Meister Eckart – The Complete Mystical Works

SERMON TWELVE (Pf 12, Q 27, QT 50)

HOC EST PRAECEPTUM MEUM, UT DILIGATIS

INVICEM SICUT DI LEXI VOS (John 1 5: 1 2ff.)

I have quoted three words in Latin from the Gospel.

The first word that our Lord says is, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

The second is, “I have called you my friends, for all the things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

The third is, “I have chosen you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain.”

Now observe the first word that he says, “This is my commandment.”

I would say a word to you about this, that ” should remain with you. ”

“This is my commandment, that you love.

“What does he mean when he says, “that you love “?

He wants to say one thing that you should note: Love is quite pure, quite bare, quite detached in itself.

The greatest masters’ say that the love with which we love is the Holy Ghost.

There were some2 who would dispute this.

That is eternally true: it is all the motion with which we are moved to love, we are moved by nothing but the Holy Ghost. Love at its purest and at its most detached is nothing but God.

The masters say that the goal of love, toward which love does all its works, is goodness, and goodness is God.

Just as my eye cannot speak and my tongue cannot recognize colors, so love cannot incline to anything but goodness and God.

Now pay attention.

What does he mean when he so earnestly enjoins us to love?

He means that the love with which we love must be so pure, so bare, so detached that it is not inclined toward myself nor toward my friend nor anywhere apart from itself.

The masters say we cannot call any work a good work, or any virtue a virtue, unless it is performed in love.

Virtue is so noble, so detached, so pure, so bare in itself that it knows nothing better than itself and God.

Now he says: “This is my commandment.”

If anyone commands me to do that which is pleasant, which avails me or on which my bliss depends, that is exceedingly sweet to me.

When I am thirsty, the drink commands me; when I am hungry, the food commands me.

And God does the same: He commands me to such sweetness that the whole world cannot equal.

And if a man has once tasted this sweetness, then indeed he can no more turn away with his love from goodness and from God, than God can turn away from His Godhead: in fact it is easier for him to divest himself of self and all bliss and to remain with love close to goodness and God.

Now he says, “that you love one another.”

Oh, what a noble and blessed life that would be!

Would not that be a noble life, if every man were devoted to his neighbor’s peace as well as to his own, and his love were so bare and pure and detached in itself that its goal was nothing but goodness and God?

If you were to ask a good man, ‘Why do you love goodness?’ – ‘For goodness’ sake.’ ‘Why do you love God? ‘ – ‘For God’s sake.’

And if your love really is so pure, so detached and so bare in itself that you love nought but goodness and God, then it is a certain truth that all the virtuous deeds performed by all men are yours as perfectly as if you had performed them yourself, and even purer and better.

For the pope has often tribulation enough for being pope.

But you have his virtues more purely and with greater detachment and peace, and they are more yours than his, if your love is so pure and bare in itself that you desire and love nothing but goodness and God.

Now he says, “As I have loved you.” How has God loved us?

He loved us when we were not,3 and when we were His foes.

God needs our friendship so much that He cannot wait for us to pray to Him:

He approaches us and begs us to be His friends, for He desires of us that we should want His forgiveness.

That is why our Lord rightly says, “It is my will that you beg them that harm you” (d. Luke 6:27).

That is how important it is that we should beg them that harm us.

Why?

That we may do God’s will, that we should not wait till they beg us: we should say, ‘Friend, forgive me that I have made you sad.’

And that is how serious we should be in our practice of virtue: the greater our pain, the more seriously we should strive for virtue.

So much should your love be one, for love does not wish to be anywhere but where there is likeness and oneness.

Where there is a master and servant there is no peace, for there is no likeness.

A woman and a man are unlike, but in love they are alike.

And so scripture rightly says that God took woman from the man’s rib and side and not from the head or from the feet; for where there are two, there is a lack.

Why?

One is not the other, for the not that makes the difference is nothing but bitterness, because there is no peace.

If I hold an apple in my hand, that delights my eyes, but my mouth is deprived of the

sweetness.

