Friday, September 7, 2012

Meister Eckhart, Counsel 11 from Counsels on Discernment, what to do when God is far away from us

Image of Master Eckhart
Hello there everybody,

I would like to post a post from Counsel 11 of Eckhart von Hochheim's (Miester [Master] Eckhart) Counsels on Discernment. Eckhart was a Dominican theologian of the 14th century who was brought up on heretical charges by the Franciscan-led Inquisition of the period. Some of his doctrines were regarded as heretical but according to the Catholic Church's decisions in 2010 he was not condemned in name and so may be read as an orthodox theologian, albeit I add, we ought to be cautious.

"Counsel 11: What a man should do when God has hidden Himself and he seeks for Him in vain

You ought also to know that a man with goodwill can never lose God. Rather, it sometimes seems to his feelings that he loses Him, and often he thinks that God has gone far away. What ought you to do then? Just what you did then you felt the greatest consolation. Learn to do the same when you are in the greatest sorrow, and under all the circumstances behave as you did then. There is no advice so good as to find God where one has left Him; so do now, when you cannot find Him, as you were doing when you had Him; and in that way you will find Him. But a good will never loses or seeks in vain for God. many people say: "We haev a good will," but they do not have God's will. They want to have their will, and they want to etach our Lord that He should be doing this and that. That is not a good will. We ought to seek from God what is His very dearest will."

This is quite excellent advice. Jesus taught us in the Lord's prayer to always pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven" teaching us to always seek the way of God above our own will and to open ourselves up to God. Master Eckhart continues,

"This is what God looks for in all things: that we surrender our will. When Saint Paul had done a lot of talking to our Lord, and our Lord had reasoned much with him, that produced nothing, until he surrendered his will and said: "Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:6). Then our Lord showed him clearly what he ought to do. So, too, when the angel appeared to our Lady, nothing either she or he had to say would ever have made her the Mother of God, but as soon as she gave up her own will, at that moment she became a true mother of the everlasting Word and she conceived God immediately; He became her son by nature. Nor can anything be make a true man except giving up his will. Truly, without giving up our own will in all things, we never accomplish anything in God's sight. But if it were to progress so far that we gave up the whole of our will and had the courage to renounce everything, external and internal, for the love of God, then we would have accomplished all things, and not until then."

This is just as well a good reflection that it was not until Mary said let it be done according to God's will that she was taken up and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit whereby she conceived the Word everlasting made flesh.

"We find few people, whether they know it or not, who would not like this to be so for them: to experience great things, to have this way of living and this treasure. But all this is nothing in them except self-will. You ought to surrender yourself wholly to God in all things, and then do not trouble yourself about what He may do with His own. There are thousands of people, dead and in Heaven, who never truly and perfectly forsook their own wills. Only a perfect and true will could make one enter perfectly into God's will and be without a will of one's own; and whoever has more of this, he is more fully and more truly established in God. yes, one Hail Mary said when a man has abandoned himself is more profitable than to read the Psalms a thousand times over without that. Whit that, one pace forward would be better than to walk across the sea without it."

Indeed a will given over to God is better than one that is not given over to God but seeks to do good. Truly it is He who leads us as a lowly leaf is carried aloft by the breeze. So should our spirits remain in the Lord. It is controversial to say that there are some in Heaven who never truly and perfectly forsook their own wills, but perhaps Eckhart means to say that when they were alive they never learned this, surely all who go through Purgatory are perfected to love God with as much of their hearts as they did in this life (and more).

"The man who in this way had wholly gone out of himself with everything that he possessed would indeed be established wholly with God, so that if anyone wanted to move him, he would first have to move God. For he is wholly in God, and God is around him as my cap is around my head. If anyone wanted to seize hold of me, first he would have to seize hold of my coat. In the same way, if I want to drink, the drink must first pass over my tongue; in this way the drink gives its flavor. If the tongue is coated with bitterness, then truly, however sweet the wine itself may be, it must become bitter through the means by which it comes to me. In truth, if a man had completely abandoned everything that is his, he would be so surrounded by God that no created thing could move him unless it had first moved God. Whatever would reach him would first have to reach him by means of God. So it will find its savor from God, and will become godlike. However great a sorrow may be, if it comes by means of God, then God has suffered it first. Yes, by that truth which is God, however little a sorrow may be that comes upon a man, as he places it in God, be it some displeasure or contradiction, it moves God immeasurably more than the man; and if it is grievous for the man, it is more so for God. But God suffers it for the sake of some good thing that He has provided in it for you, and if you will suffer the sorrow that God suffers and that comes to you through Him, it will easily become godlike: contempt, it may be, just as respect; bitterness just as sweetness; the greatest darkness just as the brightest light. It takes all its savor from God, and it becomes godlike, for it forms itself wholly in His image, whatever comes to this man, for this is all his intention and nothing else has savor for him; and in this he accepts God in all bitterness, just as in the greatest sweetness"

Master Eckhart might seem confusing here, but what he is trying to say that the man who has abandoned himself to God cannot be moved by any of the temptations or evils of the world because anything that arouses the spirit of the man looking for God's will can only be aroused by something that God has given to His servant to enjoy. That is when we seek the will of God and we discern His will in a certain matter the thing that we are doing will be pure joy because we take our joy in only doing the will of God, which is Eckhart's definition of a good will. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God! Indeed those who humble themselves to become destitute in their desires begging only for the will of God are those who will receive God's will and kingdom! In fact all of the Beatitudes match this disposition. I take it that when God grieves first for our sorrows it is that Jesus as a man who took up our sins upon the cross unites Himself to each and every soul as the Man of Sorrow, experiencing the grief and sorrow for all of our mishaps, sins, and unfortunate occurrences.

"The light shines in darkness, and there man perceives it. What is the use to people of teaching or lights unless they use it? If they are in darkness or sorrow, they ought to see the light."

"Yes, the more that we possess ourselves, the less do we possess. The man who has gone out of what is his own could never fail to find God in anything he did. But if it happened that a man did or said something amiss, or engaged in matters that were wrong, then God, since He was in the undertaking at the beginning, must of necessity take this harm upon Him, too; but you must understand no circumstances abandon your undertaking because of this. We find an example of this in Saint Bernard and in many other saints. One can never in this life be wholly free from much mishaps. But because some weeds happen among the corn, one should not for that reason throw away the good corn. Indeed, if it were well with a man and he knew himself well with God, all such sorrows and mishaps would turn into his great profit. For to good men all things come to good, as Saint Paul says (Romans 8:28): and, as Saint Augustine says: Yes, even sins."

When Eckhart speaks about a man failing when He takes God's will as His own, is that God is hurt by His servant's fall though it is not on account of Him doing evil but permitting a fall to His servant so as to bring about a greater good. He permits a fall so as to increase our humility, our observance, heighten our love, or bring our heart to repentance regarding forgotten sins and faults.

Oh Lord liberate me of my sins, through me at Your mercy and will. May I abandon my ways and live in you. Make me anew You who takes all things unto Himself to renew and refresh. Fount of mercy and everlasting life grant Your grace and cast Your merciful gaze upon me, your unworthy servant. Take me by Thy Providence and lead me upon the Way.

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