Meister Eckart – The Complete Mystical Works

SERMON SEVENTEEN (Pf 8 1, Q 28, QT 31)

EGO ELEGI VOS D E MUNDO (John 15:16)

These words which I have quoted in Latin are read today in the holy Gospel for the feast of a saint, Barnabas by name,1 who is commonly referred to in the scriptures as being an apostle.

And our Lord says, “I have chosen you, I have selected you from all the world, picked you out from the entire world and from all created things, that you should bring forth much fruit and that your fruit should remain”

(John 15:16) , for it is very delightful to bring forth fruit and for the fruit to remain, and the fruit does remain to him who dwells in love.

At the end of this Gospel our Lord says, “Love one another as I have

ever loved you; and as my Father eternally loved me, so I have loved

you. Keep my commandments, then you will remain in my love”

(John 15:12+9-10) .

All God’s commandments come from love a n d from the goodness of His nature, for if they did not come from love they would not be God’s commandments.

For God’s commandment is the goodness of His nature, and His nature is His goodness in His commandment.

Now, whoever dwells in the goodness of his nature, dwells in God’s love: but love is without Why.

If I had a friend and loved him for benefits received and because of getting my own way, I should not be loving my friend, but myself. I ought to love my friend for his own goodness, for his virtues and for all that he is in himself.

Only then would I love my friend aright, if I loved him as I have said. It is just the same with the man abiding in God’s love, seeking not his own in God or in himself or in any thing, but loving God solely for His goodness and for the goodness of His nature, and for all that He is in Himself. That is genuine love.

Love of virtue is a flower, an ornament, the mother of all virtue, of all perfection, of all blessedness, for it is God; for God is the fruit of virtues (God begets all virtues and is a fruit of the virtues), and it is this fruit that remains to man.

A man who should work for the fruit would rejoice greatly if the fruit remained with him. If a man had a vineyard or a field, and made it over to his servant to till, letting him keep the produce, at the same time giving him all that was necessary, the servant would be very pleased to have the fruits at no expense.

Thus too a man rejoices who dwells with the fruit of virtue, for he has no worries or vexations because he has relinquished himself and all things.

Now our Lord says, “Whoever abandons anything for me and for my name’s sake, I will return it to him a hundredfold, with eternal life to boot” ( Matt. 19:29).

But if you give it up for the sake of that hundredfold and for eternal life, you have given up nothing; even if you give it up for a thousandfold reward you are giving up nothing.

You must give up yourself, altogether give up self, and then you have really given up.

A man once came to me – it was not long ago – and told me he had given up a great deal of property and goods, in order that he might save his soul.

Then I thought, Alas! how little and how paltry are the things you have given up.

It is blindness and folly, so long as you care a jot for what you have given up.

But if you have given up self, then you have really given up.

The man who has resigned himself is so purified that the world will have none of him.

I said here once – it was not long ago – he who is devoted to justice is taken up by justice, seized of justice, becomes one with justice.2

I once wrote in my book,3

The just man serves neither God nor creatures, for he is free, and the closer he is to justice, the closer he is to freedom, and the more he is freedom itself.

Whatever is created, is not free.

So long as there is anything at all above me, that is not God, that oppresses me, however small it may be or whatever its nature; even though it were reason and love, as long as this is something created and not God Himself, it oppresses me, for it is not free.

The unjust man is the servant of truth,4 whether he likes it or not, and he serves the world and creatures, and is a bondman of sin.

I once thought – it was not long ago -That I a m a man i s something other men share with me; that I see and hear and eat and drink, that is the same as with cattle; but that I am, that belongs to no man but myself, not to a man, not to an angel, not even to God except insofar as I am one with Him. It is one purity and one unity.

All God works, He puts into the one that is like Himself. God gives equally to all things, though their works are unequal, yet they tend in their operation to reproduce themselves.

Nature wrought in my father the work of nature.

intention was that I too should be a father as he was.

He performs all this work for the sake of his own likeness and his own image, so that his work shall be himself.

The intention is always the man.5

But when nature is shifted or hindered so as not to operate with full power, the result is woman; and when nature ceases her operation, God begins to work and create, for without women, there would be no men.

When the child is conceived in the mother’s womb, it has image, form and material being: that is the work of nature.6

That lasts for forty days and nights, and on the fortieth day God creates the soul in less than an instant, so that the soul is form and life for the body.

Now ends the work of nature with all that nature can contrive in form, image and material being.

The work of nature goes out altogether, and as nature’s activity withdraws, it is fully replaced in the rational soul.

This is now a work of nature and a creation of God.

In created things – as I have said before – there is no truth.

There is something that transcends the created being of the soul, not in contact with created things, which are nothing; not even an angel has it, though he has a clear being that is pure and extensive: even that does not touch it.

It is akin to the nature of deity, it is one in itself, and has naught in common with anything.

It is a stumbling block to many a learned cleric.

is a strange and desert place, and is rather nameless than possessed of a name, and is more unknown than it is known.

you could naught yourself for an instant, indeed I say less than an instant, you would possess all that this is in itself.

But as long as you mind yourself or any thing at all, you know no more of God than my mouth knows of color or my eye of taste: so little do you know or discern what God is.

Now Plato, that great priesr7 begins to speak and would discourse on weighty matters. speaks of something pure that is not in the world, it is neither in the world not out of the world, neither in time nor in eternity, having neither inside nor outside.

Out of this God, the eternal Father, derives the plenitude and depth of all His Deity.

This He bears here in His only-begotten Son, so that we are that very Son, and His birth is His indwelling and His indwelling is His birth.

It remains ever the One, that continually wells up in itself.

Ego, the word ‘I,’ is proper to none but God in His oneness. Vos, this word means ‘you,’ that you are one in unity, so that ego and vos, I and you, stand for unity.

That we may be this same unity and remain this unity, may God help us.

Amen.  129-132

Notes

1 . June ll.

2 . See Sermon 1 6 .

  1. What book this was is unknown.

  2. Quint has restored the MS reading wiirheit, instead of Pfeiffer’s conjecture unwiirheit: Eckhart means that the unjust man cannot help serving truth.

  1. Woman was considered an ‘incomplete man.’
  2. Nature is conceived as the handmaid of God. She can make the body, but not

the soul.

  1. Cassiodorus called Plato the ‘theologian,’ Aristotle the ‘logician’ (Q).