Sunday, December 27, 2009

Meister Eckehart on love and others

My seminary days come back to me often. 

Today I picked up the following quotes from an article in the December website edition of Harpers magazine ("The Trinity of Love") concerning the life and message of Meister Eckehart, a 14th century Dominican priest.  I first read Eckehart when I was about 25-years-old.  His writings and sermons were among the sources that first exposed me to the rich mysticism of Christian thought in the Middle Ages.  Hear him:

If you love yourself, then you love all others as yourself. As long as you love a single human being less than yourself, you cannot truly love yourself—if you do not love all others as yourself, in one human being all human beings: and this human being is God and man.

–Meister Eckehart, Sermon No. 13, “Qui audit me” (Sept. 8, 1325) in Meister Eckharts deutsche und lateinische Werke, vol. 1, p. 195 (J. Quint ed. 1936)(S.H. transl.)

The Harpers' commentary following the quote challenges me: 

He then develops this idea in the context of a new doctrine of love in which love of self is carefully juxtaposed against the love of fellow humans and of God. He cites a passage from Paul of Tarsus in Romans 9:3 in which he wishes to be “cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.” Self-sacrifice is thus defined as the essence of love and the overcoming of the self (in his words–thus is a human truly human).

But this “true” human is essentially also what Eckehart calls a “just man.” For him, the demand for justice must be everything, what he lives and breathes to achieve, more important than the outer formality of religion. And it is radical in its social implications, as Eckehart the noble says “I call you not servants, but friends.” But it starts with the abandonment of temporal connections in the quest for a mystical union with the spiritual. . . .says Eckehart—“the highest and most extreme thing that the human can give up, that is that he give up God for the sake of God.” These words may confound, and they certainly challenge the temporal and sacred authority of his time, but there is a clear internal logic to them, which challenges its audience to reject the paths they tread in favor of a new and mystical view of the world and humankind.

No comments: