Friday, May 9, 2014
—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, Sermon 69, p. 353
It is in my own unworthiness that I discover God's true mercy and grace.
It is irrevocably true that God loves and is merciful, because these are God's most essential qualities. Although God transcends all of the qualities we can know or ascribe to Him, in the way that we can know Him — which is only through the limitations of our own universe and the material — we know Him like this, that all of the mercy and love we could ever imagine is but a tiny thing compared to the actual, objectively infinite amount of mercy and love that the Lord embodies. After all, the entire universe was created from love and is nothing more than an emanation of love — and if it can create the entire universe, imagine how much greater than the universe itself it must be.
I wish to think on these things, because my understanding is lacking. Somewhere in myself, I spend a lot of my time believing I am worthy; and even when I am sinful, I see that I think I'm worthy of being cleansed of my sin and forgiven. But this isn't really true; this morning, sitting here at my computer and contemplating my life, I saw that I don't deserve to be cleansed of my sin; and in fact, I need my sin, because it is what reminds me of how small and humble I ought to be, a thing which I in fact am not. The sin is actually a gift, and by asking to have it taken away, I already don't understand that the sin has been sent to help me, and that I am supposed to suffer it as a reminder of the difference between me and the Lord.
I constantly ascribe a goodness to myself which I don't actually have; sometimes, enough grace is sent for me to see that. The paths by which that grace comes are mysterious; yet when it arrives, there can be no doubt of my sin, and the devastation that arises from an awareness of my nothingness. Take note: even in being aware that I am nothing, my ego wants to hold that up and make it important. Curious, isn't it? Only the cleansing force of grace, which does not cleanse but rather reveals, can uncover these tricks and lay bare what I actually am.
When I see that, I know not only nothingness, but worthlessness, and then I know that God loves me even though I am objectively worthless. This is even stranger still; there are mysteries here as thick as a briar patch, and each one of them has thorns that cling to me which I can't escape from. There is a point at which struggling is pointless; I have to surrender to the suffering and the honesty that is required in seeing my unworthiness.
In a nutshell, I don't deserve to be cleansed of my sin, even though that is what I want; and I don't quite understand that I need my sin and the suffering in it.
I mentioned to a few people over the last week that the punishment for those of us who do horrible things is that we are forgiven; we are unconditionally forgiven, and at the moment of death, when that forgiveness enters us, we can feel no greater anguish, because all of those parts we have refused to participate in, including our conscience, are awakened, and we see ourselves for what we are.
Swedenborg seems to think that there are evil souls that will find no pain in this; but I find that impossible to believe. Even if he is right, right-thinking beings, creatures who wish to be redeemed, to recover from this excess of sin we all find ourselves in, cannot help but feel destroyed by forgiveness, because once again, it reveals how incapable and tiny we are when we measure our being against the force of God's love and mercy.