Meister Eckhart: Sermon Seven

SERMON SEVEN (Pf 7, Q 76, QT 35)

VIDETE QUALEM CHARITATEM DEDIT NOBIS PATER,

UT FILII DEL NOMINEMUR ET SIMUS

(1 John 3:1)

You must know that this is in reality one and the same thing — to know God and to be known by God, to see God and to be seen by God. In knowing and seeing God we know and see that He makes us know and see. And just as the luminous air is not different from the fact of illuminating, for it illumines because it is luminous, so do we know by being known, and because He makes us know. Therefore Christ said, “Again you will see me” (John 16:16). That is to say, by making you see, you know me; and then follows, “Your heart shall rejoice,” that is, in the vision and knowledge of me, “and your joy no man takes from you” (John 16:22).

St. John says, “See how great is the love that the Father has shown us, that we are called and are the children of God” (1 John 3: 1-2). He says not only “we are called” but “we are.” So I say that just as a man cannot be wise without wisdom, so he cannot be a son without the filial nature of God’s son, without having the same being as the Son of God has — just as being wise cannot be without wisdom. And so, if you are the son of God, you can only be so by having the same being of God that the Son has. But this is “now hidden from us.” And after that it is written, “Beloved, we are the children of God.” And what do we know? That is what he adds: “and we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). That is, [we shall be] the same as he is — the same being, experiencing and understanding, everything that he is, when we see him as God. So I say God could not make me the son of God if I had not the nature of God’s son, any more than God could make me wise if I had no wisdom. How are we God’s sons? We do not know yet: “It does not yet appear” to us; all we know is that he says we shall be like him. There are certain things that hide this knowledge in our souls and conceal it from us.

The soul has something in her, a spark of intellect, that never dies; and in this spark, as at the apex of the mind, we place the image of the soul. But there is also in our souls a knowing directed toward ex­ternals, the sensible and rational perception, which operates in images and words to obscure this [spark of intellect] from us. How then are we God’s sons? By sharing one nature with Him. But to have any realisation of thus being God’s Son, we need to distinguish between the outward and the inward understanding. The inward understanding is that which is based intellectually in the nature of our soul. Yet it is not the soul’s essence but is, rather, rooted there and is something of the life of the soul. In saying the understanding is the life of the soul we mean her intellectual life, and that is the life in which man is born as God’s son and to eternal life. This understanding is timeless, without place — without Here and Now. In this life all things are one and all things are common: all things are all in all and all in one.

I will give you an example. In the body, all members are united and one, such that eye belongs to foot and foot to eye. If the foot could speak, it would say that the eye which is in the head was more its own than if it were in the foot, and the eye would say the same in reverse. And so I think that all the grace which is in Mary is more and more truly an angel’s and more in him — that which is in Mary! — than if it were in him or in the saints. For whatever Mary has, a saint has: the grace in Mary is more his, and he enjoys it more, than if it were in him.

But this interpretation is too gross and carnal, for it depends on bodily imagery. So I will give you another sense, which is more subtle and spiritual. I say that in the heavenly realm all is in all, and all is one, and all ours. The grace of our Lady exists in me (if I am there), not as welling up and flowing out of Mary, but rather as in me and as my own, and not of foreign origin. And so I say that what one has there, another has, not as from the other or in the other, but in himself, so that the grace that is in one is entirely in another as his own grace. Thus it is that spirit is in spirit. That is why I say that I cannot be the son of God unless I have the very same nature the Son of God has; and having this same nature makes us like him, and we see him as he is God.

“But it is not yet revealed what we shall be.” And so I say that in this sense there is no likeness and no difference, but rather, wholly without distinction we shall be the same in essence, in substance and in nature as He is in Himself. But that is “not yet revealed”: it will be revealed “when we see him as he is” — God.

God causes us to know Him, and His being is His knowing, and His making me know is the same as my knowing. Therefore, His knowing is mine, just as what the master teaches is one and the same as what the pupil learns. And since His knowing is mine, and since His substance is His knowing, and His nature and His essence [as well], it follows that His essence and His substance and His nature are mine. And if His substance, His being and His nature are mine, then I am the son of God. “Behold, brethren, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called and should be the Son of God!”

Note how we are the Son of God — by having the same essence that the Son has.

But, ‘How can one be the Son of God, or how can one know it, since God is not like anybody?’