But if I eat it, I deprive my eyes of the pleasure I have from that. Thus two cannot coexist, for one must lose its being.

That is why he says, “Love one another, ” that is, in one another.

Scripture expresses this very well. St. John says,” God is love, and whoever dwells in love, is in God and God is in him” (1 John 4:16).

He speaks very truly: for if God were in m e and I were not i n God, or if I were in God and God were not in me, there would be two.

But if God is in me and I am in God, then I am not meaner and God is not higher.

Now you might say, ‘Sir, you bid me love, but I can’t love!’

Our Lord put this well when he said to St. Peter, “Peter, do you love me? ” – “Lord, you know well that I love you” (John 21:15).

If you have given it to me, Lord, I love you; if you have not given it to me, then I do not love you.

Now note the second text: “I have called you friends, for all the things I have heard from the Father I have made known to you.”

Note that he says, “I have called you m y friends.”

In the same source where the Son takes rise, where the Father speaks His eternal Word,

and from the same heart, the Holy Ghost also takes rise and flows forth.

And if the Holy Ghost had not flowed forth from the Son (and from the Father),4 there would have been no distinction between the Son and the Holy Ghost.

When I preached at Trinity, I quoted a text in Latin that the Father gave His only-begotten Son all that He has to offer, all His Godhead, all His bliss, holding nothing back.

The question then arose, did God give him His true nature?

And I said, ‘Yes,’ for the nature of God, which is to give birth, is not different from God, and I have said that He holds nothing back.

In fact I declare, He utters the root of the Godhead completely in the Son.

And so St. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will suffice us” (John 14:8).

A tree that bears fruit gives forth its fruits.

Whoever gives me the fruit does not give me the tree.

But whoever gives me the tree and the root and the fruit has given me more.

Now he says, “I have called you my friends.”

Truly, in that selfsame birth in which the Father bears His only-begotten Son and gives

him the root and all His Godhead and all His bliss, holding nothing back, in that selfsame birth He calls us His friends.

Even if you hear and understand nothing of His speaking, yet there is a power in the soul (I mentioned it when I recently preached here),6 which is so detached and pure in itself and is akin to the divine nature, and in that power it is understood.

Therefore he truly says, “All the things I have heard from the Father I have made known to you.

“Now he says, “that I have heard. “The Father’s speaking is His giving birth; the Son’s hearing is his being born.

Now he says, “All that I have heard from my Father.”

Truly, all that he has eternally heard from his Father, he has revealed and not concealed from us.

I say if he had heard a thousand times more, he would have revealed it and not concealed it from us.

And so we should conceal nothing from God, we should reveal to Him all that we can do.

For if you were to hold back anything for yourself, you would thereby lose your eternal bliss, for God has withheld nothing of His own from us.

This seems to some a hard saying. But nobody should despair on that account.

The more you give of yourself to God, the more God gives Himself to you in return, and the more you divest yourself of self, the greater your eternal bliss.

It occurred to me just now as I was saying my Paternoster (which God Himself taught us), that when we say ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,’7 we are praying to God to deprive us of ourselves.

Concerning the third text I will not now speak, when he says,” I have chosen you, fed you, stilled you, established you that you may go forth and bring forth fruit and that your fruit shall remain.”8

And the fruit is known to none but God alone.

And that we may come to this fruit, may the eternal truth help us, of which I have spoken. Amen. ~Meister Eckhart, The Complete Works, Page 99-102

Notes

  1. Peter Lombard among others.
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas held that the Holy Ghost is the cause of our love.
  3. Cf. Sermon 8, note 3.
  4. Supplied from the Basle Tauler print, not i n the MSS.
  5. LW IV, 5.
  6. See Sermon 1 1, note2.
  7. Eckhart’s rendering of Fiat voluntas tua as ‘may (my) will be thine’ recurs in

Sermon 18 and elsewhere.

  1. I have not rendered the strange repetitions of verbs in this sentence. For discussion of this third point, see Sermon 17.