Friday, March 28, 2014

Humility

TianZhuShan
Anhui, China
Photograph by the author

Further observations on Sermon 50

Meister Eckhart makes much of humility in sermon 50; and indeed he speaks from understanding, because the organic experience of God begins and ends with this most profound humility, which emanates from the presence of God Himself, who is nothing but humble, despite His exalted station.

It may seem strange to equate this highest upon high with humility, which is the lowest of the low; yet Eckhart says to us:

...the height of the Godhead seeks nothing but the depth of humility, as I said at St. Maccabees. The humble man and God are one, the humble man has as much power over God as He has over Himself, and whatever is in the angels, that the humble man has for his own.

These words are confusing unless one knows God in the heart; alone and without God, we cannot conceive of greatness as anything but our own greatness, which isn’t true greatness but rather an inner poverty of greatness; that is, what we understand as great is the opposite of great. 

The smallest thing in the world is greater than all our ideas of greatness combined; for to be great is not to be important or to be large, but to have integrity and to be whole. Greatness is not a separation from the world and a standing out from other things, but a oneness with what there is; and that onenness begins and ends in the smallest measure.

What is great is humble, and what is infinitely great is infinitely humble. The Lord has no arrogance in Him; and the greatness of His countenance, along with its humility, is a mystery that must flow into the soul to be appreciated even in its least measure.

Once this flowing into the soul commences, it cannot die:

What is inborn in me, remains: God never departs from that man, wherever that man turns. Such a man can turn away from God, but however far he goes from God, God stops and waits for him, and stands in his path before he knows it.


Humility is an eternal quality; and God’s Mercy—which as we know is the most powerful and glorious of all God’s qualities—flows first through His humility, which is the principle vehicle through which it penetrates the universe.

If God’s great powers did not flow first and always through His humility, they would lose their power and would no longer be great; which is perhaps the unstated point of Eckhart’s sermon.

Hosannah.

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