That is true, for Isaiah says, “To whom have you likened Him or what image will you give Him?” (Isa. 40:18). Since it is God’s nature not to be like anyone, we have to come to the state of being nothing in order to enter into the same nature that He is. So when I am able to establish myself in nothing and nothing in myself, uprooting and casting out what is in me, then I can pass into the naked being of God, which is the naked being of the spirit. All that smacks of likeness must be cast out that I may be transplanted into God and become one with Him: one substance, one being, one nature, and the Son of God. Once this happens, there is nothing hidden in God that is not revealed, that is not mine. Then I shall be wise and mighty and all else as He is, and one and the same with Him. Then Sion will become truly seeing and true Israel, a God-seeing man, from whom nothing in the Godhead is hidden. Then man is directed into God. But so that nothing may be hidden in God that is not revealed to me, there must appear to me nothing like; no image, for no image can reveal to us the Godhead or its essence. Should any image or any likeness remain in you, you would never be one with God. To be one with God there must be in you nothing imagined or imaged forth, so that nothing is covered up in you that is not discovered or cast out.1

Observe the nature of want: it comes from nothing.2 So what comes of nothing must be purged from the soul, for so long as there is such want in you, you are not God’s son. Man laments and is sorrowful solely on account of want. And so for man to become the Son of God, all that must be purged and cast out, so that there is no more sorrow and lamentation. A man is not stone or wood, for that is all want and nought. We shall not be like Him until this nothing is expelled, so that we are all in all as God is all in all.

Man has a twofold birth: one into the world, and one out of the world, which is spiritual and into God. Do you want to know if your child is born, and if he is naked — whether you have in fact become God’s son? If you grieve in your heart for anything, even on account of sin, your child is not yet born. If your heart is sore you are not yet a mother — but you are in labour and your time is near. So do not despair if you grieve for yourself or your friend — though it is not yet born, it is near to birth. But the child is fully born when a man’s heart grieves for nothing: then a man has the essence and the nature and the substance and the wisdom and the joy and all that God has. Then the very being of the Son of God is ours and in us and we attain to the very essence of God.

Christ says: “Whoever would follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34). That is, cast out all grief so that perpetual joy reigns in your heart — thus is the child born. And then if the child is born in me, the sight of my father and all my friends slain before my eyes would leave my heart untouched. For if my heart were moved thereby, the child would not have been born in me, though its birth might be near.

I declare that God and the angels take such keen delight in every act of a good man that there is no joy like it. And so I say, if this child is born in you, then you have such great joy in every good deed that is done in the world that this joy becomes permanent and never changes. Therefore he says, “Your joy no man takes from you” (John 16:22). If I am fully transported into the divine essence, then God and all that He has is mine. Therefore He says, “I am the Lord thy God” (Exod. 20:2). That is when I have true joy, when neither pain nor sorrow can take it from me, for then I am installed in the divine essence, where sorrow has no place. For we see that in God there is no anger or sadness, but only love and joy. Though He seems sometimes to be wrathful with sinners it is not really wrath, it is love, for it comes from the great divine love: those He loves He chastens, for He is love, which is the Holy Ghost. And so God’s anger springs from love, for His anger is without passion. And so, when you have reached the point where nothing is grievous or hard to you, and where pain is not pain to you, when everything is perfect joy to you, then your child has really been born.

Strive therefore to ensure that your child is not only being born, but is brought to birth, just as in God the Son is always being born and is brought to birth. And that this may be our lot, so help us God. Amen.

Notes

1. This presumably means that the entire contents of the unconscious must be cleared. (Walshe)
2. (Walshe) Middle High German niht (nicht) = ‘nothing’, intensified nihtes niht.
2. (Editor) Want or lack is “nothing”: could Eckhart mean that these are dharmas and therefore not real?

M. O’C Walshe (2009). The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart: Translated and Edited by Maurice O’C Walshe. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

1 John 2

28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone that does righteousness is born of him.

1 John 3

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.

2 Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

3 And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.

4 Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the Law: for sin is the transgression of the Law.

5 And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

6 Whosoever abides in him sins not: whosoever sins has not seen him, neither known him.

7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

8 He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

9 Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His nature remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever does not righteousness is not of God; neither he that loves not his brother.

11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love our brethren. He that loves not his brother abides in death.  (King James 2000)

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