Henry Suso | Wikipedia audio article

Henry Suso, O.P. (also called Amandus, a name
adopted in his writings, and Heinrich Seuse in German), was a German Dominican friar and
the most popular vernacular writer of the fourteenth century (when considering the number
of surviving manuscripts). Suso is thought to have been born on March
21, 1295. An important author in both Latin and Middle
High German, he is also notable for defending Meister Eckhart’s legacy after Eckhart was
posthumously condemned for heresy in 1329. He died in Ulm on 25 January 1366, and was
beatified by the Catholic Church in 1831.==Biography==
Suso was born Heinrich von Berg, a member of the ruling family of Berg. He was born in either the Free imperial city
of Überlingen on Lake Constance or nearby Constance, on 21 March 1295 (or perhaps on
that date up to 1297-9). Later, out of humility and devotion to his
mother, he took her family name, which was Sus (or Süs). At 13 years of age he was admitted to the
novitiate of the Dominican Order at their priory in Constance. After completing that year of probation, he
advanced to do his preparatory, philosophical, and theological studies there. In the prologue to his Life, Suso recounts
how, after about five years in the monastery (in other words, when he was about 18 years
old), he experienced a conversion to a deeper form of religious life through the intervention
of Divine Wisdom. He made himself “the Servant of Eternal Wisdom”,
which he identified with the divine essence and, in more specific terms, with divine Eternal
Wisdom made woman in Christ. From this point forward in his account of
his spiritual life, a burning love for Eternal Wisdom dominated his thoughts and controlled
his actions; his spiritual journey culminated in a mystical marriage to Christ in the form
of the Eternal Wisdom.===Career===
Suso was then sent on for further studies in philosophy and theology, probably first
at the Dominican monastery in Strasbourg, perhaps between 1319 and 1321, and then from
1324 to 1327 he took a supplementary course in theology in the Dominican Studium Generale
in Cologne, where he would have come into contact with Meister Eckhart, and probably
also Johannes Tauler, both celebrated mystics.Returning to his home priory at Constance in about 1327,
Suso was appointed to the office of lector (lecturer). His teaching, however, aroused criticism – most
likely because of his connection with Eckhart in the wake of the latter’s trial and condemnation
in 1326-9. Suso’s Little Book of Truth, a short defence
of Eckhart’s teaching, probably dates from this time, perhaps 1329. In 1330 this treatise, and another, were denounced
as heretical by enemies in the Order. Suso traveled to the Dominican General Chapter
held at Maastricht in 1330 to defend himself. The consequence is not entirely known – at
some point between 1329 and 1334 he was removed from his lectorship in Constance, though he
was not personally condemned.Knowledge of Suso’s activities in subsequent years is somewhat
sketchy. It is known that he served as prior of the
Constance convent – most likely between 1330 and 1334, though possibly in the 1340s. It is also known that he had various devoted
disciples, a group including both men and women, especially those connected to the Friends
of God movement. His influence was especially strong in many
religious communities of women, particularly in the Dominican Monastery of St. Katharinental
in the Argau, a famous nursery of mysticism in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the mid-1330s, during his visits to various
communities of Dominican nuns and Beguines, Suso became acquainted with Elsbeth Stagel,
prioress of the monastery of Dominican nuns in Töss. The two became close friends. She translated some of his Latin writings
into German, collected and preserved most of his extant letters, and at some point began
gathering the materials that Suso eventually put together into his Life of the Servant. Suso shared in the exile of the Dominican
community from Constance between 1339 and 1346, during the most heated years of the
quarrel between Pope John XXII and the Holy Roman Emperor. He was transferred to the monastery at Ulm
in about 1348. He seems to have remained there for the rest
of his life. Here, during his final years (possibly 1361-3),
he edited his four vernacular works into The Exemplar. Suso died in Ulm on 25 January 1366.===Mortifications===
Early in his life, Suso subjected himself to extreme forms of mortifications; later
on he reported that God told him they were unnecessary. During this period, Suso devised for himself
several painful devices. Some of these were: an undergarment studded
with a hundred and fifty brass nails, a very uncomfortable door to sleep on, and a cross
with thirty protruding needles and nails under his body as he slept. In the autobiographical text in which he reports
these, however, he ultimately concludes that they are unnecessary distractions from the
love of God.==Writings==
Suso and Johannes Tauler were students of Meister Eckhart, forming the nucleus of the
