4, 2017 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    I agree with Lee – faith without works is dead, right? And I think it’s pronounced Mech – tild – as it looks.

  13. Amy C.'s Gravatar Amy C.
    March 4, 2017 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    Both writers, sharing their relationship with God in their own language. Following God’s call, challenging traditional expectations to be unique, they each expressed diverse facets of creation.

    This is a rough choice. shall have to withhold my vote till later.

    Maybe it’s the uniqueness of voting on a weekend that has me unable to choose.

  14. P G's Gravatar P G
    March 4, 2017 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    Isaac, I liked the part in the prayer: seeking his wisdom in the faces of our neighbors, family, friends, and those who may be different from us!

  15. March 4, 2017 - 8:35 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac … and so far I’ve backed the loser every day. 😉

    • Sonia Stevenson's Gravatar Sonia Stevenson
      March 4, 2017 - 8:45 am | Permalink

      There is something about Isaac that really appealed to me. He doesn’t sound like the regular ascetic, if there is such a thing. He sounds very genuine, not to say the others don’t. So, it looks as if I’m on to my third loser!

    • Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
      March 4, 2017 - 11:57 am | Permalink

      I have been on the short side of the voting, too, but there are no losers in Lent Madness. Meeting or getting better acquainted with each contender adds light to my life.

      • Christina Joy Thom's Gravatar Christina Joy Thom
        March 4, 2017 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

        I was well into my thirty’s until I picked a presidential winner.

      • Sonia Stevenson's Gravatar Sonia Stevenson
        March 4, 2017 - 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Least of all us; we are winners all the way

      • :Pleasants Tinkler's Gravatar :Pleasants Tinkler
        March 4, 2017 - 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Very true; no losers either way!

    • Cassandra's Gravatar Cassandra
      March 4, 2017 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Rev. Eric – I’ve done the same thing! Ive even known they would lose, but I just voted as I felt was best. Glad to see im not the only one! It’ll be interesting to see how long the streak lasts …
      I chose Isaac because I really admire his spiritual strength. It resonates with me. I also agree with the comments about the current situation in Syria. The people there can use a hero and our prayers.

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Congratulations, Eric. At least I now know who will prevail today. 😉

    • David Carver's Gravatar David Carver
      March 4, 2017 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Same ;_;

  16. Liz Massey's Gravatar Liz Massey
    March 4, 2017 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because he seems to have been a major influence in the Eastern Christian Churches – and in Lent Madness we don’t normallly pay much attention to Eastern Christianity. These churches are vitally inportant to Christianity overall and I think we’re short-sighted when we overlook them.

  17. Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
    March 4, 2017 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Isaac was born and grew up in an area of the world where Islam was just beginning. In trying to navigate that reality gave him an opportunity to experience three different monotheistic traditions and he probably found truth existed in all three. It was also a time that a lot of Christendom had conflicts about some of the realities of their faith. That he maintained his devotion to Christ with such competing ideologies and theologies (even though there are similarities between them) meant he had to find the path that would draw him closer to God. While Asceticism is not for everyone, Isaac gave the world a different way of thinking about relationship with God. Mechtild found her path through the mystic tradition, which led her to serve others and to stand against abuses and bad actors within the hierarchy of the church. While we think of the Reformation as beginning with the 95 theses of Martin Luther, there are earlier examples of people who were willing to question their faith. Both means of drawing closer to God and seeking truth have merit and that makes this a tougher decision that it would first appear to be.

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Sharon, for that additional info and insights. One of the reasons I read comments before voting is that you all help inform my decision.

    • Robin's Gravatar Robin
      March 4, 2017 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

      Sharon, thank you for sharing your insight with us. This is a new experience for me. It makes you want to learn more doesn’t it?

  18. Elizabeth H's Gravatar Elizabeth H
    March 4, 2017 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    Mechtild because she wrote in the language the people she wanted to reach could understand

  19. Laurence Seigler's Gravatar Laurence Seigler
    March 4, 2017 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    Being legally blind in one eye, I can identify with both as to how that effects life in general, I had difficulty deciding, both of these saints were for building up the body of Christ , Finally I chose Isaac because he chose
    to commune with God alone where he could hear the small voice. Sometimes we just need to be apart from the rest of the human din.

  20. The Rev.Karen Crawford's Gravatar The Rev.Karen Crawford
    March 4, 2017 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild because she dared to point out the vices of the clergy and presented her love of the Holy Spirit in a language that made learning more available to the people.

    • Alison Bentley's Gravatar Alison Bentley
      March 4, 2017 - 9:25 am | Permalink

      Those were the two reasons why Mechtild got my vote too. However it was a difficult choice today!

  21. Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
    March 4, 2017 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac, although I can see he’s already losing. Contemplatives don’t do well, generally, in Lent Madness competitions. But I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Isaac, because he believed in Universal Salvation and taught that no one is excluded from the love of Christ.
    To quote him: “What is a merciful heart? It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men and women, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures. ”
    Not even the demons are beyond love. Go, Isaac!

    • March 4, 2017 - 8:56 am | Permalink

      I voted for Isaac, too.. in general, I lean toward mystics and direct revelation. This vote was for his avoiding the theological debates of the time! Just to be clear, my choices often lose as well.

    • kesmarn's Gravatar kesmarn
      March 4, 2017 - 9:58 am | Permalink

      Isaac for me as well. And for the same reasons.

    • March 4, 2017 - 12:45 pm | Permalink

      You got me there. I was leaning toward the Syrian for all they are going thru, and add to that to love even demons!

  22. Ryan's Gravatar Ryan
    March 4, 2017 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    St. Isaac is the man, and a major contributor to the Philokalia. I don’t think he’ll win the popularity contest but he gets my vote anyway.

  23. March 4, 2017 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    Just found this among poems by Mechtild of Magdeburg at and had to share:
    I cannot Dance

    I cannot dance, Lord, unless you lead me.
    If you want me to leap with abandon,
    You must intone the song.
    Then I shall leap into love,
    From love into knowledge,
    From knowledge into enjoyment,
    And from enjoyment beyond all human sensations.
    There I want to remain, yet want also to circle higher still.

    • Mollie Douglas Turner+'s Gravatar Mollie Douglas Turner+
      March 4, 2017 - 9:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this! Mechtild was the easiest choice yet for me.

    • Jeanne Stevens's Gravatar Jeanne Stevens
      March 4, 2017 - 11:07 am | Permalink

      Although I had already decided to vote for Mechtild, This clinched it for me.

