The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

Meister Eckhart and the Eternal Birth: Sermon One

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Meister Eckhart and the Eternal Birth: Sermon One

presentation at Adult Forum by
Peter Norris
Congregation member
October 1, 2017

Meister Eckhart. From Sermon 1.

  1. Here, in time, we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature. St. Augustine says, 'What does it avail me that this birth is always happening if it does not happen in me?'
  2. We shall therefore speak of this birth, of how it may take place in us and be consummated in the virtuous soul .... For what I say here is to be understood of the good and perfected man who has walked and is still walking in the ways of God; not of the natural, undisciplined man, for he is ... totally ignorant of this birth.
  3. There is a saying of the wise man, 'When all things lay in the midst of silence, then there descended down into me from on high, from the royal throne, a secret word.' This sermon is about that Word.
  4. The soul in which this birth is to take place must keep absolutely pure and must live in noble fashion, quite collected and turned entirely inward, not running out through the five senses into the multiplicity of creatures, but all inturned and collected and in the purest part ....
  5. Is it more profitable to cooperate [with God's speaking of the word] so it may come to pass in him through his own exertion ... or whether one should shun and free oneself from all thoughts, words, and deeds and from all images created by the understanding, maintaining a wholly God-receptive attitude, such that one's own self is idle, letting God work within one.
  6. [The Word is spoken] in the purest thing that the soul is capable of, in the noblest part, the ground, indeed, in the very essence of the soul which is the soul's most secret part. There is the silent 'middle' for no creature ever entered there and no image, nor has the soul there either activity or understanding.
  7. [In the ground] there is nothing but rest and celebration for this birth ... for this part is by nature receptive to nothing save only the divine essence, without mediation.
  8. And you must know too that the soul is free and void of all images - which is why God can freely unite with her without form or likeness.
  9. God the father gives birth to the son in the true unity of the divine nature ... in the ground and essence of the soul, and thus unites himself with her.
  10. They must know that the very best and noblest attainment in this life is to be silent and let God work and speak within. when the powers have been completely withdrawn from all their works and images, then the Word is spoken.
  11. The more you are able to draw in your powers to a unity and forget all those things and images which you have absorbed, and the further you can get from creatures and their images, the nearer you are to this and the readier to receive it.
  12. Then you could pass into an oblivion of your own body as St. Paul did, when he said, 'Whether in the body I cannot tell, or out of the body I cannot tell; God knows it' (2 Cor. 12:2). In this case the spirit had so entirely absorbed the powers that it had forgotten the body: memory no longer functioned, nor understanding, nor the senses, nor the powers that should function ... vital warmth and body-heat were suspended .... Thus too Moses fared when he fasted for forty days on the mountain and was none the worse for it.
  13. Concerning this a master addressed the soul thus: withdraw from the unrest of external activities, then flee away and hide from the turmoil of inward thoughts, for they but create discord.
  14. God performs His works, whether within Himself or outside of Himself, in a flash. There must be a withdrawal from all things. God scorns to work through images.
  15. '... there was spoken to me a hidden word, It came like a thief by stealth,' It revealed itself to me and shone forth before me, declaring something to me and making God known to me and therefore it is called a Word, yet what it was, remained hidden from me ....