Monday, August 1, 2022

Gerhard Tersteegen

Gerhard Tersteegen (1697―1769) is a German Pietist poet, and writer. He was influential through his sermons, hymns, poems, letters, and “reflections” ― some of which have been translated into English.

In his youth he had wanted to study theology, but couldn’t afford the tuition so he became apprenticed to a merchant. This didn’t suit him, so he worked on his own as a weaver in an isolated cottage where he would better be able to search for God. He read theological books, and became well-respected as a lay theologian. In 1727 his pursuit of solitude took a surprising turn. A revival took place and people started coming to him for spiritual guidance. He hosted home worship and prayer meetings, and became an itinerant preacher.

In addition to his own writing, Tersteegen translated French mystics and Julian of Norwich into German. Some of his hymns were translated into English by John Wesley.

The following poems are from The Spiritual Flower Garden as translated by Bill C. Hensel.

[Says] Jesus to the Soul (Part 1)

Oh, do not be disturbed, my child;
remain in your inner solitude,
with a gentle and quiet spirit
and undeluded senses.

Let come what may,
but guard your peace.

Nothing is worth
your disturbance,

for I, Jesus, am in you.

What good will the world
and all its devils
do for you?

Have peace in me
that I may rest
in you.

[Says] Jesus to the Soul (Part II)

You speak to me
that I might come to you
and prepare you;

now, stretch forth your hands
and let me make it so!

Your own will,
your own worry
your own striving,
your own work ―

all of this disturbs your peace

and makes it so that I
cannot work in you.

Only behold the little flowers
in clear, Summer weather:

they keep very still
then open their petals.

So the Sun shines upon them
and works its gentle way

and this, too, is what I would do
if only you would let me.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.