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that, mcpcpastor.

  24. Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
    March 4, 2017 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    Thinkers also serve.

  25. Diane Walworth's Gravatar Diane Walworth
    March 4, 2017 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    I voted for a strong passionate woman!

  26. Becki's Gravatar Becki
    March 4, 2017 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    I voted Mechtild because she wrote in her own language, a precursor to centuries later when Latin vs. local languages became a great debate.

  27. Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
    March 4, 2017 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    Remembered the quote.
    They also serve who only stand and tune in.

  28. March 4, 2017 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    Mechtild’s story is very appealing, but I voted for Isaac. I was amazed to learn in grad school that the early church had *three* strong centers, not just Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) Christianity but Syriac as well, which didn’t survive the perils of geopolitics as well as Constantinople and Rome. Few of its works have been translated into English and so have been mostly lost to the West. The resonance with the current tragic situation in Syria prompts me to lift up this saint of that war-torn land.

    Plus, I’m more of a theologian than a mystic. And I have to admire a man who was consecrated a bishop and then gave it up after three months to go back to a life of prayer.

  29. CJ's Gravatar CJ
    March 4, 2017 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    Oliver – I always wait to read your comments before I vote. 🙂 Today, I voted with you!

  30. Freeman Gilbert's Gravatar Freeman Gilbert
    March 4, 2017 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac of Nineveh because I am currently reading Sebastian Brock’s excellent anthology of the Syriac Fathers’ writings on prayer and the spiritual life. (The Sisters of the Love of God, a Carmelite-infused monastic order in the Church of England have also published numerous books by Syriac Fathers.)
    The Syriac Fathers like Isaac, provide a much more Semitic view of spirituality than the majority of the tradition and therefore probably a spirituality closer to Jesus and the Disciples.
    I also appreciate the fact that St Isaac was able to step back from a position of prestige and power to which he was ill suited.
    And in this age of controversy and divisiveness, we need to honor voices that uncompromisingly remain in the center, speaking truth in love.

  31. MARGERY Wilson's Gravatar MARGERY Wilson
    March 4, 2017 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    Each of these saints would likely, by today’s biases & cultural standards , be considered mentally unstable. Each one had to (or was called to) retreat in order to find their ‘normal’ selves. And thank God they did -to maintain their individual sanity and to enable God to use their gifts of discernment & writing. Both are inspiratio to the ongoing communion of faithful people. Hard choice between these two.

  32. Elaine Marshall's Gravatar Elaine Marshall
    March 4, 2017 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because he knew how important it is to be alone with God to know him. And because I study to help me understand things, I really admire his scholarship.

  33. Roberta Perry's Gravatar Roberta Perry
    March 4, 2017 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    Being a women, She not only became educated, unheard of of women in that time, but wrote so her people could learn as well, My Dad often told we six children,” knowledge is no good if we do not share it”. To me she was a great example of that.

  34. Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
    March 4, 2017 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    There’s Oliver!

  35. Marie Cantrell's Gravatar Marie Cantrell
    March 4, 2017 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    Admiration for the Beguines leads me to vote for Mechtild.

  36. Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
    March 4, 2017 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    “The flowing light of the Godhead”. What a lovely concept! Mechtild it is!

  37. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    March 4, 2017 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    This one was tough for me, but I ultimately chose Mechtild because she had other facets in her life than the call to retreat. But Isaac resonated with me, too.

  38. Dr Paul's Gravatar Dr Paul
    March 4, 2017 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    Let’s hear it for the Beguines! Let the fire that was once a flame remain an ember!

  39. Robbie Rocheleau's Gravatar Robbie Rocheleau
    March 4, 2017 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    This was a hard choice. I really liked Isaac, but Mechtild had quite a life.

  40. Carol Mannchen's Gravatar Carol Mannchen
    March 4, 2017 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    I had never heard of either of these folks. I guess that is because they lived simple, humble lives and were not martyred. And I suppose learning about them is the point of this exercise. Voted for Mechtild — have to pick activism over contemplation.

  41. Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
    March 4, 2017 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    Mechtild of Magdeburg; care of the sick and poor balanced with a contemplative-creative life seems like an excellent way to live.

    • Christina's Gravatar Christina
      March 4, 2017 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

      To have experienced the freedom and ability to write and share your inner thoughts, to care for the sick and needy and to live life in the company of your fellow man with all its challenges in the 13th century make Mechtild the obvious winner for me.

  42. Gary Barker's Gravatar Gary Barker
    March 4, 2017 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    Voted for Isaac. So much of the rich Syrian, Arabic tradition of Christianity needs to be brought to the fore in these days so that we do not live out of prejudice.

  43. P. Walker's Gravatar P. Walker
    March 4, 2017 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    SEC or PC?

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      March 4, 2017 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

      The question of the day. Though while Isaac is a Syrian Eastern Christian, I think Maechtid of Magdeburg wasn’t a Protestant Christian since she was born about 407 years to early. More likely she was a Roman Catholic Christian, making the question SEC or RCC.

      My 2¢.

  44. Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
    March 4, 2017 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    Tough choice for me. I love that Isaac steered clear of divisive theological arguments and instead cut to the heart of the message. But I’ll plump for Mechtild because I can’t resist a holy poet., especially when her works echo love poems and folk songs.

  45. Margaret B Kober's Gravatar Margaret B Kober
    March 4, 2017 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    The name Mechtild means “mighty in battle”. From Beth Lewis’ description, I would not have used “mighty” as a descriptor, however when I read that she called Cathedral clergy “goats”, I changed my mind.

  46. Holly Green's Gravatar Holly Green
    March 4, 2017 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    Care for the poor and sick. Enough said.

  47. Ann E's Gravatar Ann E
    March 4, 2017 - 9:29 am | Permalink

    Isaac gets my vote today. He understood his relation to God so well that he promptly abdicated a position of (worldly) honor that got in the way of that relationship. That’s courage and dedication.

  48. Harriet's Gravatar Harriet
    March 4, 2017 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    Hard choice today…both seem exceptional. I voted for Mechtild because she was a woman.

  49. Kandice's Gravatar Kandice
    March 4, 2017 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild. I love that she called her visions ” greetings” of the Holy Spirit. She was an educated and literate woman who wrote about what she believed and experienced. Go Girl!!

    • Heather Swearingen's Gravatar Heather Swearingen
      March 4, 2017 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

      This is exactly why I voted for her. I loved that she called her visions “greetings”. I’ve had several dreams in which I’ve been “greeted” by loved ones who have passed. I cherish these greetings as precious gifts! My maternal grandmother loved humming birds and following her passing I had several attention grabbing encounters with humming birds. Since then humming birds have become a special symbol of her love. Friday morning I had a dream that there was a Robin perched on my kitchen window sill, I said, “well hello there” and then heard a chirp behind me , when I turned to look I was “greeted” by a breathtaking array of hundreds of vibrantly colored humming birds and other birds hovering around my room all looking directly at me. It was so beautiful and very touching! So of course I had to vote for Mechtild of Magdenburg!

      • James Oppenheimer's Gravatar James Oppenheimer
        March 4, 2017 - 8:09 pm | Permalink

        Wow. That must have been an incredible dream. We usually forget our dreams. Easy to see why that one stayed with you. Thanks for sharing it.

  50. kathy in nicaragua's Gravatar kathy in nicaragua
    March 4, 2017 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    When I read the two presentations, I was sure Mechtild would win. I will be happy to vote for her in the second round, unless Odo or Theodore should sweep me away. But especially because I thought Isaac would not get very many votes today, I wanted to give him mine. I have a deep respect for contemplatives and earnest students. I agree with many previous comments that he is to be admired for recognizing that he wasn’t cut out to be a bishop and resigning. And there are many days that I personally wish I could be a hermit! I’m going to search out some of his writings and learn more from him. Thanks SEC for the introduction (and Hugo, too).

  51. Freeman Gilbert's Gravatar Freeman Gilbert
    March 4, 2017 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    Animal lovers, here’s a reason to vote for Isaac of Nineveh by way of a quote from him: What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with love for the whole creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts … for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes being filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart; a heart which is softened and can no longer bear to see or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain being inflicted upon a creature. That is why such a man never ceases to pray for the animals … [He is] … moved by the infinite pity which reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming united with God.

    • Ruth's Gravatar Ruth
      March 4, 2017 - 11:26 am | Permalink

      Wonderful. Though I voted for Mechtild, this makes me grateful for Isaac’s life and work. (Besides his amazing cathedral in St Petersburg.) Thank you!

  52. March 4, 2017 - 9:36 am | Permalink

    Mechtild, because “she joined a Beguine community in Magdeburg . . . (that) stressed imitation
    of Christ’s life through religious devotion, voluntary poverty.” This helps explain why they began the Beguine.

    • Christopher's Gravatar Christopher
      March 4, 2017 - 10:25 am | Permalink


  53. Fredrik Hollertz's Gravatar Fredrik Hollertz
    March 4, 2017 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    Do not people understand?! Isaac the Syrian is a saint much needed for our time! He is building bridges between different confessions and traditions, helping us to respect each other! A truly ecumenical saint of tolerance!

  54. March 4, 2017 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    A tough choice since each was called to a hermit-like life yet influenced many brothers and sisters in Christ who were remote from them in space and time. Mechtild was part of an intentional community that foreshadowed–and may have helped bring into being–the Reformation (which is, for Western Christianity at least, an ongoing process). Isaac of Nineveh has been enormously influential in the Eastern branches of Christianity, to which TEC has been more and more indebted since its founding. I am sorry that their feasts coincide with others already in the BCP Calendar, Isaac’s with Thomas Aquinas and Mechtild’s with Elizabeth of Hungary. I continue to write saints and other observances into my portable BCP/NRSV traveling (and stay at home). Lent Madness has supplied many occasions for reforming my worship–and that’s a good thing!

  55. Katherine's Gravatar Katherine
    March 4, 2017 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    We are to live in the world, yet not be of the world. He did not live in the world-he escaped it. That is why he did not get my vote

  56. Donna K.'s Gravatar Donna K.
    March 4, 2017 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac the Syrian because 1. I think it is important to support Syrians, especially during these times. 2. Our pastor during our Ash Wednesday service led “group discussion sermon” about the traditions and practices of Lent. One of the “40” things that mentioned was that it took Jonah 40 days to cross Nineveh.

  57. Doc's Gravatar Doc
    March 4, 2017 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac on the strength of the collect, a beautiful prayer. Thank you celebrity blogger. On their saintly merits alone, I’d have voted for Mechtild. So, I’m a winner either way, today.

  58. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 4, 2017 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    This is a really tough one for me. I want to vote for a Syriac Christian. I am very interested in the eastern branches of Christianity that never became part of a church-state unit, such as Roman Xity. They had a much tougher time in history and are worth our knowing about. Part of our general confession (just made at Ash Wednesday) is our lamentation at our collaboration and tepid collusion with the powers of the day, our failure to act for justice. So Xians who have had to adapt, struggle, go underground have my sympathy. But the Beguines were a major women’s movement (and men’s) pre-Reformation, and I always want to support women mystics as well. I’m troubled by the role of the Dominicans in Mechtild’s story. Though a preaching order, they were heavily involved in the Inquisition. Still, it’s a reminder that medieval women had to tread carefully to be accepted at all. I’m voting for Mechtild and hope to support non-western Christians again in the future.

    • Bonnee's Gravatar Bonnee
      March 4, 2017 - 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Reading these thoughtful comments is a joy of Lent Madness.

  59. Meredith Hales's Gravatar Meredith Hales
    March 4, 2017 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    After that quote about the animals and all creation, I wish I had voted for Isaac! But, oh well, only one vote. Anyway, I have always been fascinated by Mecthild and the Beguines.

    • Jeanne Stevens's Gravatar Jeanne Stevens
      March 4, 2017 - 11:15 am | Permalink

      Although I voted for Mechtild, I also thought the quote about the animals was beautiful and decided to make a document I can refer back to which also included Mechtild’s poem.

  60. Deborah Giordano's Gravatar Deborah Giordano
    March 4, 2017 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    All-in for Isaac the Syrian, ascetic, renowned theologian/prolific writer and hermit: [while translations vary, check this out:] “A handful of sand, thrown into the sea, is what sinning is, when compared to God’s Providence & mercy. Just like an abundant source of water is not impeded by a handful of dust, so is the Creator’s mercy not defeated by the sins of His creations.”

    • Trey's Gravatar Trey
      March 4, 2017 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

      So gorgeous! Thank you. That just made me tear up!

  61. Mary Hickman's Gravatar Mary Hickman
    March 4, 2017 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    I love that Mechtild called her visions ” greetings” from God. She got my vote!

  62. Claire's Gravatar Claire
    March 4, 2017 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    Voting again for the underdog. I voted for Isaac as his hermit ways appeal to my introvert personality.

  63. Fr. Peter's Gravatar Fr. Peter
    March 4, 2017 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    Another toss up for me, like yesterday. At times like this I filled out my bracket with who I guess people will go for. With some exceptions it is a safe bet in ties like this to go with the female or non-European person. Hence my vote for Mechtild today!

  64. Diana's Gravatar Diana
    March 4, 2017 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    For Isaac the Syrian and Mechtild of Magdeburg

    We sing a song of two faithful saints,
    Mechtild and Isaac, too.
    Their mystic insights bless us still!
    Between them who can choose?
    And one was a Syrian whose land is now torn
    And one was a woman whom men dared scorn
    And their love and their faithfulness calls us today
    To seek God in silence too.

    To choose one of them is mighty tough;
    It’s cruel of the SEC!
    Was Isaac right to leave his call
    And live in hermitry?
    Or was Mechtild’s the way; for she faithfully stayed
    In the midst of the challenge of people each day?
    And to choose between them is hard to do!
    And I want to vote twice too!

    • marie jones's Gravatar marie jones
      March 4, 2017 - 10:32 am | Permalink

      Bless you, Diana! You voiced my dilemma so poetically! I will probably ‘cast lots’ to make a decision on this one. The arguments on both sides are part of my own indecision; I’m such a fence sitter!

    • Deacon Di's Gravatar Deacon Di
      March 4, 2017 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      Delightful ….a difficult choice today, reflected in this song.

    • Marjorie Menaul's Gravatar Marjorie Menaul
      March 4, 2017 - 10:57 am | Permalink

      I voted for Isaac after checking the tally and seeing how badly he’s behind. They’re both wonderful examples – I want them to tie

    • Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
      March 4, 2017 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Diana for this delightful song! I voted for Mechtild because it is Women’s History Month. I wish I had her saintly courage: “And I mean to be one, too.”

    • Cynthia Selby's Gravatar Cynthia Selby
      March 4, 2017 - 3:03 pm | Permalink

      I get such a kick that we all knew which tune you were using in your song!

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:14 pm | Permalink


    • March 4, 2017 - 4:41 pm | Permalink

      You have a gift, Diana.

    • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
      March 4, 2017 - 11:51 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that most, if not all, of the men of the medieval period could be construed as anti-woman; that period placed each person into a specific role and had little or no tolerance for those who didn’t accept the place that society felt God had ordained for that person. (Joan of Arc, who’s on the bracket this year, is a prime example of those who bucked the “natural order”.) I agree that Mechtild is worthy of advancement, but wouldn’t vote against Isaac or his contemporaries because of a bias against women.

  65. March 4, 2017 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    Since Isaac is a hermit I like him because much of what I do is hermit like, but Mechtilde gave a representation that we all can follow through action in the social world so I voted for her. Her writings in Europe have greatly influenced my ideas on what it means to be human because I have a disability. Writing about and translating spirituality and the Bible is what I think will win Lent Madness because much of what we know about is shared with others whether through the internet or in books. I also like the fact she was a Dominican sister. Isaac is who I worship for and Mechtilde is who I learn from.

  66. Freeman Gilbert's Gravatar Freeman Gilbert
    March 4, 2017 - 10:07 am | Permalink

    Here’s another reason to vote for Isaac. He was a soul brother of Julian of Norwich in his optimism and prioritization of God’s mercy and love:
    Just because (the terms) wrath, anger, hatred, and the rest are used of the Creator, we should not imagine that He (actually) does anything in anger or hatred or zeal. Many figurative terms are employed in the Scriptures of God, terms which are far removed from His (true) nature.
    It is not (the way of) the compassionate Maker to create rational beings in order to deliver them over mercilessly to unending affliction (in punishment) for things of which He knew even before they were fashioned, (aware) how they would turn out when He created them – and whom (nonetheless) He created.
    That we should imagine that anger, wrath, jealousy or such like have anything to do with the divine Nature is something utterly abhorrent for us: no one in their right mind, no one who has any understanding (at all) can possibly come to such madness as to think anything of the sort about God. Nor again can we possibly say that He acts thus out of retribution, even though the Scriptures may on the outer surface posit this. Even to think this of God and to suppose that retribution for evil acts is to be found with Him is abominable.
    “God’s recompense to sinners is that, instead of a just recompense, God rewards them with resurrection.

  67. Freeman Gilbert's Gravatar Freeman Gilbert
    March 4, 2017 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    I hate how we often set up a false dualism between the active and the contemplative here. Another quote from Isaac:
    Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
    Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
    Be slandered, but do not slander others.
    Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
    Suffer with the sick.
    Be afflicted with sinners.
    Exult with those who repent.
    Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
    Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
    Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
    Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
    And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place,
    do not destroy their character.

    • marie jones's Gravatar marie jones
      March 4, 2017 - 10:36 am | Permalink

      Think I’m leaning toward Isaac. . . Thank you, Freeman, for the gentle shove off my ‘fence.’

  68. Christopher's Gravatar Christopher
    March 4, 2017 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    “Because he avoided weighing in on the theological debates of his day…” Nope. Not the time.

  69. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 4, 2017 - 10:23 am | Permalink

    Saint Mechtild of Magdeburg for me. I love this passionate, spiritual lady. Nice write up, Beth!

  70. March 4, 2017 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    I admire both of them. I like Isaac but the girl gets my vote. I have to give the nod to a female that can take that kind of criticism and not go into hiding.

  71. Brenda McHenry's Gravatar Brenda McHenry
    March 4, 2017 - 10:29 am | Permalink

    Mechtild won out for me because of her “speaking truth to power” efforts by criticizing “vices practiced by the clergy” of the day.

  72. Sally's Gravatar Sally
    March 4, 2017 - 10:32 am | Permalink

    Although my first inclination was to vote for Mechtild, I voted for Isaac. We are called to love one another as Christ loved us, and we are encouraged to give of our time and talents. We all have different God-given talents and I believe Isaac and Mechtild certainly shared theirs. In the end, I just identified more with Isaac.

  73. Shawna Atteberry's Gravatar Shawna Atteberry
    March 4, 2017 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    Today’s vote was a no-brainer. This feminist theologian voted for her foremother, Mechtild.

  74. Lynn Turner's Gravatar Lynn Turner
    March 4, 2017 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    The choice was hard, two renown voices as described. I would like to have seen some of their own words of faith to help me know them better. I chose Issac just because I thought not many would. I hope to find both of them in their words.

    • Lynn's Gravatar Lynn
      March 4, 2017 - 11:03 am | Permalink

      “I hope to find both of them in their worlds”. Wow, thanks for the wonderful thought !

  75. March 4, 2017 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    There is a balance here today, which has me come down on the side of Mechtild… the balance of personal wisdom, and interaction with the world. Isaac’s withdrawal approach, while a valid tradition, speaks less to our age, than Mechtild’s daily contemplation and expression… especially in poetry… of the encounters with the Holy Spirit that continue to feed and guide for work and life in the world.
    Blessings for Mechtild… whom I’d never heard of before, but who reminds me of Hildegard of Bingen…. another voice from the Germanic communities that sings still.

  76. Joyce Rush's Gravatar Joyce Rush
    March 4, 2017 - 10:52 am | Permalink

    Today was a tough one but I chose Michtild. I guess the reason was her visions.

  77. Edwina's Gravatar Edwina
    March 4, 2017 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    After visiting the Begjjenhof in Amsterdam many years ago and reading more about the history of these “homes” for women and the work done by those who lived there, I was impressed. The garden was truly a place for meditation .
    Am not familiar with the area now it still Scottish Presbyterian ..after Roman Catholic ?

    • March 4, 2017 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

      When we were in Amsterdam in 2007, we worshipped with the Scottish Church one Sunday. It is still located in the Bejinhof.

      • Bonnee's Gravatar Bonnee
        March 4, 2017 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the Amsterdam Beguinage is very, with garden and English Reformed Church. We saw the Bruges Beguinage too but only from canal boat ride. Such a wonderful tradition and example.

  78. Sherry in Sequim's Gravatar Sherry in Sequim
    March 4, 2017 - 11:02 am | Permalink

    I voted for Issac because without his showing another way, Mechthild could not have been who she was. Reading all the comments helped me come to that thought.

  79. DiAnne Walsh's Gravatar DiAnne Walsh
    March 4, 2017 - 11:05 am | Permalink

    I wanted to vote for Isaac because I am Assyrian but I loved that Mechtild was a literate women who wrote of her Holy Spirit visions so everyday people could read.

  80. Jerry Rankin's Gravatar Jerry Rankin
    March 4, 2017 - 11:13 am | Permalink

    Voted for Isaac today in recognition of the much put upon Syrian church, his willingness to walk away from the office of bishop in response to the integrity of his calling in Christ, and his ecumenicism related to the various ecclesial controversies of his day.

  81. Ron Duncan's Gravatar Ron Duncan
    March 4, 2017 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    The description of Isaac is sadly lacking in that it provides no quotes from his writings that show his keen awareness of the human condition and how we are one. To those of you in the Disunited States he has a currently relevant message many need to hear even though it might be quite discomfiting.

  82. Donice Gilliland's Gravatar Donice Gilliland
    March 4, 2017 - 11:18 am | Permalink

    I find this to be one of the very best matchups. Very difficult to choose, but both choices inspire me – as both the visions and the asceticism are fascinating. Now I plan to read more about each of them. Thank you for such good choices, no matter who wins!

  83. Lois Alworth's Gravatar Lois Alworth
    March 4, 2017 - 11:23 am | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because his feast day is the birthday of my youngest daughter!

  84. terriH's Gravatar terriH
    March 4, 2017 - 11:26 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild because I believe anyone who can write 6 books by hand in German deserves some recognition. And because her writings are inspiring.

  85. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
    March 4, 2017 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    It’s Mechtild for me. She is both contemplative and activist, mystic and caregiver, and left behind plentiful writings for our inspiration and edification. Oliver, it’s so good to be hearing from you again!

  86. Anne's Gravatar Anne
    March 4, 2017 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    This was a very tough choice indeed, but finally voted for Isaac because he had the sense to resign as bishop.

  87. March 4, 2017 - 11:54 am | Permalink

    Saturday saintly match-up! Tough choice. I’m voting for Isaac because I grieve what’s happening to the place where he made contemplative contact with God.

  88. Smokey's Gravatar Smokey
    March 4, 2017 - 11:54 am | Permalink

    My vote went to Isaac because he spoke to many, was humble in giving up his position. However it was a very difficult decision. Both are deserving.

  89. March 4, 2017 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to lose this one bigly – after having been on the winning side in the first two! I almost voted for Mechtild because of her prolific writing, but Isaac won me over because he resigned as bishop when he found it not a good fit. Would that more who wear the purple follow his example!

  90. Emily's Gravatar Emily
    March 4, 2017 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The more comments I read, the harder the choice becomes. At first I thought it was an easy selection for Mechtild. What courage, what passion, what perseverance! However, the more I learn about Isaac, the more I am drawn to him. I suspect he will not continue the race. I wish to acknowledge his remarkable grace, compassion and fortitude in leaving the world so we may have the benefit of his writing. My vote goes to Isaac and I will happily vote for Mechtild in future rounds.

  91. Ann Garvin's Gravatar Ann Garvin
    March 4, 2017 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Mechtild for me. I’d never heard of the Beguines before I took EfM (they were an independent group of lay women so, of course, the men in the Vatican didn’t support them). That, alone, would get my vote!

  92. Patty's Gravatar Patty
    March 4, 2017 - 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I love doing Lent Madness because I learn about so many saintly people I never heard of before! The match-ups have been hard so far but today’s was a bit easier for me. I voted for Mechtild because she wasn’t afraid to criticize the corruption in the church. I’m a Catholic about to make my first visit to Rome and the Vatican. I love the current Pope Francis but some of the popes throughout the history of the church have been pretty awful. I am very happy to vote for someone who spoke out about the corruption!!

    • Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
      March 4, 2017 - 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Blessings to you on your pilgrimage!

  93. Izzie's Gravatar Izzie
    March 4, 2017 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild because she wrote those books and was encouraged to which was not the norm for a medieval woman.

  94. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 4, 2017 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Tough choice, but voted for Mechtild of Magdeburg for writing in the vernacular at a time few women could read or write and because if being part of the Beguine community was still an option, I’d want to be a part of it.

    • Jeanette Veith's Gravatar Jeanette Veith
      March 4, 2017 - 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Did the game Community still exist in Western Europe. I have visited several.

  95. Carole's Gravatar Carole
    March 4, 2017 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I learn as much from the comments as from the bios presented, if not more! I couldn’t not vote for anyone who has the courage to take on the clergy and call them out when she sees fit!!

    • Sue G.'s Gravatar Sue G.
      March 4, 2017 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Right on, sister!

