Meister Eckhart’s Poverty Sermon

‘Let us pray to God that he might rid us of God,’ said Meister Eckhart famously in his sermon on poverty of spirit. In the following article I discuss the main theological and mystical ideas in this sermon, usually referred to as Sermon 52, and also comment on aspects of Eckhart’s hermeneutical method. I quote extensively from Walshe’s translation from the original Middle High German and have included references for those who are interested.

The ‘sermon on poverty’ epitomizes Meister Eckhart’s thought at its theological and literary zenith. Among the most studied of Eckhart’s vernacular homilies its claims, both ethical and doctrinal, are as radical as anything he wrote, yet, surprisingly, never rated a mention in In Agro Dominico, the papal bull of 1329 that denounced many of his teachings. The conclusion some scholars have drawn is that the text of this sermon had not reached its final formulation until as late as 1326/27 and was presumably not available to Eckhart’s accusers at the time of the trials. The evidence for this, however, is not conclusive, with recent research suggesting a much wider early reception of the text.[1] Either way, the absence of any statement from Sermon 52 among the twenty-eight articles of the bull of condemnation is intriguing, especially given the sermon’s provocative thesis, which is the focus of this present discussion. Continue reading “Meister Eckhart’s Poverty Sermon”

Embracing paradox and living to tell the tale

BOOK REVIEW:  Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes In God: How To Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace.  Frank Schaeffer, 2014

Frank Schaeffer Cover

I completely understand the puzzlement that comes over people when I declare myself a believer and an atheist. It’s not something that comes up all the time of course but occasionally there’s no avoiding it and you just have to come clean. Once it went like this: “I was a Christian, then I became an atheist.” It was sad for some people to hear. But at least it was neat and they knew where I stood. Now it’s: “I still don’t believe in the God the atheists don’t believe in, but I pray every day.” And that’s just messy. Explain it and it gets messier.

People aren’t good with messy. While I’m obscenely comfortable in this paradoxical pigeon-hole I’ve carved out for myself, I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that on questions like this people prefer ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and’, and so it’s felt like something of a solitary little niche. That said, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled on the totally messy title of Frank Schaeffer’s latest book, Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God. Continue reading “Embracing paradox and living to tell the tale”