Rhineland school of mysticism. As a lyric poet and “troubadour of divine
wisdom,” Suso explored with psychological intensity the spiritual truths of Eckhart’s
mystical philosophy.Suso’s first work was the Büchlein der Wahrheit (Little Book of
Truth) written between 1328 and 1334 in Constance. This was a short defence of the teaching of
Meister Eckhart, who had been tried for heresy and condemned in 1328-9. In 1330 this treatise and another (possibly
the Little Book of Eternal Wisdom) were denounced as heretical by Dominican opponents, leading
Suso to travel to the Dominican General Chapter held at Maastricht in 1330 to defend himself.Suso’s
next book, Das Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit (The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom), written
around 1328-1330, is less speculative and more practical. At some point between 1334 and 1337 Suso translated
this work into Latin, but in doing so added considerably to its contents, and made of
it an almost entirely new book, which he called the Horologium Sapientiae (Clock of Wisdom). This book was dedicated to the new Dominican
Master General, Hugh of Vaucemain, who appears to have been a supporter of his.At some point
in the following decades, Stagel formed a collection of 28 of Suso’s letters in the
Grosses Briefbuch (Great Book of Letters), which survives. Suso also wrote a long text purporting to
tell the story of his spiritual life and ascetic practices (variously referred to as the Life
of the Servant, Life, Vita, or Leben Seuses), and revised the Büchlein der Wahrheit, and
the Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit. At some point in his later years, perhaps
1361-3, he collected these works, together with 11 of his letters (the Briefbüchlein,
or Little Book of Letters, a selection of letters from the Grosses Briefbuch), and a
prologue, to form one book he referred to as The Exemplar.There are also various sermons
attributed to Suso, although only two appear to be authentic. A treatise known as the Minnebüchlein (Little
Book of Love) is sometimes, but probably incorrectly, attributed to Suso.Suso was very widely read
in the later Middle Ages. There are 232 extant manuscripts of the Middle
High German Little Book of Eternal Wisdom. The Latin Clock of Wisdom was even more popular:
over four hundred manuscripts in Latin, and over two hundred manuscripts in various medieval
translations (it was translated into eight languages, including Dutch, French, Italian,
Swedish, Czech, and English). Many early printings survive as well. The Clock was therefore second only to the
Imitation of Christ in popularity among spiritual writings of the later Middle Ages. Among his many readers and admirers were Thomas
à Kempis and John Fisher.Wolfgang Wackernagel and others have called Suso a “Minnesinger
in prose and in the spiritual order” or a “Minnesinger of the Love of God” both for
his use of images and themes from secular, courtly, romantic poetry and for his rich
musical vocabulary. The mutual love of God and man which is his
principal theme gives warmth and color to his style. He used the full and flexible Alemannic idiom
with rare skill, and contributed much to the formation of good German prose, especially
by giving new shades of meaning to words employed to describe inner sensations.==Legacy and veneration==
In the world Suso was esteemed as a preacher, and was heard in the cities and towns of Swabia,
Switzerland, Alsace, and the Netherlands. His apostolate, however, was not with the
masses, but rather with individuals of all classes who were drawn to him by his singularly
attractive personality, and to whom he became a personal director in the spiritual life. Suso was reported to have established among
the Friends of God a society which he called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom. The so-called Rule of the Brotherhood of the
Eternal Wisdom is but a free translation of a chapter of his Horologium Sapientiae, and
did not make its appearance until the fifteenth century. Suso was beatified in 1831 by Pope Gregory
XVI, who assigned 2 March as his feast day, celebrated within the Dominican Order. The Dominicans now celebrate his feast on
23 January, the feria, or “free” day, nearest the day of his death. The words of the Christmas song In dulci jubilo
are attributed to Suso.==Editions and translations==
The Exemplar (Middle High German): Henry Suso, Das Buch von dem Diener (The Life
of the Servant), ed. K. Bihlmeyer, Heinrich Seuse. Deutsche Schriften, 1907(translated by Frank
Tobin, in The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons, New York: Paulist Press, 1989, pp. 61–204.) Das Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit (The Little
Book of Eternal Wisdom), ed. K. Bihlmeyer, ibid.(trans. in F. Tobin, ibid.,
pp. 204–304.) Das Büchlein der Wahrheit (The Little Book
of Truth), ed. K. Bihlmeyer, ibid.(trans. in F. Tobin, ibid.,
pp. 305–332.) Das Briefbüchlein (The Little Book of Letters),
ed. K. Bihlmeyer, ibid., pp. 360–393(trans.
in F. Tobin, ibid., pp. 333–360.) Preaching and Letters (Middle High German): Henry Suso, The Great Book of Letters, ed. K. Bihlmeyer, Heinrich Seuse. Deutsche Schriften, 1907, pp. 405–494. Sermons 1 and 4 (those now recognized as authentic)
are published in English translation in The Exemplar, with Two German Sermons, trans. F. Tobin, (New York: Paulist Press, 1989),
pp. 361–376.Latin: Henry Suso, Horologium sapientiae (Clock of
Wisdom), ed. P. Künzle, Heinrich Seuses Horologium sapientiae,
Freiburg: Universitatsverlag, 1977(translated by Edmund Colledge, Wisdom’s Watch upon the
Hours, Catholic University of America Press [1994])==References==Attribution This article incorporates text
from a publication now in the public domain: McMahon, Arthur Lawrence (1910). “Bl. Henry Suso”. In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 7. New York: Robert Appleton. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Suso, Heinrich”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.==Further reading==
English: van Aelst, José (2013). “Visualizing the Spiritual: Images in the
Life and Teachings of Henry Suso (c. 1295-1366)”. In de Hemptinne, Thérèse; Fraeters, Veerle;
Góngora, María Eugenia. Speaking to the Eye: Sight and Insight through
Text and Image (1150–1650). Brepols. Haas, Alois (1994). “Reading Henry Suso”. Listening. 29: 199–215. Hamburger, Jeffrey (1998). The Visual and the Visionary: Art and Female
Spirituality in Late Medieval Germany. James, Sarah (2012). “Rereading Henry Suso and Eucharistic Theology
in Fifteenth-Century England”. The Review of English Studies. 63 (262): 732–42. doi:10.1093/res/hgs053. Kieckhefer, Richard (1984). Unquiet Souls: Fourteenth-Century Saints and
Their Religious Milieu, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. McGinn, Bernard (2005). The Harvest of Mysticism, pp. 191–239. Newman, Barbara (2003). God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and
Belief in the Middle Ages. University of Pennsylvania Press. Rozenski, Steven (2010). “Henry Suso’s Horologium Sapientiae in fifteenth-century
France: images of reading and writing in Brussels Royal Library MS IV 111”. Word & Image. 26 (4): 364–80. doi:10.1080/02666281003603146. Schultze, Dirk (2005). The Seven Points of True Love and Everlasting
Wisdom: A Middle English Translation of Henry Suso’s Horologium Sapientiae, Edited from
Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, Brogyntyn II.5. Williams-Krapp, Werner (2004). “Henry Suso’s Vita between Mystagogy and Hagiography”. In Mulder-Bakker, Anneke. Seeing and Knowing: Women and Learning in
Medieval Europe, 1200-1550. Brepols. pp. 35–48.German: Filthaut, E.M., ed. (1966). Seuse-Studien: Heinrich Seuse. Studien zum 600. Todestag, 1366-1966, Cologne: Albertus Magnus
Verlag Haas, Alois. (1971). Nim din selbes war. Studien zur Lehre von der Selbsterkenntnis
bei Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler und Heinrich Seuse, Freiburg: Universitatsverlag. Keller, Hildegard Elisabeth and Hamburger,
Jeffrey, eds. (2011). Die Stunde des Hundes – after Henry Suso’s
Exemplar. Largier, Niklaus (1999). “Der Körper der Schrift: Bild und Text am
Beispiel einer Seuse-Handschrift des 15. Jahrhunderts”. Mittelalter. Neue Wege durch einen alten Kontinent: 241–71.Italian: Digitized manuscript (ca. 1500-25) of the
Horologio di sapienza (an Italian translation of the Horologium Sapientiae): Digitized codex
at Somni.==External links==
Quotations related to Henry Suso at Wikiquote Media related to Henry Suso at Wikimedia Commons
Henry Suso at Patron Saints Index Henry Suso at Christian Classics Ethereal
Library OPVS Research Group Summary of current work
on Suso

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