  96. Denise Bell's Gravatar Denise Bell
    March 4, 2017 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m voting for Isaac, in part to honor and support the Syrian people, and also because his feast day is the same as my daughter’s birthday.

  97. Deborah's Gravatar Deborah
    March 4, 2017 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    My vote goes to Mechtild of Magdeburg. I support her for the Golden Halo of 2017!

  98. Bob Kitchen's Gravatar Bob Kitchen
    March 4, 2017 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Just a few updates to the Isaac the Syrian bio. He was born in Qatar which was in the Persian Empire at the time, and spoke Syriac which is an Aramaic dialect, the closest to the language of Jesus. Nineveh is modern Mosul in Iraq. And Isaac is Church of the East, a non-Chalcedonian church, as is the Syriac Orthodox.

  99. Megan O Jones's Gravatar Megan O Jones
    March 4, 2017 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Once again I am voting simply based on personal identification. I would hate to be a bishop, and many times I would love to be able to withdraw from the world and spend undistracted time with God. Mechtild is wonderful, but Isaac gets my vote today.

  100. Sue G.'s Gravatar Sue G.
    March 4, 2017 - 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Mechtild, without a doubt! Daily greetings from the Holy Spirit, vs raw veg in the desert? Sorry, Isaac, no contest.
    Also, women before men (generally)

  101. Jan Miller's Gravatar Jan Miller
    March 4, 2017 - 1:06 pm | Permalink

    What clinched it for me was Mechtild rising above what were then considered impediments (being blind and female) to criticize wayward clerics.

  102. Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
    March 4, 2017 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, ascetic vs. mystic. Tough choice for me, as I am inclined to be neither. In the end I went with Mechtild, for her writing in her own language and for a passion for the daily influence of the Holy Spirit. I also liked the idea that she exposed the vices of the priests…and I doubt they took it kindly! I do give Isaac credit for not taking sides in the theological debates of his time. Wish more of us could concentrate on what beliefs Christ taught us to share and let the rest be in the hands of God.

  103. Mary Lynn's Gravatar Mary Lynn
    March 4, 2017 - 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. I overlooked the names to vote ( not realizing it wasn’t in reading order like the other’s ) BUT I am pleased that Mechtild has a higher percentage! Placing one self in poverty and helping the hungry is a ‘strong’ choice to make, especially for life. As a woman, to write spiritual notes and visions was unheard of for her time. Not knowing Latin did not stop her. So far it has been easy voting for me. Shall see if any different Monday.

  104. Aleathia Dolores Nicholson's Gravatar Aleathia Dolores Nicholson
    March 4, 2017 - 1:25 pm | Permalink

    A shout-out for Mechtild of whom I think I can safely say is a truly lesser known candidate for the Golden Halo. My vote was based on her being a possible role model for women who longed for opportunities to study and become literate. She also wrote in the vernacular as opposed to the preferred Latin and above all, she had the guts and balls to chastise errant so called “Holy Men.” You go, girl! Well, she went…that-a-way !

  105. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 4, 2017 - 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for all the comments, especially the quotes from Isaac. I could easily have voted for him, especially after reading those quotes. And I love books and studying about God and sometimes just want to get away from people. But I voted for Mechtild because of her visions. Perhaps I am envious of her daily greetings from God. Plus I like that she ministered to the poor and sick. Tough choice.

  106. Cherie Renae Atiyeh's Gravatar Cherie Renae Atiyeh
    March 4, 2017 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I voted for my fellow Syrian. Of course.

  107. Dean's Gravatar Dean
    March 4, 2017 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

    And more from Isaac:
    “To whatever extent a person draws close to God with his intentions is to what extent God draws close to him with His gifts.”
    “The mouth which is continuously giving thanks receives blessing from God. In the heart that always shows gratitude, grace abides.”
    For these (and all the quotes above), it’s Isaac for me today.

  108. roger nichols's Gravatar roger nichols
    March 4, 2017 - 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Live welcoming all – a quote attributed to Mechtild, on a wall cross I once gave as a gift, although it didn’t quite mean what I thought it did when I read some of her writings. Still, I’m voting for her.

  109. Jan Martin's Gravatar Jan Martin
    March 4, 2017 - 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild mostly because she ministered to the sick and poor and stepped way out of the typical role of women of the time. Isaac, while probably brilliant, was definitely not a people person.

  110. Jeanette Veith's Gravatar Jeanette Veith
    March 4, 2017 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because of the current troubles in his home area of Nineveh. I believe that the Christians who may be remaining there also revere him.

  111. Daniel Green's Gravatar Daniel Green
    March 4, 2017 - 2:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s not fair to have to choose between two giants of the church’s ascetical tradition in the first round! Nevertheless, Isaac is a no-brainer for me because of his vast ecumenical appeal and because he wrote: “Like a handful of sand thrown into the sea are all the sins of God’s creatures compared with the mind of their creator.”

    • March 4, 2017 - 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Wow! thank you for the wonderful song! I voted for Mechtild. Despite her disabilities,
      she persevered on to dictate her last book.

      I must admit that the comments helped me to admire both.

  112. Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
    March 4, 2017 - 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh, hard for this writer to choose between two writers! Had to go with Isaac, whose feast day is my birthday.

  113. Cynthia Selby's Gravatar Cynthia Selby
    March 4, 2017 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac the Syrian because I have a heart for Syrians these days and because I have admiration for those who can adhere to asceticism.

  114. Laura Lawrence's Gravatar Laura Lawrence
    March 4, 2017 - 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Mechthild because I found a quote of hers that spoke to me: “Prayer is naught else but a yearning of soul … it draws down the great God into the little heart; it drives the hungry soul up to the plenitude of God; it brings together these two lovers, God and the soul, in a wondrous place where they speak much of love.”

  115. Betsy H's Gravatar Betsy H
    March 4, 2017 - 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Both contenders were equally awesome. But I voted for Mechtild–while she was contemplative she was also activist, and she called the church on it’s excesses. That took courage in those days.
    And I’d like to give a shout out to our celebrity bloggers–excellent research and you make it all so interesting. Thank you.

  116. James N. Lodwick's Gravatar James N. Lodwick
    March 4, 2017 - 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Another impossible choice–two great and holy mystics with wonderful legacies of their writings left as gifts to us! I think they are basically equals, but I voted for Isaac as a recognition of the oft-neglected Christian witness and life of the ancient churches of the East, which now struggle desperately to exist, under severe hardship and persecution in the very area where Christian faith began.

  117. Jonna-Dawn Walker's Gravatar Jonna-Dawn Walker
    March 4, 2017 - 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Isaac stayed alone while Mechtild spent her life helping others

  118. David's Gravatar David
    March 4, 2017 - 3:56 pm | Permalink

    We voted for Mechtild, but like many it was a difficult choice. The defining factor for me was the difference in approach to God’s work. Isaac researched and prayed and wrote. Mechtild read and prayed and wrote and acted. It also took great courage to criticize the clergy.

  119. Karen Jennings's Gravatar Karen Jennings
    March 4, 2017 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

    This was a tough choice. I am learning so much from this! I was surprised when I saw the results, I thought it would be closer

  120. Marlene's Gravatar Marlene
    March 4, 2017 - 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Cause who run the world? Girls! 😉

  121. March 4, 2017 - 4:10 pm | Permalink

    A match-up between two similar figures of the ecumenical spiritual tradition of the church, both of whom have been neglected until recent times (Isaac for cultural reasons, Mechtild because of gender).
    In the end, I voted for Mechtild because of the way she expressed her spirituality in practical compassion toward others, rather than in asceticism f0r asceticism’s sake.
    I seriously appreciate “Lent Madness” for the way it encourages us to use discernment in evaluating various dimensions of the life of faith, each good in itself, vis a vis each other.

  122. Marcia's Gravatar Marcia
    March 4, 2017 - 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Living through a time of cut throat political competition, I appreciate a saint who stepped down from power. I cast my vote for humility. Thank you, Isaac.

  123. Beth Doherty's Gravatar Beth Doherty
    March 4, 2017 - 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Interesting…And this is a fun & enlightening activity

  124. March 4, 2017 - 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Methinks out SEC tried to rig the vote in their bios, which provided much more info about Mechtild than Issac. But you all, especially quoting from Isaac’s works, have informed my choice. Isaac it is.
    I appreciate Lent Madness for helping us learn of these holy people!

    • March 4, 2017 - 5:04 pm | Permalink

      “our,” not “out.”
      Still getting used to the keyboard on this tablet.

  125. David Carver's Gravatar David Carver
    March 4, 2017 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, I’m sure not having a lot of luck this year. ;P

    First 3 days, and every one of my picks seems massively outvoted. Though I guess the day’s not done yet.

  126. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 4, 2017 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I visited Magdeburg last year. The church, a partner of our diocese, invited partner churches on a pilgrimage of justice and peace. It was a fascinating and moving experience. I can’t recall Mechtild being mentioned though, so I cast my vote for her, in thanksgiving for the generosity and hospitality we received.

  127. Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
    March 4, 2017 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild because she wrote with her heart as well as her intellect, and she did not let her apparent lack of knowledge of Latin stop her. “Understand of the people” applied then, just as it did during the English Reformation, and as it still does now, and always will.

  128. Barbara J. Ruhe's Gravatar Barbara J. Ruhe
    March 4, 2017 - 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Mechtild of Magdeburg was an easy pick for me. My grandmother was born in Magdeburg–while not exactly saint like she was an interesting person. She had an etching of the Magdeburger Dom that hung over her fireplace as long as I could remember. When we went to Magdeburg in September 2015 we visited the Dom several times. It is the oldest Gothic cathedral in Germany. They started building it in 1209–it took 300 years to build. I am thinking that Mechtild probably visited the Dom–it is cool to walk in a place where a saint has trod.

  129. Beth Parkhurst's Gravatar Beth Parkhurst
    March 4, 2017 - 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Isaac, because of his immense labor and lasting influence. Also, Syrians need all the help they can get these days.

  130. Jim Begley's Gravatar Jim Begley
    March 4, 2017 - 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Mechtild of Magdeburg made manifold majestic and marvelous manna for morning muse.

    • Marena's Gravatar Marena
      March 4, 2017 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Nice alliteration!

  131. Anne Clayton's Gravatar Anne Clayton
    March 4, 2017 - 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because he relinquished the position of bishop, and returned to what he was best suited for. We should all be that wise. It was telling for me that his works are still relevant today.

  132. Liz's Gravatar Liz
    March 4, 2017 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    My 12-year-old son and I cancelled each others’ votes out. He liked Isaac because he appealed to many different traditions, and I liked Mechtild because she wrote in a language that could be understood by many.

  133. Zoey's Gravatar Zoey
    March 4, 2017 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

    My name is Zoey, I am six. I voted for Mechtild today because she’s blind and because she is a girl. Today I voted for Girl Power. Thank you.

    (Typed by mum but in Zo’s words).

    • March 4, 2017 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Great to see Zoey participating.

    • Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
      March 5, 2017 - 1:24 am | Permalink

      Thank you for being part of our community, Zoey. We welcome you (and your mum!).

  134. Rosemary Beales's Gravatar Rosemary Beales
    March 4, 2017 - 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate visionaries and an early woman writer in her own tongue. My mother had an older friend (or possibly relative) who was named Sister Mary Mechtild and with whom I carried on a correspondence when I was 9 and 10. Perhaps she and my aunt Sister Miriam Doyle (OLVM) and the many other nuns and priests in my life are part of the reason why today I am one of those clergy feeding at the trough 🙂 Mechtild for me!

  135. Rita OConnor's Gravatar Rita OConnor
    March 4, 2017 - 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I also voted for Mechtild. The fact that she made significant religious impact as a female back in the Dark Ages is remarkable. In addition, I am impressed that her writings were originally written in the language of he people, and ironic that the churchmen of the time then translated them into Latin:)

  136. Wesley Rowe's Gravatar Wesley Rowe
    March 4, 2017 - 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I vote for both; each has an equal valued contribution to their respective communities. I would not devalue/disrespect one for the other. But this is not the the main game plan, is it .

  137. Marcy Cooper-Ayres's Gravatar Marcy Cooper-Ayres
    March 4, 2017 - 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Waltzing Mechtild for me.

    • Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
      March 5, 2017 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

      As a child, I had a goat named Matilda, named for the song, “Waltzing Matilda” with was very popular during WWII. Her milk helped me to become much healthier.

  138. Sharon Harrell's Gravatar Sharon Harrell
    March 4, 2017 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Isaac because I have a dog named Isaac. (Who could imagine a dog named Mechtild?)

  139. March 4, 2017 - 7:48 pm | Permalink

    A toughie! But I want to honor the Syrian branch of the church – there will be other women and Europeans. Isaac. Apparently we are few but proud!

    • Karen's Gravatar Karen
      March 4, 2017 - 8:58 pm | Permalink

      I did not read your comment, or the voting results, before casting my own vote. I definitely commend your motives, But I felt more spiritually more moved by the example of Mechtild. Is there any option for nominating Isaac as maybe a Lenten equivalent of “St. Congeniality”? Maybe St. “Keep-the-faith-alive”?

  140. Terry S.'s Gravatar Terry S.
    March 4, 2017 - 8:07 pm | Permalink

    OK this will sound cranky, but I’m uncomfortable with the women who vote for her “because she’s a woman” or deacons who vote “because he/she’s a deacon”, etc. Would we be comfortable with a man who voted for him “because he’s a man”?

    • March 4, 2017 - 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Agree, Terry.

    • Gail Adams's Gravatar Gail Adams
      March 4, 2017 - 11:37 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you totally. I am a woman, but I voted for Isaac. I felt the fact that his writings so well explained the aescetic life, and were so necessary for the knowledge of that life that they imparted, that I had to give him my vote.

  141. Marena's Gravatar Marena
    March 4, 2017 - 8:09 pm | Permalink

    How admirable to follow her heart and spirit to write/dictate seven books of her divine greetings from the Holy Spirit! Bless the nuns who cared for her, and the friars who translated her works.

  142. Karen's Gravatar Karen
    March 4, 2017 - 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I doubt anyone will read what I say, but I shall comment nonetheless. I voted for Mechtild because her life included others: her monastic order cared for the poor and sick, and her writings were “in the vernacular” where she lived.
    I readily concede that Isaac lived an exemplary life of ascetic monasticism, but I come away with the sense that he “lived apart from” rather than “lived with” us not-so-saintly folks.
    These days, our injured, hurting world (and church) needs more saints reaching *out* to include the wounded… but those saints who live the inner life of contemplation and intercessory prayer are also deeply needed.

    • Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
      March 5, 2017 - 1:28 am | Permalink

      I appreciated your thoughts, Karen. Thanks for contributing. While I voted for Mechtild, I was seriously torn by this match up. The contemporary church could use a good dose of Isaac’s writings on following Christ and not taking sides.

    • Richelle's Gravatar Richelle
      March 5, 2017 - 1:29 am | Permalink

      I read and appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  143. March 4, 2017 - 8:56 pm | Permalink

    She seems capable of powerful intercessory prayer. Would that more fans of FC Magdeburg would invoke her assistance to promote the team to 2.Bundesliga!

  144. Walker Shaw's Gravatar Walker Shaw
    March 4, 2017 - 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Mechtild of Magdeburg has an asteroid (873) named for her as does Freddie Mercury (Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury), well worth a vote.

  145. Bekka's Gravatar Bekka
    March 4, 2017 - 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Mechtild of Magdebur is winning this round, also when does this round ends?
    Bekka 10 yo

  146. March 4, 2017 - 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Welcome, Bekka.
    I don’t know whether the voting ends at midnight or when they put up the next slate.

  147. Benny Wanna Be Hinn's Gravatar Benny Wanna Be Hinn
    March 4, 2017 - 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Pentecostal, so of course I voted for Mechtild. You had me at the Hily Spirit!

  148. Cynthia Fontayne's Gravatar Cynthia Fontayne
    March 5, 2017 - 12:23 am | Permalink

    I’m with her.

  149. Carmen F.'s Gravatar Carmen F.
    March 5, 2017 - 1:07 am | Permalink

    I was impressed that Mechtild was literate at a time when so many women weren’t, and that she was encouraged by her priest (a man) to make a written record of her visions in the language of the common people where she lived. And she wasn’t stifled when her writings stirred up controversy!

  150. Patty's Gravatar Patty
    March 5, 2017 - 1:34 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild primarily because she had visions/visits from the Holy Spirit. That faith and certainty in what she saw is a faith to be envied.

  151. Beverley Cox's Gravatar Beverley Cox
    March 5, 2017 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    I missed this vote! I’m not getting the notifications! Help!!! Please!!

  152. Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
    March 5, 2017 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    My son Quinten said he voted for Isaac because he went into the wilderness abd fasted just like Jesus – go learning about the saint!

  153. Jennifer Rich's Gravatar Jennifer Rich
    March 5, 2017 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Mechitild sounds like an early Women’s Rights advocate! Love it! She’s got my vote.

  154. Stuart U. Freemon's Gravatar Stuart U. Freemon
    March 5, 2017 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Oliver may have, in fact, been nine years old last year. Lent 2016 ran through 24 March 2016 (Maundy Thursday). We are still in early March 2017.

    I too liked Mechtild of Magdeburg, because her story seemed more interesting to me than did that of Isaac The Syrian, though it is amazing that one could sequester oneself from those around him to live in solitude to become closer to God. We could all probably take a lesson.

  155. Mary Margaret Walters's Gravatar Mary Margaret Walters
    March 5, 2017 - 3:58 pm | Permalink

    fascinating. I missed voting yesterday. I see you have to stay on top of this.
    My first experience and it is uplifting.

  156. Eddie Jones's Gravatar Eddie Jones
    March 5, 2017 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I know how it is to be partially blind , not from personal experience but from our Supply Priest who has very limited vision forward vision. To help him to stay on as our priest we do all we can to help him even going as far as reading the Gospel for him.

  157. Susan Leonard's Gravatar Susan Leonard
    March 5, 2017 - 7:22 pm | Permalink

    How can we vote?

  158. andrea's Gravatar andrea
    March 5, 2017 - 8:20 pm | Permalink

    A difficult choice; I liked them both. I finally voted for Mechtild because of the asteroid, she had the courage to criticize the clergy, and that she wrote about her personal greetings from the Holy Spirit in the

  159. Jane W Van Zandt's Gravatar Jane W Van Zandt
    March 6, 2017 - 7:17 am | Permalink

    So far, no close races; only landslides!

  160. Anne G. Lynch's Gravatar Anne G. Lynch
    March 7, 2017 - 12:07 am | Permalink

    I voted for Mechtild in part because German friends named their child for her. I would like to question a bit of the article about her. The crusades, which took many men away from home for years, opened up a golden age for women. Also a number of convents in the Holy Roman Empire ruled whole districts, like counties. The princess abbess often chose a bishop to serve under her to carry out the necessary sacraments in her diocese. Also, women in the upper classes were often better educated than their husbands. In a nobel household, the boys were sent away in their early teens to learn the military arts at the castle of a higher lord. The daughters continued their educations until they married then became the teachers in their new households.

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